Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Spaghetti Sauce and Gaslighting

I would bet that most of you (if not all) reading this have read articles online about gaslighting. You've probably seen all the signs of it lined up neatly in bullet points, and yet felt like you still were unfamiliar with exactly what it was, and how it applied, if it even did, to your life. At least, that is how I always felt when I read articles like that. Sure, they felt familiar, but I don't generalize well. I need examples. Exactly what does it mean by gaslighting? How would that look in a real life interaction?

The other day I was making some dinner with a can of sauce. I always make my own, so I was nervous it wouldn't taste the same. That's when I recalled this story you're about to read, and realized that it is exactly what gaslighting means.

Several years ago my family went to go visit my parents. Must have been a good thirteen years, or so ago. I was in the kitchen helping my mother prepare dinner. I could tell she was in one of her strange moods, because nothing seemed prepared, and she seemed to constantly forget what she was doing. She had planned on having spaghetti, but the store had run out of the regular spaghetti sauce that she normally buys, so she bought another kind to try. She said this straight out in the kitchen in front of my husband, and I, because she was hoping she would like it. We get dinner made, and tables cleared off so we can eat.

We are all sitting there eating, and all is going great, until my father has his second bite. She knows it's coming. She has to know. We all know. He is really picky about his food. The texture, and brand, ect... It can be frustrating to deal with a grown man who has so many issues with food, and his hissy fits about it, but still....

"Is this sauce different?" he asks.

"No." she replies.

My husband looks at me as if he needs to verify what he just heard.

My dad keeps eating. A couple more bites. "Are you sure?"

"Yes." my mom replies.

He eats a little more, and his fork hits the side of his plate with a slight ting. "Something is different!" he says, clearly feeling frustrated at this point. "You didn't change anything?"

"Nope." she says defensively.

At this point my husband is sitting there wide-eyed. He doesn't know what the hell is happening. He knows the sauce is different. Why is she not telling him? Why is no one else telling him? The rest of us just sit there, because it's normal to us. This is how I grew up, and it's how it is. It's just another one of mom's little secrets. She knows what's best for everyone, so sometimes she lies, or hides stuff from people for their own good. That is gaslighting. Master level gaslighting at that, because not only is she privy to the mind bending, but she has gotten everyone else in the house to go along with it, too. So, even if you know for a fact something is one way she will tell you it isn't, and at the least no one in the family will back you up, and at the worst they'll back her up, because that's how she has everyone trained to behave.

It's probably the worst type of abuse a person can inflict, because it makes one doubt their own sanity, but the situations are so insignificant they're hard to recall when one is trying to quantify the abuse. Imagine trying to get a counselor to understand that you're upset, or worse, filing for a divorce, because your spouse tells you the sauce isn't different, when it clearly is! It makes you sound like the crazy one!


  1. I know this feeling all too well.

  2. Yes, PROFOUNDLY DESTABILIZING and DEBILITATING - especially for children.
    But thanks for the clarification.

    1. It is terrible for children. We have no other objective reality to compare it to when we're raised with that sort of thing.


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