In yesterday’s blog post I wrote this:
Now I’m sure some lovely detractor will say I shouldn’t be ranting and raving here and burning my bra and all that crap.
Detractors are people who will try and get you off track whenever you start talking about something they don’t want to hear or deal with. They’ll start with deflection by changing the track of the conversation and if that doesn’t work, they’ll try and tear you down. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll gaslight your ass.
Gaslighting is an old term from a play called ‘Gaslight’ which was later made into a movie back in the 1940’s starring Ingrid Bergman as a wife of a rich guy in Victorian England who thought she was going nuts. In reality, her husband was trying to drive her crazy so he could chuck her into an insane asylum and divorce her so he could marry his younger side-piece. In the end, she realizes what he’s doing and she beats him at his own game.
But deflection and detraction are the start of the gaslighting process and it’s hard to fight against it, especially if you’ve dealt with it from your earliest days. You could say it’s a form of bullying and you’d be right on the mark. So what do you do about it?
First, you see for what it is: cruel and nasty behavior. Some people might say it’s an unconscious and that someone just learned that behavior and doesn’t know anything else. I call bullshit on that because if someone is told they’re being a conversational shit-head and refuse to stop being that way, it’s not unconscious.
No one is born with perfect communication skills. We learn how to communicate by doing it and taking in ways other people do it. Problem with that is sometimes people learn the wrong way of doing something then jam their head up their ass instead of taking their head out of their ass and learning how to communicate better and taking responsibility for their words and behavior.
For me, being a good listener means shutting my pie-hole and paying attention to what someone is saying. It means not just listening, but thinking, too. And yes, it’s a battle sometimes to work past biases and emotional responses that act like walls being thrown up in your mind. But you can work to prevent those walls from coming up by seeing them for what they are and keeping them down.
One of the most hurtful things I have ever been told is that I have a shit-ton of pride stuck up my ass. It’s hurtful because I always thought I had to do as much for myself as possible before asking for help. Yes, I tried too hard to be self-sufficient but when people see that as pride and not determination, they’re the ones who are wrong, not me. Now I will freely admit here sometimes I just toughed out and did my own thing because I didn’t want to deal with the bullshit of being made to feel like a moron for asking for help.
Deflection, detraction, and gaslighting are ways people use to either get people to do exactly what they want them to do without giving one tiny shit about what that person might want to do instead, or it’s a way of not wanting to confront personal shortcomings and shitty behavior. Either way, it’s wrong because deflection, detraction, and gaslighting tear at a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and beat the absolute shit out of them mentally and emotionally.
One of the hardest things I have had to work through is dealing with those deflecting, detracting, and gaslighting voices in my head. I’ve had to tell myself a million times they’re echoes from the past, past experiences, and my own past thoughts and feelings. Over time, I know echoes fade and the more they fade, the less power they have over you.
Finally, as a writer one of the key things I use in editing my work is making sure I’m not doing that deflecting, detracting, or gaslighting shit in my own work. I try to edit in order to keep myself on track and on topic.
In the end, my advice here is to trust your feelings and your instincts. And if someone is telling you something that you know is not true, or worse trying to get you away from that truth, question and challenge their motives for doing that. Don’t take excuses such as unconscious behavior or good intentions. There’s nothing wrong with thinking for yourself and defining your own values and beliefs.
You can find your own voice amid the deflectors, detractors, and gaslighters. You don’t have to put up a wall of silence to keep them out of your mind. You can walk away if you can, or stand strong and know you can survive the wounds and overcome them.