I just read an interesting article called Gaslighting Is a Common Victim-Blaming Abuse Tactic – Here Are 4 Ways to Recognize It in Your Life. And I feel like a light bulb just went on over my head.
If something happened that upset me, hurt me, or angered me, my reaction was often met with some variation of “That didn’t happen! I never said that! You’re overreacting!”
Granted, I own to the fact that in the past I have said things in anger, out of anger, that I didn’t remember saying later. That is one of the many reasons I do not talk when I am angry. At least when I’m that bone deep angry that your vision starts to go dark. That is when I know the little angry Hulk creature that lives inside me starts to show her angry face. And I do not like that part of me. I don’t like to lose control, especially out of anger.
I have never heard of gaslighting before. And I probably should feel relieved that there is a word out there that describes this type of abuse. If I am honest, part of me is glad. It helps me recognize the patterns; it helps lesson the burden I bear. But another part of me, deep down, feels bone tired and a little sad.
Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
But as the article I just finished reading said, the first step is recognizing when it happens. If only I knew about this years ago… Maybe it would have helped me recognize the patterns and signs. For me, silence was also a form of abuse. The horrible silence of not even being answered, that what I said didn’t even need to be acknowledged. The awkwardness of asking something or saying something and just getting a blank stare back. Or maybe that was better than the response I would have been given.
It had gotten to the point that I questioned the validity of all my responses to violence, questioned whether or not I was capable of knowing when I was being abused or not, and had begun to think that maybe every instance of abuse I’d experienced really was all in my head.
Self-doubt is the worst feeling. Being made to question your self and think, well, maybe it is all my fault. I should be more understanding and not be so sensitive. I was trained to keep my mouth shut and not say anything. Because if I kept silent, I wouldn’t be berated. If I didn’t protest, I wouldn’t be the asshole for creating drama. Because I kept silent, I wouldn’t have to listen to how everything I did was wrong. I have said I was verbally abused, but that is to kind now I think. I have been mentally abused. I understand now that it has warped me into something else, someone else. All my life I have avoided confrontation, but now it is at a fault where I get assaulted by every day life and I sit and take it in silence. I have been trained to keep my stupid mouth shut. And when I do speak out, I get met with open hostility and am told that I’m overreacting…which is the absolute worst thing you can say to me. My favorite is: why do you argue with everything? I’m sorry I’m not sorry, but I didn’t realize that having an opinion different then yours was arguing.
Good to know.