Bits of my story – Gaslighting.

Those who follow my blog may be familiar with the section ‘Bits of Psychology’. This post started out like that but soon it took its own course into my life story.

To say it like it is, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. It is a manipulation tactic to confuse others, make them question their own thoughts and the reality they live in. In this post I’ll dive into the subject while telling parts of my personal story. I was told for many years that I was the problem and that I was the crazy one. That besides verbal abuse, lack of boundaries, threats and beatings that I ‘deserved’.  

One of the most insidious things about gaslighting is the denial of reality. Being denied what you have seen. Being denied what you have experienced and know to be true. It can make you feel like you are crazy. But you are not crazy. [4]

Where does the term ‘gaslighting’ come from?

In the 1940’s the movie ‘Gaslighting’ was released where a woman is being manipulated into thinking that she is bat crazy. The goal of her husband was to get her out of the way and to obtain the family jewels. He hides objects, flirts with the maid and accidentally flicks the  gas powered lights in the house only to deny any of his doings.

‘It’s all in your head’

‘Don’t be crazy’

‘Don’t be so sensitive’

‘That never happened.’

How does it work?

Someone can tell you their opinion in such a convincing way that there is no questioning. They can also use their position to enhance the message.

Vigorous and unwavering denial is used when you try to question what has been thrown your way. This was the tactic that hurts me the most and does till this day. There is no reconciliation possible because of the strong denial of what has happened. Till this day I do question my own memory. Being away for a very long time from the situation itself, combined with therapy helps me to retrieve my own voice and my own truth. I will trust it into this post.

The erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse. [4]

Lying by omission. I was never told the whole story of how things played out. When I asked directly I didn’t get an answer but was told that I was asking the wrong questions. This also feels like you’re totally granted a wish, you need to be deserving of the truth, even in regards to your own life and because you’re simply not, it will not be given to you. I wanted to know two things, first why there was no contact possible with my father and the second was if there was a history of (mental) illness in my family. Quite basic and reasonable questions no? In my opinion they are legit.

Things are done or said very subtle. Things can be so small that you have a gut feeling that something is the matter but you can’t define it properly. Because of this subtleness you can’t call the person out without getting involved into a huge fight where you become the instigator and the true matter is lost since the beginning.

But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves. [3]

What I can tell – after the facts – is that I knew that things weren’t as they were presented to me but there were so many ‘facts’ and things that while I was busy processing one statement I was 10 behind as so to speak.

When I was in college, I went to help out at my mom’s work with a friend of mine. A friend that helped my mother out, a friend that I merely knew from the café I was working at at the time. When we left, he said: ‘She treats you incredibly harsh and she’s very strict’. Something started to dawn on me. If this boy, that knew me from a distance noticed in one meeting that something is off key, something must be true in what he is saying. He had no motif to exaggerate nor to lie. I felt in my gut that he was right and that something was wrong. I took me years, bouts of suicidal ideation and anxiety to finally cut the cord. But not after pleading for a more equal position, pleading to not be perceived as the mute child anymore or the teenager with a temper. Pleading for counseling, therapy, anything. All that was left, was to retract myself from that connection, hopeful that that could bring some change. It never did. 12 years later, there is no change.

With gaslighting, so many doubt is installed into your mind that you no longer trust yourself and therefore you find yourself under the power and control of someone else. I didn’t know my story and I didn’t know who I truly was. I survived by shielding myself as much as possible against this abuse that I never truly developed a stable ‘core’ of this is ‘me’. The pieces of the puzzle that I forced to create a whole person fell apart due to depression. In that light I see my illness as something very positive – but harsh! – that is forcing me to make my own decisions and to live my own life.


Thank you for reading so far. I am also thanking myself for writing this down. As my mind is so used to deny this part of my past, I am proud that I have taken some stand by trusting my words onto ‘paper’. It is and will remain my rightful truth and will always be my story. Approaching my forties I’m not backing down anymore.

If this posts comes across as not well put together, it may be the effects of abuse. It still messes with my head and I struggle to find order in those things. But I’m not quitting and tomorrow I’ll post on how to deal with gaslighting. Hope to see you back!

Resources, further reads and credits.

[1] Wikipedia page about the movie ‘Gaslight

[2] Video on YouTube about gaslighting.

[3] Online article from counsellingresource.com on gaslighting.

[4] Online article from The Guardian on gaslighting.

[5] Online article on thehotline.org ‘What is gaslighting?

Picture from CleanPNG.com

50 thoughts on “Bits of my story – Gaslighting.

  1. It is so destructive when we are continually told that our intuitions, perspectives, and our assessments of a situation are completely and utterly wrong.
    Especially when a family close ranks together, and deny what is clearly the truth.
    And especially when those contradicting us are important, powerful, or significant people in our lives.
    As you say here, it is often subtle, insidious and continuous – and that plays havoc with our battle to believe our own perceptions. This is so destructive.
    It often takes a comment from someone who is completely outside the situation (like the young man you mentioned here) for us to start believing we may actually be right after all!
    In terms of long-lasting effects, I think the quote “The erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse” is absolutely spot on!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for validating my views on this. I ‘know’ that I’m strong enough now to hold on to my perception and mind but still the heart welcomes nice words in such a situation.
      Thank you very much for reading and I agree with what you said.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This should never have happened to you. I’m really sorry you have had to start all over and try to piece together you core self again. That is such a difficult task. Yet you’ve done that … It’s amazing.

        Like

      2. ♥ Thank you!
        It’t not the easiest route but yet here I am! Thank you again for your support, it means a lot to me. I feel that by admitting all of this and trusting it onto paper, I can make big steps again. It was a ‘first try’ but I’m sure I’ve done good by sharing this and that I’m not alone.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, it was good to write it down. And when people like you have the courage to share their story publicly it gives us the courage to say what happened to us as well … And we all feel stronger and less alone!!! So, thank you 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Good for you, getting it dow,. It is a term I had heard but was not familiar with the meaning. Why would I be? Do you know the English phrase “to have your shit together”? You always sound like you do, but I huess that took a journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do I sound like that? Haha. I do have my shit together, but it was so much it took me a while 🙂 It also makes great compost 😂😂

      Blogging really helps me to get that journey into perspective. So what you read is always some kind of ‘finished’ process of my thoughts put into words.

      To be able to share my story helps me a lot and I’m glad to have loyal readers like you 🙂 Thank you, your comments mean a lot to me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Specifically, it is strange in the context of gaslighting, because I can imagine you as somebody who knows their own mind! (Read into that what you will!) How is Churro settling in? Has he mauled the sofa yet?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know now but I didn’t know when I was a kid and a teenager. It’s a story of years!

        Churro is being brave and he’s really settling in at his own pace. We’re learning him now to be ‘home alone’ and we’re already at 11 minutes! The couch is safe, he doesn’t like it for some strange reason.
        The only thing he does is barking at the crane (from builders) that is visible from everywhere in the home! And when there is too much noise from traffic, he barks too.
        One time when he was with my parents in law, he managed to escape …. I’ll need to write a new post with all his adventures 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If I may, and take this with a grain of salt if you wish, but it sounds like your mother is a narcissist. You may already know this. As an aside, it took me the better part of a year to no longer want to or feel obligated to, contact my sister. In fact, I even blocked her on text! When our mom dies, will let her know, but my mom isn’t talking to her either. I am sorry you have to deal with this. It has gotten better for me, because I’ve read up on narcissism and there are some great Psychologists on YouTube discussing it! Dr. Carter is one that sticks out. Sending you hugs!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comment! I know about narcissism but it’s difficult to ‘diagnose’ one that is so close to you. I’ve thought about it but realized (for myself) that some kind of diagnose won’t be able to lesser the pain and the scars.
      But I will check Dr Carter out maybe he can shed a new light on it.
      I’m sorry to hear about your sister. It’s so difficult to cut contact when it is in regards to family, the people who are supposed to care about you.
      But sometimes there is not much else we can do. I guess self-care is also taking into consideration who you invite in your life.
      Hugs for you too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I’m aware of your background in psychology. I have read that psychologists are learning more about NPD and its devastating effects. So, while it is true that it is tough to diagnose NPD (would you go for help if you had it)? But, it is important to know that that’s every co-dependent’s element of strife, and it doesn’t take away any of your experience/pain. Hugs!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would definitely go for help because I don’t want anybody to have the same experience. Unfortunately that is already a big difference there.
        I’ve also searched self-help groups online of people who dealt with those issues but very soon I was under the impression that there were a lot of narcissists in those groups. My story didn’t seem to fit there, between the ‘really bad’ stories. The one outdid the other.
        I’m also very lucky to have two therapists already, so I feel that my support system is ok.
        And I have great support in the WP community, so thank you too!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Also, I am a member of a Facebook support group for narcissists if you are interested. It’s a good one, and I don’t know that it’s infiltrated with a lot of narcs, as it’s a secret group and has no advertising. Anyway, if it’s something you’re interested in, just email me!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank you so much for the tip! I will do when time is ripe. Now I’m digesting the ‘facts’.
        But when I feel that it could help me, I’ll definitely let you know.
        Thank you for looking out for me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. It’s not easy to find something (reading material) about it and sometimes it’s even more difficult to explain.
      I hope this domain will be talked about more in the future and that the stigma or taboo around it, can become smaller.
      About reading material, do you have any tips?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem! But thank you so much for reading my posts so loyal and for your comments. Especially on this post it means a lot to me as I was scared of posting this. Thinking people would ‘doubt’ my story.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for writing this. One point you made really hit home to me so much, and that was when you said in the time it was taking to process one fact you were 10 behind. That’s exactly how it is. I hope it helps to keep writing. It has certainly helped me. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad writing helped you too. That is encouraging to me. Thank you for your comment! I’m glad this post made sense because sometimes I’m sure at all about what did and what didn’t happen. But step by step I’m retrieving my path and memory. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Writing helps, and reading other peoples’ because sometimes someone puts something so well into words that I’ve never been able to realise myself and it’s like, “Yes! That!”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The original gaslighting manual is The Prince by Machiavelli. I didn’t read it until I was in jail. People had called me Machiavellian more than once in my life and I thought it was a compliment until I read the book. I also saw the movie Gaslight and it’s one of those melodramas of the 40s where the acting is just so over the top because back then, actors came from the stage where they had to overdo it for a live audience to hear them.
    I’ll never do it, but I’d love to see a study done on people who gaslight and what kind of childhood trauma they dealt with. Looking at my story, it’s clear that lying for survival morphed into gaslighting over time. I bet there are a lot of similar trends in the early pathology of those who grow up to be master manipulators, as I was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to read such a study too and I wondered myself what kind of experiences paved the path for gaslighting and manipulation.
      On the other hand, we all need to take responsibility for our actions and past experiences can’t be an ‘excuse’ in my opinion.
      My uncle read The Prince and recommended the book to me but I never read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Narcissists do anything they can to retain the upper hand, keep you in your place and to hell with how it makes you feel. It’s how awful to hear of what you were put through.

    I feel your pain Kacha and understand how difficult it might have been for you to develop a stable core of who you are. It would be almost impossible under those circumstances.

    But you’ve pulled through – one way or another, and you’ve now developed into an amazingly insightful, compassionate and empathic human being. Big hugs x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Caz for your sweet words! I took a lot of work and perseverance but I pulled through. I’ve always tried to do the right thing and that was my focus.

      It’s weird how those experiences do come back and how they are still very much alive inside me.

      Years of therapy, taking accountability and direction over my life helped me to gain insight.

      And with the support of my blogging friends I can write my story, isn’t that just wonderful?

      Thank you so much for your support, kind comments and inspiration! x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. God, gaslighting is such a difficult thing because it’s so hard to realize it’s happening to you when it’s happening to you. I’m really sorry that you had to go through this. Emotional abuse is not okay. Being on the other side of it now, at least you’re able to see what you’ve learned from it and how much stronger you are because of it.

    Do you ever find yourself jaded because what you’ve been through?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve dealt with burnout and now with depression, so I feel empty and tired most of the time.
      I’m working through it but that takes a lot of energy, what can’t be put into other things.
      Somehow I fought quite hard when I was younger and I know that I am an enthusiastic person, so I just hope that aspect will come back after a while.
      I try to close the door on that chapter and I do have hope for a different life. I won’t allow myself to be treated like that again, so that gives me hope and doesn’t leave me jaded in regards of the future.
      Thanks for your nice comment! I did learn a lot and I just hope that I’m stronger although it doesn’t always feel like that and a lot of healing needs to be done still. It’s like a never ending process!

      Like

  8. I read all this post and at first felt heartbreaking that how could anyone do that. But I am here to appreciate your desires for acceptance and after those rough experiences you still emerge as a ray of hope. I think people like you are true inspiration. We all understand it’s tough to write about worst experience but did so to create place where we can hope for peace and happiness. The Universe is now at your side and keep on doing it. Lots of hugs and love…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so relieved that I get such heartfelt comments. I feel so supported and blessed to have found this community and my inner voice. I feel accepted and I’m honored to be called an inspiration.
      Lots of hugs and love to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Kacha. I feel a little like someone’s switched on the light in a room where I’ve been wandering around bumping into things in the dark. I think I’m seeing a little more about my own relationship with my father, and I hope I can clear it out in my own head further.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gaslighting is a frightening tactic, and unfortunately it is most powerful when used by people with a close relationship and/or a position of authority. I’m sorry you had that experience for so long and so young.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your compassion. I was quite hard to live through it all and it has its consequences ’till now. Like you said, the close ‘uneven’ relationship with elements of power made it hard to ‘escape’ or to ‘break free’. I feel stronger by writing about it, to be able to open up and to receive such wonderful comments and support. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hugs ❤ My blog's sidebar is supposed to show 5 random blogs I follow – if you're looking for more survivors to connect with, try checking my sidebar and refreshing it a few times for another 5 each refresh! 😀 ❤

        (Because I follow uh…about 50? blogs and don't know how to list them ALL)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. This is really well penned. I couldn’t stop reading till the end and even wanted to read more. Thanks for sharing this. I m sorry that you have to go through such hard times in life. I wish you all the happiness in the world coz u deserve it. Truly informative and inspiring post. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! I really appreciate it. I’m glad that you liked it as I didn’t have any idea how this post was going to be received. As I’m still healing, I guess I’ll write more. Maybe not on gaslighting but the whole experience that was a big part of my life. I’m happy that people are willing to read it.
      Thanks again for your nice comment and well wishes. I wish you the best and hope to see you back again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was my pleasure. You should definitely write more. It helps lot and allow others to relate and learn from your experiences. We all at some point in life share the same feelings and it’s always good know that we are not alone. Thanks for the wishes love ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Given the post I just published on gaslighting, I was looking to say what other bloggers have blogged about on this topic. Thank you for writing this post and for being so vulnerable about your past experiences. I think it’s important for people to see the impacts gaslighting can have on a survivor of it. And I echo what Ashley said on this post months ago, that more people need to realize just how damaging emotional abuse can be.

    Liked by 1 person

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