I was a devoted reader and dreamed of being an author. Was I making things up? Did it happen like I remembered? Or was I a liar, so pathological that I couldn't discern between fact and fiction? I still struggle. Despite working as a journalist for three decades — including a stint as a fact-checker at a magazine where my job was to, literally, discern fact from fiction — I can easily mistrust myself. Not because I've often been wrong. But because my mother's gaslighting was so effective.
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So effective that when I could see — it was obvious! It's crazy-making. And nobody felt crazier than I. Or, perhaps, you. It's a world where up is down, where black is white. You make a complaint, you're accused of being ungrateful.
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Lots of us subjected to gaslighting learn to become small, almost invisible. Easier to erase ourselves than draw attention. We are selfish. We are ungrateful.
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We aren't worthy of love. And still others, like me, cling like hell to our version of events. I suspect part of what saved me was that I kept a journal.
And within those pages, lay the truth. Well, my truth based on objective facts. There had been a fight. These words had been spoken. These things had been thrown. Whatever my mother or my father who mightn't have been a ringleader but was certainly complicit said, I had documented what really happened. And I could reassure myself that I wasn't crazy. I survived though it took plenty of therapy to deprogram some of those internalized messages. And I still struggle. It has only been recently that I feel comfortable giving myself certain luxuries.
It's okay to want things because I want them. It's called self-care.
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And it don't come easy These days though, when my husband insists to our children that he wasn't late leaving to take them to school when to any one of us who can tell the time, he was, I tend to over-react. I've talked to my kids about refusing to accept another's version of events over their own but to rather look at objective facts. My husband's tendency to defend himself no matter what thanks to his highly critical mother met my tendency to question myself no matter what thanks to my gaslighting mother and created a marriage primed for conflict.
But we've both worked hard to change those old scripts. I point out sometimes rather loudly when he's gaslighting. He points out sometimes exasperatedly when I'm over-reacting. We're living in an upside-down world right now. Objective facts are called fake news or alternative facts. Truth is twisted more than ever, it seems. But we can learn to trust ourselves and what's right in front of us. We can challenge those other versions of events, whether they're happening in our homes or on the front pages of newspapers.
Labels: betrayed wives club , gaslighting , how to deal with gaslighting , my husband cheated , Surviving Infidelity. Thursday, October 17, Thursday Thought.
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Labels: betrayed wives club , how to his from his affair , Surviving Infidelity. Like Sally, I loved w abandon n adoration. He is so much more. I was in my therapist's office, citing a laundry list of the ways in which my eldest daughter was making me crazy.
Exasperated, I concluded with, "this isn't who she is. I'm not sure what happened to her but this isn't her. To which my therapist, mother of two formerly teenage girls, responded, with a wry smile, "But it is. Of course it is. My daughter is not just made up of parts I like or approve of. She is a whole person who will not always behave or believe or respond in ways that suit me. I should have known this, of course. My husband, the one whose fidelity to me I would have staked my life on, had already blown open the myth that people are entirely made up of parts we see.
Parts we like. Parts we approve. And it's not just others. I have parts of myself I keep hidden. Since I was a pre-teen, just learning that "pretty" was currency, I've assessed every situation in terms of where I fit in on the "pretty" scale. I loathe that in myself. What self-respecting feminist does this? But it's only by being conscious of that in myself that has allowed me to challenge it.
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It is only pulling these shameful parts of myself from the shadows that has provided me the opportunity to acknowledge how shallow it is. What a ridiculous metric it is.
Being conscious. How many of us are? How many more of us are oblivious to the ways in which we point at others and sneer for exactly the characteristics or behaviour we loathe in ourselves?