I never knew what GASLIGHTING was until I was inspired to educate myself on why I felt like I was losing my mind throughout the course of an emotionally abusive relationship I was in, over 7 years ago.
Today, gaslighting is a term that's more commonly used, thanks to the manipulative and insidious behaviors of our current US president.
Cue some unsubscribers!
But before you go, (and I hope you don't!) let's make sure we're all aware of what gaslighting ACTUALLY entails.
Gaslighting is a malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality. -- Darlene Lancer, Psychology Today.
FUN FACT: the actual term "gaslighting" originated in a 1938 play, written by Patrick Hamilton called...wait for it...
The lead character, Gregory, manipulates his wife, Paula, into believing she's stealing without realizing it, and hearing noises that don't exist...
Some of you might think, "Well she's just dumb! I'd definitely know if I had stolen something, and would get my ears checked if someone was telling me about noises I didn't hear!'
Up until my own experience, I would have taken a similar stance. I was someone who prided myself on having a strong sense of self, and would NEVER let anyone cross me or speak to me the wrong way...
WHICH IS WHY GASLIGHTING WAS SO EFFECTIVE ON ME.
My ex never raised his voice. Never verbally abused me. And never criticized me in any way.
In fact, he was loving, charming, affectionate, super romantic, and made me laugh in a way that very few significant others have.
Are you confused yet?
SO. WAS. I!
Even though he was super adoring to my face, my body was telling me something wasn't right when he wasn't around.
And those hunches didn't come from no where.
There were large chunks of time when I couldn't reach him. There were people he'd hang out with that I was kept separate from. I knew I was a secret to some, but when I'd confront him, there'd always be a different excuse, and the focus would then be reflected back on ME AND MY ISSUES.
"Claire, I LOVE you. I've been in love with you for so long and now I have you. I'm not going anywhere, but these demons inside you HAVE to be figured out. We will do this together. I would NEVER do the things you're accusing me of."
So then I'd spiral into total shame for accusing the man I loved of betraying me. I legitimately thought I was losing my mind.
But what kept gnawing at me was that despite the fact that I'd been in several dramatic and unsuccessful relationships prior to this guy, AND WAS FAR FROM PERFECT IN THEM, I had never wondered about their being faithful or not.
So I snooped (wasn't proud at the time but I AM NOW!) and found exactly what I was looking for... multiple pairs of underwear that weren't mine, disgusting and inappropriate emails to other women, and eventual confirmation that he was indeed dating another woman simultaneously.
I was of course devastated by the betrayal, but more devastated by the LOSS OF MYSELF due to the gaslighting, and FELT SO MUCH RELIEF ONCE I KNEW THERE WAS AN ACTUAL TERM FOR THIS BEHAVIOR, BECAUSE I FINALLY FELT LIKE I WASN'T ALONE.
The recovery was rough, and the FEAR OF BEING A VICTIM OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE IN FUTURE RELATIONSHIPS was crippling, SO I EMBARKED ON TIRELESS RESEARCH until I found the right help to not only heal my past, but strengthen my present, and fall more in love with my self than any man ever could.
Today, I'm so PROUD to share this story. I have ZERO shame attached, and I LOVE that it lead me to do the work I do now.
I'm often asked, "How do you know you won't be gaslit again?"
The truth is, I don't! But I have nipped a lot of inappropriate behavior in the bud right from the beginning because the writing is almost always on the WALL.
My friends don't call me Claire Byrne Lady Detective for nothing!
Here are a few things I think are CRUCIAL to remember if your fear of being a victim of gas-lighting can take over...
1) SELF-LOVE FIRST. I know, I know-- I used to hate when therapists, coaches and teachers would enforce bringing me back to ME vs putting all my focus on HIM, but this step is VITAL. Because the truth is, if I really loved myself at that time, I never would have stayed for as long as I did, as painful as it was to learn he wasn't the actual man I fell in love with.
2) GET CLEAR ON YOUR BOUNDARIES. If you lie to me, we will need to get to the bottom of why and see if we can work through it-- if it continues, we will part ways. If you smear campaign me to others as insane, we are over. OR if you call me crazy for questioning strange behavior that I find completely valid to question, we are over. If your story constantly changes when I question something that doesn't make sense, I'll keep questioning it til it does or insist on counseling, or part ways if it doesn't get resolved. These are just a few of my own, but you have to decide YOUR BOUNDARIES. Get so clear and love your boundaries so much, that if they are violated, you choose YOU and not him out of desperation or fear of being alone.
3) KNOW THE FIVE VALUES YOU ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT COMPROMISE ON IN A RELATIONSHIP. For me? Emotional intelligence. Emotional Availability. (yes these are two different traits) Loyalty. Genuine Kindness to All. And a spastic, twisted humor like MOI. Gas-lighters might appear to be all of these things, but if he's keeping you separate from certain people, is he really loyal? And if he doesn't have follow-through on his word, is he really emotionally available?
4) LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. I've dated a LOT of men over the last 7 years, and studied a whole bunch on relationships. You know the men you innately trust and the ones you don't. In my last relationship, we definitely weren't a match for several reasons, but I think one of the reasons I had such strong feelings for him was because of the innate trust I had in him. He was for sure hiding in his work and would disappear for chunks of time, but never once did I think, "He's cheating on me!" TRUST YOUR GUT. This doesn't mean if he's trustworthy he's your guy, but at least you know you're not being manipulated or gaslit
5) KNOW YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID. Don't let a man belittle you or or indulge his idea of your being crazy. Trust yourself. Own your standards of what you require in a relationship, and don't compromise because your partner is saying "You're crazy."
6) GO TO TRUSTED SISTER-FRIENDS AND A TRUSTED THERAPIST/COACH. Don't go to a friend who's going to project HER past experience with a narcissist on to your situation, EVEN IF IT'S COMING FROM A PLACE OF LOVE. I've made that same mistake of projecting my past on to a friend's present situation, as well as been on the receiving end of it. The point is to visit your situation as unique and focus on how YOU want to navigate through it. Be careful who you divulge your story to.
7) KNOW THAT NO MATTER WHAT, YOU WILL BE OK. Because of my lack of self-worth, I thought my world came to an end when the person who I thought loved me the most, deceived me the way he did. I can honestly say I was FOR SURE looking for him to fill that void of love I didn't know how to give myself. I've been heartbroken since, but because I apply the tools I offer to all of you on to myself, my recovery has been quicker, because I STILL LOVE ME, regardless of what others think and feel of me.
You are only a victim of your circumstances if you ALLOW yourself to be, my loves. If you're finding yourself deep in the thick of the pain from living a lie, ask yourself HOW IS THIS SERVING ME? vs WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?
I truly mean it when I say that this rock bottom in my life invited me to wake the hell up and share what I've learned with all of you-- my most rewarding work to date.
You got this. This is your wake-up call. Lean in. Yes, it's scary. Yes it's painful, but such is life. Don't run from it. Don't numb out on it. Feel it. Move through it. Learn from it.
And from there, I PROMISE-- you will THRIVE from it.
Interested in working with me?? Email firstname.lastname@example.org