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A Christiaan Experience with Gaslighting (Part 1)

“I couldn’t have dreamed it. No, I couldn’t. I couldn’t have dreamed it. No, I couldn’t have dreamed it. I couldn’t have dreamed it! Did I dream? Did I really, really dream? Dream, dream.”

Paula Anton (Gaslight 1944)

In 1944, a movie starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman was released whose title was “Gaslight” (do not watch the trailer it ruins everything). This movie is where the modern-day term comes from. It’s because throughout the movie Paula Anton (Ingrid Bergman) is manipulated into believing things happened that didn’t happen, or that she did things that she didn’t do. I won’t get into much more because it’s a mystery/suspense/thriller.

What you need to know as it relates to this blog is that Gaslighting is a psychological phenomenon that according to Merriam Webster means,

“to psychologically manipulate (a person) usually over an extended period of time so that the victim questions the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and experiences confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and doubts concerning their own emotional or mental stability.” 

Merriam Webster

That’s a lot. And the movie, itself, is not for the light of heart. As a Christian, I think a natural defense to being Gaslit is to remember who we are in Christ (a different blog for a different time) however, understanding and finding our value, worth, and identity in Christ doesn’t fully defend us against the entirety of Webster’s definition.

As you may or may not be aware, my past two jobs I’ve been unceremoniously dismissed from – one from a corporate job and the other from a church job. With the Corporate job, I was able to receive unemployment after the Department of Labor investigated the circumstances involving my dismissal and determined that despite the laundry list of accusations surrounding my dismissal, it was through no fault of my own and the corporation merely exercised their right to hire/fire. With the church, I was dismissed in violation of the constitution of the church and had to seek legal counsel and advice for ensuring that my rights were protected.

What I didn’t realize about the previous two dismissals was that I had been gaslit. The gaslighting was so insidious, methodical, and so inconspicuous, that I didn’t realize how deep the gaslighting had gone. I’m going to write about the gaslighting at each employer separately, as the techniques were different, my reaction and my justification for why I didn’t realize I had been being gaslit were different – but both were very real.

I need you to believe something about my writing this though. This is not designed to be a tell all, off, or on. I’m not using names of individuals because their names aren’t important, what is important is my relationship with them, what they did, how I received it, and what effect it had on me – both known and unknown.   

I consider myself someone who is very much in tune with his emotions, someone who is aware of himself, and someone who is generally able to interpret and notice changes in things.

In this instance however, it wasn’t until the final interview of a job, that I realized the significance of what I had happen to me.  

I was interviewing for a teaching position at a local Christian school, part of the interview process is for me to share my testimony. During out hour plus long interview, the principal, who worked as a professional counselor prior to getting into education asked me about specifics regarding my testimony. I shared, openly, and honestly, about my past and why I was seeking jobs outside of the pastorship. We concluded that portion of the interview process and he thanked me for being authentic, honest, and told me that he could tell it was a hurtful experience.

The interview process progressed and at the final interview I concluded the interview by asking three questions. Three questions that hiring managers and other individuals have said were awesome, showed maturity, experience, and confidence. However, the principal misinterpreted my meaning for asking them. My intention was to understand the scope of the position, what the admin looks for in teachers, and their expectations of me in that position. The principal told the group that he felt that the questions came from a place of insecurity, lack of confidence, and that I was still very much affected by the trauma that had been inflicted on me in the past. That my concern about meeting expectations would get in the way of my ability to teach the children to the best of my ability.

I was floored… but being who I am, as I was leaving the school for a job, I didn’t get. I had a very unsettling feeling. I thought about it, pondered it, and tried to reconcile that feeling to what I knew.

Here are things I objectively know to be true and have zero questions about and have been affirmed by others (non-family):

  • I have a calling in my life to minister to people.
  • I am gifted in teaching people.
  • People of all ages love me – I can relate to them.
  • I am overqualified in terms of credentials, knowledge, and general experience.
  • There will be a learning curve and specific experience needed, but it isn’t an obstacle I can’t defeat, and until then I will do what I have always done: improvise, adapt, and overcome.

I have the utmost confidence in my ability to surpass the requirements of the job. So why would he say that?

  1. Perhaps the easiest is that he misinterpreted my reasons for asking my three questions, is wrong, and God allowed it because I’m not supposed to be at that job.
  2. He was right.
  3. My objective knowledge is incorrect, and the affirmations are mistaken.
  4. Yes, except 3. What if he was right, but just on a subconscious level. What If he misinterpreted my reasons, God doesn’t want me at that job, he was right, but the affirmations and objective knowledge is correct.

It has taken me over a month and some serious questioning, searching, and some startling revelations to realize it’s four. It’s why it’s important for me to write these things the way that I am, because I feel it’s important to get out there, because I know I’m not alone.

So, I hope you’ll join me on this journey I’m taking. I hope you’ll not focus too much on the specifics of my situation, but instead see how it could apply to yours, and hopefully, through this, we’ll arrive at a place of Selah, and be stronger for it.

Published inPersonal MusingsTheological Musings


  1. Captain America Captain America

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Christiaan. I have no doubts in my mind that your sharing this experience will be healing and helpful for many who have a chance to read it. Even a good king can be bewitched by a clever Wormtongue and an evil sorcerer dressed in white…sometimes we all need help to remember the faces of the ones who truly love us.

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