I am approaching a conversation that is very complex. It’s something many people have been involved in doing and been victim to.
Here is the quick formalities and definition before we get into my personal story.
I first heard this term about 8 months ago. My ex had posted an article on facebook about the primary signs of gaslighting. In definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary. Gaslighting is, “to drive someone insane by making them doubt their perceptions or memories.”
The idea of Gaslighting, as a noun, was made popular from the 1944 movie, “Gaslight.” A movie in which the husband dims the lights of the torchlamps and makes his wife feel like she is going insane. In my understanding of the term is that Gaslighting is a type of manipulation where one person is able to change the reality of someone else by confusion and back tracking. It actually will make the victim question their own reality and experiences as false. This creates instability inside of the victims personality. Then whoever the person being abuses will be succumbed to the twisting and plotting of the Gaslighter.
-If you would like to know more please visit these links for some examples of what it is in detail. Medium does a great write up. Everyday Feminism is also a great resource on gas-lighting, with great ways to approach your abuser.
Essentially, a Gaslighter is able to manipulate their victim in order to get what he/she wants. A cheapskate bargain. Sometimes this is for financial gain, emotional gain, or physical gain. Nw, I want to go into my experiences with this situation.
I was a gaslighter. It was a selfish act. I was lost and confused. I was in it for emotional gain, financial stability, and physical gain. I was a special kind of terrible. There is no apologies that can reverse that kind of abuse. I was unaware of what I was doing until I was reflected on it for the past year. I also didn’t know exactly what my objective was when I was doing it. I do know that while I was being the abuser I also felt completely powerless. This is where it gets really confusing for me, and maybe for you too. I was also being gaslighted.
This is may be over stepping some boundaries in the norms of gaslighting gender roles. In all of my readings it has always been a woman being gaslighted by a male or by family members. The victim always being female. I don’t think this is true though. I think men may be to ‘masculine’ to admit being abused or manipulated. It’s not a manly thing to admit defeat or weakness. In my own understanding, it is any person with intent trying to get control over another person with weaknesses so that they may gain a specific goal.
We are both empathetic, open minded, loving, people pleasing…people. We both have some of the the exact same weaknesses. Which also happen to be our greatest strengths. I know that I consider them among mine. Hers are like mine but the titanium model. Things I hold dear in both of us. The same reasons we loved each other. We are both very gentle to the touch. I shatter easily, and she knows that. She also shatters easily and I learned that far too late.
When we were together we were playing with fire. Back and fourth. It was subliminal and it was very hard to live with. Being the abuser and being the victim. It was a flip of the coin who was going to be in control of the other person during an argument. We were both good at it. Which made them so much more intense than any arguments I have ever been in since, and before, then. We could make each other trip on our memory. I know that I would bring out an arsenal of things she said that upset me when I was beginning to lose an argument. She also has a much better memory than me, so she would bring out bigger guns that I was packing in my daypack-brain. She had a tank of things that I had long since forgot I said or did. It was a rough time for both of us. It still is, but in a different way now.
We both felt like we were being attacked. I only say ‘we’ because when I do get the chance to speak with her I find that we are both apologizing for our actions. We were in this relationship for love. First and foremost. I knew I was attacking her sometimes. I knew that she was attacking me sometimes. We have have both admittedly forgotten what happened during many of our arguments. I would ignore her with my computer and my skateboarding. I would drink and pick fights. I would sleep on the couch for months.
Actually, neither of us remembers just Exactly what we were fighting about when we officially broke up. It was just a thing. We were talking, we were yelling, there is a black out, I slammed a bar stool through my parlor style Seagull guitar, and then we are both crying inside of an old green beat up Honda CR-V. Confused as to what would happen next.
We played off the next 3 weeks as friends who stayed in the same house. Roommates. I hate the idea of her just being a roommate. Still. She wouldn’t come home until late some nights. We were maybe even more kind to each other during this period. We were aware of each others wounds. We would still bring each other food to work. Give each other rides. We worked well together bar tending. We checked in on each other through the day to make sure each other were handling things okay. Although we still truly loved each other, it was different. This argument was very different. It was concrete. More like the shattered concrete after a fall out. It was real. And it really fucking hurt. We went to the extent of putting a facade of everything being the just fine for all of our friends at the bar. It was played off as though nothing had happened while we were around our friends. Still happily in love and on our way to planning a wedding. Suffocating the brinks of a breakdown every time asked, “Hey, where is El at?” “I just love your girlfriend. She is the best. You are so lucky.” My luck ended inside of a green SUV.
I thought that some people would be crushed. Eventually we needed to address it to some of our broader groups of friends. I knew it would make everything seem more than a dream. A nightmare. She told her close friends. I told my bar shift regulars. I didn’t really have many close friends to confide in, in California. My best friend in New York knew immediately. I had to tell him because I was dying inside but also excited to be near him again.
Some nights she would even tease me with the idea of intimacy and bedroom talk. I would do the same back. Things would get steamy in the bedroom and it would fall into tears while our clothes were off. She was very hurt that I was leaving and I was acting heartless. Anyone who has broken up and lived together probably can relate to this phase. It’s awful and it hurts like a mother fucker.
Fast forward and I get a chance to speak with my ex about communication recently. It brought this whole concept to mind about us talking in terms of personal growth. I’ve worked very hard to try and be a better person emotionally. Her life is something of a mystery to me now. It all started with me being a gaslighter and me feeling like I was being the victim of it too. I don’t want accept anyone who blames my depression or my anxiety for having emotions of confusion or being lost. I am human. I am just trying to figure it out. You are too. And you deserve to be happy.
The reason I bring this whole issue up is because it’s important to know if you are abusing someone. Don’t use anyone’s empathy and love for your personal advantage. Look at yourself deeply and see if your relationship is failing because you’re intent is based on a personal gain. When your objective is to get something from another person, you are taking the eraser to the relationship. A loving relationship is a symbiotic organism. It is breathing and growing. It needs care and attention. Much like I was withholding from my ex. I wasn’t giving her the attention that she wanted. I wasn’t being with her physically. I was manipulating her to get my own gain. I had no idea that I got caught up doling out abuse. I am just barely on the tip of my iceberg and trying to learn how to be a better person.
Also know the signs of abuse. Don’t let it seem okay if you are constantly confused about reality. If you are hurt and someone says, “I’m too tired to talk about this. Can’t we just go to bed?” If someone just leaves the room while you are speaking, or rolls their eyes at you, maybe you would be better off if you took a closer look at your relationship. If you talk about how you are hurt and the person you are communicating with turns it in on themselves as being hurt, you may need to start taking note. Do you feel like you are being listened to? I know I wasn’t listening, and I didn’t feel always listened too. When someone truly listens to you, you are able to free yourself of some of your hurt.
Listen to your instincts, closely. They know if you are being abused. Trust that instinct and do the research to how you would like to resolve it. Everyday Feminism has some ideas at the end of their post for approaching abuse.
If you have any opinions, concerns, or comments, please leave me a message and I will address it as soon as I can. I really appreciate you all getting through this. This is a work in progress and it will be approached again.