Gaslight (v.): to attempt to make someone believe that he or she is going insane; subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation (Meriam Webster).
Here’s an example of classic gaslighting that I had the pleasure of experiencing in one of my past relationships: “That’s your story, not mine.”
It didn’t matter that his memory failed to recall the multiple incidents and conversations as they actually happened—or rather, as I experienced them.
It didn’t matter that he showed up to a social event with another lover without giving me a heads up. I needed to deal with the fact that we weren’t exclusive; that she didn’t know about our relationship; and that she was so excited to meet me and become friends because he told her so many great things about me (except, of course, for that fact that we were also intimately involved). I was making a big deal over nothing.
It was only a story in my own head that I was making up about him purposefully trying to hurt me. That wasn’t his intention; he just thought us two women had a lot in common and would enjoy each other’s company.
It didn’t matter that I had developed deep feelings for him and wished for a commitment; wished for the love I felt to be returned. Why did I have to try to label it; why couldn’t I accept that love could be given in many different ways, and that my idea of love needed to be more open-minded?
It was only my story about how love should be, look, and feel. He loved me deeply but didn’t feel it needed to be defined by the outdated norms of societal expectations.
It didn’t matter that we planned to spend a rare overnight together—but then after he got what he wanted, you could have built a solid brick wall in the space that remained between our bodies while we slept. Not a cuddle, not a touch, not a token of affection.
What was I talking about? He kept reaching for me all night, but I kept pulling away. I was just making up a story that he didn’t want to be close to me. Of course he did, but I was the distant one.
On and on the skewed mind manipulations went, making me question my very sanity. Was I being too sensitive? Was I being too close-minded? Was I misreading the situation?
I wasn’t. I know that now. I couldn’t have known it then in the thick of it, but as time went on, and I was on to his game, I knew I wasn’t making up stories in my head. I finally saw the signs of gaslighting and got out. It’s amazing how subtle the words or phrases can be sometimes, and how blatant they can be at other times.
Let’s talk about it. What are some of the phrases you have witnessed? Perhaps by sharing our experiences, we can learn more keywords to help our sisters who are going through their own #gaslighting hell—and even help us figure out new narc potentials and stop them cold the next time they try to groom us into their webs.
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