Gaslighting - knows no boundaries

Yesterday evening I posted a reminder about a journaling workshop I hold in my local community. We've been discussing writing letters to our abusers- letters our abusers will never see. Rather soon after I posted a reminder someone messaged me about the workshops - this is a person I met a few years back and on a professional level. This person is a middle aged male.  We've never before discussed my awareness work in regards to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. I was somewhat surprised by the message - and not for the reasons you may think.

I post a lot of awareness material to my Facebook page -so much so that sometimes I think people are tired of it and not paying attention anymore. Receiving that unexpected message yesterday evening reminded me that people do pay attention, but do so silently.

In his message he wanted me to speak about how males can be victims of emotional abuse at the hands of narcissists- he specifically wanted me to discuss what is known as Gaslighting. Now he didn't want me to name him- which I respect.

He spoke about being the victim of Gaslighting within in his family, starting with his mother who is now deceased and continuing on with his siblings. The impact has been great- the loss of family was real.

He spoke about wasting years battling it without ever realizing what it truly was, emotional abuse.

Then today happened. At the journaling workshop, the topic of narcissist mothers came up- as those present read recent journal entries.  I believe everything happens for a reason - this wasn't happenstance. It is time to discuss Gaslighting- the dynamics within an emotionally traumatized family. Gaslighting is sneaky  -like with most abuse, the victim is groomed-it is subtle and before you know it you are sitting in the war zone within your mind licking your emotional wounds.

If you've grown up in a dysfunctional-emotionally bankrupt family, then most likely you've experienced Gaslighting.  For me it was in the words and actions of my mother.  Now I've touched on this in the past. It took many years for me to forgive her- I had to go through my own healing path and realize that she did not know better. Much of what was done or not done was out of her set of survival rules. The toughest part of growing up like that is you also know their redeeming qualities -you love them so it is easier to just believe you are the crazy one- by then your value has been demeaned... your self-esteem has been destroyed. Your gender was not the deciding factor- It happens to females and it happens to males. I can only imagine how rough that road is to walk for males - after all, society expects them not to be emotional and to "man up" - not cry over spilled milk.

That gentleman shared with me the destruction the emotional abuse had on his life - and within his family. I wish more males would speak out about it - until then all I can do is share my own experiences..

My mother was very good at convincing me I was too sensitive, or what I saw and heard was not what it was. I found myself working extra hard at trying to be perfect, flawless to the point that being a typical little girl is something I cannot remember. Couple that with carrying the shame of others from being molested, I worked over time (mentally) at keeping that shame in- my voice was silenced out fear I would disappoint her and the perfect picture she wanted to create. If I didn't fall into line,  then I would pay the price a multitude of ways...silence and insults were at the top of the list.

The abuse was a twisted form of control. Even writing about it now I feel a twinge of guilt because I know the path she lived more than likely brought her to the point of such controlling ways. Both of the men she married were alcoholics, her first husband was abusive - my father never laid a hand on her, but his drinking did destroy quite a bit. She lost a child, a brother I never met. He died at the age of 8 and many years before I was born. As a teenager, she battled Polio which left her one leg shorter than the other.  See, I can feel her pain still and somewhat excuse the actions because of it all.

The guilt goes deep when you've been emotionally abused.

That twisted control touched every member of our family with it being dealt out in different ways to each one of us - sometimes pitting family member against family member. Distorting our perceptions of reality of one another to the point of when my mother passed away, for the most part, we stayed separated with those perceptions still partially embedded in our minds.

As adults we knew it had happened, I can remember sitting with my siblings planning out Mom's memorial service and the pastor asked which one of us would speak -there was silence. He then suggested we write out, as a group, something to say- we all just sat there...then a mini therapy session occurred as we shared the memories of mental and sometimes physical abuse.  It was one of the oddest moments I've ever had. We laughed, we cried. It was like the last 20 minutes of the movie The Breakfast Club- the varying identities given to us by those controlling ways of our mother came together for a bonding moment, the realization we had more in common than we did different...in spite of what we were told about one another.

That day I carried with me the fresh memory created just days prior from when she died. It was right before she went on the med-flight to take her from our rural community to a Madison hospital. I think she knew she would not survive the day - she was laying on the hospital bed, she turned to me and said, "Eva, I did always love you. I know you don't believe that but it is true."

That was also the day where my life changed.  I decided I could no longer allow my then husband's alcoholism to destroy our lives. He showed up at that Madison hospital well on the way to being drunk. We knew that most likely my mother wouldn't survive surgery for her aortic aneurysm but that didn't stop him from leaving me at the hospital to find my own way home, getting a ride from my brother. I begged him to stay- I didn't want him driving 70 miles home, drunk - and I needed him by my side.  He had too much alcohol flowing through his veins to understand. He left. Soon after I went outside and sat on bench- it was a cold November evening. I looked up to the sky and told God that from that point on I would no longer allow abuse in my life, I would be and live free.

Here's the thing about abuse and loving someone who has abused you...
You either still love them or have loved them. You know that while there was abuse there were also many good times. The cherished memories are there.  You had an inside track to their life and you spent many years finding excuses and believing in those excuses for their behavior because you did love them and when that person is a parent, there's still that child-like unconditional love in wanting to protect them from others thinking badly about them.

The struggle is, in fact, real. This is why the path to healing from it all is such a rocky road and painful. Before taking that healing walk you've walked a path from one abuser to another. Your lack of self-esteem paved the way and each one knocked you down further than the last one.

As a parent I've worked extra hard at trying to break those cycles. I am sure I've made some mistakes. And I do have some regrets. My children and I have had countless conversations about emotions - identifying them for what they are and love in our home was/is free flowing- it was not and is not conditional. We discuss -we argue - we love and we forgive.  I can only hope and pray I am doing the right thing by them...time will tell.

As for Gaslighting - it knows no boundaries..........it is emotional abuse.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.[1][2]
Instances may range 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. The term owes its origin to a 1938 play Gas Light and its 1944 film adaptation. The term has been used in clinical and research literature,[3][4] as well as in political commentary.[5][6] - Wikipedia


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