Feeling Crazy? Maybe you are the victim of DARVO

Dr. Sandra Shachar, PhD

Also known as "gaslighting," DARVO typically occurs when you bring up concern about something your partner said, or did. Rather than listening to and validating your concerns, you experience the following:

Deny - They tell you that, "the way you see/think about things isn't true/reality." This creates a sense of doubt or not being able to trust yourself and your perceptions when you point out disturbing, conflict or confusing behavior. "We are just friends," or "I was just trying to help you by ______" or "I never said that" (when you know they did).

Attack - They then go on the offense with accusations or statements that being with "you always" or "you never," as in, "you always take their side over mine," or "you never want me to have fun," "you're just jealous," etc.

Reverse - some version of the phrase "If only you had/had't …." is used to put the focus on the other person. "If you had been on time, I never would have had to ….", "if you weren't so rejecting I wouldn't have to look for sex elsewhere," or "If you really loved me you would have …". Suddenly the focus has shifted from your partner to you.

Victim - They are now the injured party, acting hurt and wounded, withdrawing or becoming hostile and aggressive.

Offender - you have now become the perpetrator. You are having to justify or defend your questions or behaviors, apologize for what you said, thought or did and have to console them for the hurt YOU caused.

This is a characteristic tactic of denial and defense used by people who do not want to see and take responsibility for hurtful behavior. It is a common tactic used by many addicted people, such as alcoholics, rage-aholics, sex addicts, and compulsive gamblers, as well as by people who have learned and been allowed to use intimidation, violence and emotional manipulation to get what they want and to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior.

If this dynamic sounds like your relationship, you may benefit from having professional help to identify and manage this safely. Look for a therapist who is familiar with DARVO and how to deal with this in personal relationships.

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