There’s gonna be a subset of people out there who try to get what they want by making you feel crazy or guilty for not going along with their wishes.
I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.
Some people bully, overtly or subtly, to get what they want.
Some people gaslight to get what they want.
Sometimes the people who do this include professional colleagues or even family members.
And the truth is that survivors of complex trauma tend to be particularly vulnerable to these exploitative interpersonal tactics, because often they’ve been made to feel crazy or guilty for a long time.
Trauma survivors tend to be highly sensitive people who often struggle with self-doubt and setting boundaries— so we’re kind of prime targets for people who use gaslighting and guilt to control our behavior.
It’s really discouraging.
Here we are, trying to recover from depression, trauma, or addiction, doing our best to untangle the knots created by complicated, painful histories…and along come these people who are perfectly willing to take advantage of our reflexive self-doubt.
When we run into people willing to gaslight or guilt us, it can really throw a wrench into our recovery.
After all, it’s hard to move forward through recovery with confidence and certainty when someone is trying to mind-f*ck us into not seeing what, in my cases, is right in front of us.
On of the core tasks in recovery is relearning— or, often, learning for the first time— how to listen to and trust ourselves.
Very often we’ve had years, sometimes decades, of people trying to tell us that our perceptions and interpretations are wrong.
That we’re making too big a deal of something. That we’re not really seeing what is very obviously happening right in front of us.
Often, we arrive in adulthood NOT trusting what we see and perceive, no matter how clear it is…because we were told, over and over again, that what we saw was not what we saw, or what we experienced was not what we experienced.
Many people reading this know what it’s like to wonder if their experience was really “that bad.”
Whether they were really “abused” or “neglected.”
Whether their physical pain was really all that debilitating.
Why do you think we develop those doubts— despite the fact that WE are the ones on the inside of our experience, the literal experts on what we went through?
Often it’s because we’ve had someone over our shoulder, whispering in our ear a version of, “Are you sure you’re not just being too emotional?”
“Are you sure you’re not just crazy?”
“Are you sure you’re not just being selfish or entitled?”
It is what we psychologists call a mind-f*ck.
(That term may not be in the DSM yet, but give it time.)
You need to know that, despite the fact that depression, trauma, and addiction DO tend to distort our thinking and beliefs in some ways, you DO have the capacity to accurately perceive, interpret, and respond to the events of your life.
You DON’T have to play along with someone else’s guilting or gaslighting.
NOT playing along might be a bit of a risk— if someone’s willing to guilt or gaslight you in the first place, they might also be willing to get aggressive with you if you refuse to play along— but standing up for yourself when someone is trying to manipulate you is a MASSIVE step forward in recovery.
Don’t tolerate even a “friend,” “partner,” or “colleague” trying to f*ck with your head.
Gaslighting and guilting are not things that happen in healthy, safe relationships.
And a BIG part of recovery is getting real about who is and isn’t safe to have in your world.