Gaslighting discussion (split from: Justin’s Miscellaneous Posts)

I am confused by this. I hope this will be a simple point to figure out. My idea is that if someone claims you are gaslighting them, that would seem to entail them feeling that they were gaslit.

You are right, I did not consider that. And now I am tired (in a deeper sense than just on account of the hour) and unhappy with the state of the discussion. So it seems like that worked out badly.

I need to come up with a reasonable plan really soon. I need to figure out some details. I don’t know what to do at this point.

You said that Elliot “felt gaslit”. Not that he “felt that he was gaslit”. Those are two different things. But neither one is what he said.

This relates to the TCS Coercion analogy that I tried to use. (And it is part of the reason I think the TCS Coercion analogy was good and actually fit the situation well.)

If a parent tries to force a child to eat their peas, you could say that the parent is coercing the child. But that doesn’t meant that the child feels coerced. The child might figure out how to deal with the situation without having any internal feelings of coercion.

Even if the child manages to deal with the situation without feeling coerced, it can still make sense to say the parent is coercing the child. They are attempting to coerce the child. They are doing something that they expect to lead to an internal state of coercion, and that would lead to an internal state of coercion in most children.

In the same way, you can say that someone is gaslighting someone else when they are doing something that would lead to most people feeling or being gaslit. But that doesn’t mean the victim necessarily “feels” gaslit in an internal way.

So you are apologizing for Elliot feeling gaslit. But he was accusing you of gaslighting behavior, not talking about how he felt.

I need to sleep. I’m going to do that for now and try to approach this fresh.

That makes sense. Thank you. I believe that I was mixing up thinking and feeling and talking about them in an imprecise manner, and that that caused the problem. I don’t understand the concept of gaslighting as discussed in this thread yet, so if I apologized now for gaslighting behavior it would be premature and insincere. Despite that, I thought there was a good explanation above (regarding the analogy with the yeller) about how I hadn’t behaved appropriately even aside from the issue of whether gaslighting had taken place, and was trying (ineffectually, it seems) to apologize for that. This is what I was trying to get across:

APOLOGY : I apologize to @Elliot for disregarding/not taking seriously that he thought he was being gaslit and bringing up my own emotional state instead.

I still don’t understand how I allegedly mistreated Elliot, though.

The intent of “that he thought he was being gaslit” in the above revision is not to imply that he wrongly thought he was being gaslit. It’s written the way it is because I haven’t arrived at a conclusion on the gaslighting issue itself because I don’t understand gaslighting.

It is a valid point that I did not discuss the potential scope of future apologies. To be clear, if I am still participating in this topic, and unless I have indicated otherwise (e.g. by saying that I intend a particular apology as final and comprehensive) it should be presumed that I might apologize for more things later on.

I don’t know how to label or effectively discuss “what you’re currently not apolog[izing] for but might later” because I don’t understand the gaslighting issue, so I don’t know what to label or discuss in a meaningful way. Similar point with “what remain open issues” - I can say at a very general level that the gaslighting issue remains open and that I might apologize for it, and that is true, but that doesn’t seem like a helpful statement to me, because it is very general/vague and seems obvious.

Since I moved the topic from elsewhere, I didn’t do one of these previously.

Topic Summary: Discussing whether Justin Mallone gaslighted Elliot Temple and other related issues that come up.

Goal: Reach agreement with Elliot Temple on the main topic and any other relevant issues.

Why are you posting this in Unbounded? Unbounded seemed like the most appropriate place for a discussion of this type.

Do you want unbounded criticism? No, but I consent to it.

Let me see if I understand:

According to original TCS Philosophy understanding of TCS Coercion, it’s possible and achievable to avoid doing things that would coerce a typical person in our society. You might intentionally or unintentionally coerce someone, but there is some sort of act on your part that is required for coercion (whether you intend it or not), and it’s possible to avoid such coercive acts.

According to formerTCSer’s ideas, which are not a part of TCS Philosophy, coercion can routinely happen when doing innocuous activities like going to the store and trying on clothes. So it’s not realistic or achievable to avoid coercing a typical person in our society.

In post 29, anonymous33 compared gaslighting and TCS Coercion. Because TCS Coercion requires some sort of avoidable act on behalf of the coercer (regardless of whether they intended to coerce or not), and because gaslighting requires some avoidable act on the behalf of the gaslighter (regardless of whether they intended to gaslight or not), the analogy between TCS Coercion and gaslighting makes sense.

I said:

You replied with:

I said that I agree with formerTCSer, and I still think the analogy lines up well. I meant that I think the analogy lines up well even taking into account formerTCSer’s ideas.

The issue I was pointing out was that you seemed to be assuming formerTCSer’s ideas without stating or explaining them. And I think that complicated things in a way that’s difficult to deal with. It’s hard to respond to ideas that aren’t being clearly stated or explained.

Right now, you seem to be assuming that formerTCSer’s views say something that I don’t think they say. But you aren’t clearly stating it. And, as I said in another message, you have previously objected to me replying to things I think your are implying but haven’t clearly stated. So this is still problematic for me to figure out how to talk about.

(And, I still think this has a relationship to your issues with the math problems: you aren’t trying to clearly lay out your premises at the beginning, in the same way you weren’t starting your math problems by writing out all the things that the problem told you.)

I think you will probably be confused by what I meant, and not know what things you didn’t clearly state.

A few things that have been discussed (in a disorganized way) are:

  • intentionally vs unintentionally gaslighting (or coercing) someone
  • the feeling of being gaslit (or coerced) vs the act of gaslighting (or coercion)
  • whether it is accurate to call an act “gaslighting” (or “coercion”) when someone feels gaslit (or coerced), but the other person didn’t actually do anything wrong
  • whether it is accurate to call an act “gaslighting” (or “coercion”) when someone doesn’t feel gaslit (or coerced), but the other person did do something that was wrong in a relevant way (e.g. they expected, or should have expected, it to cause the feeling of gaslighting/coercion in the other person)

Edit: Basically I think that there are issues coming up related to these, where you are assuming your premises without clearly stating them.

Is it your opinion that following up on the items in your bullet point list is the best way for me to understand the gaslighting issue? If so, I am open to trying to do that, though I am not sure of the best way to effectively go about doing that. I get the general idea of stating premises clearly, but I don’t think I can just take that idea and apply it in a way that is helpful. I am concerned about the possibility of wasting more effort.

I don’t know how to lead the discussion. I don’t know what would or could help right now.

You have made a lot of mistakes in the discussion, some of which have been pointed out, but most of which have not. I don’t know where the right (or most productive) place to start would be.

Regarding the gaslighting, I think it’s notable that you initially responded to Elliot by saying you didn’t think you were gaslighting, but then later you said that you don’t understand what gaslighting is. You argued with him that you were not gaslighting him, even though you didn’t have a clear idea in your own head of what gaslighting actually is.

And then even after you said you don’t understand what gaslighting is, you put a bunch of effort into going through the conversation to look for gaslighting. That approach doesn’t make sense to me.

(I think one possible thing that could have happened there is that you think you did and do know what gaslighting is, but instead of stating it, you are thinking something like: “well, if what you say is true, then I guess I just don’t know what gaslighting is.” If that’s what’s happening, you should say so though.)

If you want to talk about gaslighting, try to find your gaslighting, be able to have an opinion about what is or isn’t gaslighting, etc, then I think it does make sense to start by having a clearer idea of what gaslighting is. “Gaslighting” can mean or refer to more than one thing. But in order to be clear about which thing is being referred to, you have to actually have an understanding of what those things are.

But I don’t know if talking about gaslighting is a productive way forward right now. I was trying to respond to some of the things you were saying. I wasn’t trying to take the initiative to lead the discussion or decide which things would be best for you to work on right now.

I had an initial idea of what gaslighting was coming into the discussion. That idea involved psychological abuse, emotional manipulation, and the association with things such as domestic abuse, “psychopaths” and “sociopaths”. So that idea conceived of gaslighting as pretty extreme behavior. During the discussion, I realized that Elliot had a different idea of what gaslighting was. Elliot’s idea of gaslighting is the idea that I was referring to when I said that I do not currently understand gaslighting. I think - and I could be wrong about this - but I think ET’s idea of gaslighting includes the behavior described by my idea of gaslighting as a subset, but also includes other, additional behavior that would be outside my idea of gaslighting. But exactly what behavior would be considered gaslighting according to Elliot’s understanding of the term is something I do not currently understand.


I agree.

Based on self-knowledge, I don’t think I’ll be able to engage in any productive discussion on this forum that’s not closely related to resolving the gaslighting discussion. So for me the issue isn’t whether to discuss gaslighting but how to go about it in a somewhat effective and reasonable manner.

(emphasis added)

I take " They could just mean that your actions have the effect of being coercive" as meaning that the actions caused someone to actual experience a state of coercion, and that that state of coercion is the “effect” being referred to. Thus, my question below is intended to raise a separate, additional point that I do not believe is covered in the emphasized material.

To clarify, could they also mean that your actions would typically have the effect of being coercive (on someone of ordinary sensibilities), even if they were not actually coerced? To put it another way, could someone claim there is TCS Coercion without 1) intent to coerce on the part of a coercer or 2) actual coercion experienced on the part of the potential coercee? I ask because this seems potentially relevant to what I take to be ET’s idea of gaslighting and my trouble with understanding it.

Between the issues of whether there is intent or not and whether someone is actually coerced or not, it seems like there are four possibilities. I’ve tried naming them since that seemed useful for the purposes of keeping track of the distinctions.

  1. Intent to coerce on the part of the coercer + actual experience of coercion on the part of the coercee (Intentional Coercion)
  2. No intent to coerce + actual coercion (Unintentional Coercion)
  3. Intent to coerce + no actual coercion (or Attempted Coercion)
  4. No intent to coerce + no actual coercion (perhaps this could be Recklessly Risking Coercion).

I’ll cut it off here because I don’t want to spend a lot of effort on this line of inquiry if it is not fruitful (and then get disappointed), and I have trouble judging fruitfulness myself.

I think TCS did claim this.

E.g., from the TCS glossary:

Coerce :

  • Intentionally or recklessly to place someone in a state of coercion (1); or
  • to behave in a way that is intended, or likely, to do this.

This seems to include the possibility that the “coercer” behaved in a way that was likely (but not intended) to place someone in a state of coercion, regardless of whether the person was in that state.

Thank you. I did not expect there to be such a relevant definition in canonical TCS source material, but I agree with you that the second part of the entry for “Coerce” does seem to directly address my question in the affirmative. That is interesting.

The definition actually seems to succinctly cover all four cases that I mentioned.