Thursday, December 26, 2019

Merry Boxing Day. More on Gaslighting.

I wish you all a more clear-sighted, calm, rational and compassionate new year.  Also chocolate and love and all the other important things in your private lives.  Wonder if this is the year I get gifted a lighthouse on a solitary island far out in the sea?  (My dream house, that is, for reasons of being an introvert and divine).

Rather than writing on the many topics I have saved in my work files, I want to focus on Our Dear Supreme Leader.   

The Salon  published a piece a few days ago where several psychiatrists (or psychologists, not sure) wrote about what might be wrong with our Donald.  The experts were naturally not randomly picked; rather, they had all written anti-Trump books.  This means that you should have your seat belt on, as always, before you think about the quote below I picked from one of the experts in that story.  It's about Trump's recent letter to Nancy Pelosi:

 I have been following and interpreting Donald Trump’s tweets as a public service, since merely reading them “gaslights” you and reforms your thoughts in unhealthy ways. Without arming yourself with the right interpretation, you end up playing into the hands of pathology and helping it — even if you do not fully believe it. This is because of a common phenomenon that happens when you are continually exposed to a severely compromised person without appropriate intervention. You start taking on the person’s symptoms in a phenomenon called “shared psychosis.”
It happens often in households where a sick individual goes untreated, and I have seen some of the most intelligent and otherwise healthy persons succumb to the most bizarre delusions. It can also happen at national scale, as renowned mental health experts such as Erich Fromm have noted. Shared psychosis at large scale is also called “mass hysteria.”
The president is quite conscious of his ability to generate mass hysteria, which is the purpose of the letter.

That quote fascinated me because I chose the word "gaslighting" for the 2019 word in my previous post.  The above quote adds nuance to the reasons why spotting gaslighting is becoming increasingly more difficult, not only when interpreting the very erudite tweets of our Dear Leader, but even more generally in social media.

It's not quite the case that we all suffer from mass hysteria, but significant sub-groups (of various political types) do agree to treat certain beliefs as established facts.  When they clearly are not facts, any attempt to question them, however politely, tends to receive threats and insults and demands that one shuts up.

Gaslighting is impossible to point out if one is not allowed to speak.  And given the way women in the public sphere are often met with hostility and the demands that they be silent*, all these different strands nicely knitted together in my mind to better explain why I picked gaslighting as the Word Of 2019. 

And that word is one of the many not-so-nice parcels Trump helped to put under our Christmas trees these last few years.


*  See Mary Beard on the ancient quality of such demands and how they are now appearing in the cyber world.