5th Group: What Is Gaslighting? (A Form of Abuse) 12/19/14

The Article: “What Is Gaslighting?”

The Main Quote:

“Has someone in your life undermined you by saying and doing things that make you question yourself? Do you often start questioning your own perception of reality, even your own sanity within this relationship? If so that person may be using what mental health professionals call “gaslighting”.”


This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out. It is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.

The Concept: Examining the techniques that an abuser uses against his victim so we can understand what’s being done and recognize it for what it is.

The Quote:

“There are numerous gaslighting techniques which can make gaslighting more difficult to identify. Gaslighting techniques are used to hide truths that the abuser doesn’t want the victim to realize. Gaslighting abuse can be perpetrated by either women or men.”

The Techniques:

Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”

Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”

Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”

Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”

Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”

The Discussion:

We went around the group and since there were 5 attendees today, read each technique which I had taken from the two sources at the end of this blog entry and combined on paper. After hearing them all I asked each individual whether she experienced this in a partner or someone they knew. As the two sources are mainly about an abusive partner I made it a point to relay to the group that the person who gaslighted could be a friend, co-worker, partner or family member.

Each person in the group had experience with someone who would do this kind of abuse to them. An interesting comment: “people with Mental Illnesses have a harder time defending themselves against gaslighting techniques.” Everyone agreed particularly because our senses of reality were already compromised. Particularly people with Schizophrenia who had difficulty communicating many times because of voices or their suspended realities. Paranoia in someone who had a mental illness helped an abuser who used gaslighting techniques by using the fact that the sufferer had paranoia.

To fully get the information on gaslighting read both sources.

A note: I try to take as many notes as I can but in a group where sharing is almost free form at times I find it challenging to write down all the concepts that are brought up. This is another good reason to follow each group up with a blog entry.

As part of the group sometimes we might think about the concepts and realize that we have more to say about our own experiences and thoughts. If you care to, and even if you’re not part of the physical group leave an answer to the following:
Have you encountered gaslighting in any of your relationships? Have you ever heard of gaslighting? How were you able to get out of that particular relationship? Were you able to sense that you were being manipulated while in that particular relationship? Keep in mind that being gaslighted can be difficult to identify especially while it is happening.




4th Group: Top 10 Facts About Women And Women’s Issues 12/12/14

The Article: “Top 10 Facts About Women And Women’s Issues”

The Main Quote: Drawn from a cross-section of economic, social and political concerns these top 10 facts about women convey the enormity of the gap between men and women and why focusing on women’s issues and drawing attention to them is our best chance of closing the gap .”

The Facts:

  1. Women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes
  2. Only 17% of the seats in Congress are held by women.
  3. One out of every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  4. One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted and/or raped in her lifetime.
  5. Although 48% of law school graduates and 45% of law firm associates are female, women make up only 22% of federal-level and 26% of state-level judgeships.
  6. Even in the 10 top paying jobs for women, females earn less than men; only one career — speech pathology — pays the same regardless of gender.
  7. It’s not any better at the top. America’s top female CEOs earn, on average, 33 cents for every dollar earned by a male CEO.
  8. There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees women the same rights as a man. Despite attempts to add an Equal Rights Amendment, there is no guarantee of equal rights for women in any legal document or any piece of legislation.
  9. Despite previous attempts to ratify a UN treaty guaranteeing the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the U.S. refuses to support an international bill of rights for women signed by nearly every other nation on the planet.
  10. The World Economic Forum’s 2009 report on the Global Gender Gap ranked 134 countries for gender parity. The U.S. didn’t even make the top 10 — it came in at number 31.

The Concept: Looking at these facts on Women’s Issues and discussing them to get an idea of the scope of Women’s Equality.

The Discussion:

Since this article was basically facts and lent little opinion I found it hard to decide how to present it. What I did on the cuff was have each woman read about 3 facts. There were 4 women including me that attended today. And even though there didn’t seem to be much to discuss we ran the group up until the moment we had to leave.

Addressing the facts in this article I asked everyone what kind of issues the believed were important to women. I also asked why has discrimination existed between men and women.

The first woman asked said that Women Empowerment was important as a women’s issue. She also brought up Louise Hay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Hay . Since she had been involved with a Domestic Violence Center for Women she felt that the law for those types of relationships were important women’s issues because of the threats and verbal abuse etc.. She believed that discrimination existed because of stigma between men and women. The second said that Life choice issues (like welfare,) and conditioning to get ahead in school and job was another issue that should be important to women. Another woman felt that going to church and religion were reason’s for discrimination. Still another believed that children, pregnancy, health as well as the bible were all women’s issues.

Opening the discussion about how should the discrimination be dealt with one member of the group claimed that each woman was responsible for her own issues and that it was not society that should change. Each woman needed to stand up and be responsible for themselves. The other women were quiet about how discrimination should be dealt with so I asked each person if they felt discrimination in their lives. I got many varied interesting responses and went from there discussing or trying to enhance upon the woman’s response. Every woman in one way or another experienced discrimination.

As part of the group sometimes we might think about the concepts and realize that we have more to say about our own experiences and thoughts. If you care to, and even if you’re not part of the physical group leave an answer to the following:

What do you think about these facts and what they say about the importance of women in American Society? What do you think are issues that should be addressed as Women’s Issues? Why do you think that discrimination against women has existed? How do you think this discrimination should be dealt with?


3rd Group: Why It Is Your Right To Be Selfish

The Article: “Why It Is Your Right To Be Selfish”

The Main Quote: The word “selfish” creates conflicting emotions for women.”

The First Passage:

The word “selfish” creates conflicting emotions for women.  On one side, it feels good to just think of yourself and not have to always be “on” for other people.  Then there is the other side, the one that society has laid down regarding a women’s role – the side that says being selfish is not what we would ever want others to think about us.  It’s just not feminine.

The Concept: Examining the semantics of the word “selfish”, our understanding of it and using that understanding to change the word’s meaning so the connotation is neither positive nor negative.

A Subtopic Quote:

“Why are we so fearful of being thought of as selfish?”

The Second Passage:

Why are we so fearful of being thought of as selfish? Mainly because we have a distorted interpretation of what selfish looks like.  It’s an all-or-nothing syndrome.  We are either selfish or caring.  It’s time we stop being fearful of the word and instead see the possibilities where being selfish is the right solution to a problem.

Being honest about our needs and wants is important.  It’s in honesty that we add the most value to the people around us.  Resisting being selfish is dishonest and hinders having a true intimate relationship with yourself and others.

This week I did all the reading. The preceding is basically what the group went through. I read the first passage and asked everyone in turn what “selfishness” meant to them. I received some interesting answers.

The first woman I asked about selfishness told me about a Dr. Phil episode where he claimed to be very selfish. She went on to say that his wife also claimed the same thing. We talked about the difference between healthy selfishness and the kind of selfishness that doesn’t foster fairness and respect between people. Another woman interjected that the semantics of the word made it difficult for people to feel comfortable with it. She said that instead of selfishness it would be a big help to change the interpretation of the word.

Another woman brought up an analogy about pie. To simplify it she said: I see a pie. I want the whole pie. I tell myself I can have only a piece of the pie. It seemed to me that the point of the analogy was that you are looking to get as much as you can get but are limited by what realistically the situation allows. We are all selfish but if healthy we limit that selfishness. A term was used: Rational Selfishness. (It is from a book called Looking Out for #1 by Robert Ringer https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/551211.Looking_Out_for_1 )

The notion of relationships with a two way exchange was brought up when discussing being forthright about our needs with other people. “If we are honest with others they will be honest with us. If we are respectful of others they too will be respectful of us.”  Talking about these healthy elements within relationships to describe how our selfishness ( or personal care taking,) to preserve our own mental health is integral for feeling well became a main topic. I interjected that it would be nice if people were cooperative in this way but that I was sure everyone in this group knew someone who crossed our boundaries and had no problem insisting on their own needs. There was much rousing explanations and stories of people we could think of: family members, friends, acquaintances, lovers, different types of people we met in life or had no choice in dealing with.

The book  The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1098486.The_Center_Cannot_Hold was brought up when we discussed how some people we knew seemed to be naturally grounded or centered. I can relate to this as my own Mother who really had no interest in learning about psychiatric issues beyond understanding my own plight in the limited way that she felt she needed to deal with me, was very grounded and seemed to never question herself or the world. She never suffered from depression beyond the situational sadness that she had when her parents or pet died.

I asked one of the women I hadn’t gotten to yet if she had experience with dealing with a selfish person or if she felt the need to be selfish in her life. She was not very involved with the group up until that point. She became lively as she spoke of a person she was currently social with who she felt she was enabling through giving cigarettes and meals. She said that in the past she’d gotten away from unfair people. We talked of boundaries: “What you’re responsible for and what others are responsible for.” And how sometimes other people’s issues become much more important than our own.

Someone introduced another concept of the Universal Law Theme. This concept I was told embodies the idea that you need to hold your own in this world. Many personal stories were shared like abortion and and hospital as well as marriage and relationship situations. It was a passionate group and people were very involved.

A note: I try to take as many notes as I can but in a group where sharing is almost free form at times I find it challenging to write down all the concepts that are brought up. This is another good reason to follow each group up with a blog entry.
As part of the group sometimes we might think about the concepts and realize that we have more to say about our own experiences and thoughts. If you care to, and even if you’re not part of the physical group leave an answer to the following:

Have you found that you’ve encountered selfish people in your life? In what ways (negative, positive) did they exhibit these behaviors? Do you mindfully consider your actions when it comes to making sure your needs are met? What do you do when someone who seems limited in empathy pushes you to abandon your own choices to their own benefit? Keep in mind that being selfish can mean different things to different people.


Part 1: A Quote, A Story And A Round Of Each Person’s Thoughts…

The Article: “Leo Buscaglia on Education, Industrialized Conformity, and How Stereotypes and Labels Limit Love”

The Quote“Labels are distancing phenomena. They push us away from each other.”

The Story:

[The art teacher] comes racing in from another class and has time only to nod to the teacher, turn around and say, “Boys and girls, today we are going to draw a tree.” She goes to the blackboard, and she draws her tree which is a great big green ball with a little brown base. Remember those lollipop trees? I never saw a tree that looked like that in my life, but she puts it up there, and she says, “All right, boys and girls, draw.” Everybody gets busy and draws.

If you have any sense, even at that early age, you realize that what she really wanted was for you to draw her tree, because the closer you got to her tree, the better your grade. If you already realized this in grade one, then you handed in a little lollipop, and she said, “oh, that’s divine.” But here’s Junior who really knows a tree as this little woman has never seen a tree in her life. He’s climbed a tree, he’s hugged a tree, he’s fallen out of a tree, he’s listened to the breeze blow through the branches. He really knows a tree, and he knows that a tree isn’t a lollipop! So he takes purple and yellow and orange and green and magenta crayons and he draws this beautiful freaky thing and hands it in. She takes one look and shrieks. “Brain damaged!”

The Concept: Education and Industrialized Conformity

I started out summing up the introduction to Buscaglia and his “Love Class”. I asked the woman on the right to read:

“Education should be the process of helping everyone to discover his uniqueness, to teach him how to develop that uniqueness, and then to show him how to share it because that’s the only reason for having anything.”

This was to introduce the concept and was a precursor to the story. I noticed that people seemed to get bored so instead of adding more concepts I decided to ask each person to share if they had or hadn’t ever experienced the same type of situation as the Child experienced in the story with the Art Teacher.
I received some well thought out answers from each person. Even when I initially thought a few women didn’t get the point of the story I found if I waited everyone did get it and the group went smoothly. I tried to draw out each person’s point because not each answer was the same consideration. Some people brought out the actual help that they felt the Art Teacher was providing. Some went to the abstract and talked about the stifling affect that happened in their experience that either smothered their interest in the subject or caused them to seek out someone more empathetic. All in all even though the group had been interrupted a few times and was as short as a half an hour the content and interest was satisfying.
As part of the group sometimes we might think about the concepts and realize that we have more to say about our own experiences and thoughts. If you care to, and even if you’re not part of the physical group leave an answer to the following:

Have you ever encountered a similar teacher in school as a child (or young adult, adult, whatever)? What happened and how do you feel it relates to the concept of Education and Industrialized Conformity. Keep in mind the two quotes when answering…