Have you heard the latest buzzword? When the most romantic partner turns into a nightmare, or most famously, lying politicians manipulating an entire nation. Awareness is spreading for this identifiable form of emotional abuse and for me, it’s a breath of fresh air.
gaslight/ˈɡaslʌɪt/verbgerund or present participle: gaslighting. Manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
Finally, there is some understanding of what happened to me.
I’ve discovered the intricate dynamics and techniques of the art of manipulation. Never mind presidents and politicians, this is happening much closer to home, all the time. Right here, in fact. It’s happened to me personally and professionally.
Let me divulge into this with a bit more detail.
It’s not common for me to talk about something this personal and obvious on my blog – don’t worry, I’ll go back to writing about music soon – but I want to write about this important life lesson. It nearly changed my entire life after all.
A few months ago, I turned my back on a couple of people who changed my life forever. Sounds dramatic, but it is. My dreams burnt away and had I not met these two people, where I would be is a completely different place. Physically, professionally and emotionally. My moral compass has been re-edited and I’ve grown, I’m much stronger now.
I find it amusing to think about who could be reading this (unfortunately, it won’t be him, either of them in fact)
So what happened exactly?
Let me reverse time for a second here, back to January 2018. I’d just returned to work from maternity leave, and I felt like a new version of myself. I’d gone through a few months of despair, trying to understand motherhood and experiencing dark difficulties with my relationship with M.
It felt so gratifying to be back at work. I would give myself 10/10 effort each morning to get ready and as always, I would work really fucking hard. I was relieved to leave the utter boredom, the instagram bubble and the cabin fever I’d suffered with for a year at home.
It was a dark and confusing time. Arlo was going to nursery full time, I was separated from my sidekick and the person I thought was my forever? We hated each other’s guts. I wasn’t alone though, because BW was there.
This is when we meet BW.
M and I decided to go on a break, or break up entirely. All we knew back then was that we couldn’t continue being what we were, at least that much was true. I got my head into work and I did anything I could to avoid feeling the sadness of home.
BW was a bit of what I needed, and then everything I wanted. He was friendly, kind, understanding, clever, protective, funny and flirtatious. He has a big rugby build, bright blue eyes, strawberry blonde hair, a cheeky smile and dammit he even knew how to dance. I’m sure you know the type, he was utterly charming.
BW would say things that resonated so deeply. Like a teen movie heart throb, he knew exactly how to play anyone’s heart strings. He knows how to play mine the best, and everyone knows it. He made it impossible to walk away, so we got closer and began our wild ride into hell.
I will not tell you our love story, because like all real love stories, it will die with us.
Then just like that, maybe when the wind changed direction, his moods began to swing faster than a fairground ride. They affected my day just as much as his, and then everyone around us, even our colleagues at work.
I would carry around his emotion on my shoulders, the pressure felt fragile and heavy. At this point, I was completely captured in his net of manipulation.
There was a balloon of jealousy getting bigger every time I spent more time with my friends, with Arlo, with anyone else. Any plans that didn’t involve him would result with a storm of jealous arguments and guilt. Still, I would come crawling back to him. Begging on my knees for forgiveness, a forgiveness for my own independence.
BW was playing a game. This was a game far beyond playing to get between bedsheets, this goes deeper and wider than superficial attention. This was self validation, treating insecurities, masking weaknesses and expressing mood swings.
It felt like helium. He would get me so high, only to repeatedly stab holes where it hurt most, watching me float down and hit the ground.
I had no control [Is it all in my head? Am I crazy?] Reality became distorted and I was never 100% sure which way was up. I had anxiety hiding in the shadows of my mind, it was intoxicating and distracting. My everyday outlook and perceptions were all twisted and manipulated. The lies were endless.
I realise now that all of his controlling behaviour was a part of his masquerade – a cover story for his alternative life. It would be a bad day if I ever dared to get a peek over the fence, if I asked questions or made accusations. Pointing fingers at my faults would hide his own.
This is the tricky part, because when there is someone in a position of power or authority, someone you idolise, when there is someone you are afraid to lose – their insistence that their reality is the reality can often cause you to doubt what you know to be true.
You think you understand everything about someone, then you discover all of the disorder, hidden behind a smokescreen. It turns out you had an understanding that was upside down and all very very wrong.
It turns out BW has always had piggy banks overflowing with second chances. I know now I wasn’t the first one in this position, and sadly I wasn’t the last either. Worst of all, I was never the only one too.
Maybe he thought I was indestructible – losing my mind, wasting my time and my money.
Gaslighting isn’t an excuse for the endless stream of lies and affairs. These people aren’t players, or cheaters, or anyone else who is outwardly wrong, deviating and naughty – those people have a conscious and they feel guilt. This breed of monster is clever, malicious and emotionally hinged and it’s important to understand they won’t ever change. They’re not born with it, it’s not a personality trait, it’s just been heavily programmed into their soul.
When you are a victim of gas lighting, you’re never quire aware of how much it affects the other people close to you. You’ve become confused, lost and insecure. You end up with strangulated friendships. It’s likely the gaslighter will come between your relationships and use them to their advantage. Distancing your trust from everyone close to you.
They will make you think that they were confused and undecided. They’ll send you off down a path alone, when you thought you had them by your side.
“I don’t know” is their answer to ‘yes or no’ questions. They’ll say things like “if that’s what you want” to make you believe that you’re still in control, as if you chose all of this.
They make you believe theres no-one better, or you don’t deserve anyone else. Like hidden thorns in a rose bush, their words seem comforting and beautiful but they’re actually inflicting you with self doubt and insecurity.
Undermining your emotions and feelings is a way for them to deny reality. You have an urge to prove your point, to stand by and be the hero. You want to prove you were right all along. So you stay hooked, oblivious of the fact that you’ve given them the full control and power they want.
” An important gaslighting technique: Undermining a partner’s emotions and feelings is a way to deny their reality. Continuous invalidity of how the other partner feels about a situation is just as effective as saying their perceptions are wrong. The emotional chopping away during those moments has the effect of convincing the other person that they could be imagining or “making up” scenarios that don’t exist, when in all reality, what that person is feeling or experiencing is real. “
As Matthew Zawadzki, PhD, noted in his 2014 article on the topic, gaslighting techniques “radically undermine another person that she has nowhere left to stand from which to disagree, no standpoint from which her words might constitute genuine disagreement.”
I found myself repeatedly asking, ‘What do you want from me?’
He just wanted power and control.
Now let me talk about DM. It’s a professional circumstance I certainly don’t want to experience again. After 6 months or so at work, for various reasons, I decided to get a new job. I wanted to progress with my career and having shaken off BW from my back, I had found a new motivation to grow and succeed.
I went through a stream of interviews, some offers, some declines and some awful recruitment agencies. Then I was introduced to DM. He handed out the dream job, a classic nightmare boss in the making. He gave me a position that I wasn’t qualified for and handed over responsibilities I shouldn’t have been handling at my level.
I was seeking a new job within moments of joining. I’d heard financial scandals, shouting down the phone to clients and regularly shaming colleagues – all in aid of his power addiction. It’s as if each time he shifted any blame, managed to hide more of his mess or outwardly highlighted a weakness within the team, his dick would grow 5 inches.
Everyday he would stand at one end of the office with his hands on his hips, overlooking his tiny kingdom and team of puppets. His incapability to run a successful business was anybody else’s fault but his own.
When I found a new job to swiftly move onto, I started squaring up to DM. I found a voice I never knew I had. Full of confidence and a solid backbone, I discussed staff welfare, financials, and essentially the core to running a business – let alone a successful one.
In return I had my head publicly bitten off in such an unprofessional manner – I remember having an out of body realisation that this person hissing at me, was very similar to my good friend, B. His words were twisting the truth, shrinking my confidence and losing my senses of what was right.
Life after BW: At first, felt like I was underwater. My compass had gone, my distorted balance had been let go and I had to learn to stand on my own two feet again, on solid ground, a blinding harsh new reality.
Moving on and getting over someone is like recovery. Like a druggie checking in to rehab, going through all the motions.
because they were like a drug, weren’t they? Evil but so addictive.
Sometimes I got so desperate in my confusion, pain and despair, I began to crave that ulterior universe again, the one I thought was glittering with happiness. I wondered if the blindfold was better to live with, than this new ugly truth. There’s magic in the misery.
When I had the guts to give up the fight, pull the plug on us, I spent a while wondering around lost, trying to find a safe place to hide.
I was stone cold with pain, I was isolated and the self loathing was unbearable. It destroyed my life for nothing and I was left behind with twisted memories and buckets of humiliation.
I was a victim of gaslighting, but I’ve not been seeking sympathy by directly victimising myself. I would prefer to rub salt in my wounds. It was embarrassing, lonely, painful and I felt so angry that I fell for it all, that I was dumb, gullible and weak. I felt like a total fool.
It’s not surprising when there aren’t any people left around you, but it still hurts. It’s not your debt to pay, but it will be. Friends, money, dreams, career, time, reality, confidence, humour, vision, all at the expense of this.
There are gaslighters everywhere. People are getting played like a party of barbie dolls. One of my friends came out of a relationship recently, and she identified gaslighting with her ex. She’s still fighting insecurities that he instilled within her. Her advice; Don’t be hard on yourself, learn to love yourself again and do what you want. Take back that control and take back reality.
I can forget BW and DM, I can forget what happened, but it will always be a chapter in my life. A chapter that we would all want to rip out and burn away if we could.
There is a happy ending. I have clarity and power within myself once more. I enjoy my job, I have good relationships with good people and I’m doing everything I want again.
You guys think I still care? I. don’t. give. a. fuck.