When you’ve been gaslit in important relationships in your life, it changes your relationship needs going forward. 

That’s true of complex trauma generally— when our trauma is entwined with our important relationships over time, it impacts what we need out of relationships in recovery. 

But recovering from trauma that involved gaslighting is a particular struggle. 

Gaslighting is when someone tries to deflect their harmful behavior by making YOU feel crazy or guilty. 

When we notice or have a problem with something having to do with “their” behavior, they respond in such a way that it makes YOU feel like the problem— and sometimes they add a layer that makes YOU feel sh*tty for trying to say anything. 

Experiencing trauma in close relationships growing up is a mind f*ck in the first place. 

Humans aren’t psychologically equipped to accept the fact that maybe the people on whom I rely for survival are abusing or neglecting me. 

Instead of accepting that fact, we’re far more inclined to attribute “the problem” to ourselves— WE must have done something to “deserve” the abuse, or WE must be inadequate in some way to “deserve” the neglect. 

When we’re STARTING OUT from a place of questioning our reality and blaming ourselves, we become particularly vulnerable to others’ attempts to gaslight us into accepting or ignoring their behavior. 

Many people reading this know what it’s like to grow up ALREADY feeling guilty for having negative feelings about our caregivers— and we’re particularly susceptible to “explanations” for behavior that turn US into “the problem.” 

It’s not that we go looking for friendships or relationships that are manipulative— it’s that when those patterns DO occur in relationships, we’re particularly vulnerable to gaslighting as a tactic. 

Because of our past conditioning, we’re “ready” to believe it’s really a problem with our perception, rather than a problem with their behavior. 

What all of this means is that, in recovery, we need a certain kind of safety out of our friendships and relationships. 

We need to know that if we have a question or problem with something, it won’t automatically be turned back on us as evidence of our craziness or disloyalty. 

We need to know that we can set boundaries with someone without being made to feel guilty about it. 

We need to know that anybody we let into our lives as a friend or more WON’T contribute to the problem we’ve had the past of people making us question or doubt our perceptions just because it may reflect negatively on them. 

Reasonable people can disagree about certain things (though, it must be said, there is a limit to the things about which “reasonable people” can disagree and still remain close). 

What friends or other close relationships CANNOT include, though, is gaslighting or guilt as communication strategies. 

To be genuinely close to a trauma survivor means accepting that we need certain things out of our friendships and relationships in our trauma recovery— first and foremost, we need our new relationships to not recreate the dynamics of our old ones. 

We don’t need to be questioning our perceptions and realty in our closest relationships. 

We don’t need loyalty tests in our close relationships. 

We don’t need to feel we have to stuff our perception of reality or overlook a behavior we have a problem with in the service of keeping a relationship stable and conflict-free. 

Safe relationships don’t include guilt or gaslighting. 

We’ve had enough of questioning our reality. 

We’ve had enough being made to feel like we’re the problem. 

We’ve had enough of stuffing what we really perceive and feel because we know to express it is going to invite a backlash. 

If relationships are going to play a part in our healing, they have to look and feel different than the relationships that hurt us back then. 

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