I posted “Another Complete Cycle” on March 18, 2020. It’s about a day when Daily Kos posted something about Donald Trump’s minimizing of the COVID crisis, and I suddenly didn’t trust Daily Kos. Now that didn’t really make sense, because I never trusted Trump, and I usually believe what Daily Kos says, so why am I suddenly not trusting Daily Kos? Why am I suddenly feeling that I can’t trust anyone? Why was it such a total knockdown?
Recently, as I’ve been reading through my old journals, I came to place where I did some work with Dana. He was using a counseling technique called Structural Consulting, and what resulted was seeing that I couldn’t trust myself. I remember that I said “You mean I really am as lost as I feel?” He said yes.
From my journal for April 1987:
Dana said that I felt that certain feelings were only appropriate in certain circumstances, and if my feelings didn’t match the circumstances, then I would invalidate my feelings. “I shouldn’t feel guilty for the deaths of my cats, I was so sick I couldn’t have done anything different.” “I shouldn’t feel fear, there isn’t anything to be afraid of.” “I shouldn’t feel angry at the planes, they aren’t doing it to me on purpose, they’re just having fun.” I realized that I had been persistently and systematically invalidating my feelings for a long, long time. I’m so busy telling myself I shouldn’t feel what I feel that I never look further, to see what information I might get out of the fact that I do feel this way. The picture Dana got was of a person who did not trust her feelings, and so she does not know who she really is, nor what is really happening. Such a person would be disoriented. My reaction to being disoriented is to make up an explanation, justification, fantasy, whatever. But since this gets me no closer to the truth I remain disoriented. Or else I recognize that my fantasy is not the truth and demolish it, but this leaves me more disoriented than ever, because I still don’t know how to find the truth or how to tell the truth when I find it. No wonder I went into science, at least the rational process of science gave me a method for checking the truth of my perceptions. The problem continued, however, when I discovered, through the rational process (and my own desire and commitment to the truth) that the rational process could give me only a limited truth. But how to get in touch with the real truth?
Much later, I saw that the only way to know something was true was if I experienced it myself, or trusted the person who told me about it. Everything else is second hand, and might not be “true.”
But I’m realizing now that my childhood with Mom was an immersion in “gaslighting.” What Erica calls her “mis-representation” is being a very important concept for me. An example: when I would get excited about something and start talking about it with enthusiasm, she would call that “thinking I was so great.” This left me terrified to share about something I was excited about, thinking that I was “bragging,” and believing that bragging was bad. Mother was wrong. What I was thinking was “great” was not myself but something that I loved and wanted to share.
My first post on Gaslighting, September 2018
Gaslighting, Again, August 2019