Are you being Gaslighted?

Most have experienced it at different levels of severity, but most are not aware that it is a sickness and a type of mental abuse.  Gaslighting is a new term to me, even though the behavior is all too familiar to most of us; Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse, where someone intentionally, maliciously, and continuously  tries to make you doubt your own judgment, using lies and deceipt.  In a way, they are trying to convince you of a lie about yourself.

Another name for gaslighting is Ambient Abuse.  Let us use a simple example: if you have a good taste in clothes, and your abuser knows it for a fact.  If he says something like “Sami the other day was joking about your outfit.  He felt it did not match and out of style.  I told him, regardless, you have the right to dress any way you want.  But seriously, what makes you pick such styles?”  This statement is ambient abuse IF the person saying it is maliciously and intentionally doing this to put you down, AND he knows that there is nothing wrong with your style in clothes.   So, if someone is making statements, or doing things for the sole purpose of discrediting you, to gain real or mental advantage over you: This is gaslighting.

Who are the culprits? Some do it when they feel insecure around someone.  However, gaslighting is usually a recurring trend aimed at specific person or persons. The most professional in doing it are the most sick among us: psychopaths and covert aggressors. They do it to confuse the victims, and break their self confidence, so they get away with their abuse.

Gaslighting has been coming under the light in recent years in cases of domestic abuse.  However, it can and does occur everywhere. Unfortunately, many in the society are living with these abusers and not even aware of it.  It is sad.  Many victims live with their abusers for decades before they understand that they have been living with a sick person.  Most victims think that they are the problem, and never doubt the perpetrators.  Victims might suffer from gaslighting whether they are wives, spouses, children, friends, family members, colleagues at the workplace, subordinates, or neighbors.  I worry a lot about children whose parents or close family members are mentally abusing them, under the radar, and getting away with it.

I am not an expert on the subject, even though I am interested in it.  A good video I have seen on the subject is by Sam Vankin, who also wrote a book about the subject, titled “Malignant Self Love.” Here is  a link to the video and I advise seeing it and showing it to others you care about.  This is because this phenomenon seems to be on the rise, and many are not aware of it.

Unfortunately, gaslighting is often disguised under more benign names, like “I am just teasing you,” or “relax, we are just joking around,” but there is a big difference between joking around and abusing someone mentally.  Abuse is no joke.  Also, predators will try to accuse you of the problem by telling you that “you should not be so sensitive,” or “you are making a big deal out of nothing,” all of that to subdue you into more abuse.

Mental abuse is not a strength, but a sign of weakness and insecurity, disguised by inflicting pain on others, to feel superior. This behavior is of a psychopath.  Some argue that psychopaths are not even human, literally, not as a figure of speech.

Some do this for fun, and believe it is a joke to inflict harm on others.  This is a sickness.  A disease.  It is not a joke.  Those with this sickness cannot be cured, for the most part.  Some do this because they were taught by others to do it, not because they themselves have the disease.  Some are sick where they cannot stop.  The only way to tell is to try to stop.  Psychopaths cannot stop.  They either ridicule the whole concept of ambient abuse as a silly notion, or they believe they gain power by doing so, and want to keep that power.

Finally, please do not become paranoid, or use the words mental abuse lightly.  Some tell you things that you do not like as a matter of honest opinion.  Just because someone tells you that you are too sensitive, or that he did not like something you did does not make them mental abusers.  It is easy to blame people and label them when they have a point of view different than yours, so be careful.  Mental abuse happens when the intent is to put you down, and feed you lies, so they become superior or gain advantage.


Remember when…

There are times when one feels at peace.  In that moment, dealing with a difficult person becomes a “no thing” and so easy, it hardly requires any effort.  Every person must have had this feeling of peace at one point or another.  Usually it occurs when feeling grateful, or happy to see someone or achieve something.  That moment.   That feeling.  In that “zone” no person can take away from you that peace no matter what.  To the opposite, others might be touched by that peace and either choose to stay away, or become peaceful themselves. This high moment, is not to be confused with “ego induced highs” or drug induced highs.  The latter highs are short lived and can be followed by painful periods of “low.”  Ego induced highs are short lived and come from the ego telling one how superior they are, how great, how invincible, compared to others, and comes from win – lose scenarios.  There is a big difference.  The feeling I am talking about is more of gratefulness, love, and comfort in being who you are, including your vulnerability and all that is in the essence of you.  At that moment, everything around you, you accept, as is, and even love and be grateful for it.

When you are in that moment that is so hard to describe, no difficult person can shake you out of it: the manipulators, the liars, the hypocrites, the abusers, no one.  Whoever felt this moment, and most do at one point or another, will know.  Albeit, some will experience it more often than others.

But why? Why, in those moments of peace, do we become so comfortable  with ourselves? I am not sure.  However, if we can simulate that feeling whenever we encounter a difficult person, or better yet, get ourselves in that mood beforehand in preparation, it will make these encounters much easier.  There are some people who are able to experience these moments more than others.  The important question is what do they do differently?

I have been reading a few new books on the human psyche, and it seems if you choose to, you can trick your mind into anything.  Your true self can over power and beat your mind hands down, without any struggle, but by choosing to be present and accepting.  Many experts claim that you can imagine yourself in that moment of peace to get the feelings that you would if you were in it.  For example, think of the last time you had this peaceful feeling.  bring it into memory.  Remember how you felt, how you must have looked, and then be.  Tell yourself, “if I was in that moment, how would I react to this conversation or situation?”  then act accordingly.  Then, you ARE in that moment.  This is not hard, but what is hard is making that choice to accept those feelings and be in that moment.  Even though, ironically, one IS already there.  Such an irony.  It is so funny, yet so sad.  Sometimes our ego fights so hard to keep us in pain, as if that proves its worth and the need for our mind to think more.

My words are those of a novice, like a child who just found out that there is more to the world than his crib.  Even though his parents have always told him this, but still is at awe of the experience.

My Teachers

Remember the last time you sat down with someone who made you feel uncomfortable? In general, most, including myself, try to avoid these interactions and prefer the company of people who make one feel comfortable.  However, the not-so-positive interactions are inevitable and no matter how hard one tries, they are bound to happen.  What is hard to do is to remember during these encounters that these uncomfortable interactions can teach one a lot about self.

After all, being uncomfortable is more a personal thing than it is about the other person who is causing this feeling. There is a reason one is feeling uncomfortable and sometimes it has nothing to do with the other person.  It can be that the person brings back tough memories, or they look like someone who hurt you in the past.  Or maybe, there something in that personality that makes others feel inferior.  Regardless of the reason, it is evident that these encounters can teach us a lot about ourselves, and these people who we feel uncomfortable around can be our best teachers, and our chance to gain more wisdom.

What is funny and yet sad is that it is hard to remember to keep a positive attitude when around people who make one feel uncomfortable.  All one thinks about is when will he or she leave?  I think part of the problem is our refusing to have the feelings we are having.  Our ego jumps in and tries to save us from the situation by interpreting everything we see and hear as a dangerous attack on ourselves.  If we just sit and listen and observe our thoughts and feelings in these situations, without letting them disturb our peace, we can come closer to learning the lesson these people are here to teach us.

Now You Love him, Now you dont

He introduced me to his colleague as “one of the leaders in his industry.”Later in private he told me what a “great” person his colleague is.    Three months later not only they are not talking, but both are bad mouthing each other.  What makes us love someone then decide we do not love them anymore?

This problem arises whenever there is an underlying assumption about the person, leading to assumptions about behavior.  For example, if you start thinking of someone like this: “she is a great person,” then you assume that  so all her actions will reflect greatness.  These are very tough shoes to fill.  Who would want his actions to be judged based on such a wrong assumption? All of us make mistakes.  All humans are capable of good and evil.  All of us err.  So, to assume that someone does not immediately makes it easy for one to get disappointed for making a wrong assumption.

I read a book a long while ago, by Miguel Ruiz.  Whenever I am faced with this scenario of sudden switch from love to hate or respect to disrespect I am reminded of one of the “Four Agreements” he mentions in his book, which carries the same title.  The “agreements” are things you agree with yourself to do or not to do and most of them mentally and attitude wise.  One of the agreements he talks about is to “never make assumptions.”  He says that when we make assumptions about people, that is when we get in trouble.  So I assume that he can do the job I asked him to do, or assume that he knew what he was talking about, or even assume that he will never lie or deceive me.  All of these types of assumptions are the ones that get us in trouble and into disappointment in others.

Remembering this keeps us away from idolizing people, or assuming they cannot make mistakes.   Then, a disappointment in someone is a disappointment in their behavior, knowing that they are still capable of doing good, if they choose to.  Then, we stop judging them and label them because of the mistakes they make, and instead we label the mistakes and the behavior, not the people.  According to Ruiz, this makes for a better relationship with others, and saves one disappointments in others.

At work, I often hear the words “I am so disappointed.  I thought he was better than doing a job like this.” This is disappointment from making assumptions about people and how they will behave.  Then a manager might even make it more personal and spends the day, if not more, in agony over how someone could do this to them.  A better option might be recognizing the mistake as a mistake in behavior, even if not expected.  It is much easier to move on judging the behavior not the person.

There is an old Arab saying “Men are known from the truth, but the truth is not known from men.”  This means that men are judged by their behavior and statement; whether they seek the truth or not, at any one point in time.  However, the truth is the truth and it is not defined by the person who speaks it.  So, we cannot assume something to be the truth just because someone said it.  All people make mistakes.


A Layman’s perspective on phobias

Everybody has them, but not everybody is aware of it or admits it.  Phobia is an irrational fear of something.  It can be snakes, heights, airplanes, travel, germs, or sickness, which are some common ones.  Or it can be of bridges, clowns, or even being tickled by feathers (it is true).

Some think that THEY ARE their phobia, so they do not identify it as a separate symptom, but part of who they are.  As a result they never try to solve the problem as it is not a problem, but “just the way they are.”  This is giving up to the phobia and identifying with it, instead of identifying with who one truly is.

Some are ashamed of having phobias, which makes it more destructive, as it degrades their view of themselves.  For example in Middle Eastern cultures, being afraid is associated with cowardice.  There is a difference between phobia and cowardice.  Phobia is an irrational persistent fear in the mind.  Cowardice is completely succumbing to the irrational fear, instead of trying to separate it from who you truly are and then labeling it as what it truly is: just a perception in the mind.  Some define FEAR as Fake Evidence Appearing Real.

Some succumb to phobias, and alter their behavior and daily life dramatically to accommodate them.  The ironic thing is the result of this behavior is more phobias and more succumbing to them.  It never lets as long as one runs away from it.  The only way to deal with phobias is to confront it and deal with it.  One way to do so is to find out what it really is and separating it from who you truly are.

Eckhart Tolle talks about phobia a:s fear of the future based on dreading of the past.  it is not about what is happening right now.  It is triggered by an interpretation of the mind of something happening in the now, but it has nothing to do with reality.  It is just a perception of the mind of a future problem.  According to Tolle, when humans face problems in the now they deal with them without phobia.  They just deal with them.  The phobia part is fear of the unknown future.  An evidence to prove that might be the fact that some of the more relaxed, safe, and secure communities worldwide suffer more from phobia than the people living in distressed economies.  In distressed economies, they are dealing with a problem they have in the now.  No phobia is needed.  Those who live a lavish lifestyle might be afraid to lose it and that may lead to phobia.

One of the more interesting perspectives on phobia that I have heard is of a well known Muslim scholar, Dr Mohammed Rateb Ennabilsi, who considers phobia a result of one or group of wrong perceptions about life.  So, phobia sometimes is telling us indirectly that we need to be searching for better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  This is when phobia becomes an opportunity to learn more about self and to face the big questions of life, then work diligently on finding real answers that put our minds and more importantly our “selves” at ease. Seeking the truth and fulfilling our mission in life seem to be in the fabric of what the humans are made of.  When we ignore or neglect this duty of ours, all kinds of psychological problems might emerge.  There is no substitute for the diligent search for truth and fulfilling our true purpose.  Ironically, the truth is here and now, and it is too close to us to even hit us in the face.  It is engraved within.  We just need to let go of all the noise and distractions.

It might be unrealistic to assume that one can get rid of all phobias altogether.  I believe we should not look at this as an all-or-nothing proposition.  It is not either you have it or you do not.  It is more about managing and dealing with ourselves and remembering to accept ourselves as we are and know that once in a while phobia will show its ugly head and yes we might get scared.  However, we need to learn to manage.  To find the strength.  To seek the truth, and find refuge in it.

Some never have phobias.  This can be good or bad.  It is good if one reached a high level of surrender to God.  This is wonderful.  Some however never experience it because they do not even know they have phobias, or because they have convinced themselves of false beliefs about who and what they truly are.  They are blinded by money, power, strength, social status, etc.  Usually one day they wake up to find out that all of that cannot give them fulfillment.  Then their true journey beings.

When feeling drained at work…

Most are tired and feel drained after a day at work.  But what is it that makes most tired? is it the work itself? or the stress? Some talk about the negative energy they get from getting exposed to negativity of managers, employees, customers, etc.  Others talk about the effect of the “negative work environment” as the culprit.   A Gallup Poll study from 2012 shows that roughly one in 3 employees are dissatisfied with the level of stress they face at work.  A trend analysis form the last three years shows that level of dissatisfaction going up.

When it comes to stress, it might be a good idea to look into the factors that drain someone from energy at work.  This might be done by observing closely personal mood, emotions, thoughts, and physical signs as the work day progresses.  A friend of mine told me that he tried to do just that, and he was amazed by the results: “It is almost never the level of physical work that makes me most tired.  It is my negative emotions.”  He even tried to track his negative emotions to see where they originated and to him they were in reaction to something happening at work.  Many with office work might experience the same situation.  Ironically, those who work clerical jobs have higher levels of stress than blue-collar workers.  This is according to a 2002 Gallup poll titled “Job Stress, A Price of Success.”  Experience proves this.  My inquisitive friend says that “there are days when I stay at the office a bit later than usual and come in a bit earlier than usual.  It is not so bad.  However, sometimes an hour of “negative” interaction requires hours of rest afterwards because of how tired it makes me feel.”

Negative energy is acknowledged in science as in religion as a major cause for fatigue and stress.  Some call it energy, others call it atmosphere, whatever it is called, it is not good at all.

When feeling tired at work, it might be a good idea to observe the cause of this feeling by observing one’s level of energy throughout the day.  Then find out what drains one most.  this might require constant checking, maybe every hour, to see how one is feeling.  It also requires checking how one is feeling performing different activities throughout the day: working on computer, in meetings, on phone calls, in discussions, negotiations, etc.

Stress is a personal experience and different people are stressed by different things at work.  However, the following four factors might play a role in draining one’s energy at work:

1) Trying to convince someone of something while he is resisting or refusing to listen.

2) Listening to constant negative criticism (like someone trying to put another down, or implying it).

3) Getting frequently exposed to people who lost faith in humanity: These are the people who put lots of effort into trying to convince you that people are wicked, lazy, and selfish.

4) Constantly being around pessimistic (not skeptical) people who do not appreciate what they already have and insist on nagging about what they do not have.

An important point to remember here is that turning these situations into stress is a personal choice.  So, no one can blame another for being stressed, even if it is the action of others that triggered the stress.  It is healthy to remember to take responsibility for how one feels and not lay blame on others.    However, one owes it to self to know what makes a person “tick.”  I talked to someone who did lots of study and research on the subject over the years and she warns from three personal emotions that lead to the negative energy:

1. Feeling responsible for how the other party thinks or feels.

2. Trying to influence others into thinking the way I am thinking

3. Trying to protect myself from the negative feelings / statements

Luckily, to combat these feelings there are techniques to experiment with.  They are not an exact science so they might work for some and not for others, and they might work occasionally or all the time, it depends on the person and the situation.  Here are four simple techniques to consider:

1. Relax and allow people to think differently and be negative if they choose to

2. Use “you could be right” statement more often

3. Silence and listening

4. Let things be without having to make a statement or change anything

No matter how skilled one is in preventing negative energy from getting to self, it is bound to happen.  When it does, some experts advise taking a break from work for a few moments and doing one of the following:

1. Breathe slowly and drive the breath down to your belly, not the torso.

2. Take a short walk outside

3. Do some stretching

Again, sometimes that might be enough other times it is not, and that is the way it is.

The Mind on Autopilot

The mind on auto pilot

Posted by ammarmango on February 28, 2013

Do you think too much? most people do and are not aware of it.  I know I sometimes do.  More often than I would like.

The mind is a key resource / tool for humans.  It is a blessing from God.  However, when the mind assumes that since it is so important and key, it starts working on “autopilot.”

The mind on autopilot is a dangerous thing.  Once in that mode, it assumes that it should think and give orders to the rest of the body on its own without consulting you:  The will /intent behind the mind.  And sometimes we let the mind get away with it. We should not.

There are five wrong assumptions that our mind sells us, and once we buy into them, autopilot becomes the “de facto” state of the mind.  These autopilot assumptions, or triggers if you will, are:

1) “You must be in control”

2) “You must solve every problem you face”

3) “The world and everybody must conform to your wishes”

4) “You cannot make mistakes”

5) “You are threatened”

If the mind convinces someone of any of these triggers then a person puts the mind on autopilot so it can “think” its way out of the threatening situation.  Then good luck coming back to the real world.

All this the mind feeds us is so untrue and even counterproductive.  Thinking never solves anything.  Action might.  Even if you believe you need a smart idea to solve a problem, thinking is not the source of good ideas.  Inspiration is.  Inspiration is like lightning.  It occurs sometimes out of the blue, if one has the right intent and the clarity of vision.  Actually, thinking clouds vision and crowds the brain from observing inspiration.

I am not saying stop thinking, but more of catching the mind going on autopilot and gently thanking it for its willingness to help, but the help cannot come from the mind.  The mind should work according to your intent, but the mind should not take over the body and all your resources and waste them on fearful thinking that seldom results in anything good.

For some, this comes easy.  For me, I need to keep reminding myself of this.  sometimes I catch myself early after autopilot kicks in, sometimes it takes time.  The more the brain is on autopilot the more time it requires to train the brain back into becoming a resource, not the leader.