The 27-year-old media executive’s heated conversation with Jessie left the 23-year-old waitress feeling visibly uncomfortable as she told him, “It kind of feels like you’re putting words in my mouth”.
Gaslighting might be an unfamiliar word, but the experience will resonate with many people who have experienced controlling relationships. It describes a situation where one party psychologically manipulates the other, making them doubt their own version of events, or even their own sanity.
“You’re overthinking, I’ve just got to say it black and white... You fabricate this big scenario in your mind. It’s all in your head,” Maurice told Jessie when she expressed her concerns that he was more invested in generating publicity on the show than finding love.
Later the couple reconvened for a follow-up conversation, and Maurice, who HuffPost revealed already knew Wednesday’s intruder Phoebe prior to the show, told Jessie that her previous relationships and her being ‘uncomfortable in communication’ were the real issues at hand.
“Your previous relationship would have done you pretty hard, so I understand that’s...” said Maurice.
“Nah, it’s not really that. We are best mates,” Jessie responded before Maurice intercepted with a defensive response.
“Yeah, you just told me you left on bad terms, that’s all,” he said.
When Jessie said that wasn’t the case, Maurice still insisted: “That would have put a bad taste in your mouth. So I can totally understand how you are very cautious with steps”.
“But when you ask questions, it kind of feels like you’re putting words in my mouth and I really hate that,” Jessie replied.
“It doesn’t give my brain time to actually think or feel or say what I think. You kind of like come in like, ‘I totally understand you’ve come out of a rough relationship so you’d be feeling this way’ and I just keep getting really confused about it. So that’s when I’m like, he’s kind of told me how I feel.”
“I think you’re uncomfortable with communication in general. That’s probably why you feel…” Maurice started to say, as Jessie interrupted him, “See you’re kind of doing it now”.
Many viewers branded Maurice’s behaviour as ‘gaslighting’ after the episode aired, and have called for producers to intervene.
“Well that was a classic example of gaslighting. Thanks Maurice,” tweeted one person.
“Maurice needs to GTFO, he is exemplifying abusive, toxic, gaslighting behaviour. Good on Jessie for trusting her gut and addressing that so well,” wrote another.
The show’s narrator, Irish TV star Eoghan McDermott, also called out Maurice’s behaviour as ‘gaslighting’.
Channel Nine declined to comment when contacted by HuffPost Australia.
What does gaslighting look and feel like?
The term gaslighting comes from ‘Gas Light’, a 1938 play about a married couple, in which an abusive husband makes his wife believe she has gone mad.
Philipa Thornton, relationship psychologist and founder of Marriage Works tells HuffPost Australia: “Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse often seen in domestic abuse”.
Thornton said abusers who gaslight often instil “huge self double” on victims, make them second guess themselves, trivialise their thoughts, and criticising their confusion “to gain power and control”.
“Gaslighting is psychologically distressing and when done continuously over time, it has people, usually female partners though not always, second guessing themselves,” said Thornton.
“The gaslighter minimises, discounts and over powers. The abuses denies reality, often saying, ‘No that’s not what happened’ and they define the reality. They are effectively reshaping a person’s world view over time.”
Why is gaslighting problematic?
“Those who gaslight are often charming and easy to like and when you add love into the mix, then identifying that you are being regularly set-up for gaslighting can be difficult to accept,” psychotherapist and relationship counsellor Melissa Ferrari tells HuffPost Australia.
“Often, we do not want to think the worst of someone we love, so it becomes easier to question ourselves and accept a different version of events. Where it is psychologically damaging is when this new version of events lays blame upon ourselves, which over time will impact self-esteem and ultimately our mental health.
“Often the person who is gaslighting is unaware of what they are doing. As they see themselves as faultless, they genuinely believe that they are being honest, even though to anyone who witnessed the behaviour they would see a clear case of manipulation.
“You see exactly this behaviour with Maurice. He is clearly manipulating Jessie and dominating the discussion, ignoring everything Jessie says and applying his own slant, yet then talks to how he is all about honesty and transparency.
“That is classic gaslighting and it’s clear from his conversation to others and to camera that Maurice is completely unaware of what he is doing. If he was challenged on it, he would be like so many who gaslight that I see in my practice, completely baffled that he would be perceived that way.
“The big issue here though is the impact on the victim, whereas Jessie has made a quick escape, often people can spend years in a relationship doubting themselves, questioning why they keep causing conflict, becoming angry, resentful, all of which can have a significant impact upon their mental health.
“When they do finally realise that they are being gaslighted and exit the relationship, it can take an extended period for them to recover from the damage that has been caused.”
So why do people gaslight?
“Gaslighting is about power and control with the person who gaslights often coming from a childhood where they may have been criticised or manipulated. They actually need to feel in a pedestal position to preserve their own self esteem,” says Ferrari.
“Whilst some may be aware of their behaviour it can also be behaviour that has evolved unconsciously as a way of self protection.
Gaslighters can be extremely vulnerable to hurt themselves. This creates a defence mechanism that causes hurt to others.
What is needed is therapy to help them identify the pain their behaviour causes and take steps to learn a different way of responding when challenged.
If you feel you’re being gaslighted, it’s important to do something about it. Try to look at the behaviours objectively – if this was happening to one of your friends, what would you advise them?
Additional reporting from Sophie Gallagher, HuffPost UK.
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