Gaslighting is an insidiously effective tool of manipulation, most often used by the betraying spouse to protect secrets or avoid consequences. Gaslighting involves getting the target to ingest a special blend of distortions, minimizations, and sometimes outright lies, all packaged in an innocent looking capsule. Gaslighters, however, know that the only way to get you to swallow the pill is to disguise it by adding in a kernel of truth. You focus on the kernel of truth and are willing to swallow the entire pill. Unfortunately, by ingesting the kernel you also take in all the fiction.
The gaslight pill is initially administered in a small dose, usually in response to trivial situations. You may even be aware of the poison mixed in with the kernel of truth, but deem the situation as not important enough to make a to do about. BUT, even at low doses the gaslight pill almost always induces at least a momentary trickle of self-doubt.
That trickle of self-doubt will become a raging river once the gaslight pill is given at full strength. Taking in the kernel of truth in combination with the poisonous fictions unleashes a powerful toxic effect that most gaslightees describe as being “in the fog.” It clouds your thinking, erodes self-confidence, and traps you in intense feelings of despair, helplessness and paralysis. Even the memory of a gaslighting episode can unleash the fog.
Merely ignoring the pill is at best only a short-term strategy because over time both the dosage and frequency will be increased. In ignoring it you will slowly train yourself to disconnect more and more. You will end up sleep walking through your life and the gaslighter will fly below your radar, which, of course, was the purpose of the gaslighting. Focusing on all the ingredients will be ineffective because it is that very combination that unleashes the fog to begin with. Focusing only on the fictions, even if you steadfastly reject them, will be ineffective because as the dosage and frequency increase you will find more and more of your time is spent guarding against letting the toxins in. Unless you are trained as a warrior on ready 24-7, this will eventually wear you down.
The trick to empowering yourself when in the fog is to put on your gas mask and focus exclusively on the kernel of truth. Each time your mind wanders to the distortions, consciously refocus your attention on the kernel. Don’t ask yourself why the gaslighter is mixing fact with fiction; it won’t make sense and will only suck you back into the fog. If you stay focused only on the kernel, the fog will eventually begin to lift. With practice you will recognize gaslight attempts and be able to open the capsule to separate the distortions from the kernel of truth.
Empowerment Exercise: Think about a recent or typical encounter with the gaslighter in your life. Create three columns on a sheet of paper labeled: “Distortions,’ ‘Fictions’ and “Kernels of Truth.” Dissect that Gaslighting encounter by separating the distortions and outright fictions from the kernel of truth. Use this exercise to learn how to separate fact from fiction and to ONLY take in the kernel of truth. Also read “Partners of Sex Addicts & Infidelity Survivors: Have You Been Gaslighted?”.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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