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.