Gaslighting and Trauma
Medical news today defines gaslighting as “a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.”
As a survivor of a gaslit child, I really wanted to write about this because of the effects it has on your everyday life. It is also a cycle of society we see and accept, and most people do not even know it’s happening. It’s a tactic that people use to gain control. Oftentimes, people who gaslight others, are ones who have been gas lit themselves. I didn’t even realize how large of an issue this was until our most recent election. If you say something out loud enough that isn’t true, because you want that to be people’s reality, more and more people will push it as the truth, and eventually it will be so ingrained in people’s brains as the truth, that it will just be their reality. Also, if you think something is true (that isn’t true), you are gaslighting yourself, and that my friends is the cycle of cyclical gaslighting.
As a child, and growing up in my early 20’s I didn’t even think that my childhood was that bad, and to be honest I can’t remember most of it. I made excuses for myself, and him. I often would say, well I didn’t get beat or sexually assaulted. This was the reel that I built in my brain for years, and all that did was just shove it down even more. I shoved it to a place where I was 280lbs. I shoved it with sex and relationships with men who were less than what I was deserving of. I shoved it into debt that, well let’s be real, my dad paid off when he died. I do not want to dis-value other peoples experiences, or trauma. There are people in this world who have seen, heard, and been a victim to so many horrific things. I am just saying no matter what experience you have, if I hadn’t validated my own experience and addressed it as it is, I could not be here where I am today.
When you are not accepting the truth about your past, it’s perpetuating the cyclical gaslighting and giving it power. It turns into you constantly lying to yourself, altering your reality in which later can create confusion about what actually happened. Even though giving it light is painful, you are helping yourself move forward and heal from what happened to you.
For most of my life, I have been paranoid about humans, and their objectives with me. I have been confused in my own truths and realities, my inner self has been super chaotic and panicked. I have been known to create stories in my brain about what people are thinking and let them be true. I would be anxious, panicked, and would constantly worry (when I say worry, I really mean panic, and live in fear of my own anxieties) about what people thought about me. When in reality, it does not matter what people think about you. If you are doing a good job, or are doing what you need to do and validate yourself in that, then that’s all that is important.
Until recently, (age 35), 3 years after my dad’s death, years and years of therapy and practicing new behaviors I have been able to really learn how to trust myself. The biggest piece of this is re-parenting yourself, it’s validating your inner self. It builds trust, it builds confidence, it builds acceptance of yourself, and it builds a more positive inner monologue.
For the last 6 or so years I have been working with the best team who literally, only wants the best for me. I’ve been so lucky to have had them be a part of this part of my journey. I do not think I could be where I’m at without them. Their consistency, and accepting nature is what has helped me come so far. I’ve been able to change the story I tell myself in my brain, in a safe and healthy work environment.
Un-doing gas lighting is still happening in my world, but I’ve gotten so much better at seeing my current reality. It’s been a slow and consistent process.
I do want to write about one example that really made an impact on my process, I had a severe ptsd reaction to it and ended up having to go home from work. I was on the phone with a Probation Officer, whom I was not prepared to talk to her or ask her questions. Towards the end of the conversation she said I was interrupting her and being quite hostile. I was confused by what had just happened, and anxious. My body was shaking, and I had things rolling through my brain. I left work. I was crying, I spent the afternoon completely traumatized. I hadn’t been triggered like that in a long time.
I remembered interrupting her (which I totally owned up to) , and I do not remember being hostile. To me hostile means rude, calling names, intimidating and something larger. Like awful, and I was anything but awful to her on the phone. It was her tone on the phone, and her calling me hostile that set me off. It was a trigger of being blamed by my dad for his reactions as a child, and obviously it had a reaction on me. It made me question my tone, our conversation and what I had said to her. Just because someone says something to you about yourself, doesn’t mean it is true. It’s what you validate in yourself that is important, because I was not hostile on the phone with her. I’m not a hostile person, seriously, I do not have it in me.
This example, though, was a turning point in my healing and a lot of grief came out. It helped me learn to validate my own experiences and my current real-ity.