And Now…Gaslighting

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“People will provoke you until they bring out your ugly side, then play victim when you go there,” via theuniversehasyourback.  This is the perfect follow up to the talk about manipulation.  I bring this up because it seems more and more prevalent in the world and it is particularly prevalent in my life right now.  This behavior in particular is gaslighting.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced it before.  You know, the comments said as “jokes” that are really targeted at things you perceive as your weakness or the vulnerable things you’ve shared with people.  When it comes to choosing the energy that we keep around us, this is the first to examine. 

I’m an overly communicative person so I overshare what I need, but most people struggle to express what they are really thinking/feeling/needing in the moment.  It’s mostly in those moments when they are seeking attention, or when they are mad at themselves, or when they are bored, jealous, unsure of themselves that they go for the easy target.  (Unfortunately we often become the target for those closest to us because it’s easy access—and those are the ones that can hurt the most.)  Behind every “joke” there is some truth and when someone uses that to exploit our vulnerability, not only is it a jerk move, it creates a wound in us.  It’s a breaking of trust.  Anyone who uses what we share or what they know we struggle with against us isn’t the type of energy we want around.

The other side of this is when we set boundaries with people who are used to having access to us.  It doesn’t matter if it’s at work or at home or with friends, when we stop providing what they are used to getting from us , they turn the story around to talk about our selfishness.  In reality we are protecting our energy.  If we don’t protect our energy, people will take as much of it as we let slip through.  We become the bad guy when we stop allowing people to take advantage or when we stop making it easy for people to behave a certain way. 

For example, I mentioned the story about work the other day when my boss said she was “disappointed in my actions.”  The full story is that I worked an 11.5 hour day and left because 1. I was exhausted 2. The case we were working on couldn’t go any further in my mind and I had already provided the information requested.  I could have outright told her I was leaving, yes, but I shouldn’t have to ask permission to go after putting in that many hours on salary when it was an issue SHE was having with the paperwork, not me—my part was done. 

Another example was when I came home and my husband was cleaning irately—and I mean that.  He was absolutely furious that he was cleaning.  Now, first and foremost there are three of us in the house and there is no reason that should all fall on one person—namely me as I’m normally the one to do all of it.  I’ve been struggling lately so I have fallen behind.  But I’m also taking care of all of our animals (I feed them every day, clean the litter boxes every day, let the dog out, pay for vet appointments etc.), I get our son ready for the day every day, my work schedule adapted so I could take him to school, I work a minimum of eight hours every day and I’m working on my side business as well—so the cleaning fell to the wayside for a couple of weeks.  I’m not happy about letting it go but all of the major messes and physical dirtiness ARE cleaned every day—by ME.  He normally works about five to six hours a day and gets paid for eight, picks up our kid, watches TV or tinkers with the boat, or bullshits with the neighbors for a few hours.  So you can see where there is a little imbalance.  So when he started expressing how tired he was about living in a pig stye, I got pissed.  His response was, “You can’t handle it when I get angry or off-balance.”  My response was, “I can’t handle it when you can’t explain why you’re angry.”  I KNOW I do more than enough.  I KNOW what equity looks like.  I KNOW what laziness looks like—so do not take your shit out on me and then blame me for setting the boundary to not carry that.

I share that last story as an example of when people close to us are dealing with their inadequacies or insecurities they take it out on us.  I took both the circumstance with my boss and my husband very personally at first.  And then it hit me how inappropriate both circumstances were.  1. My boss saying she was “disappointed” in me as if I were her 14 year old child when she easily could have picked up the phone to get her questions answered is demeaning.  I’m not your daughter and when it comes to my family, I WILL set the boundary about how much time I put in here.  2. My husband is a fully capable, grown man, who needs to learn to manage his time.  That ISN’T on me.  I’ve spent nearly 20 years delaying things I want to do in order to keep us afloat so if I’m going to dedicate my time to building something for myself, he gets no say in that any longer.  I wrote a piece a while back about disappointing people when you start doing what is right for you.  I stick by what I said—disappoint them every time.  For those who get mad about you stopping their gaslighting—let them go.  You don’t need manipulation or disrespect in your life.  You have dreams to build.  Cut the cord.                  

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