Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be.
It’s been a gripping few days for The Bachelorette star Katie Thurston, 30, who recently had her heart broken when front-runner Greg Grippo, 28, abruptly quit the season not long after Thurston met his family.
Following their meeting, everything seemed peachy — especially when Grippo told her he hadn’t “been this happy in the longest time” before opening up about his father’s death.
Things took a weird turn after Grippo told her he was in love with her and insinuated he wanted to marry her. Rather than reciprocating his words, Thurston said: “I just love looking at you.”
Well, that didn’t sit well with Grippo.
“I wanted to express that I do love you [but] I felt like I was telling that to a stranger. I don’t know why,” he told Thurston the next day. “This whole entire time you just felt like Katie to me, and that night here I was thinking I was expressing my love to my future wife and you didn’t even feel it. You just completely dismissed it in my eyes.”
For context, at the beginning of the season, Thurston made a promise to herself that she would not tell any of the bachelors she loved them until the final episode, which she explained to him. So instead, she opted for the alternative language.
But that didn’t seem to be enough.
“I don’t give a f*** about the rose,” he later told her, insinuating he was breaking up with her. “I was just telling you that you filled a hole in my heart.”
Grippo ended the argument by walking out of the room and leaving Thurston on the bathroom floor alone — crying and confused. The next day, Thurston took to Instagram to send Grippo a clear message.
In her Instagram Stories, Thurston reshared a post explaining the history and definition of “gaslighting.”
So, what is gaslighting exactly?
Gaslighting is defined by Psychology Today as “an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control.”
Victims of gaslighting are “deliberately and systemically” given false information that leads them to doubt their own reality or lived experiences.
The term was originally coined in the 1938 play Gas Light (as well as its subsequent 1940 and 1944 film adaptions). In the film, an abusive husband tampered with the lighting to make his victim (his wife) think she was losing her vision.
He “gaslighted” her by convincing her she was imagining that the lights were flickering, which led her to doubt herself. By the end of the movie, everyone was questioning her own sanity — including her.
In a nutshell, this is the most basic form of gaslighting, but it’s important to note that it can exist in various forms.
For example, if someone in your household moves something off the table you knew was there 10 minutes ago, and they tell you it was never there to begin with when you bring it up, that is a form of gaslighting.
Another tiny example, as explained by Dr. Jack Rozel, the medical director of emergency psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, is when you bring up a situation that happened in the past and someone tells you, “That never happened. … Oh, there you go again with your exaggeration.”
Not only is this a form of gaslighting, but whether that person realizes it or not, they also are leading you down a pathway of self-doubt. Over time, this kind of abuse creates a vicious cycle of self-doubt that is hard to crawl out of without therapy.
“At the very least, these behaviors are mean and abusive; at their worst, they can be extremely traumatic and harmful,” Rozel tells Yahoo Life. “Two patterns that can be especially concerning are when the behavior is persistent or escalating and when the behavior is associated with other abusive, coercive or controlling behaviors.”
It’s also important to note that gaslighting can happen anywhere — at the workplace, in your family, with a stranger, on social media or even in your own relationship.
“The same strategy of ‘reality denial’ is also seen in indoctrination, seen with extremists and cults and was well described as a ‘brainwashing’ technique used as part of a regimen of torture on U.S. prisoners of war during the last century,” Rozel says.
Typical techniques of a gaslighter
The whole point of gaslighting is that the abuser doesn’t want the victim to realize they’re being brainwashed, which makes it more difficult to identify. Still, psychologists have long studied the topic and have a general purview of an abuser’s tactics.
Here are some typical forms of gaslighting as explained by the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Withholding: When the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. For example, “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me” or “I don’t have time to listen to this. You’re not making any sense.”
Countering: When the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. For example, “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly,” or “Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory,” or “I heard you say it! You never remember our conversations correctly” or the worst, “It’s all in your head.”
Blocking/Diverting: When the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. For example: “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”
Trivializing: When the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. For example, “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive! Everyone else thought my joke was funny.”
Forgetting/Denial: When the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. For example, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You’re just making stuff up.”
The long-term effects of gaslighting
The most unfortunate side effect of gaslighting is the long-term impact it can have on a person long after the abuser is gone from their lives.
Because of the deep wounds gaslighting can create — fueled by shame, blame, humiliation and isolation, among other emotions — it can require a lot of soul-searching (and therapy) to heal. It can even cause a person to have posttraumatic stress disorder and co-dependency issues.
Victims who experience gaslighting might:
Constantly second-guess themselves
Find it difficult to make simple decisions
Often feel confused or even crazy
Frequently question if they are too sensitive
Become withdrawn or unsociable
Always find themselves apologizing for basic things
Can’t understand why they aren’t happy, despite so many good things in their life
Find themselves withholding information from people so they don’t have to explain or make excuses
Know something is wrong but can’t express what it is — even to themselves
Lie to family and friends to avoid having to make excuses for them
Feel hopeless, joyless, worthless or incompetent
Have a sense that they used to be a different person — more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed
Always question whether they’re “good enough”
If you feel you are a victim of gaslighting or narcissistic abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is there to support and listen. Call them at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with them online 24/7/365.
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