The Gaslighting of America (and What You Can Do About It)
Gaslighting is defined as a type of psychological abuse where the perpetrator manipulates you, the victim, into questioning or even dismissing your own memory, knowledge, and even your own sanity.
On a simpler level, television’s Judge Judy explained gaslighting with a simple phrase that she also used as a title for her book: Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.
Gaslighters withhold information, deny obvious facts, or lie to you and it has a clear goal: to destabilize you, to gain power over you, and ultimately, even to destroy you.
Over time, if you are being gaslighted, and don’t recognize it or do something to protect yourself, you will become so disoriented that you start to question your own core beliefs, and lose your ability to discern how you actually feel, what’s true, and what’s real.
Gavin de Becker is a best-selling author and specialist in security issues, working primarily for governments, corporations, and public figures. He is the author of the bestselling book, The Gift of Fear.
De Becker has summed up something that now, with the incoming administration — perhaps regime is a better word — should be required reading:
Every day, people engaged in the clever defiance of their own intuition become, in mid-thought, victims of violence and accidents. So when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear: It is because we are so good at it. A woman could offer no greater cooperation to her soon-to-be attacker than to spend her time telling herself, “But he seems like such a nice man.” Yet this is exactly what many people do. A woman is waiting for an elevator, and when the doors open she sees a man inside who causes her apprehension. Since she is not usually afraid, it may be the late hour, his size, the way he looks at her, the rate of attacks in the neighborhood, an article she read a year ago — it doesn’t matter why. The point is, she gets a feeling of fear. How does she respond to nature’s strongest survival signal? She suppresses it, telling herself: “I’m not going to live like that, I’m not going to insult this guy by letting the door close in his face.” When the fear doesn’t go away, she tells herself not to be so silly, and she gets into the elevator. Now, which is sillier: waiting a moment for the next elevator, or getting into a soundproofed steel chamber with a stranger she is afraid of? The inner voice is wise, and part of my purpose in writing this book is to give people permission to listen to it.
That feeling you are having right now, that intuition, inner voice, that pain in your gut, that feeling of unease you have about the new regime and its key players? LISTEN TO IT!
As de Becker has said:
Only human beings can look directly at something, have all the information they need to make an accurate prediction, perhaps even momentarily make the accurate prediction, and then say that it isn’t so.
Right now, there is a societal, national gaslighting effort going on.
“Come on, don’t be silly. Give Trump a chance. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“There’s no way our government will let him do some of the horrible things he says he wants to do. They will stop him.”
Well, he might have said that awful stuff about women, but he can’t really feel that way. I mean, Ivanka, right?
“All that stuff about walls, and deporting, and nukes was just hyperbole and rhetoric. He won’t be able to do that as president.”
You keep trying to believe these things. But you can’t believe them. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel safe.
It doesn’t feel right, you can’t believe it, and it doesn’t feel safe, because it isn’t. Because just like the woman looking at the man in the elevator decides that her primal gut sense of fear is irrational, and she doesn’t want to insult the man by waiting for the next elevator, society is asking you to ignore your primal gut sense of fear. Societal gaslighting is saying, “hey, you, your fear is not real and it’s not rational.” Societal gaslighting is saying, don’t insult Trump, politicians, the media — and even your family and friends—by fearing Trump, by fearing efforts to normalize him, or by failing to respect that — say it all with me, folks — “peaceful transition of power!”
Are you starting to question whether you are being “irrational,” “hysterical,” “alarmist,” a “catastrophizer,” or “unpatriotic?” These are the first signs that you are susceptible to being gaslighted.
Here are some tips to nip it in the bud, now.
- First, if you name it, call it out, and identify it, gaslighting has FAR less power over you. By realizing that there is a concerted effort going on to gaslight you, you immediately become far less susceptible to ultimately being a victim of this current societal force.
- Trust your intuition, listen to that gut instinct, and don’t let rationalizing — your own or others’ — deter you from knowing that something is not right.
- For gaslighting in personal relationships, experts often recommend a support group. This same recommendation applies to the national gaslighting that is going on. Find support groups, whether on social media, at your church/synagogue/mosque, a group of like-minded friends, or in your community. There is amazing relief — not to mention validation and protection against gaslighting victimhood — in being told by other people “No, you’re not crazy, and I feel it too!”
- Support — whether financially, or through volunteer efforts — those groups that are actively fighting against the national gaslighting effort going on now:
- Join in the Million Women March on January 21, 2017 in Washington. Why? Because they might try to get us one at a time, but they can’t gaslight hundreds of thousands of women at the same time.
- Donate to Planned Parenthood. Want to add an extra satisfying twist? Donate to Planned Parenthood Indiana, and make your donation in honor of Governor Mike Pence. They’ll send him a card to acknowledge your donation.
- Support the American Civil Liberties Union. They are committed to defending and preserving our individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution
These are just a few ideas. Here’s an excellent list with many more ideas.
We know that there are members of the media telling us to “calm down” or telling us that we’re being “irrational” or “hysterical.” STOP WATCHING THEM! Send a message to media outlets that are attempting to normalize the situation, and tell them you will no longer watch/listen/read/subscribe. Cancel subscriptions if necessary.
Then, get paying subscriptions to — and watch and listen to — journalists and programs that not only aren’t minimizing or dismissing your concerns, but actually share them. A few suggestions:
- Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC
- The New York Times and the Washington Post (they aren’t perfect, but you WILL find some dogged and fearless reporting)
- Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher, and Seth Meyers have all been refusing to normalize the situation, using humor and satire. A particular favorite is the lesser known but supremely talented Tony Atamanuik (left), an improvisational comedian and actor who for more than a year has portrayed Trump brilliantly in the popular Trump vs. Bernie debates, and in his Dump Trump comedy show.
Watch them, get paying subscriptions, follow them on social media, pay to see their shows, and buy their books. You get the picture. The more we empower the media and artists who are not only not gaslighting us, but who are also honoring their own gut intuitions and rational fears, the greater the number of clear-eyed, rational citizen.
Do you have individuals in your life who are telling you that you should calm down and stop being “irrational?” Are there men “mansplaining” to you that it will all be okay, and that you’re getting a tad “hysterical?”
Tell them you have EVERY right to feel the way you do. And honestly, as often as you can, cut them out of your life, wherever they are, including social media. Real friends NEVER try to negate or minimize your feelings, or tell you that how you feel is wrong.
DON’T BE GASLIGHTED!
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT /INTUITION/INNER VOICE. (WHATEVER YOU CALL IT, LISTEN TO IT!)
IF IT’S TELLING YOU TO BE AFRAID, IT’S RIGHT!
Your intuitive gut sense is your most effective early-warning system, your personal guidance beacon, and it can help prevent you from becoming another of the many victims of the current epidemic of national gaslighting.