You may never have heard the term before, but if you lived it, you know exactly what this severe kind of psychological abuse is like. My husband and a few friends know a fraction of what went on in my home when I was a young adult, and they were very instrumental in helping me to walk away from it. After a pretty severe fight where my mother had me up against the wall with her hand at my throat, I decided it was time to move out permanently. I was 24 at the time.
Because I sometimes forget (or want to forget perhaps) how bad it was to be psychologically and emotionally abused by my family when I was a highly sensitive child and young adult, I have told and re-told my story to people who I thought would give a damn about it. Even now, at almost 39, I don’t ever want to trust my family too much so that I am lulled into a false sense of security with them. Every time I do, and reveal too much personal information, it ends up coming back to be used against me.
Most of my family does not know about this blog (my mother, step-father and siblings). I’m very protective of my privacy here more because of them. If they ever were to find out I wrote such things, you can believe the psychological attacks via emailing would assault my inbox and my psyche. I already had my youngest sister go to one of my alternative mamas’ message boards with the intention of telling them to kick me off the boards for sharing semi-private family information (no last names were ever used). My biggest mistake was sharing the message board with her, hoping she might receive some healthy advice on how to parent her child. I recently made the mistake that I told her I actually didn’t want to go on Facebook because I blog already, realizing only too late the potential danger I just set up. She’s already told me she’s going to use my email account name to see if she can find my blog. How sad is that?
I came across this post entitled The Sad Art of Gaslighting by Mrs. Lenora Mae Poltiss (aka Laurie Kendrick).
She quotes from the book, The Gas Light Effect by Dr. Robin Stern.
Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality. This is done by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person.
The most insidious thing about it is that it is
Manipulation passed off as love or affection…or concern
I’ve fortunately never been gaslighted by a romantic partner, and I think part of that is due to good fortune and part of it because I know gaslighting when I see it.
A tidbit of my experience I shared on a message board for gifted adults:
In my family, loss of control meant only one thing – if you can’t control your subject, gaslight them. They attempted to isolate me from from outsiders, to condemn my friends as worthless trash, and simultaneously try to convince me I’m the one in need of psychological help in a desperate, last-chance blitzkrieg attack on my sanity.
It took me 24 years to garner enough strength to walk away from my family’s choke-hold over me, and about another 6 years to fully understand what happened after I’d gone.
I’m sharing here because this concept has come up recently in numerous places for me, so I decided to dedicate a post to the concept because it’s important to me to share it here. Having lived through what I did affected my ability to effectively mother my children for a while, as I was trying to cope with some very repressed rage that came bubbling to the surface in the first few intense and overwhelming years of parenting closely-spaced children.
The fears that I really was crazy and in need of psychological help came rushing back to me during those dark times in my mothering career.
Sadly, I have found through the internet connections with people I have in various places, the concept of a parent gaslighting a child through to adulthood or gaslighting that can occur between spouses or romantic partners is much more common than I would have realized.