Month: February 2016

Gaslighting & Santa Claus

This is part 2 of a series of posts I’m going to be writing on the topic of gaslighting (& my personal experiences with it). This particular post in the series  is more general and doesn’t dive into any specifics of my mother’s abuse, not really. I am not putting any trigger warnings on this blog post. If you think I need a content note/trigger warning, let me know.

Part 1 talked more about her abuse, specifically, and that post can be found here: Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears


Christmas was only a month-and-a-half ago, and every year, it brings its fair share of memories, both positive and negative, and also plenty of memories that just “are” – neutral memories, as well.

Something just hit me one morning a couple of weeks ago, though, and that’s just how much gaslighting was involved in things my mother did around Christmas in my childhood.

In the past, when I would read posts like this on the signs of emotional abuse: http://luvtheheaven.tumblr.com/post/138652549987/what-are-the-signs-of-emotional-abuse, I always thought my mom didn’t engage in the particular abusive tactic known as “gaslighting”. I’d been reading posts like that for a long while now, and I always though that if gaslighting is defined as:

A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re losing their minds.

then, well, I didn’t experience it. I never really second-guessed my experiences, and I definitely never thought I was losing my mind.

But then, a few weeks ago when I started the draft of this blog post, which I actually started writing before my post on Crocodile Tears, I did a Google search for more explanation on the abuse tactic that is gaslighting, and the first thing I clicked on was this Everyday Feminism article on the topic (“10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic”), and… the degree to which I can relate to multiple aspects of this post when I think back on specific things with my mom is… um… actually a little scary.

Look at these quotes from the article:

Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality.

and…

I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.

You can see it in the media constantly.

For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, What you know to be true is not true.

The quotes will become relevant soon.

In order for me to explain the relevance… I’m going to recount my experience with Santa Claus, because my lovely abusive mother (note the sarcasm dripping from my voice as I call her “lovely”) left me a voicemail on my cell phone on December 28th saying she remembers my reaction when she told me Santa wasn’t real.

She remembers that?!?

What?

Continue reading “Gaslighting & Santa Claus”

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Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears

This is part 1 of a series of posts I’m going to be writing on the topic of gaslighting (& my personal experiences with it).

[Content Note: discussion of emotional/verbal/psychological abuse from a mother.]


I had this stuffed animal when I was young that I slept with every night, that I even vaguely remember playing with. It was this teddy-bear-sized yellow thing that I believe was supposed to be a “chick” (baby rooster, probably, judging by the bow-tie sewn around his neck, very odd stuffed animal honestly), there was a little tag on the animal which said “chick”, but I, as a young kid who didn’t know how to read, called it (her? I don’t think I thought of the toy as a he but whether or not I gave it a gender I am unsure) by a name that clearly implied I had misinterpreted which type of bird it was. Lol.

I called my stuffed animal Baby Ducky.

And last night, while at a local atheist meetup, a man mentioned how his 16-year-old son is still very emotionally attached to his stuffed animals, and how he told his wife that they can never get rid of those, he knows it would crush his son. I mentioned how I was pretty upset when my mom told me I was too old to sleep with my stuffed animal.

What I didn’t mention though, was that my mom was my abuser. What I didn’t mention was that last night, for the first time in a surprising number of years, I remembered the fact that I had actually used that stuffed toy to sop up my tears on multiple occasions. I remember crying in my bedroom in the house we moved into in 4th grade, so I must’ve been no younger than 10 or so, lying in my bed, using that stuffed animal as a very poor excuse for comfort, and also using it much like people would normally use a tissue in these situations. Using it for both purposes.

Continue reading “Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears”

Relationships that lack stages

This is my third and final submission for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Relationship Stages”. I’m a day late with this one, yes. Oh well. 😛 For more information on the Carnival of Aces, click here.


 

One thing that I think, traditionally, is so special about friendships is that they aren’t supposed to have stages, rules, limits, ultimate end goals, none of that. There are still ways friendships can go wrong, ways you can feel like you don’t have any friends or not enough, feel like you feel more attached to your friendships than your friends feel attached to you, etc. But it’s nothing like the distinction between being “single” vs “in a relationship”.

There are a ton of things that are special about friendships. They’re a kind of relationship that spans little kids (even toddlers) through old age. They aren’t relationships where you need to have a conversation about if you count as friends or not — you can just sort of let it happen and decide that you consider someone else your friend, regardless of how they feel about you. And there is a large array of different ways for friendships to play out that still feel “acceptable” in our society – there is not just one script for friendship.

If you Google “stages of friendship”, sure, plenty of things come up, often about the stages before reaching “best friend” status, and weirdly some results about specifically “female friendship”. But there isn’t a checklist for friendship the same way there is for romantic relationships. There isn’t a list of experiences most people expect to reach when they consider their own friendships, or consider entering into a new friendship. And when a friendship ends, there isn’t usually a need for a big significant “break up” — in fact most friendships just fade and these people couldn’t tell you the day they stopped being friends with that person. 😛 You don’t really feel like your relationship “Failed”, just that it “ended”, because in general, there is no goal for “success” when it comes to friendships the same way there is that kind of “goal” in traditional monogamous romance.

There are other kinds of relationships that, to me, don’t feel like they have stages either. Something like a relationship a person has with their sibling, their aunt, their uncle, their cousin, their grandparent — most of their family members (except not their parent/guardians) these are bonds that may or may not really be bonds at all, you can have a family member and not know them, never spend any time with them, etc, but if you do have a relationship with them… there isn’t really a progression, a set of common experiences that is easy to generalize among all families… there are just so many differences in how people experience these relationships. And often, there is constancy in these bonds. It doesn’t feel like they go through stages. I could be wrong and other people do experience what seem like stages in their familial relationships of these types, but the general cultural narrative I’ve picked up from living the the USA is that there aren’t general ‘stages’ one is expected to go through in these relationships.

Also, temporary relationships, as in, ones meant to not last. A job that you know you’re only at for a summer and your relationships with your coworkers there. A year in high school where you develop a kind of relationship with most, if not all, of your teachers but you know after you leave their class, the relationship will be over. These also are definitely types of relationships that don’t really seem to have “Stages”. True there is the “first meeting”, a period when, if you’re lucky, you feel like you know them better and they know you better, and maybe a “Goodbye”, but… but I feel like these types of relationships are not usually considered in terms of separate stages, that people usually think back on it in simpler terms than that.

Does this make sense to anyone besides me?


 

Anyway I enjoyed thinking through these things for the Carnival of Aces this month. 😛 I used my blogging as a way to help me think through the issues. I hope maybe someone enjoyed reading my thoughts.

Stages in Relationships

This is my second submission for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Relationship Stages”. For more information on the Carnival of Aces, click here.

[Content Warnings/Notes: Mentions of death. Discussion of abusive relationships. Brief mentions of sexual assault in a section about virginity.]


 

If you go to Google and start searching for “Parenthood stages” you will find PDFs like this one on 6 distinct stages: http://arbetterbeginnings.com/sites/default/files/pdf_files/Six%20Stages%20of%20Parenthood.pdf or, to my dismay, an article from bigoted/anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family on there being four “phases”. You’ll find various books published on the topic and various academic articles at .edu websites on research people have conducted.

Clearly, it’s not just romantic relationships that either seem to have stages. I could think of many ways a relationship between a parent and a child seems to usually… “evolve”, “progress”, etc, much like it has its own kind of relationship escalator. There are ideal stages for kids and parents to be at depending on the age of the child, and this extends until the death of the parent, which is “supposed” to happen prior to the death of the child. Obviously the child dying first is one way the stages won’t happen “according to plan” or according to “how things should be”.

But in truth, there are many ways for parent and child relationships to not follow society’s ideals for the stages. A child having a disability or being neurodivergent can easily throw off the course of the stages, slow them down, prevent some from happening, and the same is true if the parent is like that. A parent dying too soon means not all stages can be completed. Sometimes people just don’t follow the stages for no obvious “Reason”, but the world around them still judges them as doing the whole “being a family” thing wrong. You’re supposed to be exactly the right level of aware of what is going on in your child’s life, but not be overprotective or overly strict or overly bragging, obsessing about your kid when in social contexts, etc, and also you can’t be neglectful, distant, not involved enough, “oblivious”, etc. As a child, you are supposed to respect your parents, but also not be a clingy child one could make fun of with terms like “momma’s boy”.

You’re supposed to become friends with your parent once you reach adulthood, and people who don’t have good relationships with their parents need a good explanation, need an excuse, as for why they don’t. The default is that you would. Deviating from that norm is not usually accepted. People will wonder why the deviation has occurred.

One common reason for a deviation from that, a reason to not have a good relationship with your parent(s), is if they were abusive to you.

Abuse is something that has stages too. More specifically, abusive relationships of many different types, from romantic to familial to queerplatonic and many other types of dynamics as well, have specific recognizable stages.

Continue reading “Stages in Relationships”