A blog by Claire Standen Coaching
Many times I have seen women express that they were gaslit by their narcissistic ex. I too once read an article about gaslighting and looked afresh at my relationship dynamics with my then husband. Across the ages, women’s truths have been questioned. This has never been more important to me than now, as I continue my quest for justice after I was sexually assaulted in 2020.
Yet as a coach and a practitioner that is interested in getting the most possible wellbeing for myself and my clients, I have to remain open to what works. It seems to me, that spending eternity thinking about and blaming an ex-partner for the troubles in your life (low self-esteem, self confidence issues etc) is a somewhat disempowering stance, and I started to look for what might serve me better in creating the kind of life I want. So, what is ‘gaslighting’? Well, google tells me it’s when somewhat deliberately denies your version of reality in an attempt to control or undermine you, ultimately leading you to question your sanity. Well! That’s pretty unpleasant, no?
Yet at the same time as someone is ‘doing’ this to you, the opposite must be true. If they don’t believe in your version of reality, then you don’t believe in theirs. How can we be free of this never ending spiral of uncertainty? Where each person disbelieves the other, with varying degrees of malicious intent? I think it’s time to call out ‘the truth’. The truth is, there IS no truth. They believe what they believe, and you believe what you believe. Beyond that, its all smoke and daggers. By which I mean, perception. Because, you see… we do not see the World as it is, we see the World as WE are. So you may actually have perceived different versions of reality, and all the arguing in the World won’t have you see each other’s ‘point of view’. Now. That’s not to say that there isn’t potentially some other stuff going on. Maybe you’re being coercively controlled in other ways. Ugh. Because it happens. And that sucks… AND no-one can actually BE IN your mind, controlling it. So. How do we ‘take back control’? I think it comes down to being more open, not less. TO learn to trust yourself and your version of events. To understand that when respect is not being served, you don’t stay and eat, you leave the table… this is radical responsibility for self. Am I victim balming? I hope not. I am, however, speaking as someone who has been on this journey. Who has felt controlled and restricted, and then taken the journey to understanding that the biggest restrictions I’ll ever face (no matter who I’m married to, who my boss is, or what my mum says) are all in my own mind. Which is actually excellent news, because ‘we are now entering the dimension where we have control… the inside). So if you’ve ever been faced with someone who denies your reality… I want you to stand a little taller, knowing that you matched them all along, without even knowing it, by denying theirs right back!
Now as to the beliefs you have and values you hold that had you create that reality in the first place, perhaps that’s a blog post for another day…
What can I add to the conversation about shame, that Brene Brown (the famous shame researcher) hasn’t already said? Well, I guess my personal take. Shame is such a sneaky human emotion. I don’t want to talk about emotions as if they’re actual ‘things’ yet it seems shame would have us believe we’re really not worth anything, or that we’re failures... or that we’ve screwed up massively and fallen short of expectations. What I want you to know is that shame is not coming from ‘out there’. It’s not inflicted upon you by anyone. And it’s not an actual thing. We can’t extract it in an operation. But we can do some pretty cool stuff to be free from it. To that end, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s the story of my decision to leave my husband, and that’s a spoiler. What went before was driven by shame. I don’t know how long I ‘knew’, but it’s fair to say I didn’t act straight away. It was only when I realised that one of the principal reasons I hadn’t acted on the knowing was because I was concerned what people might think, that I realised I was jeapordising my happiness and, indeed, my life- as a result of what people might think. Here’s how I reframed it: I get this one wild and precious life, and I deserve to be happy. I will not jeapordise that for the sake of what people might think when they hear the news. After all, they’ll soon be getting on with their lives again and me giving me and my marital status another moments thought. Screw you, shame! And it worked. I left. But did shame leave? Well, kind of. It has layers. The deeper I’m able to explore what really makes me happy, the more I realise shame has been a component of not accessing that happiness over the years. All those shoulds and musts... Which brings me to an important idea, that has bought me great freedom from shame and all its little pals: fear, hurt, sadness, anger... you name it! The idea/ conceit/ thought/ mantra goes like this; ‘There is no rule in the Universe that says.... you have to do anything at all’
Claire Standen - NLP Mind Coach
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