Things I’ve Learned about Gaslighting
Trigger/content warning: childhood abuse, politics, gaslighting (Not about autism!)
This week was the US inauguration of the 45th president. Aerial photographs have been used by both “sides” to highlight the attendance. One photo graph from the rear of the mall shows only the front two sections of the National Mall with people, with the other sections being nearly empty. The other photograph is from the Capitol building looking out. It also shows only the front two sections of the mall with people and the rest with next to no people. Of course, that’s after the packed areas in the front for ticket holders. How do I know where the ticket holders on? I was in that section 4 years ago. It was just as packed then.
Why am I bringing this up? One “side”, the factual side, says that this year had much lower attendance rates than in 2009. The other “side”, the lying side, said there’s never been a more viewed inauguration in history. In telling the lie, the lying side has sought to distort our perceptions. And many people will have, have had, their thought processes changed. They are primed to believe what the lying side has said.
This all looks rather familiar to me. This happened in our family growing up. It happened into my adulthood. My father was an abuser. He abused my mother. He abused my siblings. He abused me. And in an effort to allow the abuse to continue, the expectation was that no one would believe us if we said anything. I don’t know when I learned that lesson. It was young enough that it’s always been there and even into my teen years, I didn’t tell anyone.
So what have I learned?
Gaslighters cannot win if you keep telling the truth. Tell it over and over again. Tell it to other people. Keep the truth living. There’s no question. Keep your data. Keep your references. Refer back to them. It’s so important. Remember the truth! And make sure there are witnesses to the truth with you!
Gaslighters win not just by telling whole lies, but half lies. This can be in word manipulation. Don’t let them use word manipulations. Use the words they are. Lies are lies. They’re lies. Don’t say they’re “not factually true.” LIES!!!! It’s the word.
Gaslighters like you to believe that what’s going on isn’t so bad. This is another way to be gaslit. But it is bad. Just because someone else “has it worse” doesn’t mean you don’t deserve better. You deserve the same as anyone else. Remind yourself of what you deserve. You deserve safety. You deserve to have your voice heard. You deserve security.
Gaslighters like using those who are under their control (because this IS about control) to gaslight you more. Their lies become their victims’ words. They’re still lies! Speak up against the lies! Keep speaking out against the lies. You’re not going to change many of the victims’ minds, but you are making sure that you don’t become a victim, and that other people don’t become victims.
My abuse got worse. When I was in junior college, I stood against the abuse and got hurt worse. But then my abuser’s victim along with the police department of my hometown convinced me that it would be worse if I had my abuser jailed. Let me say that again MY ABUSER’S VICTIM AND THE POLICE CONVINCED ME THAT MY LIFE WOULD BE WORSE IF MY ABUSER WENT TO JAIL!
Between that and a therapist who asked me if it was my fault, I let the gaslighting win. I didn’t speak of the abuse. Instead, I like the C-PTSD really set in. My anxiety set in. my questioning of every single action set in. It lead to me failing all but one class my first semester of university. I couldn’t trust my brain to be sure of the right answers. That I knew what I was doing.
I didn’t speak up. I didn’t continue to tell the truth. And when I sought counseling again, for years, I wouldn’t talk about the abuse. I couldn’t talk about the abuse. It was “in the past” I thought. I thought I needed to raise above. I needed to overcome. These are the rhetoric of the abusers.
One day, I confronted my father about the culmination of the abuse. He told me that he didn’t remember it so I should just forgive him. He died without ever apologizing. And when I stopped speaking to him, I learned the abuse of my other family members became worse. And as each of us children left, it got worse.
This is what gaslighting does to the victim. It alters their perception. Everything is under the control of the abuser. And every decision runs through a filter of what’s best for the abuser. Because what’s best for the abuser is what’s best for the victim based on the gaslighting.
Resist! Don’t let this be your future. Don’t let this be our future. Don’t let this be our children’s futures. Tell the truth. Remember the truth. Speak the truth. Dispel the lies. Call them lies!