Dana can literally feel my heart beating in my chest, we are so connected. This is important to know, because we were sitting in “my bathroom.” I was shaving in the tub, and she was sitting next to it. We were listening to “Mental Health Happy Hour” when Paul Gilmartin used a term neither of us had ever heard- “gaslighting.” Dana looked at the page, marveling. She had found another piece of my abuse on her own, the piece that cost me the most this past year as I have struggled with thinking that I am insane beyond belief and not worthy of love.
She handed me the words I’d been trying to say since I met her… the words I wish I’d been strong enough to say. The words that would have rescued me from all the crazymaking, crying, and waiting as I wondered where she was.
And here they are:
Psychologist Martha Stout states that sociopaths frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically, are also charming and convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their perceptions. Jacobson and Gottman report that some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners, even flatly denying that they have been violent.
I have such anxiety and empathy for the kid she must have been for it to even be possible that she recreated the scene for me. I sit there and get fucked up thinking about how I felt; I can’t begin to understand what she went through to get by.
Then I start thinking about all the girls who aren’t me and how abusers do this insidious thing to all of us, in no matter what form it arrives. It takes small pieces of your soul so that over time, you cannot tell fact from fiction. Reality is a blurry line, and the rules change often and without warning. There is no safe refuge where you know you can’t get hurt, because the target is always moving. Get close enough, and it’s like shooting at a net without a goalie, or being able to play someone’s emotions like a piano concerto.
I don’t know what’s scarier; people creating ways to make other people feel insane, or that it happens so often there’s actually a term for it.