An Integral Understanding of Narcissism and Gaslighting

Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos

“Gaslighting” is a term that describes the effort to make you question your very sanity by convincing you that your memories (and your very perception of reality) are somehow incorrect, inconsistent, or unreliable. It is a psychological tactic that is often used by narcissists in order to substitute your reality for their own, made popular by the 1944 film Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman.

In this episode, Dr. Keith and Corey take a careful look at the strategies and intended results of gaslighting — in our personal and professional relationships, as well as in media, marketing, politics, and society at-large. How can we can better inoculate ourselves from this pernicious form of psychological manipulation? Watch to find out!

Keith and Corey also take a look at some of the common patterns that gaslighting can take, including statements like:

“That never happened.”

“You’re too sensitive.”

“You have a terrible memory.”

“You’re crazy, and other people think so too.”

“I’m sorry you think I hurt you.”

“You should have known how I would react.”

Finally, they also go on to discuss how immoral or irresponsible spiritual teachers are in a unique position to gaslight their students — after all, spiritual practice is itself designed to get us to fundamentally question our relationship with reality, to doubt our perception of separateness and our most deeply-held attachments and beliefs, etc. Of course this sort of critical self-doubt can be tremendously healthy, both cognitively and spirituality. However, it can be used by unscrupulous teachers in order to deconstruct and then hijack our personal agency, taking advantage of the vulnerability of “ego death” in order to substitute our perceptions and assumptions with their own, in effort to remake us in their narcissistic self-image. All of which is to simply invite us to remain mindful of our boundaries, even and especially when engaging in practices to loosen or dissolve those boundaries.