The thing about Gaslighting is that it can make one’s thought processes, decisions and life itself look far more complicated that is actually the case – and even the thought of love can seem like a complication better avoided.
My act of adding the word ‘deserve’ to a post which was about love may well have startled some readers; it may even have got one or two people’s backs up. The ploy was deliberate. It was done to make two, very important, points, one overt and the other subliminal.
The first was an assertion of my own will and my right to decide who I want to befriend, love and keep in my life. The second was a triggering, possibly subconsciously, of something too many of us experience with certain other people: Only being loved conditionally; having our lack of perfection held over us – like, as one of my regular readers said, a Sword of Damocles – with the rider that, if we don’t come up to scratch, that attention and love will be withdrawn and the sword of rejection will decapitate us.
Long term abuse produces such uncertainty and fear in the mind, such lack of self-esteem and such a need to please that it is only too easy for almost anyone to dictate the course of an abused person’s life with chilling ruthlessness – simply by using the precision tool of emotional blackmail: If you do/say/think that, I won’t love you anymore. You do not deserve love because you are A, you think B, you do C. In other words, ‘You have to be an A* standard human being in order to merit my superior form of loving.’
One of the real tragedies of sustained abuse is that it wears away the natural angry response to such an assertion. The abused ones come to see the abuser as a kind of God – certainly a person of superior powers and unquestioned authority. His or her beliefs, needs, rules and utterances have the same kind of power the Bible has over Believers. Just as many Christians secretly believe that they will go to Hell if they do not abide by the laws of their church, so do the abused come to believe that they will face the hell of being unloved – and completely unlovable – if they do not do as their abuser says, in everything. Instead of anger when faced with a clearly ridiculous, and harmful, rule, they often feel terror – the terror of imminent loss and rejection, of being replaced by someone else, if they do not do as they are told.
Instead of a healthy, ‘Oh, using the old Sword of Damocles Ploy, are you? Don’t bother: I’m not playing!’ the abused grovel and weep and do anything they can to turn the abuser’s wrath aside, to make those magic words of forgiveness and ‘love’ appear, to be back in the other’s favour.
Now, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I am not intending to become an abuser myself. I do not wish to hold others to ransom in this way, or to demand the impossible in terms of their behaviour in sick exchange for my love. But, by the same token, I am no longer prepared to have anyone offer me the weak skimmed milk of their manipulative ‘love’ in exchange for my unquestioning obedience and reverence.
Yesterday’s post, which made me cry, was an acknowledgement, finally, that some people in our lives harm us; that their influence is malign and that our constant attempts to please them, calm their anger, prove that we are good enough actually backfire because we are feeding into a psychological bottomless pit. Such people never feel that they have enough. No matter how rich they are, they feel that they are on the permanent bread-line and deserve more as their right. No matter how beautiful/handsome and loving/sexy their partners are, this is never good enough: There are always flaws which, until sorted, cause a cooling of the ardour; there are always areas of over-spiritedness, of going against the rules, which need to be crushed and removed from the relationship dynamic. Until the ‘loved’ one has been reduced to little more than a grey and obedient slave, the abusive type is not satisfied – and, of course, once the other’s spirit has been reduced to hopelessness, then the self-proclaimed God figure will complain that the slave never laughs anymore and has stopped showing any sexual enthusiasm!
My boundaries now exclude manipulators, Narcissists and other borderline personality disorder types – and, yes, if necessary, I am quite happy to see a metaphorical Sword of Damocles descend upon their self-satisfied heads! Gaslighters are incapable of love as most of us know it – and giving them our love is unwise at best, dangerous and enormously destructive, even fatal, at worst.
Yesterday’s post represented the start of a very clear stance. I have now, after bitter experience, come to recognise the signs of the Gaslighter – and I am not prepared to entertain the fuckers in the precious rooms of my life. Why should I? I am not a masochist! I have finally seen that I did not deserve to be manipulated in this way; that it was not a flaw in me (other than my empathy and compassion for others) so much as a condition enjoyed by others. And that trying – as I have done for so long – to get these people back as friends/loved ones when they are, once again, punishing me with silence and disapproval, is an act of wanton stupidity and lack of self-respect.
To only love another when that person finally becomes perfect is sad. If I love someone, I am loving who they are – and that includes flaws. But there are some people it is dangerous to give unconditional love to. We all have flaws and imperfections in this life. Most of us are aware of them and make at least a rudimentary attempt at sorting out the most damaging of them. Those who habitually indulge in Gaslighting simply do not care. They recognise flaws, sometimes, but have no interest in, or intention of, changing the way they are because, in their eyes, they are the perfect/enlightened/sorted people and it is others who have to live up to their impossible standards. Besides, it is far more fun, for such people, to play endless mind games than it is to actually have recognisably human relationships!
My capacity for unconditional love, which is huge, no longer embraces life’s Gaslighters!