Learning to Trust Yourself After Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves … Gaslighting often develops gradually, making it difficult for a person to detect.”[1]

Gaslighting occurs when there’s betrayal, abuse, or we’re living with a narcissistic partner or spouse.

Common symptoms of gaslighting include the following:

  • Feeling disoriented and confused; not knowing what is true and what isn’t true; questioning your understanding of reality; questioning your memory of events
  • Wondering if you’re crazy
  • Feeling anxious about making decisions, even very simple decisions
  • Constantly second guessing yourself; always wondering if ‘you got it wrong’
  • Constantly asking yourself if you are far are too thin-skinned and sensitive; feeling like you need to apologize all the time for who you are or what you say and do
  • Feeling as if you have lost yourself; not knowing who you are any more
  • Losing your confidence; feeling stupid, incompetent, worthless and unlovable.

Recovering from Gaslighting

If you’ve experienced gaslighting, and you’re trying to move on, and you want to learn to trust yourself and follow your own heart – then here are a few things to, maybe, bear in mind:

1. It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes: It’s absolutely fine to make mistakes and get things wrong. It happens to us all, and simply shows that you are human.

2. Start choosing for yourself: You’re allowed to make decisions, and to choose for yourself. This is actually your right, and it’s something you can do! From your choice of food or clothes, to the way you spend your time, to your views on politics … and a million other things.

3. Let go of the need to understand what really happened: The fact is … You were the victim of a person who played games with your mind, deliberately deceived you, and manipulated you. Also, it’s likely that your memories are scattered, vague and patchy. So put the past on hold, and just focus on today.

4. Allow yourself to be emotional, and to release the buried feelings: We tend to push down our feelings when we’re being manipulated. We don’t know what to feel, and we think we might be wrong. So when the truth comes to light, all the feelings get unleashed (and it’s likely we’ll be suffering from PTSD, too.)

5. Try to see the positives in being vulnerable and real: You weren’t wrong or dumb to take your partner at face value. It is actually a sign of being trustworthy yourself. We are meant to trust and love, and to be genuine and open. It means that you are healthy, and able to love well.  That is, it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or you were stupid or naïve.

6. Don’t set goals for healing; healing follows its own course: You don’t have to follow timelines, be happy all the time, be healed from being triggered, or feel confident and strong. It’s an ongoing process, and one you can’t control. So give your brain permission to heal in its own way.      

[1] www.medicalnewstoday.com

If Only I Could Love and Like Myself …

If only I could love and like myself …

But for so many people, this can feel impossible. It’s an uphill battle, and a constant, daily struggle to really love themselves, and to feel that they’re worthwhile. If this describes your life, I hope the following will help you:

1. Instead of thinking about everything that’s wrong with you, try to get into the habit of thinking about aspects of yourself you are happy with – and, perhaps, are even proud of. It can be something as simple as taking pleasure from a beautiful garden you have created; or a delicious meal you have cooked; or the fact that you are good at languages; or that people find you easy to be around.

2. Remind yourself that no-one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. For example, actresses and models often look good because people have spent hours on their appearance, deliberately creating a specific image, or shooting pictures of them from a particular angle, or in a certain light. 

Bear in mind, too, that people who are accomplished in one area may perform well below average in another area. It’s rare to find someone who is good at everything.

3. Be kind to yourself when you survey your past.  We all make some mistakes. Everyone – not only. Also, not everyone has had the same advantages in life. And some of us have had some very bad experiences. That has had an influence on our life’s trajectory.

4. Work on liking most of yourself. Perhaps you could just like one tiny portion of yourself. That could be a good starting place for now. The fact is, almost everyone can find something they’d like to change about themselves. Something they don’t like … or feel ashamed of … or embarrassed about. Maybe bear that in mind when you are looking at yourself through negative, demanding, and critical eyes.

5. At the end of the day, we are more that the sum of our parts. Taken together, all the parts of who we are create an individual who is totally unique. No-one has ever been like you. And no-one will ever be like you. Because you are you, you add value to the world in a way that only you, and no-one else can ever do. That makes you valuable and irreplaceable.

Quieten that voice of doubt inside of you. You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are worthy of love. You deserve good things. You are beautiful because you are you.”

I Didn’t See it Coming …

Of course you didn’t see it coming.

This was never the way it was meant to be.

And if you’re beating yourself up because you didn’t see the signs, I hope this post will help you see that this is not your fault. You acted as you should in intimate relationships.  They’re based on love and trust. On being real and vulnerable.

In summary ….

1. Betrayal only happens if you give someone your trust … And healthy close relationships are based on mutual trust.

2. It’s the nature of trust to tend to take things at face value. In fact, we’re preprogramed to trust our attachment figures – caregivers when we’re children, and spouses when we’re adults.

3. We expect more from the people who are close to us. We expect that they will care about our feelings and well-being. With strangers there is mimicry. A balanced give and take. However, this is a low bar in intimate relationships. You expect a whole lot more, and you deserve a whole lot more.

4. A partner who is cheating, or withholding information, is usually working hard to try to keep up the façade. In most situations, they don’t want you to know. So, they’re trying to deceive you, and to hide the truth from you.

5. There’s a good chance that your partner was being nice to you, even when they were lying, and they had a secret life. The reason? To try to throw you off track, and to appease their guilty conscience.

6. Often the betrayer will live out their ‘other life’ in ‘another world’ completely. One you nothing about.  For example, they may access online sex, or conduct an affair on a secret different cell phone; with a new email account; when you’re out of the house, or away for a few days; when they’re out of the house, or away for a few days.

So I hope you can see that were not simply naïve. And the last thing you should do is to criticize yourself. Your partner took advantage of the trust you put in him. You acted in the way a loving, faithful partner would.

Forgive and Forget?

Memory serves an important function. There’s a reason why we’re gifted with a powerful memory. Those who tell us to forget the awful things that we’ve been through, are really not our friends.

They aren’t wise counsellors.

Why do we Need to Remember?

Why don’t we just bury the past? Why not repress the painful memories? Forgive, and then forget? Pretend that nothing has gone wrong?

Why? … Because our memory protects us, and we need to be protected. What good comes from forgetting? We could just be hurt again.

Also, our memories give us strength – for we survived the awful nightmare. We learned important lessons; we fought hard, and made it through.

And by remembering we help others who are facing their own nightmare. We understand their heartache, and can truly empathize.

We can also sound a warning – for we’re conscious of the dangers. We know the way this goes. We know our vulnerabilities.

And we understand the struggles; why we hesitate and stall. But what could be the outcome if we don’t act when we can.

Memory as a Gift

So memory is important. It’s a gift that we should prize. It safeguards all our futures. It protects us against harm.

There’s no shame is remembering, or in recounting the past. In fact, it is essential, and we owe it to ourselves.

“Remembering is a noble and necessary act. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered.”

Elie Wiesel

You are my Reminder

“You were an unpleasant memory; now you’re my reminder.

You’re my reminder to be more cautious of the people I invest my time in.

You’re my reminder to see people for who they are, and not for who I want them to be.

You’re my reminder to fall in love with how people treat me, and not with what they tell me.

But if, by chance, I do fall for the wrong person again,

You are my reminder

that I can survive the worst.

– Author Unknown

I wish we never had to frame anyone as someone who is now ‘a reminder’ to us.

All of us deserve to be loved well.

To be treated well.

To be treasured, and honoured, and cared for.

But all too often that is not real life.

Some of us experience excruciating pain.

And pain at the hands of those we trusted, and loved.

This absolutely never should have been the case.

But if this is your story, then maybe take some time to look beyond the trauma. The damage that was done.

You’ve risen from the ashes. And darling, you’ve survived.

You’ve found a strength and fierceness you never knew you had.

How to Cope with Emotional Numbing

After being traumatized it’s common to feel as if you can’t make sense of life anymore. You’re just going through the motions; you’re not living anymore.

Initially, this is a way to cope, and protect yourself from further pain.

However, although there may be value in your brain shutting down, emotional numbness stops us living a full life.

What are the symptoms of emotional numbing?

– Feeling disconnected from the world around you (feeling zoned out, like you’re living in a fog; feeling like you’re an observer rather than a participant in the world)

– Feeling disconnected from your body and mind (finding it hard to feel anything at all)

– Feeling disconnected from the person you once were (feeling you don’t know who you are anymore)

– Feeling you don’t care about what happens to you (which can result in us putting ourselves in potentially dangerous situations)

– An inability to function in social situations

– Wanting to withdraw and self-isolate

– Feeling empty, hopeless and hollow inside

– An inability to concentrate and focus

– Memory loss (in general, and related to specific events surrounding the traumatic incident)

–  Having zero interest in activities we previously enjoyed

– Feeling tired and lethargic all the time (accompanied by a deep desire for sleep, or the desire to block out the whole of life.)

What can you do about it?

1. Probably the most helpful option is to find a therapist or counsellor who is experienced in dealing with trauma. He or she will have a range of techniques they can use to help unlock buried emotions (such as EMDR).

2. Try to work on identifying your feelings. Naming subtle changes in your body and emotions (such as noticing if you have butterflies in your stomach) can help you get in touch with yourself again. They are sending you a message that you’re still alive.

3. Mindfulness exercises (where you are checking in with different parts of your body) can also alert you to small, subtle changes in your body and breathing. These can help you to notice you’re still able to feel – and also that you’re able to control how you feel (even if this ability is somewhat limited.)

4. Find creative outlets for expressing your emotions (such as journaling, creative writing, painting, writing or music etc) The more you get into the flow, and regularly invest in these activities, the easier you will find it to access and release trapped emotions.

5. Try moving your body. Often physically moving (such as going for a walk) can jolt us into feeling more alive again. This is partly the result of endorphins being released. Also, this bypasses our need to think – which can be good.  

Your trauma is not your fault. You couldn’t have prevented it.”

7 Things No-one Tells You About Trauma

1. It changes you into someone you barely recognize – At least that’s the case initially.  You start avoiding people, situations and triggers (so an extrovert may turn into an introvert.). You have unexpected emotional outbursts and meltdowns. You lose interest in old hobbies, and even your appearance.

2. You feel as if your body and mind have turned against you – You may have anxiety and panic attacks; insomnia, broken sleep and night terrors. You may develop a wide variety of autoimmune diseases; get sick much more easily; have aching muscles and bones; experience nerve pain; and battle with lethargy and tiredness.

3. You lose your confidence and have zero self-esteem – You expect to fail and to make a mess of things; to not be able to cope at work; to not be able to cope in social situations; and for people to see all your flaws (real and imaginary). Also, you view yourself as being inadequate, and as someone who’s not worthy of respect, or love.

4. You whole world is filled with anxiety – When the unimaginable happens, anything could happen. People are scary. The world is scary. At any point in time, the other shoe could drop. And how can you begin to protect yourself from that? (If you can’t imagine it, then you can’t protect yourself.)

5. You trust no-one, and you’re always on guard (you’ve lost your innocent, naïve approach to life) – As far as you are concerned, there is no-one you can trust. Everyone could have a dark and hidden side to them. So, anyone could hurt you, and cause you serious harm. Also, since it’s impossible to distinguish truth from lies, you need to have your back, and to look out for yourself.

6. You don’t believe that healing is possible for you – Others might get better, but you won’t recover. The damage is too deep. Healing feels impossible. You’ll never be the person you were before this happened.

7. There’s a lot of things that aren’t funny any more – Things that you’d brush off, or would laugh at in the past, are now associated with the trauma and the pain. Also, when your world’s been blown apart you are steeped in grief and pain. You lose your sense of humour. Everything feels heavy now.

Hello Self. I’ve Missed You.

You are standing in the answer.

It is when you start to lose yourself that you start to look for yourself in other people … other things.

But there is a place and a time in your life that link you to the person you were before all the chaos.

All the pain. All the heartache.

Before you looked in the mirror and judged the reflection looking back at you.

Find this place.

Go back to this place.

Because, in this place, you knew exactly who you were.

You just got a little lost.”

– April Green

But how do you get back to that place again? How do you find yourself again?

Here are four suggestions:

1. Stay with the feelings that took you to that dark place. Let them speak to you. Let them tell you what you’ve lost. Let them tell you what you deserved. What you had hoped for. What you had wanted. This can bring you back in touch with your intuition. With the centre of your being. With yourself.

2. Trust yourself with the process and your journey. You have to consciously make space to listen to your inner voice. To the voice that’s being drowned out by the voices all around you. By the voices that would tell you that nothing will work out. These are toxic lies. Don’t listen to them. You can trust your soul. Listen to your highest self.

3. Practice self-compassion; don’t attack yourself. We can’t trust ourselves if we don’t think we are safe. That is, if we know that we will shame and be mean to ourselves then we simply won’t be able to let down our guard. We’ll be functioning in self-preservation mode. Thus, we need to be convinced, deep inside, that we accept and love ourselves – just as we are.  

4. Think of all that made you happy before life fell apart. What kinds of things would make you come alive? What brought you joy and happiness? What got you excited, or left you energized? This is your true, authentic. That self is still there. It’s just be dormant for a while. You can find yourself again one small step at a time.   

Can Trust be Rebuilt?

Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”

What is necessary for trust to be rebuilt after you’ve discovered that your partner has betrayed you?

To be honest, you may never fully trust them again – and it won’t be the same kind of trust as before. However, there is still a place for hope. Often progress can be made. But the following are essential for rebuilding trust:

1. The betrayer must have made a total break with the affair partner, or be actively getting help for a sex addiction (if that is the cause of the betrayal). They should also have someone they’re accountable to, someone they check in regularly with. This must be someone you (the betrayed partner) trust as well.

2. The betrayed partner must believe in their heart that the offending partner is wholeheartedly and freely choosing them again. They have to really believe that the choice is genuine, and that their partner is unlikely to change their mind on this.

3. Related to this, the betrayed partner or spouse must really feel that ‘you love me’; ‘that you love me more than anyone, or anything, in the world’, and ‘you can’t bear the thought of life without me.

That is, the decision to hold on to the relationship cannot be because the betrayer:

– doesn’t want to be exposed,

– or to lose their reputation,

– or to lose the respect of their family or kids,

– or to lose the family home, or a lifestyle they enjoy.

4. The betrayer must take full responsibility for what they did. They must convey a deep and genuine remorse for hurting you, and for totally wrecking your life.  They can’t ‘half get it’, downplay it, or push some of the responsibility onto you, or anyone else.

5. They need to really get what this has done to you. This is quite different from being overcome by feelings of shame. Feelings of shame are often self-focused. They actually prevent us from getting inside our partner’s world, and from fully empathizing with their pain.

In fact, we can get so totally consumed by feelings of self-loathing and self-rejection, and shock at what we did and who we became that we can’t be there for anyone else.

However, the betraying partner has to ‘get’ what they have done, and broken, devastated and desolate you feel. This is absolutely crucial.

5. Part of processing and coming to terms with betrayal includes going over the same ground, and asking the same questions again and again.

For trust to be rebuilt, the perpetrator must remain patient and understanding, and be committed to not reacting to what is said (which could be hard at times!)

Also, they must honestly and fully answer any questions you have – and even encourage you to probe even deeper.

That is, they have to give you the time and space you need to process the betrayal – which could take some time! This is especially important in the initial months.