Did You Just Gaslight Me?

      Many people associate the fall with pumpkins, lattes, and comfy sweaters but the month of October is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Typically this month is when I see numerous Breast Cancer “Pink Ribbon” Campaigns. We see pink ribbon memorabilia, donation pink commercials on TV, and walking for awareness. I think very rarely if ever have I seen awareness events or commercials touching on this issue. It appears that society is finally okay with the concept of discussing breasts and the need for screenings but still remains quiet on issue of abuse, rape, and domestic violence. This issue has remained a taboo subject that is known about but seems to be as illusive as unicorns as far as public interest is concerned.

       I think the general consensus in our society is that the definition of  “domestic violence” or “abuse” is mainly physical, this is simply not true.  Abuse can be any number of things to include the controlling of finances, manipulation, and verbal abuse. A form of abuse that I just learned about while watching the movie Gaslight is the phenomenon of  “Gaslighting.” Gaslighted or Gaslighting is the process of causing “ a person to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation”   Gaslighting is more than just moving picture frames and dimming lights as you watch Ingrid Bergman in the film desperately try and remember where she put the broach. Gaslighting is a slow psychological break, which leaves the victim feeling as though they are unable to function normally without others help. The victim often finds themselves lacking the confidence to make simple decisions, the ability to think for themselves, and as you watch in the film the victim often secludes themselves for fear of making mistakes.

gaslightmovieI know most people will exclaim “oh that will never happen to me!” But, gaslighting can happen between more than just a significant other and yourself. It can happen between parent to child, boss to employee, and friend to friend. Can you honestly say that you have never met a toxic person? A person that somehow managed to make you doubt every choice you ever made? This person is someone who can get into your psyche because they know you and your weaknesses and make you feel like you are a constant screw up. Perhaps it never reaches the extreme of becoming completely helpless as Bergman does in the film, but if you have answered yes to any of scenarios above then you can acknowledge that it is indeed possible. It can happen to anyone. Abuse is not gender, race, age, or sexual orientation specific.

  As I look back on some of my early dating experiences I can say I made some bad choices. One in particular stands out from all the rest. He was smart, talented, witty and we seemed to be a good match. But, as most people know abuse doesn’t start out as abuse. The person is usually a narcissist and in this case that definition fits the bill. He made me feel like a piece of garbage. There wasn’t a thing I could do right. Things that I felt so confident with like cooking, writing, and being a people person I started to question. He would often remark “ you know, for a smart girl you can be really stupid sometimes.” Then we ended up moving into an apartment that was farther away from my family. I would get in trouble for calling my mom, or for wanting to go visit. Thats when I knew something was truly wrong. The reality was I was young, and he was my first real boyfriend. I cared for him, and I wanted him to be happy. If only I had washed that pan correctly. If only I could iron a shirt like he showed me.

It took a break down over french toast at a breakfast joint with my mom one morning to make my decision. I had to get out of where I was, and I had to leave now. I think within two days time after a major argument I had gathered all my belongings in trash bags and a UHAUL was called.  Sadly, for some people this process is not so easy. The guilt of leaving coupled with the failure you feel for not realizing sooner I can honestly say is crippling. But you learn a lot about yourself in the next couple of months. You start to discover who you are again, and although the situation is terrible you gain a strength that is unmatched.

octoberawarenessThere is no question that awareness has helped educate people about Breast Cancer. The same can be said for Skin Cancer when every summer we see articles and commercials on moles, sunblock, and wearing protective clothing. Why would awareness not be just as effective with this issue? I believe that society has come a long way but we are not where we should be on this issue. It shouldn’t take a celebrity to remind us that it happens and that its real.  Lucky for Bergman she gained the help of a Scotland Yard detective and was able to free herself of her prison. But, for those of us who don’t have a detective watching our backs knowledge is power. My hope is that society will come to accept this is a real and current issue and treat it with just as much gusto as we do with all our other causes. Perhaps most of all, I wish for the stigma of yesterday to be forgotten.

Notes from the Writer:  If anyone is interested in watching the movie Gaslight, which I highly recommend the link below gives the synopsis. If anyone would like to learn more about gaslighting check out the links posted.  

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036855/

http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

http://counsellingresource.com/features/2011/11/08/gaslighting/

 

 

photo credit: oneredsf1 Charles Boyer & Ingrid Bergman (1) via photopin (license)

Daddy Issues: I Wish my Dad was Macgyver 

My mind is melancholy because I know soon enough it will be your day. I am reminded that another year has passed; another year of not knowing you. I am reminded of all the things we missed. The conversations we never had, the dinners, the milestones, and the fact that we never will. I wonder at times if given the choice you would have changed? Would you have traded it all for an hour of time with me? Would you have made a deal with the devil for just one week? If you had known the outcome from the very start would you have continued down the same path? I have been wondering about these things my whole life.

I can say with all honesty growing up was hard. I spent half my life not being able to relate to my friends and peers because of you. Remember that Christmas play I worked so hard at so that you and mom would be proud? I never saw you there. I watched as my friends would embrace their dads and stings of anguish and sadness would fill me up inside. As young as I was I knew in my heart that those feelings would never be mine. I remember all the dads that came to my swim meets cheering the team on and then I looked over to an empty space. I watched the dads of my friends hug their daughters tight as they cried over some “stupid boy.” I watched the look of elation on my peers faces as we graduated and both parents would exclaim “ your father and I are so proud.”  Would you have been proud dad? I can say I truly don’t know. You were gone too soon for me to ask. You were gone because of your selfish choices. You missed out on many things dad, but I was the one that missed out the most.

So many unanswered questions. Would the knowledge that you will never be there to wipe my tears change your heart? I wonder would you have let me go to Prom? Would you protectively wait for me to come home safe and sound? Would you stand with pride at my ceremonies? Would you hug me tight at my failures? Would you have chosen to give me away at my wedding? Dad would it break you to know that every second of time you wasted broke my heart? Dad did you know I kept the lion you gave me? One of the few gifts you ever bought me and I gave it a hug every night. But, there were no “tuck ins” from you and no bedtime stories. I was left waiting in my room with Lion-heart (thats his name) and the nightlight on hoping you would come back. But, you and I know the truth of the matter. You were not coming home and consequently I would never be the same.

I can say that dating was tough too. It still is actually. They say the first guy a girl loves is her father. I have spent half my time dating the wrong people and then running away from the rest. I was never shown how a girl should be treated. I was never told “ no matter what you are worthy.” You taught me the opposite in fact. I made up how you should be in my mind so many times I have lost count. You will be smart like Angus “Mac” Macgyver, funny like Magnum PI, and loving like the father from Full House. But, a girl shouldn’t have to “make up” her father. It is a cold comfort to create an imaginary parent so you can stomach the truth of reality.    

It has been 21 years without you. I have grown up quite a bit since the girl with the nightlight and stuffed lion. But, there are some things you can never grow out of. Things like wishing just for a moment I had been important to you. Sadly, as it turns out wishing is all you have left me with. So on that same vein I will simply say, “I wish you a Happy Birthday.”   

Pound of Flesh

While listening to the radio I formed the idea for this poem. The message of the song was an ending relationship but the lovers desperately tried one last time. I think most of us have been in that place at one time or another. Enjoy!

Pound of Flesh

And you said okay
And I said alright
We will do that dance
One last time tonight

I will pull you under
Into my skin
Press you closer
Feel you within

I will utter the words
That once filled me
I will listen to your voice
That once thrilled me

My pound of flesh
You will take
One more time
To fill the ache

You will dig deeper
Right into my center
I will embrace you
To make it feel better

My soft wet tears
Will slowly run free
Turning my head away
So you can’t see me

One last dance
One last night
One last time
For us…tonight

Written for me by me. Copyright. Phoenix Rises.

 

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