How to Disarm Manipulation and Gaslighting, Personally and Politically
We all know domestic violence is common in Iowa and elsewhere, but the statistics are sobering, with one in four women having experienced it in her lifetime. Some 1.3 million women are victims of such violence every year. Women aged 20 to 24 are most at risk.
Attackers’ tactics involve manipulation and gaslighting.
According to WebMD, manipulation “is the exertion of a harmful influence on others,” with perpetrators preying on the mental and emotional states of others to get what they want. Gaslighting is defined as “an insidious and sometimes covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser forces the target to question their judgments and reality.”
We often explore these concepts from an individual and psychological point of view rather than from a political and ethical point of view. The first remains of great concern and victims of domestic violence need our support and resources.
But an ethical perspective is essential to understand what is at stake personally and collectively.
To fathom the impact on our psyche, we must recognize the human condition whose two aspects are awareness and consciousness. Consciousness is awareness of our physical surroundings, our actions and our words. Consciousness is the awareness of good and evil.
Manipulators seek to obliterate another person’s consciousness so that they cannot distinguish right from wrong. When this happens, the manipulator takes power over the victim.
To do this, manipulators study their target, taking inventory of their deepest desires, values and beliefs. They then use them against them. If a person desires something, the manipulator will hold it above their head. If a person fervently believes in something, a manipulator will pretend to do so as well, to deceive their victims later.
Essentially, manipulators know how their victims will react in a given situation and thus devise a strategy to put a plan into motion. Typical tactics for controlling a person include deception, lying, exaggeration, silence, anger, and most importantly, fear.
While manipulation targets consciousness, gaslighting targets consciousness. The term comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Gaslight” (1944) about a husband with a secret that slowly drives his wife crazy.
Gaslighters claim to know a person better than they know themselves. They claim that the abnormal is “normal”, so the person questions their sanity. Gaslighters overlook their own misdeeds but expose their victims’ transgressions, triggering depression. They force them to lie repeatedly so that they no longer distinguish right from wrong.
Malignant narcissists are both manipulators and gas lighters.
Author Lisa A. Romano has a helpful video on how to disarm a malignant narcissist. It asks us to accept the fact that we cannot control someone else’s reality. So faced with a narcissist, she deploys these sentences:
- “I’m sorry you felt that way.”
- “I can accept your misperception of me.”
- “I have no right to control how you see me.”
- “I guess I have to accept how you feel.”
- “Your anger is not my responsibility.”
- “I’m not going to argue about this anymore.”
- “Your perceptions are your perceptions.”
Given the state of partisan opinion in our country, with one party diametrically opposed to anything the other party promotes, voters are manipulated and enlightened to such an extent that many can no longer trust their judgment or discern the facts of fiction.
The January 6 uprising is a flashpoint.
We have all seen what happened in the nation’s capital that day. The House Select Committee investigated and elaborated on this tragic event. The first of at least eight public hearings is scheduled to begin in June.
Some Republican lawmakers have claimed it was a regular tourist day while others refuse to call it an insurrection. Maybe the latter is up for debate. But if you believe U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, that it was a “normal tourist day,” you’ve been in the spotlight.
Social media played a role in sparking the insurgency. The tweets rallied, incited and directed the crowd. This is not an isolated case as the use of technology in this way dates back to the 1999 World Trade Organization protest in Seattle.
Protesters used cellphones to organize and express their agenda, which included workers’ rights, sustainable economies, and environmental and social issues. Tactically, they used technology to circumvent police trying to control the crowd.
The January 6 insurgency is complicated, involving conspiracies and false claims. Voters have not only been manipulated and enlightened by politicians; they have been prompted and triggered by technology.
Nonetheless, we will discuss and debate the 2020 presidential election for years to come, with little prospect of a change of heart at home, at school, and at work.
But we have a personal obligation not to let politics undermine our conscience and distort our conscience.
Take another look at these phrases Romano recommends and apply them to politics.
- “I’m sorry you feel that way about [my/your politician].”
- “I can accept your misperception of [my/your candidate].”
- “I have no right to control the way you see [my/your party].”
- “I guess I have to accept what you think of politics.”
- “Your anger against [my candidate/party] is not my responsibility.
- “I’m not going to argue about this anymore.”
- “Your perceptions about [my candidate/party] are your perceptions.