DISIDENTIFYING WITH THE GASLIT VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

Neutralizing the Gaslighting Virus

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC

DEFINING GASLIGHTING

Gaslighting is simply impossible to comprehend, identify, and permanently eradicate without an accurate understanding of what it is and how it evades detection. Because of its complex nature and apparent invisibility, it secretly lurks in the shadows while perpetuating unfathomable harm upon its victims. To overcome this scourge of a problem, we must update, redefine, and broaden our understanding of it. To further the advancement of the mental health field, the following definition is provided.

Gaslighting is the systematically applied mind-control strategy that sociopaths and sociopathic narcissists use to covertly prey upon vulnerable Self-Love Deficient/SLD[i] (codependent) individuals. Because of many factors, most notably, “The Human Magnet Syndrome’s[ii]” unconscious attraction and relationship patterns, gaslighters and SLDs predictably choose each other for romantic partners.

As a result of Self-Love Deficit Disorder’s/SLDD’s[iii] (codependency’s) specific interpersonal and mental health-related deficits, SLDs are vulnerable to both falling in love with and subsequently believing their gaslighter’s false altruism, affection, and promises of protection. Unlike the SLD, who begins the relationship with intense infatuation and OCD-like happiness, otherwise known as “limerence,”[iv] the sociopathic gaslighter feigns limerence while executing the earliest stage of the systematically devised gaslighting plan.

Once the gaslighter sets their sights on the chosen SLD, they carefully begin the process of observing and identifying their insecurities and deficits. Strategically creating the illusion of an intimate and safe environment, they encourage their willing victim to engage in personal and revealing self-disclosure. This is when the choreography of the victim’s environment begins.

The SLD victim, who is eager to establish connection and intimacy, is easily manipulated and encouraged to feel guilty for their mistakes, deficits, and insecurities. Berated, ridiculed, and taunted, they become painfully ashamed of the chronically impaired and subjectively worthless person they have become. The gaslighter’s imposed false narratives and distorted versions of reality weaken and neutralize the SLD’s defenses and turn their mind against them. The SLD has now effectively been rendered powerless.

As a result of the gaslighter’s methodically developed and executed plan to reshape their victim’s “self-narrative,” the SLD victim is invisibly coerced to identify with their core shame and consequently believe that they are inherently broken, unlovable, a burden to any person for whom they formerly felt kinship and/or love. The following definitions of “Self and Gaslit Narratives” are based on material taken out of The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap (2018).

Self-Narratives are subjectively understood and communicated “life story” that portray a person’s assessment of their total self—strengths, limitations, and everything in between. It is comprised of autobiographical information that is factual and anchored in accurate memories. Self-Narratives are metaphorical mirrors that, in real-time, accurately reflect a person’s self-reality. It is also an ever-evolving “life painting,” which a person looks at when they want to either understand or explain where they came from, and who they are.

This unadulterated “self-story” is formed by the organic interaction of the person and the people and events in their lives. It comes from the competing forces of experience and memory, which by their very nature are in a constant state of development. When communicated, it relays a person’s subjective belief structure, thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. Because it is reflective of a person’s self-evaluation of their worth and significance to others, it is predictive of current or future emotional/mental and relational health.

Gaslit Self-Narratives are life stories that a sociopathic Pathological Narcissist[v] covertly manufactured and systematically implanted to their oblivious SLDD victim. Such a purposely reshaped and distorted self-narrative meticulously challenges, degrades, repackages, and ultimately replaces the SLD victim’s organic and previously unsullied Self-Narrative. This is accomplished by a sustained gaslighting campaign that, by its very nature, introduces and eventually reinforces a person’s beliefs about being fundamentally defective, incompetent, and/or unlovable.

These narratives are implanted in a cunning and methodical manner so the victim doubts, forgets, and casts aside healthier and more self-promoting narrative versions. This covert form of mind-control and personal and relational manipulation is motivated by an over-arching plan of isolation, control, and domination.”

The gaslighting campaign ultimately manifests into a self-reinforced state of despair and resignation. By accepting and believing the meticulously revised self-story, they are prone to deep feelings of insecurity, hopelessness, and paranoia. Such a conquest of their natural psychological defenses eventually validates the implanted beliefs about being irreparably broken, fragile, weak, and, therefore, unlovable.

The SLD predictably falls victim to the implanted belief that fighting back or wanting to escape their “protective” but fake lover would be manifestly futile. In addition, they are manipulatively provided falsified proof that their former loved ones neither love them nor want to be with them. Such a gaslighting campaign ultimately dissuades any future attempts to communicate or visit their former unconditionally accepting support systems.

Much like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, gaslit SLDs are manipulated to be loyal and protective of their captor while believing they are the only person who unconditionally wants to protect and love them. Manipulated to protect their pretend best friend at all costs, they dutifully and loyally report any rescue attempts. All the while, the gaslighter feeds them false information about their pre-gaslit life for the sole purpose of further alienating or severing the relationships. The gaslighter has therefore established themselves as the “only safe, accepting, and unconditionally loving” person in the SLD’s vastly shrinking world.

 

FOUNDATIONAL GASLIGHTING

Foundational Gaslighting is the profoundly traumatic childhood gaslighting experience that predictably transmigrates into an adult gaslit relationship with a Pathological Narcissist. Gaslighting narcissists (Covert Narcissists or Sociopaths) purposely seek SLD victims who have experienced foundational gaslighting, as they are the most vulnerable and defenseless to their expertly disguised sociopathic gaslighting plans.

Foundational gaslighting can be traced back to an SLD’s childhood, when survival required them to be molded into their narcissistic parent’s “feel good” object. By assuming the “trophy child” role, such children were spared from rejection, humiliation, abuse, and neglect. By becoming this parent’s crowning achievement, while proudly showing off their “painted on” “sparkly gold luster,” they found a way to be spared of crushing abuse­­­­ and neglect.

By creating a “trophy hungry” child, the narcissistic parent manifests their fantasy of creating a perfect child while playing the pretend role of a deeply loving, devoted, and sacrificing parent. This child’s trophy status temporarily relieves them of their repressed or unconsciously hidden core shame while boosting their fragile self-esteem.

A dysfunctional and harmful form of “safety” is reached when the trophy child is conned into believing and trying to maintain a personality façade of being grateful and loving to the person who is most harmful to them. Failure to reach and maintain such “safety” is unthinkable, as the consequences are extraordinarily frightening.

For the trophy child, falling from grace was always unfathomably frightening. These children witnessed firsthand the punitive harm of intentionally or accidentally activating their parent’s hurricane-like narcissistic rage. Although less harmed than other family members who were denied the coveted “gift child” status, they still endured terrible “trophy child”-specific psychological harm. Perhaps the most harmful was the nefarious swapping of their authentic values, beliefs, and thoughts—their inner voice—with one that dutifully echoed the narcissistic parent’s gaslit imbued judgments and conclusions.

Inevitably, the broken trophy child, a future SLD, would mistake the implanted self-hate inner dialogue with their own unforgiving, judging, and constantly shaming self-judgments. Ultimately, these children identify with, surrender to, and blindly accept their implanted “chronically flawed personality” and its inescapable manufactured thoughts and beliefs. These “gaslighting echoes” become the metaphorical straight jacket that they may never be able to remove.[vi] By repackaging their feelings and their expressions of themselves, this safer[vii] but entrapped trophy child molds and contorts their developing personality according to the narrative being continually fed to them.

In time, this gaslit child will predictably morph into an SLD adult who is submissive, chronically apologetic, unquestionably open and responsive to perceived criticism, spontaneously accommodating, and unfairly deferential to others. Worse, the implanted gaslit narratives of their childhood will predictably morph into what they believe are their own condemning and judgmental thoughts. I refer to such self-defeating and debilitating internal dialogue as the “gaslit voices” in one’s “head.”

In other words, the judgmental and condemning thoughts that are accompanied by anxiety, fear, and acutely uncomfortable body sensations are not from the person who is experiencing them but instead the “original” childhood gaslighter(s). The current gaslighter, another Pathological Narcissist, not only “benefits” from the “foundational gaslighting” but methodically refines and implements it to meet their own needs.

 

GASLIGHTING “VIRUSES”

Like a virus, childhood-based gaslighting finds a way to “mutate” so that it can survive into adulthood. Unfortunately, this “mutated” form of gaslighting is even more amorphous, difficult to detect, and seemingly impossible to remedy than the adult version. It is so difficult to detect that it took me close to 32 years to spot, explain, and then devise a strategy to remediate it.[viii]

The mutated “gaslighting virus” is even more inconspicuous, stealthy, and treacherous than the original form that was perpetrated onto the child by the parent. Not only is it almost completely hidden from awareness, but it brilliantly disguises itself as the victim’s own inner dialogue. It successfully evades detection because of its ability to reshape itself into the person’s own self-defeating, self-shaming, pessimistic, and critical inner voice. Mutated gaslighting is so well disguised, its attachment trauma origins are rarely considered.

The “gaslighting virus” replicates itself so that the original pathological form cannot be recognized. The transformation/mutation process not only blocks the individual’s awareness of the original source “virus” but also masterfully hides it from everyone, most importantly from the host SLD. If the virus mutates from the “you suck” to the “I suck” form, then it has effectively transmuted itself from childhood gaslighting into adult Self-Love Deficit Disorder.

 

Gaslit Voices Disidentification Technique

Through a lengthy process of personal and professional examination, I formulated a practical solution to the childhood to adulthood transmission of gaslighting. Such would become my “Gaslit Voices Disidentification Technique.” Like my other Self-Love Recovery Treatment Program discoveries, it would undergo a lengthy refinement process so that it could help as many recovering SLDs as possible.

The Gaslit Voices Disidentification Technique is now an element of my 11 Stage Self-Love Recovery Treatment Program.[ix] In addition, it was highlighted in a YouTube video (190,00 views) and has been included in my full-length (4 to 6-hours) video seminars entitledThe Codependency Cure and “The Eleven Stage Self-Love Recovery Program.”[x]

The following is a concise rendering of the technique. Although it is only a summary, it should prove useful to those who suffer from gaslighting and the mental health practitioners who help these individuals.

 

THE GASLIT VOICES DISIDENTIFICATION TECHNIQUE – The Summary Version

A mental health or other qualified practitioner will need to create an environment/relationship that is conducive to the following:

  1. Comprehending/learning about
    1. The Human Magnet Syndrome (HMS)
    2. The Self-Love Deficit/Self-Love Deficient concepts
    3. Gaslighting in general
    4. Gaslighting as it pertains to HMS
    5. Self-Narratives and Gaslit Self Narratives
    6. Foundational Gaslighting

 

  1. Helping the client isolate their chronic pessimistic, condemning, and self-defeating thoughts.

 

  1. Helping the client understand the dysfunctional/harmful impact that such thoughts, beliefs, and consequent feelings have on their mental health.

 

  1. Facilitating the realization of how childhood gaslit thoughts eventually morph into harmful, degrading, and critical self-directed “harmful voices.”

 

  1. Assigning, discussing, and processing the Harmful Thoughts Inventory.”
    1. Tracing the destructive thought backward in time.
    2. Facilitating the memory of the first time they remembered hearing someone say the primary message of each thought.
    3. Listing and describing self-harming thoughts.
    4. Discussing the social, occupational, personal, relational, and emotional consequences.
    5. Providing objective feedback about the client’s insights and/or blindness to list all of the harmful thoughts.

 

  1. Discussing or writing about the long and short-term impact of what was learned.

 

  1. Assigning, discussing, and processing the From Where Did These Thoughts Originate Inventory.”
    1. A fearless, accurate, and searching attempt to assign accurate responsibility for the origin of the thoughts.

 

  1. Assigning, discussing, and processing the Which Thoughts Will I Own, and Which Will I Reject Inventory.”

 

  1. Creating an Ownership of an “Only My Thoughts Remediation Plan.”
    1. The frequency of thoughts
    2. The incorrect self-attribution of them
    3. Effective strategies to identify the thoughts that are not theirs and which were products of gaslighting.

 

  1. Creating and frequently updating the “Tracking My Own Thoughts Inventory.”
    1. Gaslit destructive thoughts
    2. Successful and identification and neutralization of them.

 

  1. Creating a collaborated updated version of each of the above three inventories.
    1. Discussing and processing growth
    2. Discussing and processing continued focus for growth

 

  1. The professional clinical application of the “Healing the Inner Trauma Child Trauma Resolution or HITCH Method[xi]:
    1. Body and Affective Memory recollection
    2. Identification of the gaslit “voice(s)” origins.
    3. Facilitate an understanding of the emotional impact of the resulting childhood attachment trauma.
    4. Explore feelings and thoughts about such harm.
    5. Facilitate an understanding of how the Foundational Gaslighting transmigrated into a misattributed self-defeating adult thoughts and feelings.
    6. Through the application of the other HITCH techniques and strategies, achieve Affective and Body Memory integration

 

  1. Introduction and education on the Observe and Don’t Absorb (ODA) Technique.”

 

  1. Introduction and education on the differences between the “Emotional” and “Physical Wrestling Rings.”

 

  1. Instructing on how to use the ODA technique to neutralize the gaslit misattributed thoughts, which reside in the “emotional wrestling” ring.

 

  1. Instructing on how to “fight back” through the use of the ODA
    1. The non-combative, self-regulated, and safe affective disassociation.

 

  1. Teaching how ODA can be used for such intrusive gaslit thought patterns.

 

Using the above techniques and the HITCH Trauma Resolution Treatment Method, a psychotherapist can facilitate (bring forward) a lucid emotional “affective memory” about the formerly disassociated gaslighting trauma. Through this trauma recollection process, the client learns for the first time how their childhood attachment trauma is responsible for the misidentification of their self-defeating and self-harming thoughts. With the disidentification of the negative “voices/self-talk” and the correct attribution applied, it becomes possible for the SLD client to manage, and eventually overcome, the deeply implanted, harmful narrative.

Over time, with dedication, proper support, and practice using my various “Observe Don’t Absorb Techniques,”[xii] the client replaces the invisibly destructive voices/thoughts with optimistic and self-loving thoughts that support their new self-love abundant reality. In other words, attachment-trauma-related gaslighting trauma integration has now been achieved.

______________________________________

[i] I changed the name of “codependency” to “Self-Love Deficit Disorder” or “SLDD.” I also changed the term “codependent” to “Self-Love Deficient” or “SLD.”

[ii] Rosenberg, R. (2018). The Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap. Morgan James Publishing, NY NY

[iii] Rosenberg’s updated term for codependency

[iv] Limerence was coined by Dorothy Tennov in her book, Love and Limerence (1979).

[v] A term used in The Human Magnet Syndrome (2018) that explains the group of narcissists with whom the SLD typically falls in love: Borderline, Antisocial and Narcissistic Personality Disordered individuals.

[vi] Explained in detail in Chapter 8 (The Origins of Codependency) of the 2018 version of my The Human Magnet Syndrome book.

[vii] Siblings who do not meet the “trophy child” standards, are recipients of severe trauma – abuse, neglect, and/or deprivation.

[viii] Years practicing psychotherapy, prior to this discovery.

[ix] Same as the above footnote.

[x] The video will be available on or before June 10, 2021, at Self-Love Recovery Institute’s website – www.SelfLoveRecovery.com

[xi] The HITCH video can be purchased at Self-Love Recovery Institute’s website - http://bit.do/HitchSeminar

[xii] The full-length video can be purchased at SLRI’s website. However, there are several related videos posted on YouTube. Look for the “Observe Don’t Absorb” Playlist (http://bit.do/ODA_Playlist).