Gaslighting

Posted: December 1, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , ,

I’ve been reading a bit about gas-lighting lately and at first I didn’t think that it played a part in my spiritual abuse. Maybe that’s because many of the articles and blogs that I read assumed that we all know what gas-lighting is already and so they didn’t give a very complete description or definition. I think it was the word “crazy” that finally hit home with me. Essentially, as I started putting it all together, I determined that gas-lighting is when someone tries to make you believe you are crazy by making you think that you are imagining things.

And that’s when I realized that gas-lighting had happened all through my experience with the senior pastor at my former church.

Usually, it had to do with him claiming that he was unaware.

He told me he didn’t recall the five times in five years that I had sent emails requesting that we meet.

He told me that he didn’t respond to my emails asking for help or for explanations because he didn’t understand what I had written – that I wasn’t making sense.

After sending him emails explaining that his staff and leadership were telling me that I was being judged and ostracized, and asking for his help and explanations, he would not respond. It was as though he had never received my correspondance. I didn’t know if he simply hadn’t received my messages or if he was intentionally avoiding my concerns. Instead, he would smile and wave and speak to me (albeit very briefly) without a word being said about my email or voice mail or hand-written message from only days or even hours before.

And I would walk away incredibly confused. And, at times, I must confess, I wondered if I was losing it. Hadn’t I sent him that email? Hadn’t I called and left a message? Hadn’t I asked for his help and intervention?

And as the ostracism continued to escalate, and I continued to ask for help, he just continued to smile and wave as though everything was peachy. And I would wonder if it was? Was I making too big of a deal? Was I imagining the many times that staff and leadership ignored me, avoided me, looked right through me as I passed them?

In my readings, many articles have acknowledged that some gas-lighters have no idea that they are gas-lighting so when they pretend that reality is different from what is actually happening, it can make the person on the receiving end feel like it’s just “crazy” – or even that they are “crazy.” But I’m pretty sure that my abusers know the difference between “right” and “wrong,” between living a lie and addressing the truth, between caring and indifference, between living their faith and turning a blind eye.

Gas-lighting can happen in ever-so-subtle ways. Pretending something didn’t happen is how it happened to me. So subtle that it was insidious.

How about you? Any gas-lighting stories to share?

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Comments
  1. Dear Sister,

    You have stepped into a subject I am very aware of: Narcissism.

    Gaslighting is covert abuse that has the affects you have stated.

    I almost became a expert about 8 years dealing with my sister who is a battered woman. You description of the effects are excellent. In short you become isolated from the world not trusting anyone and questioning your own mental state.

    One of the blessings in dealing with my sister and this sociopath, it prepared me for what I went through in my church. God prepared me for the church by me helping my sister and see the affects. The key for the victim is vigilant documentation, insist on answers in writing, involve others outside the control or influence of the narcissist (which means outside the church in our cases) and be vigilant in these tasks.

    Once you neutralize the Gaslighting though, be prepared for the onslaught. It can get dangerous. The narcissist will go into depression then try to escalate in another fashion. That is why documentation is so important. The next step may be to go public with that.

    In my case it went to extortion trying to use my sister who is a recovering battered woman as a tool to get me since direct attacks were failing. My family was horrified. But the church still protected the criminals. That is when I went public. The light of truth has a tendency to neutralize until they find other victims who don’t know their past. It also angered the recruited supporters.

    Ellen, the best people to recognize narcissists are not the behavioral science community, but trained former victims of narcissists. A Psychologist is one of the easiest manipulated people by narcissists. One of the best resources on the topic is a guy called Sam Vaknin. He has like three different sites on You-Tube.He Makes the subject clear in small 7 minute you-tube videos. And as you know narcissists make things very complex.

    Here is a link on one of his Gaslighting Videos:

    called “Gaslighting and Ambient Abuse”

    And reading your blog, you can see a lot more affects of Gaslighting than you mention in this single post when just studying that one video.

    I found out that Narcissists are more predominant in certain professions than others. Guess what is one of those fields are. Yep you got it… MINISTRY! Plenty of Authority with little or no accountability if you can twist a scripture or two with total trust of the sheep.

    Here is one of those short Sam Vaknin videos on that subject:

    called “Common Professions of the Narcissist”

    I use Sam Vaknin in my YouTube site with a small selection in my Narcissist Playlist. My other playlists are Apostasy, Spiritual Abuse and Apologetics. My Narcissist playlist helps understand the other fields especially my Spiritual Abuse Playlist.

    Dear sister you opened up a topic which demands a lot of discussion. But I must be brief.
    God Bless you dear saint.

    Frank
    Sheep & Recovering Pentecostal

    • I am so sorry. The second video I posted was not supposed to be a whole “playlist”. When you open it just choose the one called “Common Professions of the Narcissist”. Please forgive me.

      Humbly,
      Frank

      • Ellen says:

        Frank,
        Thank you for sharing these links. They are enlightening and speak directly to what happened to me and in my former church. I will be writing another post about this soon.

  2. Ellen says:

    I’m sorry but the purpose of my blog is to help others who have been spiritually abused by sharing my journey. I have made it a policy to not promote others work on my blog, especially when they have not provided complete biographical information, credentials, etc. I get these kinds of requests occasionally and am always surprised that those who ask to use my blog to further their work rarely offer complete information. Therefore, I cannot allow your survey to be posted. I must do what I can to protect the integrity of my blog and I must be able to assure my readership that they will not be exploited. I cannot promote the work of someone who has not gained my confidence and trust. Thank you for visiting and for reading.

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