Gaslighting – The Game of Manipulation

 “When people are abused there are signs that you can point to that are much more obvious. Someone who has been hit or threatened for instance – it’s easy to see and understand how they have been hurt. But when someone is manipulating you, you end up second-guessing yourself and turning your attention to yourself as the person to blame”.

-Dr. Robin Stern

In 1938, Patrick Hamilton a British author wrote a play called Gas Light. Later a movie was made on this play with Ingrid Bergman playing lead role.

The story is about a husband who manipulates thinking of his wife so that he can declare her as insane. Actually husband is a criminal who has murdered aunt of his wife. He searches attic of her house for jewelry which he was unable to take with him after he killed the aunt.  While searching attic the gas is used this results in lights getting dimmed and she hears sound of footsteps. When she tells her husband about lights getting dimmed and sound of footsteps, her husband calls this as her imagination. But she happens to meet a police inspector who tells her that what she is feeling is right and they managed to catch her husband.

Word Gaslighting came from this movie. It means “Manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.”

Gaslighting is used by people to manipulate thinking of others for one’s benefit.

Dr. Robin Stern has written a book on this- “The Gaslight Effect”. In this book she writes in detail about how gas lighting is done. According to her it happens in 3 stages.

Stage 1 is Disbelief– You start wondering why other person who is otherwise nice, behaving like this. The so called weird behavior leaves you confused, frustrated and anxious ex. Your best friend may start criticizing you for no reason.

Stage 2 is Defense– You try to prove other person that what he/she things about you is wrong, try to get his/her approval and hope that things will be fine or back to normal

Stage 3 is Depression– You become desperate to please the other person, while you keep getting disapproval from him/her. You start feeling that you are wrong.

“We are living in a time where a lot of people are having a tough time deciding what’s real and feeling like they are being manipulated…If they know something is true and somebody tells you it’s not true, holding on to your reality is essential. You can’t be gaslighted if you stay inside your own reality and recognize the manipulation when you see it.”

-Dr.Robin Stern

Best way to get out of this vicious trap is to have faith in yourself and get out of relationship if things are not working for you. Worse thing is to tolerate abuse and keep thinking that things will get better in future.



Andrei Chikatilo, Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky and Forensic Psychology

Dr. Alexander Bukhanovsky , a Russian Psychiatrist was requested by police investigators  to help them find a serial killer. Alexander studied corpses of victims and based on his observations drew profile of killer.

The killer would be a tall man, in his 40’s, sexually impotent and must have had a difficult childhood which made him a sadist. He would either be single or if married, must be having a submissive wife.

Alexander faced other problems. As psychiatrist he was not welcomed by police force.The communist government of USSR refused to believe that serial killers existed in USSR; such people existed in Western countries. But Alexander and investigators were convinced that the murders were not committed by different people, but by same person and they had to catch this serial killer.

Profile prepared by Alexander helped the investigators, it matched with suspect called Andrei Chikatilo. The investigators had suspected involvement of Anderi, but each time he managed to escape. Infact when he committed first murder, he was prime suspect, but because of inefficiency of police, a person called Aleksandr Kravchenko was charged with murder and executed.

When Andrei was finally caught he refused to confess. So investigators asked Alexander to talk to Andrei. Andrei confessed of murdering 56 people. The profile prepared by Alexander was accurate. Anderi was married with submissive wife; he was impotent and he had difficult childhood, which had made him sadist.

In 1994 he was executed for his crime.

Marshall Goldsmith, Spotlight Effect and Illusion of Transparency

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the highest paid executive coach. He is easy going person and practices what he preaches. Once while getting on stage in a function he fell down on stage, but he casually stood up and laughed it off. He did not feel embarrassed at all.

Reason why we will feel embarrassed about our mistakes or goof ups is what psychologist call as “spotlight effect”. The spotlight effect is the phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are. This fear of being noticed by others and laughed at makes us feel embarrassed. In reality people give little importance to our goof ups, since their mind is occupied with some other things which are of importance to them.

Similar to spotlight effect is another phenomenon called as “Illusion of Transparency”.  It is people’s tendency to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others. In reality people rarely care about what is going on in your mind.

Huseyn Suhrawardy , Nehru and Historians

Problem with Indian historians is most of their assumptions are based on political situation in country and not on solid research. Unfortunately institutes like JNU are producing historians whose writings are more like emotional Bollywood stories rather than facts based on solid research.

Role of Huseyn Suhrawardy in politics of Bengal is one such example. For some historians he is murderer of hundreds of Hindus for others he is epitome of secularism.  No one wants to do objective analysis of his role.

Huseyn Suhrawardy became prime minister of Bengal in in 1946, as prime minister of a large Indian state he was responsible for safety and security of all citizens of the province. His belonged to political party called Muslim League led by Jinnah. Did he do his role well? Answer is no. Even if we assume that he was not communal, one thing definitely comes out is his incompetence. As prime minister he should have ensured safety of all citizens on Direct Action Day.

“It was fine, except the food was awful. It helped to reduce the tensions. The Hindus and Muslims of Calcutta came together, even if for just a short period, and the atmosphere began to gradually improve. Eventually, the dawn of freedom arrived August 15, 1947.”

Suhrawardy on his experience of living with Gandhi during Calcutta Riots

His incompetence led death of hundreds of Hindus and equal number of women getting raped in Calcutta and Noakhali. Finally to save his reputation he asked Gandhi to manage the situation. He never understood that his job was to ensure welfare of both Hindus and Muslims, not just Muslims.

“Late Huseyn Suhrawardy was the man who fought his way to bring Bengal on the map of Pakistan; to achieve this objective he got a resolution passed by the Legislators’ Convention. As Chief Minister of United Bengal, he supported and served Muslims during the riots to such a degree that Hindus in Bengal would never put his role out of their minds. Not only this, but for the whole duration of Pakistan Movement, he had been the Secretary-General of Muslim League Bengal and an active member of the Party.”

-Pir Ali Muhammad Rashdi, Pakistani Politician and Writer

Next Suhrawardy came up with another hare brained scheme of declaring whole province of Bengal as independent nation. He wanted Congress leaders to also to join in this scheme. Scheme got blessings of Jinnah and in initial phase also from Gandhi. Some leaders like Sharat Chandra Bose too joined this scheme. Though many historians have praised this scheme, Nehru was sensible enough to see through this scheme and Congress shot down the idea. The kind of treatment leaders like Jogendranath Mandal got in Pakistan proves that Nehru was right in rejecting the idea. United Bengal under incompetent Suhrawardy would have been a disaster.

In 1947, India got partitioned and Suhrawardy became key team member of new nation of Pakistan.

He later even became prime minister of Pakistan. But soon Pakistani leadership too got fed up with him. He was forced to leave Pakistan and finally died of cardiac arrest in Beirut.

Get ready for gig economy

Except for government jobs, there are very few “permanent” jobs in today’s world. When prime minister Modi told youths to fry paokdas and earn money, there were lot of protests… everyone wanted secure government jobs.

Job seekers should get ready for gig economy… there will be lots of jobs, but they will be short contract jobs. You will have keep yourself updated to take advantage of gig economy. The plus side of gig economy is you can keep working well beyond your age of official retirement.

“This is something that any employer can—and should—do. People do better work when they have time to relax, sleep, and refresh. Burning people out just drives them away and produces worse work output in any event.”

-Jeffery Pfeffer

Not that government jobs are ideal ,ask any banker or policeman, he/she will talk about high stress levels, work pressure and long hours of work. Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer presented a devastating case for the negative effects of U.S. workplaces on our health in his book Dying for Paycheck. Health of employees is suffering because of long hours of work , high stress levels and fear of layoffs.

“When Dean Baker, the head of HR for Patagonia, the clothing company, worked for Sears, he received an e-mail about work late afternoon on Christmas eve. When he replied the next morning, the response he got was, “what took you so long?””

-Jeffery Pfeffer

Given such situation, gig economy may not be that bad.


Hugh Herr, Rebekah Marine and Meena Kumari

“We’re entering an era of human history where we’re fundamentally changing in some realm of human tool use. So, it’s interesting, when we fit a bionic appendage to a human, the comments that we often get are, “You’ve given me my body back. You’ve given me my limb back.”

-Hugh Herr, founder BiOM

In 1951, actress Meena Kumari meet with an accident, accident damaged fingers of her left hand. Even after surgery they could not correct one finger, it remined crooked. Meena Kumari was very conscious of her screen image, she did not want her deformity to be showed on screen. She came up with a solution to hide her small deformity. She always used to hide her finger by holding her sari or dress. On screen her finger was always hidden behind dress.

Had Meena Kumari been bold enough to accept her deformity, would she have been less popular? I don’t have definite answer, but my guess is it would not have made much difference.

“As a kid, I always wanted to model. I really enjoyed being in front of the camera. I was really such a ham,”

-Rebekah Marine

Rebekah Marine is an American model who had deformed right limb because of symbrachydactyly. But this deformity did not prevent her from realising her childhood dream of becoming model. She does not hesitate to show her bionic arm in her modelling assignment.

“I think people are tired of seeing the same old 5’9”, skinny, perfect model…I think people really want to see diversity in these fashion shows and diversity in models in general when you see ads. I think that’s the next chapter in the industry.”

-Rebekah Marine

Hugh Herr is an American rock climber and engineer. He lost his legs at the age of 17 years due to frostbite he suffered in accident while climbing Mount Washington. Hugh Herr converted his disability into opportunity.

“When you go into my closet, there are many, many pairs of legs. I have a running pair, I have a bionic walking pair, limbs that are waterproof, I have various legs to climb mountains and to sense steep ice walls, other feet that wedge into small rock fissures [and] others that stand on small rock edges the width of a coin.”

-Hugh Herr, founder BiOM

He used innovative ideas to design prosthesis that would help him in rock climbing. He started company called BiOM for this. In fact the prosthesis has helped him to become a better climber than before. He now can vary his height from 5 feet to 8 feet. They give him better grip and make rock climbing easier. Customisation has helped him to do tasks which he could not have done with normal legs ex. stand on rock with width of a coin.