How is Stockholm Syndrome different from gaslighting

Gas lighting

Gas lighting

“In psychology, gaslighting is a form of psychological violence or abuse with which victims are deliberately disoriented, manipulated and deeply insecure and their reality and self-confidence are gradually deformed or destroyed.” I added this definition from Wikipedia to the vote and we will continue to work with it here. In this entry I want to go into what gaslighting is exactly; what it does to the victims; how it comes about; what warning signs there are; how to recognize a gaslighter and how to protect yourself from gaslighting.

What is gas lighting?

The term gaslighting probably originated from the 1944 film Gas Light. In the film, a man tries to convince everyone that his wife is crazy. He manipulates, lies, and insists that his wife is disaffected. Among other things, he dims the “gas lights” and denies that anything in the lighting conditions had changed when his wife noticed this. She imagines it all and it was she who put things away. And there are already some important points in it. It's about manipulation, disorientation, trust and doubting your own perception and thus your own health.

What does gaslighting do to the victims?

Gaslighting causes victims to doubt their perception, their feelings and also their memory. When you start to question your perceptions, thoughts, motives and feelings, part of your personality is destroyed. Your reality is called into question and with it your health. The goal of the perpetrators is that the person moves away from reality and is therefore no longer able to adequately understand certain processes around them. This can lead to massive damage, especially in children, as their brains are still developing and they are dependent on a carer. Instead of accompanying the children in their development and providing direction, some parents try to exercise control over their children. This type of upbringing is rightly called authoritarian because it violates the boundaries of a child and neglects the needs. Children are not allowed to have certain emotions, such as anger towards their parents. In order to enforce this, the statements made by the children are downgraded: "You don't mean it like that", "It doesn't hurt that much", "you lie", "You only imagined that". Possible consequences are that the child's ability to think rationally is impaired or that they even lose touch with reality. This also makes it more prone to gaslighting in adulthood.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and therefore dangerous even in adulthood. It is particularly widely used by people who have narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathological tendencies. The perpetrators here have clear motives and they don't care that others are injured in the process. Especially in romantic relationships, they try to control feelings, thoughts, the action, and everything else that has to do with the victim. To do this, they use a number of methods:

1. You lie - a lot. Often it is very obvious lies that you can simply look up. It's not about the lie itself, but about the victim feeling uncomfortable. It should be noted that the lies are gradually increasing. If someone lies in the first place, it is easier to see through it. But if you have already gone through a certain loss of reality, you also believe more lies.

2. Deny the facts Even if the victim knows that the perpetrator told a lie, once she addresses that lie, it will be denied. You would never say that or you have misheard. Some of the perpetrators deny scientific facts and claim something like that "Scientists have their own agenda" or “Scientists are always changing their minds. They can't even know that! ". But you can also pick out individual studies that go along with your opinion. The victim begins to feel uncomfortable and to question their own perception. The more often you doubt yourself, the more likely you are to believe the perpetrator.

3. It increases None of us are immune to gas lighting. In the right circumstances, we can all be victims of manipulation, abuse, or brainwashing. Most of the time it starts small and increases over time. You practically don't notice what's going on around you. At some point the perpetrators can also convince friends and them that the victim is crazy or that they talked badly about their friends. The goal of the perpetrators is to isolate the victim so that they do not receive any support. On the one hand, the loss of reality grows, on the other hand, the victim also becomes dependent on the perpetrator and sees no way out.

4. Actions speak louder than words Since the perpetrators often lie, you have to pay attention to their behavior instead of the words. They lie with a confidence that rational people do not have. We are never 100% sure about our memories, but when the other person is so sure that something happened like that, then we are more likely to believe it. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to what the person is doing rather than what they are saying.

5. Confusion It is important for the perpetrators that the victims feel that they have stability and normalcy. For this reason, the perpetrators do give compliments every now and then. The aim is for the victim to trust the perpetrator and look up to the perpetrator. Gaslighters take advantage of the intimacy they create.

6. Isolation Perpetrators want victims to feel isolated. You will often mention acquaintances or friends who would agree with the perpetrator. Even if this is not the case. The victim should be unconscious of who they can and cannot believe. It is supposed to feel isolated. Isolation means control.

7. Intimidation Offenders need a certain position of power. If they don't get it through addiction or their role, then they often use intimidation. The children can come into play, friends, family, practically everything that is important to the victim. “Your friends don't believe you. They know how crazy you are. "“Your family doesn't like you anyway. Who do you have there besides me? ""You will lose them all if you tell this." With this method, the perpetrator tries to make the victim more docile and to continue to be dependent.

8. Defamation One of the most important tricks of a gas lighter. They tell other people that the victim is insane and other derogatory things. So if at some point the victim seizes the opportunity and wants to speak openly about it with others, they may not believe the victim. At the same time, they also tell the victim that everyone else is lying to them. The family, the media, friends. Trust plays a major role here. They trust that the perpetrator has the “real” information they want. This makes them dependent.

These are examples of what gaslighting can look like in a romantic relationship, but what about other areas? At work or at school you can experience gaslighting in the form of gossip and rumors, with the sides often being clearly delineated. Much like the Sith (sorry to all non-“Star Wars” fans), this is thought in absolute terms: there are the good and there are the bad in history. Propaganda like in the Nazi era or in North Korea are examples of the dimensions it can take on. While the Nazis took countless Jews to their concentration camps and killed them, they also promoted them. In their advertisements, they showed children playing happily or having a picnic together. Many followers and other nations believed this propaganda advertisement rather than the horrific reality. The concentration camps should be seen in a positive light and the Jews should be alienated. Playing with the truth has long been a method used by dictators, but it is now also found in more democratic countries. There it is mostly used in a more subtle way to exercise political control. It is no longer a secret that Donald Trump is trying to turn the truth around as it suits him. He says and does things that he later denies. He blames others, gives hypersensitivity as a possible reason, or says he was just kidding. And many believe him, they accept his distorted view of reality. But here you have to be careful who is accused of gaslighting and who is not. If someone (consciously or unconsciously) denies only one aspect of reality, then it is not gaslighting. A false accusation would be a projection and thus gaslighting. In cults, too, one often sees various techniques that indicate gaslighting. To make the followers compliant, they must question their real world and embrace that of the cult. Examples such as Scientology show us that this world can also be completely absurd and incomprehensible to others.

How do you recognize a gaslighter? What are the warning signs?

Wrong excuses Apologies always mean an admission of guilt and appreciation towards the other person. This is the opposite effect of what a gaslighter tries to achieve. They only apologize when they are after something, i.e. when they want to get something. The “excuses” often sound like excuses, without being any. "I'm sorry you feel this way." is not an excuse because she has no admission of guilt. It remains open that the person is to blame.

Separate friends Gossip, gossip, rumors. Gaslighters often try to stir friends against each other. You spread rumors that someone said bad things or made a derogatory remark about someone. Often it is lies that in retrospect no one can trace where the rumors came from or how it developed. As long as the rumors continue, the perpetrators hold back and watch the events that triggered them. When friendships break up, it is easier for the perpetrators to isolate and manipulate people.

Flatter Gas lighters rely on the victim to trust them, at least in part. So you need a relationship. They achieve this with a lot of flattery and attention that they give to the victims. At least until they get what they want. The attention then stops abruptly until they want something again. So there are phases with a lot and little attention, which ultimately also helps the perpetrator to distort the victim's perception of reality.

Distorted world Gaslighters need their distorted world. Therefore, they attack anyone who has a different point of view and also their sources.

Why do the victims stay in the relationship?

Most people feel the need to see themselves as reasonable, moral, and intelligent. Therefore, information that makes us appear irrational, immoral, or simple-minded in any way leads to violent discomfort. If there is a difference between our actions and our attitudes, it makes us feel uncomfortable. This is what we call cognitive dissonance in psychology. As a result, we either change our attitude or our actions in order to feel comfortable again. When we are in a relationship and experience abuse on a regular basis, we can experience cognitive dissonance. We feel uncomfortable thinking about the relationship but are unable to part. What can then happen is that instead, we unconsciously change our perspective. We are more positive about the relationship in order to reduce the dissonance experienced. But the abuse doesn't stop, we just see the relationship in a more positive light. Especially with narcissistic abuse, in which we are regularly downgraded, but at times also receive a lot of love and attention, the cognitive dissonance is greater. This back and forth between excessive love and hate is known as trauma bonding, and it means that our affection for the perpetrator does not end. Trauma bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims develop a sympathy for the perpetrator. The victims are isolated, threatened and in some cases do not flee, even if they have the opportunity. Both trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome are seen as survival techniques, as we as victims see ourselves closer to the perpetrators and thus feel more secure. Therefore, both can be seen as possible reasons why we stay in relationships even if we experience abuse on a regular basis.

What can victims do?

Emotional abuse can leave victims with profound damage that is difficult to come to terms with without professional help. These are individually adapted to the person and the respective situation. So I will not even begin here to describe possible therapy proposals and this should not be interpreted in that way. Instead, I would like to give some general tips on what to look out for when you are in a relationship with a gaslighter. The tips are not guaranteed, of course, but they'll still be more useful than ignoring what happened and putting up with abuse.

1. Relive what happened It is important to recall the past and examine any gaslighting moments. Trying to find the lies; Remembering your emotional responses, especially when you felt unsafe or guilty. Offenders often use the same techniques, so study the past to protect yourself in the future.

2. Stick to the facts Offenders often lie. So do not rely on their statements if they are not falsifiable. They try to make the victims dependent on their data and want to have power in this way. If there is no way to corroborate what has been said, then she doesn't believe it.

3. Take control Power means control. The perpetrators want to keep them under all circumstances and therefore they also try to force quick reactions. So take your time for your reactions and answers, walk away or distract. Take the time to reflect or to question the logic.