Gaslighting 101: Changing the Subject

rock-cliff-high-tableau-mountain-731140I sometimes become haunted by news stories. Usually stories of injustice and abuse. Of course, I do. They’re close to my home. They touch my heart and remind me of what I clawed my way out of.

It’s not good for me to focus so strongly on negativity. I’d be better off becoming obsessed with meditation. Maybe I should be re-reading a book from my treasure trove of positive thinking books. Yet here I am, with more fodder for my writing. Obsession leaves no room for any other actions.

At any rate, I am consumed by the news detailing the latest public figure accused of sexual harassment/sexual abuse/child molestation. My intense scrutiny comes at the reactions to the people speaking out and telling their stories. I see gaslighting in the reporting and I saw gaslighting in response to my most recent posting, Telling Your Story: Gaslighting and Mystified Oppression.

Gaslighting takes many forms. One is to re-frame the subject. Re-framing is simply a fancy word for changing the subject. In this case, many are attempting to change the discussion from one of abuse into one of politics.

Gaslighting is often fascinating when I can get some distance from the exchange. You can look to logical fallacies as one explanation of gaslighting. Logical fallacies are errors in logic and thinking.

As I go back through the list of logical fallacies, there are so many in the reactions to my writing. And when someone is illogical, there is no discussion. All of these are attempts to change the subject and throw a lot of dust around the issue.

Several men wrote hostile responses in regard to my previous blog post on this subject. They resembled political commentary. Raging about politics, attempting to turn the speak outs from people speaking their truth into leftist politics versus right-wing politics. I explained my position in my return response.

Frankly, this caused some degree of rage in response. Rage is a common comeback to you when you don’t give in to gaslighting. It’s interesting. When one technique didn’t work, was a second and third. Attacking my logic, my politics and then my character. This is what is known as an ad hominem logical fallacy.

People are not communicating. They might respond from something deep inside them. Or they might be attempting to derail you from your side of the conversation. At any rate, they are not responding to reality.

None of which applies to the fact (The FACT) that women and men are speaking out about the wrong done to them by people with some power over them.

Just in case you wondered, speaking out is not political. It’s personal.

Okay, there are some who say the personal is political. If so, this is not red versus blue. One group of people want to keep the world safe for predators to roam. We can call them, the pro-abuse party. And the other side wants to make the world unsafe for predators to roam. We can call them, the anti-abuse party.

And right smack dab in the middle are those who want the space to speak out and tell their truth. Not your truth. Not my truth. Not the truth of the news media. Their personal truth.

All right, I’m being too literal. There are gaslighters who want to protect themselves from the consequences of their behavior. Others want to protect some idea, some prestige, some power or something. Your truth threatens to take something they value away from them. That’s not political, it’s personal.

The second gaslighting response was a legalistic one. It’s still an attempt to re-frame the discussion. Change the subject. “If he did it.” “All claims of harassment/abuse should be investigated.” “And whoever did wrong should be punished.”

There is a threat implicit in this. Here is the threat. If you speak your truth, you will be investigated. And if we can find any fault in your story, you will be punished.

Just so you know, if anyone investigates you long and hard enough, they will find something wrong. None of us are perfect. You might yell at your spouse or fart in the living room. Whatever. Public scrutiny is terrifying.

When I responded to this man’s thoughts, he behaved much like the first man. He became enraged and attacked me. He threw in concepts like “personal responsibility” without context.

Whose responsibility? The victim or the perpetrator. Then he attacked my logic, my motives, my character, my whatevers. Ad hominem. If you have no argument, attack the person. Or create confusion.

People are telling truths that happened years, even decades ago. There is no legal remedy here. No one is going to be arrested, charged, tried and sent to jail. That labels this a bogus argument, meant to derail the conversation.

How can a victim be the responsible party? This too is gaslighting. Blandly talking about abuse as if there is equal blame to excuse the actions of the guilty party. This is called a false equivalence because these two behaviors are not in any way equal.

I’m reminded of another recent news story that I think demonstrates personal responsibility. It’s the story of the air force and the church shooter. The air force failed somehow when the reports on the Texas killer never made it to the federal database. This database might have prevented that gunman from buying a gun. We won’t ever know since people seem to be able to get guns when they really want to.

Instead of gaslighting, excuse-making, or defensive posturing, an air force spokesperson took ownership of this. Admitted a mistake and vowed to find out how it happened. I’ve noticed this topic disappeared from the news. Taking responsibility. The Air Force, in this situation, shows how it’s done.

There are public figures responding in a variety of ways. One deflection is to mention going to treatment. What treatment? For what? Sexual addiction? Alcohol? Drugs? That’s not remorse, that’s cover your ass. It’s not even appropriate to the circumstance. Some admit it and disappear from the story. Many are facing real consequences after years of criminal behavior.

That’s a good thing, even for those public figures I liked. Real consequences maybe mean that fewer people might think it’s okay to act like that.

I hope no one manages to stop the tsunami of people telling their truths. Hearing them gives me a sense of rightness and hope. That there might be fewer new victims if these speak outs continue. And are not shut down, put away, or stopped by gaslighting.

Gaslighting fails here.

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2 thoughts on “Gaslighting 101: Changing the Subject

  1. I see the reactions that people have to or against the people that are trying to find their voices after being silent or silenced for periods of time. It bothers me that the critics want to silence our voices…. I have an individual in my life that refuses to hear my voice and has gaslighted me so many times that I say nothing now and slowly remove him from my life. It is a sad thought that people that profess to be there for you through thick and thin; in actuality are only there on their terms. It does undermind your sense of self worth. Too many people can’t handle the truth and absolve themselves of any responsibility through putting it back on the wronged individual or laying it in the supreme beings lap.

    Is it right to have the ability to forgive? Yes but that does not absolve repeat offenders of their actions… fool me once; shame on you… fool me twice; shame on me.

    1. I think it’s good for you to be you. And I love your thoughts of moving people out of your life who do not see you and refuse to hear you. Forgiveness is your choice. And forgiveness doesn’t mean forget or put yourself in that position again. 🙂

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