I’d never heard of gas lighting before a few years ago, thought it was some archaic reference back to when houses actually had gas lights. Had no idea that I’d been subjected to it for many years, or even realised at the time what was going on. Manipulation is subtle, it’s by stealth, and it’s done over time so that your head is a mix of Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out which way is up and did you really do this to yourself?
Looking back it’s easy to spot the signs, but you don’t look back at the time, it’s not a rational time or place. You are in a constant whirl of self doubt, confusion yet mixed with a strange desire to please the one pulling the strings. They know what they are doing, they know they are pulling strings and you can’t see it because they have turned your world inside out much like Alice’s.
You subtly change over time, it’s starts with little things like ‘I think I prefer the red dress on you, brings out your eyes’ so you think, ahh that’s a nice thing to say so in future to get the compliment and feel good you wear the red dress. It works subtly on neuro linguistic programming, certain comments or behaviour earn rewards and because most of the time you are only receiving negative reactions you crave those odd moments of praise so deliberately alter to receive them. But it’s insidious, it’s over time and if you were to isolate one time it happened it doesn’t sound bad to anyone listening in. That’s the real problem, if you do have a moan about it friends think ahh but he gave you a compliment about the dress, wish mine would notice what I’m wearing so you’re made to feel like you’re the bad person for bringing it up – so you stop bringing it up in conversation and lock it away for fear of being judged.
Then other things happen that you don’t find out till later. A classic example is not telling you that friends called round or rang up to see if you wanted to go out with them. The isolating you from your peer group begins. Again, it’s slow and over time but when the friend (in your mind) hasn’t called back they tell you things like ‘well, not sure why you like them anyway because don’t think they like you’ but there’s never any real substance to the comments. They are designed to sow doubt, designed to make you think the string puller is the one that really looks out for you, the one that has your best interest at heart. And when yet again (in your eyes) your invitations are ignored you start to think maybe they’re right, maybe others don’t want to spend time with you. And so the vicious circle continues till you find yourself a few years later completely cut off from almost everyone and almost dependent on them – the strings grow tighter, their grip grows ever stronger and you become weaker to resist or even notice.
That’s the other thing, they tell outright lies but they are so big and happen so often you find yourself accepting them. The lie about the bank mixing up the direct debits when in reality the house was about to be repossessed yet life is somehow a strange dream reality where you’re not fully awake so just accept it. Their lies become normal, and make you question your own memory, your own beliefs until you don’t actually know what’s true anymore. You really have become Alice.
For me it was all about him creating dependency, he restricted things financially so I became almost totally reliant on him for every aspect of my life. Even at work he would call to check what I was doing – colleagues thought it was sweet that he cared, but if I had gone to the post office on my way in so was a bit later than normal he would question why I was late, who had I talked to, why didn’t I tell him, what was I really doing? Err actually I really was sending a parcel for my boss, there is nothing to hide so why are you making me feel guilty? Your life becomes micro managed by them, to the point you find yourself asking permission to deviate from their ordered routine they have imposed. It’s a mini prison, but a mental one, you are trapped inside your own head and there is no-one you can tell. From the outside looking in he’s a sweet, devoted, caring husband looking out for you; from inside the mental prison you are screaming as can’t quite understand what’s going on you just know this isn’t normal. He’s put so much doubt and pain into your head and isolated you so well from everyone and normal life you are dependent upon your jailor – exactly where they want you.
I know now from many counselling sessions what he was doing, he was hiding his own failings by throwing me off balance constantly. Before I met him I was this quirky little tomboy that would as likely be up a tree throwing apples at you or suddenly deciding to join in with the clowns on the pier. Very little of her was left by the time he’d finished and left a shell in it’s place. I miss her, and hopefully in time she’ll come back, I see glimpses from time to time but they are fleeting and often in dreams. It’s as if 15 years of my life were eroded like waves crashing against solid rocks and chipping away whenever they found a gap to gnaw away at. And the worst part is people still believed him, still thought he was this nice guy that I didn’t value enough. They’re very convincing, very charming and very plausible. They say things you want to hear yet when you dig deeper there is no substance or supporting action to their words yet somehow you go along with it.
If you are worried about someone, don’t challenge them – that is the worst thing to do because we believe our jailor. You will become the bad person, not our jailor. Just stick around please, and use the visiting orders we offer out – we really need you to visit us inside our own heads.
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