Fill Up On Gaslighting
As part of my year of letting go of toxic people, I’m going to talk about abusive relationships. I’ve been in more than one. Abusive relationships are not limited to dating, they include friendships and parental relationships. There will be people in your life who say all the right things, and come off entirely pure, but they come with the worst intentions. It will be hard to see this behavior until it’s too late. Gaslighting is something I think a lot of us have dealt with in our lives, but few people actually understand. The Webster definition for those that don’t know: to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
My mother gaslights everyone around her. I have dealt with a few people in my life who’ve done this to me. Including a few people I have recently cut out. Through self reflection and changes I’ve made in my life this year, I am getting better at recognizing people who use gaslighting as a tactic to control friends and loved ones. I think one of the reasons I’m prone to this type of relationship as an adult is because I grew up in one. This was my normal. My parents didn’t have a good relationship. There was gaslighting which my mother still employs this as a tactic to get her way as well as other types of abusive behaviors. This left me with a warped sense of what relationships were for a long time. I thought violence was love. I thought passion and throwing things was intensity. I know now it’s not. I can sit here and tell you it’s not, but I’m sure it’s why I find that level of passion and control sexy to this day. I was drawn to that fire. It was plastered onto my brain from an early age. It took me a long time to realize this about myself and find a healthy relationship where this isn’t a factor at all. I had to choose a different path for myself, but it wasn’t easy.
I cut off my mother a few years ago, and didn’t talk to her for over a year after she and my family found out I was genderqueer. I gave her a few opportunities to respect me, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Then my grandmother got sick and I had to be around my family. So I gave my mother another chance, mostly out of guilt because it’s what my grandmother wanted. My grandmother who fully supported me, kept trying to convince me my mother would come around. She never has, so I stay away. But on my last trip, I was only there for four days and it was mostly to see my sister’s kids so I let it go and I went to visit my mother. It took no time at all to see she had no intention of changing her ways, or even trying to understand.
And in comes my fantastic kid. She waited, and bided her time until she was alone with my mother. I walked into walked into Walgreens to buy sunscreen and my kid took the chance and ran with it. I get back into the car to find that my then ten year old, told my mother she is transphobic. My mother shot me a venomous look and with all the spit in the world tells my daughter that her eight year old cousin, who was also in the car, is too young to understand these things and that we aren’t going to talk about it. My daughter shrugs and replies ‘he won’t have a problem understanding it. It’s you who doesn’t want to.’ I turn and make eye contact with my kid and it’s dropped. I pulled her aside later and she told me the full story. She told me she was explaining why she calls me dad to her cousin. Who had no issue with it, when my mother jumped in.
Much like I posted about two weeks ago with the transphobic parent, by allowing my mother to treat me like this, I was showing my kids it was okay. And when I realized that it made me feel gross, slimly, like I was demonstrating for them how to make excuses for an abuser. The fact that she’s blood is no excuse. It doesn’t matter how much we want parents to love and accept us for who we are, they sometimes don’t. So I have to do what’s best for my kids now, and that example wasn’t it.
I had a long discussion with my mother, and my partner had a long discussion with her too. She compared my identity to having a child who is addicted to drugs. She said she still loves me, but doesn’t have to support my choices. I’m still processing those words and the world we live in that thinks so poorly of trans people.
I had to cut off the contact. I tried to keep up my relationship with her even after the difficult childhood I had. It’s been years of hoping she wouldn’t hold onto her religion so hard and actually see she has queer children and accept them. She’s letting her religion prevent her from knowing one of her children. I couldn’t imagine myself in her shoes. I can’t imagine anything keeping me from my children. I shouldn’t have to experience life where I choose to be without my mother, but I had to cut it off.
People who gaslight will never be argued with. They will make up memories. They will twist words and facts to fit their narrative and they will try to turn you against everyone else so you are singled out. The only thing to do about these people is to turn them off. Don’t give them a voice. Don’t give them a pulpit to put their lies in your head. I’ve been there with someone I loved, and someone I thought was a friend. I felt like I was going crazy. I felt like the ground and rules kept shifting under my feet. I could easily highlight all the saved conversations I have to show the constant change in stories. But they have an excuse for that too just call it adult telephone and claim I misunderstood. These people will never take blame for something they did or said. They are always the victim. It will always be your fault, or someone else’s. They will be offended and it will be sweeping. They will probably actually make you doubt your own recollection of events, or worse doubt your own words and actions. Don’t allow it.
There are times we are so desperate for love we put up with things we shouldn’t, but that’s not love. It doesn’t matter how good the good is, if the bad out weighs it you need to run away. So I ran as far as I could.
What it comes down to is family is chosen. Family is your tribe. Those who have your best interest at heart. Those who choose you every day. Those who support you, and pick you up when you need it. I am not going to let this change my outlook because I have the best people around me. I am so thankful for my friends, and my people. They support me day in and day out and have been there for me through this whole process. I am so fucking lucky to have found the people I have.
In next weeks blog: Trust: Please tell me again how my partner doesn’t agree with me and support me and I’ll laugh in your face.
IF you like J.R. Gray’s blog you might also like his books:
Ever So Madly
Love is for peasants; nobles marry for power. These are the rules Jocelynn has lived by. She is expected to be the poised and perfect vision of relentless power. Set to inherit the House of Akillie, she was bred to rule, and no man has ever turned her head—until now.
Madden achieved the impossible, the first in over a century to escape the life of hard labor and earn a place among the elite. With the chance for a fresh start, he has to stay focused, not damn himself by falling for the one girl forbidden to him.
Madden was Jocelynn’s experiment in freedom, and she didn’t mean to fall. But now she can’t live without him. He’s worth running from everything she’s ever known.
With no other options, Jocelynn turns to a formidable group of rebels to escape her fate. But with a war to be won, the rebels have their own agenda. Drowning in a game of power and politics, Madden and Jocelynn can’t trust anyone if they want to make it out alive.