Writer and performer Katie Bonna's latest work All The Things I Lied About, takes you by the hand and leads you gently into a maze of deceit. Contextualised within a faux-TED framework, we are deftly lured into a world constructed on a white lie here, an economy of truth there, until you no longer know what, or who, to believe.
We are taken through the stages of lying as Bonna grows up. From crying as a baby when nothing is wrong to get attention, tricking her sister into drinking her urine and pretending not to be a virgin to be as cool as other girls. As much as we lie as children for what seems like innocent gains, we lie as adults. Except as adults the stakes are a lot higher.
When was the last time you lied and who too? If you are similar to most you last lied to yourself, as you do regularly. You may strive to be, and like to think you are honest, but are you? What about leaving work five minutes early, telling someone you’re fine, or they look great and that really suits them? Bonna wanted to check to see if she was as honest as she would like to think and kept a daily note in her ‘liary’
From childhood lies through the deceit of a constantly denied affair that ripped her family apart we explore the pathology of lying. We learn how her father consistently denied having an affair with a work colleague, how he layered doubt upon doubt, blamed her mum for imagining things, decried her as being ill, convinced her she was mentally ill and convincing Bonna and her siblings at the same time.
We are introduced to gaslighting, named after the 1944 film Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman. It is a form of abuse, where by the victim is psychologically disorientated and manipulated in to doubting their own perception, reality, memory and sanity.
This is common practice in domestic abuse. The perpetrator may sow seeds of doubt in the victims mind by altering things in the victim’s environment such as moving or adding objects, questioning the victim’s memory, and recall of events, until the victim begins to doubt their own version of reality and begin to spiral into mental decline. It undermines the individuals sense of self, confidence and esteem, acutely impacts their ability to be and act independently. It is a form of torture often used by the military, law enforcement and security agencies to turn assets or targets. Even when the abuse stops the victim may never fully recover, very often experiencing PTSD.
Gaslighting is often perpetrated by sociopaths or narcissists; it does not always involve expressed anger or physical abuse. However in the eye of the perpetrator it is difficult for them to accept they are a bad person doing bad things. We learn about Cognitive Dissonance, where our perception conflicts with reality so we need to adapt our views and perceptions to regain cognitive equilibrium. In the case of gaslighting, this leads the perpetrator to convince themselves they are doing for the persons own good.
In domestic abuse there is often collateral damage, very often the children and rest of the family. We learn our behaviours from those mirrored to us as we grow up. Bonna relays all the betrayals to previous partners, all the times she lied to protect the other, or to deceive herself. Acknowledging the uncomfortableness of truth, is she really more like him than she would like to admit? (AM)
All The Things I Lied About is on at 16.40 at Roundabout @ Summerhall until August 28th (not 16th or 23rd). Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/all-the-things-i-lied-about
More on Katie Bonna: www.katiebonna.org
On the effects of gaslighting: http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/
Gaslight the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036855/
The cultural prevalence of gaslighting: http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2016/04/18/the_history_of_gaslighting_from_films_to_psychoanalysis_to_politics.html