Parents who Gaslight their Adult Children

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Gaslighting is a term that we hear so many times in connection with romantic relationships but what does it mean in relation to parents who gaslight? The impact of parents who gaslight can be huge even for an adult child. In this blog I will explain what parents who gaslight means, and some gaslighting examples.

Where does the term gaslighting come from 

Looking first at where the term gaslighting comes from, it originally came from a 1930s play which later was adapted into a few movies. One the movies based on that play was even called Gaslight.  

In that movie, Gaslight the lead actress Ingrid Bergman named Paula married a handsome man Charles Boyer who was the alleged narcissist. In the film he initially met her, romanced and in typical narcissistic style, their relationship escalated quickly as they married after a few weeks.  

The whole theme of the film is that he murdered someone in his past and he spends his hole time, trying to make sure that Paula never finds out about it. He chillingly tries to convince her that she is going insane by hiding things, moving objects in their home around then insist that there is nothing wrong.  

Also, throughout the day, Paula realised that the gas lights in the house are dimming at times and brightening at other times, for no apparent reason. What was happening was Charles was secretly messing about with the lights so that she would believe that she was seeing things. Eventually, through manipulating the gas lights, George succeeded in convincing Paula that she was crazy and changed her perception of her own reality. 

Your parents may not deliberately mess about with your lighting etc but what you might have in common how your parents use diverse ways of manipulating your own versions of what is really happening.  

 

Parents who gaslight – What does it mean 

So, what does gaslighting really mean?  

It is a verb used to describe an abusive behaviour or action. It is the actions or behaviours used by your parents to control and manipulate that leaves you as their adult child, questioning your own sanity, memory, or perception. 

Gaslighting by your parents can come in many forms including trying to convince you of something being true by being forceful, making up flimsy evidence, blatantly denying things they have said.  

It is also the manipulation of your physical environment that makes you doubt your perception, memories, or physical situation. It also could include isolating you from external sources of valid information.  

Gaslighting is known as the favourite tool for a narcissist. Your parents may not necessarily have full blown narcissistic personality disorder because this condition is actually rare. The truth is that most of us have some narcissistic symptoms but the more symptoms you have, the more difficulties an adult child would have with their parents. Read more about narcissism here. 

 

Why do parents’ gaslight 

Narcissists parents or those on the spectrum of narcissism, try really hard to not let their children know how insecure they feel. They also work hard to look good on every level, even at your expense.  Your parents want, more than anything to be respected, even revered, whenever possible. 

All their relationships, including those with their children, exist to make them look good and no one else. They feel they need to be  in complete control of you and do this by asserting themselves in small ways to keep you close to them and in check.  

A narcissist can appear to be a great parent but only as long as they see you as a child that can give them something they want.  Most narcissists often seen their children as special tools to unlock the life they want. And narcissists always want more and are never satisfied.  

 

Examples of parents’ who gaslight 

Gaslighting can come in many forms but the easiest way to describe it is to put them in two categories: Overt and Covert. 

Overt means open to view, that you can clearly see what is happening that your parents’ behaviour is observable and measurable.  

You may find that your parents are obtrusive, forceful, persistent, with verbal attacks, lies, accusations, condescension, judgement, and criticism. 

Covert means almost the opposite where your parents could be passive-aggressive. Here your parents’ behaviour would be more hidden, secret, and private.  

Examples of their behaviour could be Subtle Digs, negative humour, sarcasm, gossiping about you, comparing you to other people, even deliberately excluding you but not being open about why etc. 


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