Both are effective in blocking healthy communication, in particular,the sense of emotional safety and connection necessary that each person in the communication needsto deepen their mutual understanding of one another, in order to strengthen their relationship.
It’s in their intent thattheydistinctly differ. Stonewalling is a learned defensive or protective strategy. In general, the person who stonewalls is using a learned albeit ineffective way of expressing intenseemotions to a loved one, which may befeelings of frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment to a loved one, on the one hand, ordiscouragement, emotional flooding, overwhelm or evenshutdown, on the other.
In contrast, the intent of gaslighting is more severe and offensive in nature.
Additionally, whereas gaslighting includes all or some elements of stonewalling, stonewalling in itself is not gaslighting.
Whereas the underlying intent of stonewalling is to express feelings of disconnect and insecurity in relation to the other, along with the underlying core fears this triggers, such as feelings of inadequacy, rejection and abandonment, etc., the underlying intent of gaslighting, as a form of thought control, is to tear down the defenses of another offensively. It is an aggressive act of onewho holds a “might makes right” philosophy, and has a fantasy of himself as a mighty predator and other persons as potential prey.
Because of its intent, gaslighting is one of the most extreme and emotionally abusive.
It is the termemotional manipulation should be reserved for exclusively, that is, a form of thought control that is science-based, uses proven methodology to getinto the mind of another, manipulate fears and core-needs, specifically, to silence, belittle, rob the other of any sense of esteem or worth, visibility or presence in relation to the other. In effect, to subjugate the other into thinking and feeling that their only purpose in life is to serve “at the pleasure of” the other, and most importantly, to act as if this sado-masochistic relationship is normal, but also to act as they get pleasure from whatever the master does to them.
At some level or another, a lighter version of gaslightingisused throughout our society in certain hierarchical relationship structures, such as parent-child.husband-wife, socially approved to be used bythose in status positions, throughout our society, for example parent-child, teacher-student. not a science-based training many persons we know receive in their on the job training in certain careers, such as military, police, etc., in order to enforce controls and status.
Characteristics of stonewalling
Stonewalling is a refusal of one person to talk, interact or respond to anotherperson they areliving with, often married to, or in regular contract, in some cases,working together.
This slang term references a wallbecause talking to someone who stonewallscan feel as if they’re made of stone, literally, like havinga conversation with a wall. They show little or no emotion on the outside, and oftentake pride in thinking of themselves as strong on the basis of showing no emotion(in truth, they’restewing and brewing inside).
It’s an ineffective and counterproductive way of handling difficult emotions, ultimately a fear of fear itself. The stonewaller often holds a belief thatperceives upsetting emotions, criticism, demands, etc., as dangerous risks or threats to asense of safety they associate with keeping tight control of emotions (to avoid loss of control andoverwhelm).
Stonewallingincludes the below or similar defensive-response patterns.
Refusing to talk or giving the “silent treatment” to the other.
Saying as few words as possible.
Shutting down at any sign the other wants to talk about an issue or is upset.
Refusing to answer questions.
Asking for “space” (illusive…) from the other without explanation.
Remaining emotionless when asked to express feelings on issue at hand.
Offering no opinions.
Staying emotionally detached from any issues the other brings up.
Responding with, I dont know what I want when asked to resolve issues collaboratively.
Agreeing to things only to get space from the other, therefore, not keeping “agreements.”
Evading efforts of the other to resolve an issue or agree to a plan.
Withholding information that risks evaluation or angering or upsetting the other.
In general, the intent of stonewalling is to express feelings ofdisappointment or hurt, and to doso indirectly, by withdrawing from anycommunications or the presence of another. They may also refuse to engage or participate in planned events or to keep agreements.
Though not always the case, it’s not unusual for the stonewaller tofeel shut down, automatically at any sign of discord. In some cases, the above behaviors are also associated with persons who have experienced emotional and, or physical abuse, who need healing from a mind set, that has them trapped,living in fear and overly focused, worried, obsessed about not meeting the expectations or demands of the other.
In some cases stonewalling can be a primary means for the stonewaller to avoidwhat they most fear–conflict, criticism,confrontation –based on a belief, or anunrealistic expectation the stonewaller holds, that it’stheir job to eliminate anysigns of negative emotions or feedback or demandsaround them.
In other cases, stonewalling can also be awayto punish a loved one for something they did or didn’t do that was hurtful, oftenwith the expectation they “should have known better” without using words to clarifywhat they want or what’s hurtful.
In some fashion or other, the stonewaller acts “as if” the other does not exist.
It can range or start as mild and occasional, and grow to ahabitual, persistentpattern; and theduration canlastminutes, hours, days or weeks, or longer.
Often, for practical purposes, there may bebrief breaks here and there, for example, in orderto coordinate essential responsibilities, or when friends or other family members are around.
In the words of Daniel Goleman, “Stonewalling sends a powerful, unnerving message, something like a combination of icy distance …and distaste… as a habitual response, stonewalling is devastating to the health of a relationship; it cuts off all possibility of working out disagreements.”
It’s been called the ultimate defense, in effect, the stonewaller withdraws by just going blank.
The partner who wants to talk and resolve issues often finds stonewalling to be extremely frustrating, especially when they are trying to address serious issues.
In contrast, gaslighting may includemost orall of the above, however, the intent of the gaslighter is more severe, and goes beyond merepunishing or avoiding conflict.
More on thecharacteristics of gas lighting in Part 2.