The Accidental Gaslighter
There is someone in my professional life who is a gaslighter and emotionally manipulative and abusive to me.
A few months ago they engaged in gaslighting me. They looked into my eyes and told a blatant, out-and-out lie. We both knew it was a lie but I accepted it because they said it with such authority and certainty that I thought it must be the new rule.
Later that day they said the opposite: something that directly contradicted the lie they had told earlier. Again, they said it with such authority and certainty that I believed it, but also because this time it benefited me and I knew it to be fair and the truth. But I still questioned my sanity. I still, to this day, right now, wonder if I imagined or misheard or invented this. Why would they lie to me and then contradict the lie with a truth? Why would they do this? Am I even more mentally ill than I thought? Did I hallucinate it?
This is gaslighting.
When I’ve relayed this story to friends and colleagues they’ve told me that, yes, this is awful behaviour, but they don’t think it was intentional. It was an accident. They’re making it up as they go along, they don’t mean to hurt you!
Actually, I’m inclined to agree. I don’t think this person sets out to abuse, manipulate or confuse me. I don’t think gaslighting was on the agenda. I don’t think gaslighting is even in their vocabulary.
I think they were just caught up in a lie that they told in the heat of the moment to cover their own back and protect their own ego and insecurities and then later recanted, but they were too embarrassed to apologise for the previous lie. This person is not ‘evil’ or purposefully abusive (who is, really?), they are just so insecure, so self-absorbed, that their behaviour is abusive without them realising or meaning it to be.
But this is still gaslighting, this is still abuse and it doesn’t help me in any way, especially as a person with complex mental health problems, to deal with their emotional manipulations, to know that they’re not doing it on purpose.