November 21, 2011

More on Gaslighting

I've been mulling over my post on Gaslighting, and wanting to write a big post tying it all in with how I perceive the women of the Catholic Church are gaslit by the hierarchy, particularly when it comes to the seeking of roles for women in that power-structure. Stay tuned for that. Obviously, there is a larger reason I'm still mulling this all over, dear readers.

But then, this post today sent me back into accessing my own personal situation. Anyone who has ever been in any sort of abusive relationship with a parent, boss or lover should definitely take the time to read the entire thing. It's incredibly eye-opening and well-written. And now I'm dying to re-watch Rosemary's Baby.

Some specific points about my experience with gaslighting. One thing I found that was done to me quite effectively was the use of my own words— as they would pertain to any negative mental state or character flaw I perceived about myself at a given moment in time — to be used over and over again as ammunition and turned into defining traits.  And of course, they must be true — because I myself had said these things about myself! So at one time I had remarked that in my teenage years, I had had difficulty admitting when I was wrong, but had worked hard on overcoming it. These words would later be used to prove that I  "could never admit when I was wrong." It was now one of my defining traits. Similarly, I had been reading a book on cognitive behavior, and remarked that sometimes "my thought patterns didn't reflect the true situation." This would be used as evidence whenever we were having any sort of disagreement that I was "delusional" or "distorting things." Over and over these words were thrown at me like heavy knives...chosen carefully, because they had come from my own mouth at one time. Combined with a family history of mental illness, it wasn't hard to slowly convince me that I was "unstable." This is how gaslighting works.

I can really understand the misogyny involved in this sort of abuse — “You need a power differential (patriarchy, for example) for true gaslighting – it relies on power and stereotypes.”(Captain Awkward, from her blog)  In a typical heteronormative abuse model, for example, this form of emotional abuse is often levied against women by men, and it works precisely because of prejudices about femininity and masculinity — that women are nervous, hysterical, less prone to intelligent reasoning, and need protected and corrected by a rational man who is not swayed by his emotions. (Ahem, Catholic Church, Catholic Church!!!) Which is what makes it so shocking to me that another woman, a lover would do this to me. But the power differential was something that was clear from the beginning, a red-flag if you will.

I'm grateful for the year-and-a-half of therapy that has helped me in healing and reclaiming my spirit. The road is long, but I believe healing is possible.

1 comment:

Sonya Glyn said...

Overall, I exceptional piece!