We live in the world of appearances. This has become painfully obvious when we hear politicians and the mass media talk about ‘fake news’ in an attempt to manipulate and confuse us. Granted, some news may be fabricated, but the overall purpose seems to be erasing all critical thinking to impose a particular agenda. This is known as gaslighting, which is the most common method of control and manipulation of narcissists, abusers, dictators, and cult leaders.
The term comes from Gas Light, a British play from the 1930s that was later adapted to a movie featuring Ingrid Bergman as Paula, a vulnerable woman married to a man who tricks her into questioning her reality to the point of believing she’s losing her mind. Throughout the story, Paula sees the gaslights in her home dimming and brightening for no apparent reason; she also hears noises in the attic. Her husband Gregory convinces her it’s all in her head, gradually isolating her from the outside world ‘for her own good.’
In truth, he’s the one making the lights flicker and creating the noises in the attic; he also talks about things that never happened as if they did so she thinks she can’t remember them; and he hides things and then blames her for stealing them. What Paula doesn’t know is that Gregory is plotting to have her institutionalized to recover some valuable jewels he left behind after murdering her aunt in that same house a few years back.
In a fortunate turn of events, Paula meets a police inspector who discovers the plot, as well and who Gregory really is and how he’s been deceiving her. Tied up in a chair after being arrested, the husband still tries to manipulate her into cutting him lose, but Paula has regained her confidence and responds by pretending she can’t help him because she’s mad and the knife she’s holding, with which she’d cut the ropes, is only in her head. :-)
Seek the Truth Beyond the Ego-Mind
Now, active gaslighting belongs to narcissists and sociopaths, who become masters at gaining power with their compulsive lies and superiority complex. But on a personal level, it’s a mechanism your ego-mind uses—through your ‘sense of otherness’—to keep you stuck in the wounded child archetype (see Are You Aware of the Inner Bully Squelching Your True Voice?). In other words, it gaslights you into doubting and deflating yourself.
Ego reigns where self-awareness is missing; if you’re not mindful, it tricks you into believing whatever it needs to remain in control of your perception. And it’s relentless. The key to greater emotional and spiritual freedom is your determination to seek the truth beyond your illusions, attachments, and expectations, because these are the aspects of ego that maintain the delusions of otherness and your identification with other people’s behavior, both of which trigger negative emotions and actions.
For instance, when Paula sees she had been tricked into believing things that weren’t real, she regains the sanity she thought she had lost. However, the real reason for losing herself in the first place was placing someone else’s perception above her own, believing and trusting another person more than herself. But that’s exactly what the ego-mind does when it attaches you to external validation—that is, when you’re only able to love, appreciate, and perceive yourself through others (see How Your Illusions Create a ‘Halo Effect’).
You can’t dissolve the ego-mind with the ego-mind. You may reclaim a sense of control, like Paula realizing she wasn’t crazy, but it doesn’t get you to the root cause of your disconnection from the truth: the mental fluctuations and otherness you’ve identified with. To counter them, start by mastering these basic guidelines:
- Stop judging and comparing yourself to others.
- Relinquish the need to be perfect and accept you’re just human.
- See your life as a karmic unfolding you must accept but also learn from.
- Don’t let fear or guilt stop you from achieving your goals and dreams.
- Stop the victim-blame game and take spiritual responsibility for your experience of reality.
- Develop your higher mind—the intelligence of your heart—to know rather than think the truth.
- Question your perception as something fixed, and remain curious, flexible and willing to reinvent yourself.
Only by nurturing (and then transcending) your sense of self can you balance the excessive otherness in your life-movie that creates power dynamics. But it requires investing in yourself to know who you are, what you want, and what connects or disconnects you from the flow of your life. So contact me today to embark on a journey of self-exploration and increasing spiritual insight!
© 2019 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.