The Player of Games

In one of our sessions Dr E asked me to tell him what one of my favourite games was. I replied that he was presuming that I played games. He apologised and asked me what was one of my favourite things to do. I replied that I enjoy playing games. He started to sigh but managed to stifle it (that reminded me of an ex-girlfriend Becky, she used to do that a lot. She was quite sensible as she knew that sighing infuriates me. It suggests boredom. How can anyone be bored with me around?) and then asked what one of my favourites games was. I said I did not have a favourite game because I only played one game. He nodded and asked me what it was.

I explained that I love to confuse people. He invited me to elaborate. I was happy to do so. I explained that I derived enjoyment from seeing people bewildered and perplexed. I would, for example, accuse them of ignoring me. They would protest and explain that they had been regularly texting me. I would point out a gap between the texts, say of fifteen minutes (which is an eternity when I am waiting for a reply) and show that as clear evidence of them ignoring me. They would frown and state that I had not been in contact with them for a week and that was ignoring somebody. I would then tell them they were trying to pin their own problem on me and that they would regularly do this, that it was hurtful and if they loved me, as they said they did, they would not behave in such a way. I would explain therefore that they must not love me. They would then protest that they did love me yet maintain they had not ignored me. I would accuse them of hypocrisy and walk away. A quick glance over my shoulder would confirm to me, by the puzzled, anguished expression on their face, that they were indeed confused.

Alternatively, I might arrange to meet someone for dinner and then not show up. They would call me and ask where I was. I always ignore the first two telephone calls. On taking the third and listening to them demand to know where I was (because their temper was rising at this point) I would calmly point out that they had got the date wrong, that I was engaged elsewhere (although I usually was not) and why had they interrupted what I was doing to chastise me for their mistake? They would at first insist I was wrong, but I would calmly explain that I was not. How could I be wrong? I had another engagement and therefore would not have agreed to meet them for dinner when already engaged. I would feel that rush of excitement as the doubt crept into their voice. This encouraged me. I would then point out that they were clearly having some kind of memory lapse, probably bought on by excessive drinking and I would counsel them to moderate their consumption and indeed seek help. In some instances (Samantha was a prime proponent of this) she would shout and lose her temper. I would explain then that I could not deal with her when she was like this and not to call me until she had calmed down. I would then end the call and bask in my delight. It sometimes got even better when others would apologise and the piece de resistance would be when they would meekly say “Sorry, you might be right.” Bullseye! I would remind them I always am and would then let them end the call with another apology.

I spent three hours taking Doctor E through my many derivations and variations of this game. He only interrupted me when his secretary reminded me that he had another appointment. He was clearly fascinated to learn about this game that I play. After his secretary had exited the room he looked at me and asked me if I had a name for this game. I confessed that I had not (which irked me as he had found something I had not thought of) and I immediately raced through my mind a variety of names I might attach to my game. Before I could settle on  one, Dr E told me had a name for it. I was curious (although I feigned disinterest by saying nothing) and waited. He said nothing.

“Well, what is it then?” I snapped, irritated by his dilatory response.

“It’s called Gaslighting.”

I nodded. I had  a name for my game. I liked it but I didn’t thank him, he has probably seen it as a name of a shop or a book and pinched it. His type is a flagrant pilferer of other’s ideas. I didn’t muse on the source of the appellation, the important thing was that my game now had its own name. Gaslighting.

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6 thoughts on “The Player of Games”

  1. Another fascinating and accurate post.

    My ex did this to me regularly. We don’t live in the same state so we relied on the phone/texting a lot. It’s ironic you use the 15 minute marker. He told me he forgets everything I’ve said after 15 minutes. So, even if I told him I loved him an hour ago, he’d assume I’d forgotten him and didn’t care anymore after 15 minutes. He had me leaving him voicemails in the middle of the night so that he’d wake up and have a message from me proclaiming my love and adoration. If I was going to be in a meeting or at an appointment where I couldn’t call or text for longer than 15 minutes, I needed to let him know. Constant attention was a requirement. This didn’t really bother me. I like giving a lot of affection.

    Better yet were the changing expectations. Soon, calls and texts during the day weren’t enough. He couldn’t feel my love. My words were meaningless. Action is all that mattered. No matter what I said, it was all from his perception and he didn’t believe I loved him despite loads of sacrifices and specific actions that proved otherwise. It was never enough.

    What do you think about outrageous expectations? Here are a few:

    1. I couldn’t wear make up when we were together because it was a barrier between us.
    2. If we ended up married, I was responsible to make sure it didn’t rain or was cloudy too many days in a row. I needed to make sure he’d have sunshine.
    3. I couldn’t drink water unless he already had drank some (because I needed to make sure he was drinking enough water).
    4. I was solely responsible for him getting 8.5 hours of sleep each night and that he’d feel well rested as a result. If this didn’t happen when we were together, total meltdown city and I was a liar, hurt him more than anyone ever had because I’d broken my promises. I was getting no sleep because I’d have to rub his feet, then his head, then his legs – over and over all night becausee he didn’t sleep well.
    5. He works at the same company now (thanks to me, sigh) and it was my responsibility to make sure he wasn’t too busy. I needed to make sure we had plenty of time to talk still (we talked on the phone for over 4 hours a day most days). I needed to make sure it was clear I was in love with him when we were at the office together (meaning showing affection) – without getting fired.
    6. I had to change the past so that he was the only man ever inside me.
    7. After I went no contact on him for a month, he started dating his ex-wife again. When I caved and came back, he definitely wanted me back. Told me and her he had feelings for both of us and would be in observation mode to see what his worth was during this time. This meant he could freely sleep with both of us. We needed to be ok with this because it showed we needed him no matter what. No matter how much it hurt us. He would tell me that I had his heart, that he loved me and prioritized me over her. However, since I disappeared on him, it was my fault things were complicated with her in the picture. It was my fault he gave her another chance. (She clearly suffers from PTSD and dissociation since she escaped this man for a year.)
    8. I had to be willing to do anything to prove I loved him and that I was his soul mate. This included murder, bombing buildings, etc. If I wasn’t able to actually do anything he asked to prove my love, than I had to kill him to put him out of the emotional pain I was inflicting by being a liar. Alternatively, I could kill myself because I couldn’t live without him.

    There are many, many more I could list (including many affection/sexual related expectations) but Number 8 is what ended up putting a wrench in the deal for me. He said that things had become so fractured between us because I ran away on several occasions that he was calling me out on my promise “to do whatever it takes”. Since I would not murder, I was a liar and he could never trust me again. Until I was willing to prove everything that I’d said, meaning I needed him like air and would do ANYTHING, he would never talk to me again.

    Thoughts on these extreme expectations? Is this typical? Is he just trying to see what he can get people to do? Do you do this?

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    1. Thanks for the post. The communication/text/call/voicemail behaviour is a classic narcissistic tactic. Technology really does allow us to up our game. Have a look at Narcissist : Seduction by H G Tudor and in there you will recognise a very familiar pattern of behaviour in the seduction phase as you have just described. We are surprisingly uniform in our behaviours, it is all a matter of scale and intensity.

      As you identify, the need for constant attention is overwhelming. It is what drives us. We need it like you need air. We also objectify people so that you become an appliance that is programmed to churn out attention on our say so (ie the voicemail that greets him in the morning – you were turned into an alarm clock!). We also have a habit of taking the view that if we cannot see it or hear it, then it does not exist. Hence the declaration that if he had not heard from you for a while then you had forgotten. We need repeated and often reassurance through attention as we are incapable of maintaining mature and deep-seated feelings and understanding.
      Fascinating examples which I briefly comment on in turn.
      1. Control. Also he didn’t want you turning into “someone else” by wearing make-up.
      2. This makes him feel like a god, through you, by controlling the weather. Notice the “if” you get married.
      3. He infantilises his behaviour here and in turn garners attention. If you don’t wait for him, you are not looking after him.
      4. Control but he is also terrified you will disappear when he goes to sleep (if he cant see you you don’t exist) so the rubbing is to reassure him that you are still there as he drifts off.
      5. Control and also demonstrating to your colleagues that you are his, thus reinforcing omnipotence.
      6. Control (was he terrified of disease incidentally?)
      7. Massive triangulation (see article on Playing the Triangle)
      8. Omnipotence and projection – he felt weak as he could not do these things, so he would suggest you were a complete failure if you could not do these things.
      These behaviours are all typical, but as mentioned it is all on a scale. Narcissists will do similar things but your chap was certainly towards the extreme end. A lot of what he did as well was attention based on caring for him (as opposed to out and out admiration) whereby he seems to infantilise a lot. I would be interested to know what his relationship is like with his mother.
      I go more for the tell me I am great and show me how much you admire me, rather than the infantile element. I triangulate as this is an essential tool in our kit.
      How did you meet him?

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      1. Wow – thank you! Your responses are like gold, my friend. It is incredibly helpful to see your perspective on all of this. It makes complete sense when you break it all down as you have. A few replies:
        4. Terrified I might disappear – yes, never thought of that. I totally get it now!
        5. Absolutely! I also hold a much higher position than he does at the company and am very tenured. “Owning” me was a status symbol. He had me greeting him at the entryway every morning, bringing him lunch and running up to his desk like a puppy. I’m sure people at work were baffled by my behaviour. He’s back in the office next week…it will be VERY different this time! I wonder what he’ll do to try and get a reaction out of me? I plan to ignore him and not break my no contact rule.
        6. No, not afraid of disease. He actually refused protection. He never wanted me to “waste” any of his fluid. He abhorred the thought that anyone else had touched me or been inside me. He said he was selfish that way, knew it was a double standard and consistently asked me that if I was built for him why I didn’t wait for him (I’m 42 and was married before).
        8. Ahh…I could never wrap my head around why he was asking me to kill for him. He wanted me to kill my immediate family in the end – that’s what pushed me over the edge. I asked him how we could be together forever if I get caught and he said I was smart enough to figure out how to get away with it. Flattering, I suppose, yet insane. He spent about 3 hours one night and another 2 hours the next day trying to convince me I needed to do this since I promised him I’d do anything. He said if I fulfilled this promise, he’d officially choose me (over his ex wife) and marry me.

        Relationship with his mother – he adores her. Looks up to her more than anyone on earth. He compares all women to her and it would be hard to match how she had taken care of him. He felt I was very similar to her and always told me that was high praise. (He wanted me to get fake eyelashes so they were longer like hers and get french manicures like she always wears). She was a teacher and is a major caregiver. He always told me I was a caregiver and empath on her scale. She is truly an amazing person – opened her home to all his friends and took care of all of them growing up. That being said, he did tell me of times when there was violence between them. So, who knows the whole story but the infantilisation makes sense completely. He often told me he needed me just to hold him and tell him everything was going to be ok (and then make it ok). He also has very old fashioned views of mens/womens roles (women should be submissive) and said women got screwed because of Eve. Our bodies sag after we have kids, we get grey and ugly and men just get better looking/more distinguished. He’d go on rants about this regularly. No one was prettier than he was – always told me that even if I hate him I’d still have to find him attractive.

        I met him randomly at a work conference a year and a half ago. He was lost looking for his hotel room and I helped him find it. It was only 5 minutes or so but he intrigued me (in that short time I found out a lot about him). I LinkedIn to him right after the conference and then FaceBook friended him in the summer. He was in my city for business last Fall and I sent him a message to see if he wanted to meet for a drink. We missed each other but he asked if he could call me. We started talking on the phone regularly for 3 months. He then visited me for a few days (very romantic, affectionate & fun) and shortly after that we met up for a vacation for a full week and had an amazing time (none of the real issues came out on that trip!). We talked every single day after that trip for hours and started visiting each other regularly…that’s when it all really started coming out or at least became apparent to me. I was already hooked.

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      2. I’m a new member to your blog, but why did you ask about the relationship with his mother? What is YOUR expert opinion on the relationship with the mother?

        Do you respond to personal communication other than on this public site?

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      3. Hello L, excuse my delay in replying, I asked about the relationship with his mother as this often provides an insight into our behaviours. Parental influence is the major determinant in how someone will behave and particularly so with our kind. I do respond to personal communications other than here, yes.

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  2. My ex’s favorite game too. I hated it! He called it “magic”, I called it deception. I introduced the name gaslighting to him. Then he said, in mocking tones, when I had a good point in an argument, “stop gaslighting me” and rolled in laughter. I shot him the look that said “jackass” and told him to stick to pulling bunnies out of a hat. He didn’t like that but he always got revenge. Usually he pulled a last minute canceled plan, especially if I was looking forward to it.

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