Saturday, September 1, 2018

I am a Super Nice Person and I've Been Super Nice All Along!

These past few days I've been thinking about a certain type of behavior that I think is a form of gaslighting.

This is where someone has hurt you in the past and maybe present—usually repeatedly. You call them out on it. They don't acknowledge it. They deny it. They don't apologize for it. Then they further try to show it never happened by trying to act the opposite of what you're accusing them of.  

Yesterday we had a meeting with the office manager of our neurology center. The office manager did NOT do this type of gaslighting. He admitted the office had problems. He apologized. He assured me they were trying to fix things, and he even went as far as showing me that they already had made changes. I think that's pretty awesome.

The gaslighter will often not apologize for their actions, but if they do, it will be a manipulative type of apology. Or they will apologize for your feelings. I'm sorry you feel that way.

Note: I did a series of post about manipulative apologies—here and here.

The gaslighter will not acknowledge or admit that they did anything hurtful to you in the past. They will treat your complaints as being ridiculous, over-the-top, all-in-your-head, etc. They might outright say these things to you, or they might just use gestures such as sighing, rolling their eyes, chuckling, tone of voice, etc. OR if the complaints are in writing, they might react by ignoring the subject.

This particular type of gaslighter will change their behavior...sometimes in an excessive way.  

Example: The boyfriend who has always acted like your cat is a nuisance and that people who own cats are creepy.  After you get upset about this, the boyfriend suddenly starts acting like your cat is his favorite thing in the world. He gives kitty attention. He buys kitty toys. He shows a ton of interest in cat videos. And he especially acts this way when an audience is present.   

Now I don't think an improvement in behavior sans apology is always a bad, gaslighting type of thing.

There are times where an apology can be awkward or make the situation worse. Or sometimes a change is all someone needs, and an apology is only the second cherry on the sundae.  

I think this would especially be true if you've never actually complained about the behavior, AND the behavior was not really hurtful.

For example. We met someone for the first time. She was grumpy and unfriendly. We didn't like her. But she didn't do anything to hurt us. 

Some time later we met her again, and she was very nice. And we've seen her periodically through the years. She's always been very nice and very likable. I just take it that she was younger and more immature the first time we met, or maybe she had been in a bad mood. I don't feel we need an apology from her.   

You know what else....

I think if there's a pretty large space between the times that we've seen someone, we have to accept that they might go through changes when we're apart. Unless their old self did something hurtful to us, they don't need need to apologize for being less awesome in the past.  

Example: There's a man in our life that we see every few years. I've known him for a few decades. He talks a LOT about himself and rarely shows interest in what's happening in my life. He acts very self-centered. Let's say the next time we see him, he talks much less about himself and seems genuinely interested in my life. I'll just be happy for the change, and I won't feel he owes me an apology. Because, although his behavior has been annoying, it has never really hurt me in anyway.  

Back to the bad stuff.

The gaslighter hasn't gone through any real personal growth. They are putting on a show. If they are lacking in self-awareness, the show might be partly for them. By acting nice, they can believe they ARE nice. It's easy for this type of person to forget their bad deeds, and this form of gaslighting makes it even easier for them.

The show is definitely for you. Their intentions might be somewhat innocent. They might (stupidly) feel if they trick you into thinking nothing has been done to hurt you, you won't feel hurt. You can put away that ugly frown and shine with your beautiful smile...for them.

OR, their intentions might be more malicious. You know and they know, that they shit you in the past, but they're going to deny it and try to make you look paranoid and over-sensitive. 

The most manipulative gaslighters will make sure to put on their best behavior when an audience is around. They want to prove to the world how awesome they are. Also, if you try to vent to people in the future, there's hope that your friends and family will say something like, But she's SO nice to you. She really cares! How can you not see that!?

Now I'm thinking....

What if the gaslighter changes their bad behavior permanently? What if they DO become a better person?

Well, I think they're still awful for not apologizing and for letting you think your grievances are a product of your imagination.  BUT it's better than the gaslighter who only briefly makes changes and the changes are mostly seen only when an audience is present. In this case, they're not trying to make amends. They're simply trying to impress others.