Living in an emotionally abusive relationship is physically and emotionally draining. Life is hard enough without having to filter every thought or at the very least dredge though someone else’s emotional dilemmas.
When your life is a steady barrage of disparaging remarks and unkind words you stop hearing it. The angry, threatening tones, the insults, the names stop resonating in your ears, but they travel first to your mind where they become embedded deep within your psyche, then they continue to your heart where they damage the most tender parts of your soul.
Gas-lighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse, where false information is presented to the victim so that he or she is manipulated into doubting his or her own memory, perception, and often times their sanity. Instances may range from the absolute denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents even ever occurred, to smoke and mirrors where something is switched on the victim then abuser denies that the switch ever occurred. Victims are told that they “must be imagining things,” they “must be crazy,” or in my case, I “didn’t remember.” I have an EXTREMELY good memory most of the time, so even this didn’t feel right to me. All of this is done with the intention of disorienting the victim and instilling an indecisiveness to trust their own instinct or make a decision. Someone who does not trust in their own ability to make a decision will lean more on their abuser for support and guidance.
For myself, I realize now that not only have I been seriously manipulated through gas-lighting, bullying and intimidation among other control and exploitation tactics, but I have managed through years and years of emotional abuse to perfect the art of forgetting.
I don’t mean that I have a bad memory, as I already said, my memory is usually very good. I mean that I have acquired a talent for turning a blind-eye, burying or conveniently “over-looking” atrocities to my psychological well-being which have wreaked havoc on my personal worth. I have been in denial about my abuser and the impact he has had on me, my life and the lives of anyone who I was ever close to — I say it like that because they are pretty much all gone now. And, of course, that was “for my own good.” “They were not good for me.” “They stressed me too much.” “They were not genuinely in my corner.” They weren’t like him, he’s my only fan. He protected me from the stress.
If I was in a better place emotionally I probably would have realized that it was most likely stress due to my being so wrapped up in trying to protect them from him and his anger issues. I know, for a fact, that I was always gauging his mood — I never wanted him to be upset. They knew that too. I also know it’s because I was worried about how he would treat them if he wasn’t in a good mood. Brooding, menacing, angry — these all very accurately describe what we (them and me) would be up against if he “wasn’t in the mood.” Within hours or less of the visit actually taking place I would start to hear negative chatter about them — their bullshit, idiosyncracies, humor, lack of humor — whatever, you name it, I heard it. I would constantly try to assess the outcome of a get-together in that moment based on the level of hostility I was encountering and I would take it from there. I changed plans at the very last minute countless times with friends and family because “it wasn’t a good time.”
Why should I care? You might ask or why didn’t I just do what I wanted?
Well, because there would have been consequences and it would be me or them at the receiving end of that. I could take it, and I’m sure they could have also, but I never wanted to put anyone through that. Sadly, I never really worried about how the last-minute changing or cancelling of plans would impact their day or lives, I was always more concerned about ruffling my abusers feathers.
Through reading, research and self-evaluation I have been and continue to learn about taking better care of my Self. I realize now that when he made absolute statements about how I felt about something, even things I was talking about from my childhood — Hello? He wasn’t there — I should have gotten angry, really offended, and disputed his mandate that I was unclear as to how I really felt, but instead I was more like a dehydrated person receiving water– “oh, you’re right, I guess I wasn’t really upset.” Even though I KNEW how I felt in that moment that I was talking about. I KNEW he was wrong, but I didn’t dispute it. I should have fought him when he was putting down and eventually putting out the people who I loved, but he was smooth in his manipulation. In time, I always believed that his assessment was accurate and that he was acting in MY best interest. Never realizing that he was isolating me so he could more effectively manipulate and control me which was always in HIS best interest!
Now that I have taken a magnifying glass to events in my past and am remembering, or maybe even seeing for the first time, some of the things he has done to me, it is like ripping open a wound. I feel real real pain and real embarrassment and I am REALLY MAD!
To this day, his behavior hasn’t changed — despite my REPEATED requests for professional counseling — but the people he hurt through me and hurt me with are gone from my life, so what’s the issue today? There’s always something.
I am struggling EVERY DAY with feelings, events and realizations that I am uncovering during my enlightenment (that’s what I call the metamorphosis I am going through).
Do I have a right to harbor resentment regarding these events still?
If I overlooked the bad behavior in the past, do I have to forget it now?