In my first blog about gaslighting, I talked about the "good news" about gaslighting - that is, that once you identify this destructive pattern in your relationship, you can change it.
A reader asked me, if it is possible over time to get so beaten down and so sure you might be at fault, that you can't identify the dynamic? The answer is YES. The Gaslight Effect happens over time - gradually - and, often, by the time you are deep into the Gaslight Tango (the dance you do with your gaslighting partner, where you allow him to define your reality) you are not the same strong - or not so strong - self you used to be. In fact, your ego functioning has been compromised and, no longer being certain of your reality, you are not often able to accurately identify when something is "off" with your partner.
The process of gaslighting happens in stages - although the stages are not always linear and do overlap at times, they reflect very different emotional and psychological states of mind.
The first stage is disbelief: when the first sign of gaslighting occurs. You think of the gaslighting interaction as a strange behavior or an anomalous moment. During this first stage, things happen between you and your partner - or your boss, friend, family member - that seem odd to you. A young woman I know - let's call her Rhonda, just told me about her second date with Dean. She was shocked when, after a terrific dinner, he left her at the bus stop - he told her she was nuts to wait for a bus, and, if she wanted to travel that way, he was not going to wait with her and would just see her another time. But, the piece de resistance, was that he called her later that night - (note that she picked up the call) and, he was insistent that there was nothing wrong with his jumping on the subway, while she took the bus - further, he told her that he was certain there was something wrong with the way she made choices about traveling. She argued, but, ultimately wrote off his behavior as " really weird". In recounting the story, she says it is "weird", and, that he must have a "thing" about buses -- but, she does really want to see him again --- they have so much in common and he is really romantic.
Unlikely that this is going to be an isolated incident. Dean sounds like he has to get his own way - and, he has to be right. Rhonda is very attracted to him and wants things to work out, so, she is likely to explain away his behavior -- at least for awhile.