Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meredith Baxter, Psychological Abuse, "Gaslighting," and Domestic Violence

Today's blog entry was inspired by Meredith Baxter's revelation this week that her ex-husband was abusive to her. Also, she came out as being a lesbian in 2009. See: "Meredith Baxter Alleges Ex-Husband David Birney Abused Her"

Perhaps, in a later blog entry, I'll discuss the number of women in the lesbian community has sky-rocketed in recent years with the number of ex-married (to a man) women now seeming to outnumber the lesbian who consider themselves always a lesbian. Why? Has it been abusive men pushing normally "straight" women into the arms of lesbians or is it that many of these women were lesbian all along and didn't realize it? I'd love for someone to do a study or a survey of this ... may NBC or CNN?

Back in January 2011, I add a new web page to my web site, Pat McClendon's Clinical Social Work, called: Psychological Violence (or more completely, Psychological Violence or Psychological Abuse or Ambient (Stealth) Abuse (including "Gaslighting") and Bullying.

This web page evolved from reading online material about domestic violence and in particular, this article: "Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships." The article discusses the signs that you are being abused: emotionally (psychologically) or physically; cycle of abuse; and its progression from psychological abuse to overt abuse, aka, domestic violence. The statement which I found most disturbing was: "Violent and abusive behavior is the abuser’s choice ... Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you. Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power: Dominance; Humiliation; Isolation; Threats; Intimidation; and Denial and blame." The article described each tactic used by the abuser. Then, there is the section of the "The cycle of violence in domestic abuse:" Abuse; Guilt; Excuses; "Normal" behavior;" Fantasy and planning; and Set-up. These last two (2) were jaw dropping experiences for me. Is this true for ALL abusers? or just some of the worst abusers?

Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he'll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.

Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.

Here is an example they cite:

The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence: An Example: A man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, "I'm sorry for hurting you." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught." He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you." He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because "you're having an affair with the store clerk." He has just set her up. Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service

How diabolical! Are abusers really this depraved? They tell you that they love you, don't they? I did NOT want to believe it! I read on ... more online articles.

Gaslighting? What is that, you ask? Gaslighting: The extremes of emotional abuse by Jeanne Sparks-Carreker answers that question well, and these two (2) entries really bring it home:

page 2: " ... When no sympathy or support for the hurt feelings are available, more times than not it is due to the Gaslighting abuser not wanting to empathize with their spouse/girlfriend because he would then have to take responsibility as having been the one who caused the hurt. Gaslighting methods offer no solution to the problems between couples because only genuine love can comfort and understand, an intimacy that is a must in a relationship. ...."

page 6-7: " ... Eventually a Gaslighting abuser wins the ultimate war, the final argument, when she begins to collapse mentally and emotionally. The worst Gaslighting abusers will then mock her, humiliate her by sharing her "wrongdoings" (of searching for a solution) with their mutual friends, hoping to get a response of "I wouldn't listen to all that nagging, Man," from them. Perhaps it better eases his conscious to have others tell him it is all her, or that she's just a bitch, or just a nag. Hell, she's not worth the effort it takes him to keep on living with her! ..."

Then there was the web site about bullying. I read this article and learned how I have been bullying in various settings in my life: "Bullying: Half the population are bullied ... most people only realise it when they read this page. What is bullying, how to recognise bullying."

Then this blog entry continued clearing my eyes of all those cobwebs of denial: "The Silent Victims" - Karin's World - Blog (Saturday, 24 July 2010), she writes:

" ... There is a lot of prejudice when it comes to infidelity and emotional abuse. There seems to be the common belief (at least until the Sandra Bullock "case") that women are cheated on if they are unattractive and/or not interested in sex. Likewise, there seems to be a general opinion that women in abusive relationships are to blame for the continuous abuse, because "…they could just get up and leave". I hope to help spread the understanding that it is far from being that simple. ..."

I continued to stumble along reading more online articles over the course of several months and I was slowly and methodically becoming jaded! Totally jaded!

Definition of jaded: "The end result of having a steady flow of negative experiences, disappointment, and unfulfillment fed into a person where they get to the point where their anger circuits just sort of burn out and they accept disillusionment." (Source: Urban Dictionary)

Then, to make matters worse, the "final straw" was when I stumbled upon: Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. Be sure to see his videos on YouTube. One of his entries states:

"... Avoid all contact with the narcissist in your life. All other advice is spurious and erroneous. Narcissists cannot be “fixed” and, if you do not keep absolute distance, will ruin your life thoroughly. To believe that one can affect the narcissist’s wellbeing is malignant optimism, a manifestation of the rescue fantasies that are so common among co-dependents. ..."

Some part of me wished that I have not read all this material. I wanted to remain naïve and continue to believe that people are basically good! I wanted to hold onto my malignant optimism.

I have selected a few of his videos, as well as a few of his articles that are eye-opening on my web page: Psychological Violence  (or Psychological Abuse or Ambient (Stealth) Abuse (including "Gaslighting") and Bullying for your review.

I don't believe that anyone is a pure psychopath, narcissist, borderline (BPD), bipolar, etc. but some certainly may have psychopathic, narcissistic, borderline, bipolar, etc. "parts." I believe in the multiplicity of people: "All of us operate at multiple levels of consciousness, which we acquire through socialization and we are microcosms of our families and our society." (Rivera, 1989) See my article: "Multiplicity and Victimization: What part of `No!' don't you understand? vs. What part of you doesn't understand `No!'?"

If you think that you or someone that you hold dear is in an abusive relationship, I recommend that you review ALL material on my web page: "Psychological Violence or Psychological Abuse or Ambient (Stealth) Abuse (including "Gaslighting") and Bullying." See threse two (2) sections: Why do the victims stay? and Who are the abusers and why do they abuse?

Self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol probably keeps many victims in a relationship longer with their abusers much longer because while it medicates their pain, it fogs their thinking and it can also lead to addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

Passages Malibu Drug Rehab & Alcohol Rehab Addiction Treatment Cure Center states that the Philosophy of Passages Addiction Cure Center is that: "Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a symptom, not a cause, and not a disease. Addiction is triggered by either mental or physical pain; the drugs and alcohol are what you do to cope with it. To heal your addiction permanently, you must first go to the underlying cause, and heal it; then the addiction will cease to exist. In essence, you will have removed the thorn, the pain will subside, and so will the need for drugs and alcohol. ..."

More about addictions when I blog about Charlie Sheen.

Update: March 23, 2013


  1. Hi This is a good read. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about social work. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about social work. Keep it up!
    The education of social workers begins with a Bachelor's degree (BA, BSc, BSSW, BSW, etc.) or diploma in Social Work. Some countries offer Postgraduate degrees in Social Work, like master's (such as MSW,MSS, MA, MSc, MRes, MPhil etc.) or doctoral studies (such as PhD and DSW (Doctor of Social Work)). More and more graduates of social work continue to post-doctoral studies. Some argue that social work education is a lifelong process.
    Social work in Massachusetts is the most accessible profession for the provision of mental health care in private practice, clinics and in-patient settings.

    social work massachusetts

  2. Thanks, Mark. I hope you get a laugh out of my last blog entry.

  3. Hello, Patricia. I just "happened" upon your site and blog this evening. I too have my Master's Degree in Social Work. I was drawn to your site when I saw the information you have posted about gaslighting and emotional abuse. I have been amazed by the overall lack of understanding and awareness there seems to be world wide but even ore so here in the US about Narcissistic abuse, gaslighting, trauma bonding and PTSD. Although much of my social work experience has been in the hospital setting, I have recently become very interested in these issues related to emotional abuse. About 3 and a half years ago I have taken my two young children to a psychologist. After the second session, the psychologist told me I should see him too (I did not have a therapist prior to him). I began to see him and he referred the children out. He seemed really competent for a long time and then out of no where he changed. What that man put me through nearly cost me my life. It took me almost a year after I refused to see him any longer before I found information about Narcissistic Abuse and gaslighting. Oddly I didn't learn these terms form the psychologist I had finally gotten up the courage to see as I was self destructing after the abuse or the Ohio Board of Psychology who was "investigating" a 15 pint ethical complaint filed by my current therapist and me. I learned the terms from the victim's advocacy site, TELL. Had I not stumbled across this site while I was searching tirelessly on the internet for something that explained what happened to me, I might not be here right now. My healing took so much longer than it needed to because the awareness about Narcissistic Abuse isn't happening. To make matters worse, the "investigation" by the board of psych was fraught with deception and cover ups. I have since contacted my state reps, the governors office, the attorney general. They seemed powerless to do anything. The Ohio Inspector General, however, is investigating. I am currently writing a book about what happened to me and how it is opened my eyes to something that seems to be so poorly known. Once a person learns what this type of abuse is, it is shocking to see just how common it is. There are so many therapists and counselors practicing who don't know this and they are working with trauma patients. I can't help but be angry as I visit social media sites started and maintained by people who have seen the devastation of this type of abuse and she the endless comments from readers saying, "Oh, my gosh! That's exactly what I went through!" This is where too many people are learning the truth of what they have been through. My point here is that I have seen all of this from a very unique perspective. And what I am finding is that there is an active resistance to get that awareness to happen. I would like to take what I have experienced and use it to help others who are wandering around still believing that he abuse they endured was somehow their fault. Until these victims gain the important insight about what really happened, they are so vulnerable to more abuse like this. I believe I have a lot to offer in terms of helping to promote the awareness that will help so many people. I just can't seem to find an avenue to gain a foothold. This is not a topic that people who haven't endured this type of abuse want to hear about. It is much safer to believe this is made up. Meanwhile, there are good, honest compassionate people who are nearly being destroyed with very little hope of getting the help they need. I am not sure if you can offer some suggestions. I appreciate your time in reading this message.

  4. Michelle, I just sent you a private message. Pat

  5. Pat- I did no know you had responded. How do I check my private messages here?

  6. It was hard to find out how to leave you a message. I had to join my own blog, then I clicked on your name and I could leave you a message. Hopefully, when you reply, I can click on my own name to reply.

    Comment as: Use the "Google Account"

  7. I too just happened on your page. This framework and language apply to Workplace Bullying.