Have your perceptions been off? Do you feel like you are walking around in a fog? Are you afraid to make decisions on your own? Do you find that you no longer recognize yourself in the mirror?
Gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse where false information is presented with the intent of making the victim doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. The term gas-lighting comes from a 1944 movie starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton. It was adapted from a 1938 play called Gas Light written by Patrick Hamilton. The plot involved a husband who, in an attempt to convince his wife she is going insane, insists that she is imagining things that are really happening, such as the gas lights in the house dimming.
It was six months after my divorce when I started to realize that this had been done to me. I had walked around in fear. I no longer wanted to go to the grocery store alone during my marriage. I no longer expressed opinions of my own, because if I did not agree with his opinions there would be a heavy price to pay. I started having physical reactions to his rantings. I could feel the blood rush to my face. I became nauseated at the sound of his voice. I walked around in a fog and became unrecognizable to myself. It was painful to realize that this had been done to me. I could not believe I stayed so long in this marriage.
I will share an example of Gas-lighting. My husband would say I am putting this tablet and pen by the computer and you better not touch it. The next time I need it I better find it there. Later that day he would come back and say where is my tablet and pen? I told you not to touch it. I would say but I did not touch your pen. Then he would use this as an excuse to tear everything about me to shreds. This would go on for hours. Anything I had ever shared with him would be used against me. Nothing was off-limits. He did not care how much he hurt me and even begging him to stop would do no good. He distorted my reality every day, while he lived his secret life. I played an insignificant role as his wife, and his cover. After years of this I was a broken person.
I think he had to keep me off-balance so he could live his double life. I never questioned him anymore. This is the way he wanted me. After my marriage ended my mind started to clear but I was still having difficulties. I felt a need to stay isolated. If I had to talk to anyone I felt so much stress. I had so much anxiety.
It has been two and a half years now since my divorce and I am improving. The fog has cleared and I am awake now. Writing this blog had helped as I lost my voice. I was no longer able to speak for myself. I was so apologetic to everyone for very minor things. It is hard knowing that the person I married could systematically and intentionally break me like this.
I am on a journey of recovery. I am healing. I want to share my experience with other women, in hopes that they will recognize what is being done to them.
Symptoms Of Gas-Lighting By Psychology Today by Robin Stern Ph.D. May 19, 2009
1.) You constantly second-guess yourself.
2.) You wonder, “Am I being too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
3.) You wonder frequently if you are a “good enough” girlfriend, wife, employee, friend, daughter.
You have trouble making simple decisions.
4.) You think twice before bringing up innocent topics of conversation. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
5.) Before your partner comes home from work, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
6.) You buy clothes for yourself, furnishings for your apartment, or other personal purchases thinking about what your partner would like instead of what would make you feel great.
7.) You actually start to enjoy the constant criticism, because you think, “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.
8.) You start speaking to your husband through his secretary so you don’t have to tell him things you’re afraid might upset him.
9.) You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
10.) You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
11.) You frequently wonder if you’re good enough for your lover.
12.) Your kids start trying to protect you from being humiliated by your partner.
13.) You feel hopeless and joyless.