Grandpa had a strategy when we were growing up that I think is quite common. When we would hurt ourselves and were crying he’d redirect our attention to something else. For example, if we tripped and fell he’d say, “Is the chair ok?” Or the floor, or the toy, or whatever other object was a party to the accident.
In the short-term this is a really good strategy in that it pretty much always works, short of serious injury.
But, with a bird’s eye view, I can now witness how in my (FOO) family of origin, just as in the culture at large, we’ve traded short-term successes at the cost of long-term thriving.
Now that I’m a woman, as the French say—‘of a certain age’— I understand the hidden costs of this short-term fix. It’s taken many years and many, many hours of research and unraveling to mend this deleterious aspect of my upbringing. Me, like all of life, is a work-in-progress.
I know some will just shake their heads thinking I’m blaming others for all my problems in life. It’s really not about that at all. Blame is irrelevant to me. I seek wisdom. And healing. For myself, for others and for the world.
I’ll even take that one step further. I think if Grandpa were listening to me take him to task over this from somewhere in the great beyond, he’d be proud of me for standing up to him in his past life. Because he knows it’s for the greater good. I truly believe the dead don’t give a flying hoot about their misdeeds once in the afterlife. They are beyond body and therefore beyond ego. I can’t even imagine the possibility that he’s out there somewhere still trying to be right and almighty. I can actually hear him laughing at that idea, and he had a great laugh.
So, here’s to you, Gramps. These have been the long-term effects for me, which I’ve been consistently healing and re-training: Not paying attention to my own pain before it gets severe. Discounting my internal experiences and knowing too often. Minimizing and bypassing physical sensations, especially danger. Burying my intuition. Misdirecting anger. Having more compassion for others, and sometimes even animals and objects, than I do my own well-being. Not asking for help or support enough. Isolating excessively during times of deep pain.
That’s my personal list of the largely unspoken long-term effects (trauma) of gaslighting in childhood. I’m certainly not alone in feeling the repercussions of this brand of parenting. Even with mild levels of those raised in family circumstances where there was consistent gaslighting the offspring often end up repeating these toxic patterns in their own relationships and parenting styles. It’s emotional and intellectual manipulation and it’s so pervasive in our culture that it’s rarely addressed.
I see this changing so much now, not just in myself, but really lighting a fire in the entire culture, with vast amounts of material available online and in print to help folks recognize these techniques, heal from them, and eventually, to become such a rockstar at navigating your own reality that you’ll never get fooled again.
To me this is the most positive sign in these troubled times. To me it means nothing less than an enlightenment of those who are strong enough, and diligent enough, to see through the gaslighters’ fog and to realize we’ve been serving dysfunctional and narcissistic individuals, institutions, and indeed an entire toxic system, of power abuse. And this must stop, in our own lives, and in the world at large.
Here are a few books I’ve found helpful.
The Human Magnet Syndrome by Ross Rosenberg
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker
Self-Therapy by Jay Earley
The best YT channels on the topic along with Ross Rosenberg, in my opinion, so far, because the numbers are growing rapidly:
If psychology and self-help books and videos aren’t right for you, I’ve got another suggestion that will probably sound crazy to a lot of folks. It did to me, before I tried it, several years ago now, on the advice of a therapist: Learn the Tarot cards.
They’ve become like buoys in the ocean to me.
Of everything I’ve tried so far, this has been the single-most helpful for me personally. They have the power to put you in far deeper touch with the archetypes of your own psyche and the consciousness of the world. Not only are they engrossing and insightful, they’re pretty fun, too. At least I think so!
Of course, as with everything, you need a really great teacher.
If you want, you can borrow mine. 🙂