***WARNING*** I wrote this when I couldn’t sleep because I was fuming about this “advice” I saw on the internet, and then I deleted it when I woke up in a panic and realized, “Oh crap! I posted that?!?” And then I decided to post it again with additions to it. Proceed of your own free will and choice.
So, I discovered this little message on the internet and I *immediately* had an issue with it—right at the very first line: “What others say doesn’t directly affect your emotions.” Okaaay…
And then all the way to the last line: “A sign of emotional intelligence is recognizing your power to change your assumptions.” For real, sir?
Let me tell you why I have a problem with this.
I’m pretty open about having severe PTSD. Part of that came from narcissistic abuse. This all has led to an obsessive study of psychology, and when I read this stupid post I knew it for *exactly* what it is, and it is *not* “advice.” It is:
Gaslighting is a term coined from a movie made in 1944 where an abusive husband tries to make his wife feel like she’s going crazy by turning down the gaslights. She tells him to stop turning them down, and he *insists* that he hasn’t touched them, and she must be losing her mind. He does this so much, that she starts to question her sanity.
It really is the perfect description of this type of abuse. Someone confronts their friend/partner/relative/coworker and says, “You’ve hurt me,” and they say, “No! I have not! That’s just ridiculous. You’ve misinterpreted everything I’ve done. That’s just *your* perspective of things, and your perspective is wrong! Now you’ve made me feel like a terrible person. How dare you do this to me. How DARE you! I demand you apologize to me!” (A bit of an exaggeration, but this has basically happened to me before, and then I apologized. I mean, how dare I make them feel bad for hurting my feelings?)
This is just one example of how gaslighting works. The root of the behavior is the person shirking all responsibility for whatever they’re accused of, and putting the blame on something else, or minimizing what they’ve done and/or ridiculing the victim for being “too sensitive” or “dumb” or “misguided,” and doing all of this to the point where their victim begins to question their perception of things. When I came out of my abusive relationship, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Two years, and he’d managed to strip my identity away.
Which brings us back to the post I found. This whole thing is a fancy way of saying, “If your feelings get hurt, it’s your fault,” with the added flourish of, “If your feelings get hurt, you’re basically not emotionally intelligent,” (a.k.a. “You’re dumb,” but worded subtly, which is a great form of manipulation because it makes you feel bad about yourself, doubt yourself, and want to prove you’re not dumb to this person you may look up to, all at the same time) and, “Their intentions are all your interpretation, and if you’re pinning bad intentions on them, you’re misguided.”
Ohhh man… I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t fallen for that before.
Please beware of people who use this tactic against your very valid feelings. It’s a way to control you, make you doubt yourself, and believe your feelings are dumb and don’t matter. It is literally emotional abuse, and don’t let anyone downplay emotional abuse because it’s “just words.” Your brain is an organ designed to process information. Words are information. They have the power to wound the brain on a neurological level, traumatizing it and changing the way it processes all information.
Yes, misunderstandings are a very real thing. And you should give people the benefit of the doubt—at least, at first. But guess what? YOUR feelings MATTER. And if you find yourself with wounded feelings, say something. *Don’t be a jerk about it,*—there’s a right and wrong way to go about it, but say something (what better way to find out true intentions?), don’t let bad feelings just sit and fester—and then *watch* how the person reacts.
Do they get defensive and basically say, “Let me tell you why your hurt feelings are your fault,” or, “Wow, I can’t believe you took that so personally! That was a joke! Gosh, you’re so sensitive,” or “Now I feel like a terrible person. How dare you make me feel like this. I’m going to go die in a hole. That’s what you want, isn’t it?!”?
Or do they say, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to,” or “I definitely could’ve handled that better. I’m sorry,” or “I see how that was hurtful, I’m sorry! That’s not what I meant, let me explain…”? The last three accept responsibility, the first three do not. Narcissists don’t like taking responsibility for how they hurt you, and will guilt, shame, and place all the blame on you, often so subtly, you don’t even realize what happened until later.
Let me tell you something: your feelings are valid. Your experiences are valid. What you’ve been through—it matters. It has shaped you, and who you are—that’s important. Look, the people around us, they don’t know what we’ve been through. No one’s a mind reader, and some things are gonna get said that may be unintentionally insensitive, and we do need to learn to let things go. But if something really stings, you have a right to say something and clear the air. If they’re a true friend, they’ll listen with compassion, and want to clear the air, too.
If they’re a narcissist, it’s going to get ugly. And then you should never speak to them again, if you can avoid it.
Be careful out there, friends. Be selective of who you let into your mind.