By Michelby Coco Whitehead
When I was in high school, I didn’t see the hype about the Lifetime channel. Every Saturday afternoon the women in my family would be glued to the television watching what I thought was a bunch of cliché’ drama between a female protagonist and her insane male love interest. At 16-years-old, I thought it was depressing to watch, but now in my 30s I see such storylines are important to depict because women actually fall in love with toxic mates.
But the gag is when you’re being gaslighted you can’t always recognize the brainwashing that is taking place, so the relationship drags on longer than it should. As a result, one’s life becomes as a chaotic as the movies I used to loathe on Saturdays…
What is gaslighting you ask? I recently had the opportunity to chat with award-winning therapist Vladamire Calixte about the term as it relates to romantic and paternal relationships. Check it out!
Curly Nikki (CN): What exactly is gaslighting?
Vladimire Calixte (VC): Gaslighting is a dangerously abusive manipulative tactic aimed to make the person on the receiving end doubt his or her reality, memory, and perception. Gaslighting is a deliberate and intentional attempt to disorient a person. It is important to note that gaslighting requires a consistent game plan.
CN: How can one be certain that gaslighting is taking place and he or she is not overreacting?
VC: For gaslighting to take place there needs to be a denial of reality. It’s more than downplaying someone’s emotions; there must be an attempt to deceive someone into believing that a false event really occurred and that a real event is false. Thus, why gaslighting is referred to as “crazy-making” because it’s a systematic distortion and deception of someone’s reality. For example, telling someone that they can’t take a joke or is overreacting isn’t gaslighting. The hallmark of gaslighting is an ongoing deception combined with a reality denial to the person on the receiving end of the gaslighting.
I’ll give you an example: A boyfriend sees his girlfriend cheating on him. She starts an ongoing strategy to make him believe this event was false and that his perception of reality is incorrect. She may say, “No, you’re crazy.” When he maintains on what he saw, she responds with “why are you being so emotional?”
CN: This happens in many types of relationships, not just romantic connections. What are the damages of parents gaslighting their children?
VC: The damage of being told that you are imagining things or lying causes a child to doubt his or her own sense of reality, perception, and feelings, which affects his or her core sense of self, leading to a lifetime of self-doubt. This damage extends well into adulthood because the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. In the words of Esther Perel, “Tell me how you were loved as a child and I’ll tell you how you love as an adult”.
CN: Can you explain to our readers what a narcissist is and why they use gaslighting?
VC: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration and attention, arrogant, manipulative, and shows a lack of disregard and empathy for others. Gaslighting is used by narcissists to gain control and to dominate others by systematically making the person on the receiving end question his or her own reality. It’s a controlling mechanism!
CN: I’ve often heard that you must be extremely cautious when removing toxic people from your life. What’s the most effective way to get rid of a narcissist?
VC: Because of their fragile egos and emotional brittleness, a narcissist will hoover, stalk, and harass you in an attempt to maintain their narcissistic supply. Moreover, in a post-breakup, a narcissist will embark on a smear campaign designed to humiliate and fabricate malicious gossip. Because when a narcissist can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The only way to remove a narcissist from your life is to go “No Contact,” which means completely blocking him or her from getting to you.
Fascinating, huh? Vladimire also left us with some tips to remember about relationships:
1. Discernment is POWER. The very last thing a toxic person wants is for you to figure out his or her manipulative ways.
2. Pay attention to actions. Love is not a feeling; it’s a series of choices we make every day, either to love or not to love.
3. Be at peace knowing that what is meant for you will NEVER miss you, and whatever misses you was NEVER meant for you.
4. Singleness is not a curse. Marriage is not a cure. Your worth is not defined by a relationship status.
5. Change is something that comes from within. A person must see the incentive in being better for themselves. You can influence change, but you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do.
For more information on Vladimire Calixte, visit www.liferebuilding.com.