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?


A Facebook Group I Will Be Posting On…

I will be posting on a facebook group called The Comfort Compass. “The Comfort Compass is a coalition uniting individuals living with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, families, friends, & professionals with education, support and resources to encourage stability and decrease stigma.”


About me:

“I have been diagnosed with a mental illness since 1996 but have suffered with it my whole life. Once diagnosed I spent any spare time I had looking for ways to manage it by seeking education, professional advice and alternative applications. I currently work at a Recovery and Wellness Center running a women’s group. I plan on becoming an Intentional Peer Support Facilitator and a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan,) Facilitator in 2015 at the Center. I’ve had personal experiences with abuse, care taking issues, single parenting, public assistance, homelessness and sexual identity issues but can not call myself an advocate. I’ve lectured for NAMI on the topic of Mental Illness and have spoken in front of The Rhode Island’s Senate on Domestic Abuse. I believe in self empowerment whether it be for a disability, sexual issues or any other minority issue. I strongly believe in self advocacy and being well educated in anything I put into my body. I write a blog on Women’s Issues that compliments the group I run and a personal blog for my own self edification, personal history recording and symptom tracking. I would like to encourage people to challenge their beliefs and thought processes to encourage intelligent conversation.”

Part 2: Two Quotes, Two Stories, Discussing Our Thoughts and Wrapping It Up…

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

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

The First Story:

The animals got together in the forest one day and decided to start a school. There was a rabbit, a bird, a squirrel, a fish and an eel, and they formed a Board of Education. The rabbit insisted that running be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish insisted that swimming be in the curriculum, and the squirrel insisted that perpendicular tree climbing be in the curriculum. They put all of these things together and wrote a Curriculum Guide. Then they insisted that all of the animals take all of the subjects. Although the rabbit was getting an A in running perpendicular tree climbing was a real problem for him; he kept falling over backwards. Pretty soon he got to be sort of brain damaged, and he couldn’t run any more. He found that instead of making an A in running, he was making a C and, of course, he always made an F in perpendicular tree climbing. The bird was really beautiful at flying, but when it came to burrowing in the ground, he couldn’t do so well. He kept breaking his beak and wings. Pretty soon he was making a C in flying as well as an F in burrowing, and he had a hellava time with perpendicular tree climbing. The moral of the story is that the animal who was valedictorian of the class was a mentally retarded eel who did everything in a halfway fashion. But the educators were all happy because everybody was taking all of the subjects, and it was called a broad-based education.

The Concept: Our Education begins the formation labeling and it leads to discrimination in our lives during systematic instruction and afterwards as we interact in society.

A Subtopic Quote:

“How many kids have not been educated just because someone pinned a label on them somewhere along the line? Stupid, dumb, emotionally disturbed. I have never known a stupid child. Never! Never! I’ve only known children and never two alike. Labels are distancing phenomena. They push us away from each other. Black man. What’s a black man? I’ve never known two alike. Does he love? Does he care? What about his kids? Has he cried? Is he lonely? Is he beautiful? Is he happy? Is he giving something to someone? These are the important things. Not the fact that he is a black man or Jew or Dago or Communist or Democrat or Republican.”

The Second Story:

I was born in Los Angeles, and my parents were Italian immigrants. A big family. Mama and Papa were obviously great lovers! They came from a tiny village at the base of the Italian Swiss Alps where everyone knew everyone. Everyone knew the names of the dogs, and the village priest came out and danced in the streets at the fiestas and got as drunk as everybody else. It was the most beautiful scene in the world and a pleasure to be raised by these people in this old way. But when I was taken, at five, to a public school, tested by some very official-looking person, the next thing I knew I was in a class for the mentally retarded! It didn’t matter that I was able to speak Italian and an Italian dialect. I also spoke some French and Spanish — but I didn’t speak English too well and so I was mentally retarded. I think the term now is “culturally disadvantaged.” I was put into the class for the mentally retarded, and I never had a more exciting educational experience in my life! Talk about a warm, pulsating, loving teacher. Her name was Miss Hunt, and I’m sure she was the only one in the school who would teach those “dumb” kids. She was a great bulbous woman. She liked me even if I smelled of garlic. I remember when she used to come and lean over me, how I used to cuddle! I did all kinds of learning for this woman because I really loved her. Then one day I made a tremendous mistake. I wrote a newspaper as if I were a Roman. I described how the gladiators would perform and so on. The next thing I knew I was being retested and was transferred to a regular classroom after which I was bored for the rest of my educational career.

I started out this group by quickly reviewing last weeks information on labels and elementary education. I read the main quote and asked someone to read The First Story.

I observed the fact that Buscaglia used “mentally retarded” to make a point in this story; it is a label itself. I asked if everyone in the group understood the concept of the story and gave my interpretation quickly. The same woman read The Subtopic Quote. And we quickly shared our views of what it meant to each of us. I also rendered the following clarifying paragraph: “Buscaglia’s most important point, however, is that such industrialized conformity transcends the education system and bleeds into our everyday lives, at all layers and levels of society — its product is a narrow definition of intelligence and ability, which results in a narrow field of belonging, which in turn casts everyone outside of it as a misfit.” to the group in my words then had the same woman read The Second Story which is a personal memory of Buscaglia.

The group was more interested in sharing their thoughts this week. I believe that this two part article encouraged people to think about the subject between the two group dates and was rewarded when one of the participants posed me with a relevant question. She was frustrated that this article posed the subject of the negative effects of labeling but didn’t seem to resolve it. She wanted to know if Buscaglia gave pointers on how to deal with the negative aspects of labeling within someone’s life. This is something I briefly researched between the two classes as she had brought up this point in the last gathering. I came up with little because my research terms were too broad and only served to give me results on how to use labels when printing. I’m not kidding. I’ll attempt to come up with alternative terms that may bring me to another potential group that could be an offshoot of this subject.

I also told her that this article is just part of his book titled Love: What Life Is All About 1972, Leo Buscaglia. I hadn’t read the book and had used this article which came from an online blog (which I was mistaken, read about Brain Pickings at: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/about/) and that there was some follow-up material that might be helpful (which I will cut and paste in the next section.) 

“The rest of Buscaglia’s Love: What Life Is All About, an exquisite addition to these must-read books on the psychology of love, goes on to explore our ancient quest to define it, the notion that it’s a learned phenomenon, the interplay between love and strength, the responsibilities of love, and more. Complement it with Van Gogh on love, Stendhal on its seven stages, and the science of how “limbic revision” rewires the brain in love.”

The rest of the time was spent discussing labels and how it effects us as well as what it did to some of us personally. Because this is a group that meets within a Wellness and Recovery Center we talked about Mental Health and physical labels. To wrap up the class I summed up the concept that part of solving the problem would be to use less labels by moving towards people instead of away. Addressing the frustrated woman’s concerns I said that identifying that we use these labels might be a beginning to reducing the use of them. I added that judging people may have some negative results but judging wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to do. It helped protect us in many ways. She said that she knew she used them and tried to get beyond them by getting to know the person. I felt that she probably was the person who could solve her own question and do it well. I also added that discriminating and judging was a human thing to do and not unusual. None of us were born “perfect”.
I ended by saying we could only do what we could do and it was our choice to stop using labels. All in all this group was really lively and everyone participated. I thanked the woman with the frustration after class as she apologized to me for being portentous. I said I was happy that he brought challenging questions to the group, it helped to direct communication. Another woman who works at the center told her that her challenging helped the other group members become interested and join in.
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:

Do you notice that you use labels in your life when you meet new people? How about people you’ve know for a long time, do you label them? How do you feel, if anything when you recognize that you are using labels for others in your life? Do you or have you tried to dispense with a label and give another person a chance to become closer? Keep in mind that just because you may dispense with a label doesn’t mean it magically makes the other person “good”. You’ve just humanized them to yourself.


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…