In large parts of India, they are termed Naradmunis - known for whipping up tensions among people by spicing up facts. In the West, they are termed Gaslighters - "master controllers and manipulators, often challenging your very sense of reality"."You know the gaslighter. He's the charmer - the witty, confident, but overly controlling date. She's the woman on your team who always manages to take credit for your good work. He's the neighbour who swears you've been putting garbage into his trash cans, the politician who can never admit to a mistake, the harasser who says you asked for it," writes Dr. Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, a bestselling author and therapist, a Diplomat and Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Child and Adoloscent Counseling with the American Mental Health Counselors Association, in "Gaslighting" (Orion Spring/Hatchette).Noting that they can be found everywhere - international political figures, celebrities, your boss, your sibling or parent, a friend, your co-worker, your co-worker - Sarkis writes: "Gaslighters will convince us that we are crazy, that we are abusive, that we are a huge bundle of problems and no one else will want us, that we are terrible employees who haven't been fired just yet by the grace of God, that we are terrible parents who shouldn't have had children, that we have no ideas how to manage out own life, that we are a burden to others."One size may not fit all but give or take a little, doesn't all this sound pretty familiar to an Indian?But, don't people just manipulate others sometimes?
What's the difference between someone who manipulates for a particular benefit and a gaslighter? It's a fine line, says Sarkis."Whereas manipulation (or influence) is an essential part of some jobs, such as sales, it's a pattern of behaviour with gaslighters - their default mode. That is, when most people lie, it's for a specific outcome - to avoid confrontation, get ahead or curry favour with someone. But with gaslighters, there is no particular reason to lie and yet they do it over and over again, often in an escalating fashion as they feel the effects of their power. This is done just for the sake of doing it - to con, gain control of and confuse you. Gaslighters manipulate others situationally but as a way of life," Sarkis writes.She then leads the reader through topics like gaslighting in intimate relationships; how to avoid falling for a gaslighter in the first place; gaslighters in the workplace; sexual harassment, violence, domestic abuse and gaslighters; gaslighters in politics, society and the social media; false Messiahs, extremist groups, closed communities, cults and gaslighting; gaslighters in your family; gaslighting in friendships, gaslighting in divorce and coparenting; what do when you are the gaslighter; and counselling and other ways to get help.It is in this last chapter that Indian readers might find themselves at sea but take heart: counselling of various types is available across this country - online, clinically and through organisations like Sanjivini though I would personally recommend the last named, having immensely benefitted from it.
But before going in for counselling, consider these two points:
* Be Aware When You Are Getting "Wound Up""Part of taking good care of yourself is knowing when your stress level is starting to feel out of control. When you have been gaslighted or you have gaslighting behaviours, you may have difficulty with regulating your emotions. People who have learnt to regulate their emotions know when they are getting upset and how to calm themselves down. You also tend to stay more on an even keel emotionally and have less mood swings when you can regulate how you are feeling," Sarkis points out.
"Meditating is another powerful tool for working with your gaslighting experiences, thoughts and behaviours. It has been found to improve our positive feelings towards others and ourselves.Meditation is focusing on your breath. At its most basic, the goal of meditation is to spend some quiet time with your thoughts, not to empty your mind - even people who have been meditating for years find that difficult to do. The goal is just to notice yourself inhaling and exhaling," Sarkis writes.Feeling better already? Maybe you don't need counselling!