Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gaslighting and Group Dynamics

"Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim."¹ This is a form of abuse that runs rampant in religiously motivated abuse, at least in the experiences of pretty much every survivor that I know. It's also one of my biggest triggers.

Gaslighting comes in all shapes and sizes. The term gets it's name from the stage production "Gas Light". In this play, a husband sets out to drive his wife insane by making small changes to her environment and then denying that any changes were made when she noticed them. In particular, he would dim the gas lights that were lighting the house and insists that she is imagining it. I've experienced very similiar, but I've also experienced gaslighting in much more convoluted and destructive ways.

The easiest (well, the first to come to mind, it is not by any stretch easy to relate) example I can give you is the "shapes" game that I had to play with my uncle when I was very little. He would use brightly colored cut out shapes and lay them down in front of me and then a minute or so later he would set a screen in front of them and tell me to tell him what shapes I saw. Sometimes, he would let me win. Other times though, he would go to great pains to completely undermine my memory of what shapes I saw with horrible punishments if I didn't change my answers to what he wanted them to be. Sometimes, he would move the screen away and the shapes would still be what I initially thought they were but I still had to tell him that I saw the shapes he said that I saw. Sometimes, the shapes would actually be what he said that I saw. If you can't see how this would seriously fuck with a very young child, count yourself lucky I guess. I would certainly rather not have to live with the memories of being sexually and physically tortured as part of his sick little game.

This leads me to the crux of how having a trauma history involving gaslighting can make group dynamics very hard for me. I honestly wish sometimes that we could remove the word "never" from the english language entirely, so that I would not have to ever hear the words "we never do that here" when I've just experienced "us" doing exactly what it is you've just said we never do and have empirical evidence of that fact. It is extremely hurtful to have my memories continually undermined by a group where I am supposed to be safe and valued.

I don't have any quick answers for how to act instead, but I would ask that the next time you find yourself forming a statement like "we never do x" or "x never happened" that you would take a few moments and really think about it and try to find a more affirming way of saying it. I promise, it is possible to communicate that something is not *your* experience without completely discounting *mine*.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Well, this was going to be a long-ish post on gaslighting and group dynamics and a couple other things. Instead it's just going to be a post to note that I am still here and still writing, but I managed to trigger myself quite badly trying to write this most recent post.... soo, bear with me awhile and I promise real new content soon.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Working Again

And a snapshot on the upside:

I feel great.

I did my first day of training yesterday, and do my second today. Real, actual work with a paycheck. I know I shouldn't let old messages tie up so much of my self-worth in that, but I do. And working again helps a lot.

Mostly because it helps elsewhere. I probably had my most productive day in 2 months yesterday, at least it terms of knocking stuff off my to-do list, and I'll probably match it today. I downloaded a killer app for my cell phone that keeps things like calendar notices and incoming e-mails on the front page, re-did my notebook, and started re-packing my work bag, putting the tools I need to keep going right at my fingertips once again.

And I'm sitting here freshly showered, blogging.

It's not a silver bullet, but it's a start.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Snapshot

A snapshot of 3 things that are on my mind:

1. Before yesterday's shower, I went 8 days without even changing clothes.

2. I'm probably going to eventually kill myself.

3. Since I'm not going to do #2 tonight, I should finish my room.

I hate being sick.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Living in a shadow

There are days when I really hate feeling like I'm constantly living in the shadows of my past. C-PTSD informs so much of how I think, feel and react that it makes it very difficult for me to stay in the present moment and deal just with the situation in front of me. Instead, if I get upset I will often find myself triggered and locked in to emotional, somatic and sometimes full sensory flashbacks. I will feel the emotions that I was dealing with in the past when I was faced with whatever situation I'm being reminded of, and will react as I would have at that point in time and in that place rather than actually reacting to what is in front of me.

Right now, I'm having a hard time gauging how I really feel about a situation in a group that I am a member of that has resulted in a lot of hurt feelings and emotions running high. I'm finding myself unable to tell if I'm really reacting logically and rationally to the situation or whether I'm falling to some sort of mass hysteria born out of how similiar situations when I was in the cult would have played out. Then, had I honestly expressed how I was really feeling to the leadership I had to make absolutely sure that what I was going to say was going to be what they wanted me to say, or else I would receive a severe beating at best. In the here and now, I know that the worst that I would probably face would be words, probably not even aimed to hurt, written out of the feelings and circumstances that the others in the situation find themselves in.

In this particular scenario I've even found myself without the mirror of my brother to look in to, as he is upset and hurt over some of what has happened as well. So, in this case I find myself turning to journaling, self reflection and looking to the Kindreds for guidance. Invariable the combination of the three will eventually help me find my way clear of the turmoil I find myself in, but it still leaves me a bit dazed and really wishing that I could get upset about things without finding myself re-living a painful past.

I'll close with this prayer, which I have offered up this night in my search for clarity;

Raven Queen,
Who I have known longest,
Who I worshiped before I knew your name,
Once again I ask that you join your magic with mine.
Spread your wings and lift me up,
Far above the shadows of the past,
Far above the battlefield.
Lift me up that I might see with clarity,
grounded in the present as I see the field stretch before me.
Help me to see all sides,
knowing when to attack, when to retreat,
and when to embrace those standing before me.

Morrigan, first Matron of my heart and home,
Please be with me and accept my offering.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Maelstrom Claims 3 More Victims

It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone that I've been watching the whole James Arthur Ray saga fervently.

I hope they hang the bastard. Enough said.

But I did want to take a moment and reference the slide halfway down the second page at this page:

"Spiritual Warrior was the final seminar in a sequential series of ever more expensive events"

I've said it before, and I'll say it every chance I can: don't ever, ever play that game.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Small Technopagan Working

Yesterday, I had a couple of different things come together at once that inspired me to take a stab at a bit of technomancy. I was playing with GIMP, trying to polish my photo retouching skills, and found myself playing with the "heal" tool to try to remove a scratch in the wall behind the subject in the picture I was working on. A bit later, I was tending to a rather nasty cut on my arm that has gotten infected and while doing so was contemplating doing a magical working to hopefully speed along the healing. I wasn't up to even trying to do an ADF style Core Order of Ritual rite and didn't really feel like working in any of the other paradigms that I tend to turn to for healing work.

Then, it was like lightening struck. Heal tool in GIMP. Wanting to heal a cut on my arm. So, in that moment of inspiration, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

I grabbed the tools that I would need for my working; my digital camera, my SD card, my laptop and a running instance of GIMP. I flashed a quick picture of my forearm, then realized the lighting in the living room was terrible. So, I took a few more shots playing around with lighting until I finally got a shot I was satisfied with. I popped to SD card in my card reader and opened up the picture in GIMP.

Concentrating my will on healing the cut on my arm with minimal scarring, I started to very carefully retouch the photograph, largely using the heal tool. As I concentrated on retouching the image, I also poured my intent in to every click, every motion. As I fell into the working, I became less and less aware of my shirt sleeves rubbing up against the cut. Finally, when there was not even a trace of the cut on the photo I was retouching, I released the energy that I had been building, grounded myself and closed up the rite.

Jury is still out on how successful the "spell" ends up being, but it was definitely looking better when I got home from work last night. It's fun working in a different paradigm than I'm used to. I might have to make more use of this one in the future, given how much I like playing around with GIMP and how much energy I pour in to anything I'm working on creatively.