Even though the series ended in 1983, I am still a M*A*S*H fan. In one particular episode BJ plays a practical joke on Charles. At first he makes Charles think he is losing weight by trading his uniform with larger ones. Then he reverses the process and with smaller uniforms that get Charles engaged in a rigorous weight-loss program. Remembering this episode makes me laugh.
But what got me thinking about this storyline is not a laughing matter. I have learned a new term lately: gaslighting. It is based on a stage play from 1938 (Gas Light) and movie from 1944 (Gaslight) about a husband who wanted to get rid of his wife so he began driving her crazy by adjusting the gas lamps (hence the title) but denying he was doing so. The term gaslight has since been used referring to psychological abuse where the abuser attempts to make the victim question their reality. This is done gradually so that the victim doesn’t realize they are being brainwashed and is a common technique manipulation through deception.
Some of the characteristics of gaslighting include telling blatant lies, embedding lies into truths, denying having said something – despite evidence to the contrary, periodically giving positive reinforcement – which keeps you off-kilter, telling others that you are crazy while telling you everyone else is a liar, and wearing you down over time.
Why do I focus on this? Because domestic abuse is far too common. And because we are seeing increases in neo-Nazism. Gaslighting is used in both contexts to confuse and thereby gain control. Here are some things that can help you avoid being victimized:
Thanks be to God.
1 For more information see Gaslighting: Know It, Identify It, and Protect Yourself by Stephanie Moultin Sarkis, PhD. www.stephaniesarkis.com
2 For more information see Controlling Behavior – 6 Keys to Avoid Gaslighting Psychological Abuse by Jeanne King, PhD. http://www.preventabusiverelationships.com/articles/gas_lighting_215.php
Dr. Richard R. Kurrasch
Following forty years of pastoral ministry, Rich and his wife, Ann Marie, retired to the Central Coast where in addition to the opportunities of the SLO life generally, he divides his time between PFJ, the Rotary Club of Five Cities Eco (one of three Eco/environmental Rotary clubs in the country), and writing a memoir.