Minor Incidents of Gaslighting that we Experience Every Day, and Even Encourage
Gaslighting is more than just a simple lie. I first heard about gaslighting when a friend of mine pointed out to me that I was a victim of this gross form of psychological abuse. Some people understand it to be one person trying to convince another person that they’re crazy by simply saying “you’re crazy, you need therapy”. But it is NOT that. Gaslighting is a spooky sort of emotional/psychological manipulation that allows one person to exert control over another person to the degree that they’re willing to accept realities that they should easily know to be false. The abuser’s principal source of power derives from their ability to separate the victim’s emotional brain from their logical brain. I like to compare it to being indoctrinated into a cult, and in fact, many of the grand forms of gaslighting are in are in fact cults.., religious gaslighting, political gaslighting, financial gaslighting… all cults. But you can also be gaslit by your family, friends, and significant other… or simply by the server at your neighborhood restaurant.
As I released a book about gaslighting and borderline personalities in 2021… what I called a “cult of borderline personality”… I’ve spent many hours examining and reexamining my friendships, nightlife, and general day-to-day interactions with society…and what I’ve come to realize is that gaslighting is all over the place! We all experience minor incidents of gaslighting every week, if not daily.
A quick summary of how establishing a gaslighting (guru-disciple) relationships works… I go into excruciating depth about this stuff in other articles if you want to know more.
- A “Love Bomb” incites addicting euphoria in the target.
- “Chasing the Dragon” — Post love-bomb, is a mostly-negative experience for the target… “you need to do better”… “you need to pay more”… “sorry the price is higher now”… “I’m not available now, maybe next week” … “keep inviting me out, I’ll make it out one of these days”, The goal is keeping the target at a distance… watching them tirelessly work their way back towards the euphoria experienced during the love bomb.
- If the target decides to leave the relationship, they are lured back in with positive reinforcement… the more confusing this reinforcement is, the better… as confusion is the key ingredient that disconnects the target’s emotional reactions from logic… and this emotional denial of logical reality is what keeps the target coming back.
- In extreme cases, people who leave the relationship are demonized. Why is this important? Why demonize someone just for leaving? Well… it is because of #5
- The cult-leader/guru maintains information control. If a defector suddenly becomes “enlightened”… he/she might spread damaging truths to the remaining members of the congregation, exposing the ruse of the guru. In relationships, I’ve heard the following lines “You’re a good person… but everyone else, they’re all liars.” And “I’m not as bad as everyone says I am, they don’t know anything.” (Spoiler Alert… they were just as bad as your friends said they’d be and did exactly what they warned would happen)
Gaslighting in all of our Daily Lives
Let me start with the most overt example I can think of. I don’t patronize strip clubs, but strip clubs are possibly the most overt example of gaslighting I can think of. Different people patronize strip clubs for different reasons. Some people go there just because they like to see naked women. Some people go there simply for the buffet…. but some people patronize strip clubs because they feel unloved by women and exotic dancers are skilled at paying attention to them in order to extract money from their wallets. The relationship between an exotic dancer and this kind of customer is 100% purely a gaslighting relationship. In this case, the dancer is getting money. We all logically need money, so the acquisition of money is a function of a logical brain. In this case, the money is being given in exchange for fulfilling a fantasy… an emotional need, of the customer… but these emotional connections are really just business transactions… the customers know it… and so do the dancers…. but the customers keep coming back anyway. Why?
This is the abandonment of logic in exchange for an emotional fantasy that is never realized…. this is gaslighting, plain and simple. Any exotic dancer worth a penny knows that earning maximum tips involves establishing a loyal customer base of “regulars” and will spend a good deal of time socializing with the regulars when not specifically offering lap dances and stage performances. The regulars keep coming back because they form emotional bonds with the dancers… in a nutshell… they’ve joined a cult that takes their money… money for a fantasy that they will never actually see fulfilled. Many of the men who partake regularly in strip clubs are simply just kind, lonely, middle-aged men who want to feel like someone cares for 3-minutes at a time, therefore strip clubs are principally an institution rooted in psychological abuse.
Your Relationship with Youtube, SoundCloud, TikTok, and Social Media in General, is Entirely Gaslighting
When I posted my first video to youtube years ago, YouTube barely supported grainy washed-out video and all the content on it was just trash made by normal people. This trash was getting millions of plays. I thought to myself, “If this trash gets millions of plays, surely my trash will do better”. So my friends and I put together a dumb little puppet show about the Illuminati in a lame effort to promote our rock band. We even made a fake commercial that was kinda hilarious, called “Shock Rock Hero” which was a spoof on Guitar Hero, where instead of using your “Star Power” when you got in a bind, you would use your “Shock Power”… and be forced to resort to doing disturbing things to cover up the fact that you have absolutely no musical talent. “Get a large knife and cut yourself!” “Try Defecating on Stage! Better yet, try eating it!” That video got 48,000K views in 15 years pretty good, but far from the millions the other trash was getting on YouTube like “Chocolate Rain” or “Gangdam Style”.
YouTube got our attention by selling us the fantasy that if we just created great content, people would naturally find it… but in reality, that’s not how it works. YouTube created a cult, and the people who create content for it make up the congregation of the cult, and live by the cult’s rules… the deity known as “the algorithm”… the rules of monetization periodically change for the benefit of the company and the few content creators that have special contracts with them. One content creator even went on a shooting spree after YouTube cut off her revenue stream with a rules change. Lured in by the possibility of gaining money and/or attention, you quickly find out that YouTube really just wants you to do all the work while they take a cut. First you work hard, then you work harder. YouTube gets your content for free, promises that you’ll be compensated for the content you create, but never actually delivers on this fantasy.
Other services capitalize on the free labor of hard-working content creators in the same way. TikTok, Instagram, SoundCloud, you name it, Spotify, Pandora…. they all operate on the same model, which is essentially a pyramid scheme that promises riches but delivers peanuts to people who beg their friends to come to their platforms and watch ads from which all revenue goes to the top of the pyramid. Often times the revenue from these sites comes largely from the content creators themselves, as they are encouraged to PAY to PROMOTE the content that they CREATED and gave to the platform for FREE. These services could, if they chose to, actually go out and FIND compelling content and reward the creators based on merit…. but they don’t do that… it’s all about getting YOU to work for THEM, for FREE, or at a loss to THEM…. begging your friends, family, and coworkers to come to their site and watch their ads.
TikTok’s algorithm, interestingly, even has a “love bomb” built into it. I’ve observed, that when you’re new to the platform, they give you extra plays for your first few videos… eventually taking them away from you… making you work harder to promote your TikTok channel. As a result, you’ll initially have positive opinions of the platform, and then work to get back to square 1… only to fail.
Your favorite Bartender or Server
I hang out with lots of people who work in the service industry and dated someone in the business not long ago. By the end of it, my friends and I decided upon a rule… simply DON’T attempt to date servers, bartenders, waiters. Why? First of all, they’re virtually unattainable…. and secondly, if you do find yourself in a relationship with such a person, you’ll find yourself expendable, as people who work these jobs get so many offers for love and sex, that you’ll basically be a worthless commodity to them unless you’re a 10 out of 10… or maybe a guy with a yacht and a private jet… You’ll have a difficult time keeping up with their demands and a single slip-up…as simple as a single expressed personal need… will render you undesirable in their eyes as they can simply pick up the next customer that walks in the door.
Here’s a story about my longtime favorite server at my favorite restaurant… we’ll call her her “Sally”. Sally was training in a new girl, Emma one day. At the time I was about a week away from releasing my book… my horrible, horrible book… so the weight of the world felt like it was on my shoulders as I was reliving all the emotional pains and traumas contained within it. I was down in the dumps, simply staring at the television in the bar when Emma came over. She told me she was new here, and treated me like I “mattered” and we seemed to be engulfed in conversation that could lead down many paths. I was instantly lit up by how sweet and kind and affectionate she was… but I knew she was working… so I apologized for distracting her from her job and let her go about her duties. She assured me that she was glad to meet me and that the distraction was not a problem.
As the night progressed, I struck up more conversations with her… and it was ultimately obviously to her that I found her sweet and attractive… and at some point, I had to cross a threshold that allowed me to get to know her better, through talk or text or social media… etc.
Sally notices Emma getting too close to me. Emma and Sally talk in the corner of the restaurant. Sally is training in Emma. I don’t know what they say to each other, but I can imagine what it must have been, based on what happened next. Moments later, Emma and Sally come over behind the bar, and Sally begins to ask Emma about how her “date” went the other night. “Very well!” Emma says, “He is very respectable! Very charming! We’ll be seeing each other again tomorrow!”
I’m deflated. I sink back into the depression and post-traumatic stressed state that was my normal state of being of the time in general. It was clearly an overt play designed to put me at arm’s length… not too far, but not too close. In fact, stating that she was simply having a “first date” with someone left open the possibility that she might decide to discontinue dating this new person… and maybe if I kept coming back to the restaurant I would get to talk to her again… and maybe if I got to talk to her again… I’d find her still single… and maybe we’d hit off another conversation just like we had earlier, ultimately falling in love and getting married.
I kept coming back to that restaurant, daily for months. I made sure to come by during the less-busy hours between 4:30 and 6 when the staff was preparing for the dinner rush, but not bombarded with customers. I made sure to tip well. But all that… was just gaslighting. Prices there rose so high that I simply couldn’t justify eating there every day and paying $9 for drinks and in fact ran up $10K in new debts principally from eating out (not very logical, right?) The fantasy eventually faded… but every time I go there, to this day… Emma is usually the person to deliver my food from the kitchen, even though she didn’t take my order. And when she comes around, she will call me out by name as if we’re somehow close friends. I’m wiser to the tactics of both Emma and Sally now though. I respect them and their profession… but the whole institution of working-for-tips encourages gaslighting behavior. Why should an attractive, flirty waitress earn more tips than a 70-year-old grandmother? Our society, and the universe, are fucked… that’s why.
“Mary” Wants Attention, but Not Too Much
Mary is something that’s going on right now. Mary’s “love bomb” was innocent, but overt. I was standing at the bar ordering a drink when I felt someone press their body up against me. “Excuse me, can I get to the bar I’m trying to order a drink,” she said. It isn’t unusual for bodies to get pressed against each other as people clamor to find even an inch at the bar to win the bartenders’ attention…. but as she does this, I look to my right and there’s 5-6 feet of completely open bar space to my right. She didn’t need to press her body up against mine at all. We get to talking and she’s instantly flirty. I sit at a table with her and her friend and she is super friendly all night long, so much that I wonder if she’s just on “molly” or something. Eventually she grabs my phone and programs in her number without even asking.
“Come out with me!” I say, “I go out to karaoke 7 nights a week.”
“I want to go out with you 7 nights a week!” she offers.
“Okay then, deal!” we agree.
I text her the next day to no avail.
I text her the next next day and she replies, “Due to my on call schedule, I’m not always available, but feel free to continue inviting me out! I want to know where the best karaoke spots are! I can’t wait to duet with you!”
Every couple of days, I send her a text informing her of where the events are, and where I plan to “tour” for the night. She never agrees to actually meet up with me, and all this would have been easy if she just informed me of her work schedule… but despite my direct asking, she never does this…she simply lets me continue texting her about events to which she never comes… making a point to encourage me to continue texting her.
I tire of it eventually, and text her “So here’s the deal… I don’t know when you work, but you do… so I’ll just tell you that I’ll be at Vegas Bar on Friday and Morissey’s on Saturday… beyond that, you’ll just have to ping me on a night that you’re free.”
“What’s going on Sunday?” She asks.
I inform her about Sunday plans, clearly hoping to see her Sunday, assuming that it is her first free day from work.
Saturday comes around (one day before Sunday… duh)… and although the plan was Morrisey’s on lake street, her favorite bar in her own neighborhood, I assume she’s not going to be there and I change my mind and end up at the Vegas Bar instead… it is an epic night. I meet several new people, potential romantic interests… and … suddenly, out of nowhere, there she is. The rest of the night she is constantly winking, smiling, and blowing kisses in my direction and the conversation is magical and flirtatious. I give her a ride home, but there’s no kissing or romance or anything. We leave it as we left it before… I guess I’m supposed to just keep texting her about events to which she never follows through in attending… every night… unaware of her work schedule.
The most recent text I got from her stated, “I’m asking my friends to NOT text me on nights when I’m on call as it might confuse me causing me to think that it is a message from work.”
I simply think to myself… “Girl…. I don’t know your work schedule, this is sad and pathetic…”
I don’t reply to her text, at that moment, I just delete her number. I’m done with this. If she wants to see me, she can come find me!
I may be super twitchy about things, but I got the sense that Mary was trying to set me up to be gaslit by her. The constant texting was her way of getting me to work for her and emotionally it was intended to incite feelings of “you need to do better and work harder for me”.
I’m making a point to step away from it until she can demonstrate that she’s willing to take a step in my direction to meet MY needs.
That’s all for now.