On Gaslighting…

From my new book Water & Light: Choose Love Now

Gaslighting is about someone imposing their worldview onto someone else or onto a group of people and claiming their own subjective reality as “fact”, it does not have to be deliberate though at times it is, the result is making people feel like they’ve gone crazy and also by its very nature, it drives people crazy and also it distorts one’s own reality (instead of letting folks opt-in, through their own free will and join your reality).  By its very nature, it makes things much harder to remember and confusing and jumbled, if you are a sensitive person you get twisted up in knots looking for a way to accept the reality of plurality, the reality of multiple realities, and validating your own truth AND at the same time validating someone else’s truth. This is something we all do to some extent, but the more we can become conscious of and speak to our feelings the less of this we will do to each other. Gaslighting also has to do with making up total fabrications and imposing them on other’s as “fact” (this is the most malicious form) and has often been done by our current president as well as done to me in my past relationship and done to friends and family members in a cyber bullying campaign by my ex. Here are some examples of the gaslighting I’ve/we’ve experienced:

  • My ex sees a scar on my arm that I do not want to talk about (it was caused by someone I dated briefly in college) and because I do not want to tell her where it is from and she dislikes my Dad, she says he probably caused it. It develops over time into “fact”. It is then posted on social media even though my dad has never hit me and I have never said that he has hit me.
  • Trump says Obama was not born in the United States. He says a lot of things. When corrected with documentation or images that most of us would see as valid, he calls it “fake news”.
  • My ex throws a party favor toy at me and then later in court while fighting against my order of protection she says “that never happened”. She throws and hits me with a picture frame and says “it barely hit you” even though it leaves a scar.
  • The news over reports certain stories and under reports others which distorts reality and portrays Black and Brown neighborhoods and communities as “dangerous”. In other words, despite what most folks would reasonably label as lies, part of what Trump says is seemingly true (albeit not in the way he means it), but there does actually seem to be “fake news”.
  • Whenever I am physically hurt or insults name-calling and disparaging remarks are made, my ex has an excuse for it, a reason why I “forced” her to “need” to do it. Then the tables are turned on me and the focus is on whatever I did wrong that provoked her, including total fabrications. Then I feel ashamed, responsible, stay silent, and hope it will change. I apologize almost constantly in an attempt to make peace. She rarely ever apologizes.
  • Whenever a police shooting of an unarmed Black person happens, cops have an excuse for it, a reason why they were “forced” to “need” violence and deadly force on an unarmed person. Then the tables are turned on the dead (as if their already being dead wasn’t bad enough) and the focus is on whatever that person did wrong that provoked the police. Then mostly Black, mostly Brown, mostly poor people, feel shamed, responsible, stay silent and hope it will change. Or if they do speak out or protest, they are shamed or jailed or attacked for doing that.
  • My ex and I have plans for Valentine’s Day and though I hesitate because of a “fight” that morning, I go to meet her at work for our date anyway in the hopes we can move on. She sees me on the video camera and chooses not to come out, instead, she tells someone else to tell me she is not interested in going, so I leave. This later becomes the “stalking incident” because it was “obvious” that she did not want me to meet her at work although that was what our plans had been and she did not cancel them. This “stalking incident” is later posted on social media two years after it happened, when I have left her.
  • Cyntoia Brown and is jailed for 15 years due to our criminal “justice” system which does not work and is far from the world of prison abolition that I believe most of us would like to see as now we are not only jailing people, we are jailing the wrong people.
  • My one act of self-defense in the midst of being repeatedly abused is used against me, my ex posts online as if I am the violent one in the relationship and much like Cyntoia Brown I am both arrested on these false allegations and socially punished as my ex’s lies are accepted at face value.

It is very hard to sort through gaslighting personally, inter-personally, and on a societal level especially when we are all holding different versions of “the truth”. It is very hard to sort it out because the reality is there IS more than one reality, people see, perceive, and believe different things and hold different perspectives, sometimes consciously sometimes unconsciously and people lie, if not most especially to themselves. And then some folks see things through the lens of personal importance and in their need to “hold others accountable”, they tell themselves and others lies in that direction (a ME first orientation that blames and labels others) and some of us who are empathic tend to see others, advocate for others, and erase ourselves – we tell lies in another direction where we hide information we think will cause harm and tell lies in a self-sacrificing way in order to protect people and people’s feelings and make it all seem and feel less awful (or so we think) even if it is to our own detriment and even if deep inside we are very hurt (aka a YOU first orientation – typically the only acceptable place for us to place our anger is on society attempting to tear down the system at large).

Rooted in my personal experience with an abusive relationship which included having objects thrown at me, shoving, emotional abuse/gaslighting, and cyber bullying Water & Light: Choose Love Now is a collage of my poetry, journal entries, and political/social commentary on my experience and on the ways in which we relate to each other as human beings with an ultimate action call to love, knowing love is respect.