The word abuse. It can be more than physical. In fact, it doesn’t have to be physical at all. Emotional abuse is a reality that traumatizes the person at the receiving end. I know it all too well. Gaslighting in relationships is a form of emotional abuse. Talking more about this topic today is domestic violence survivor and author of The Glass Angel, Christina Foxwell.
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Guest post from author Christina Foxwell
Healthy relationships should be a safe space where we can find sustenance, growth, and joy from being together. Yet gaslighting can creep into the sacred space of connection, honesty, and personal ownership.
Years ago, I didn’t realize I was in a relationship where gaslighting was used to manipulate and control my thinking and, most notably, my feelings of self-worth and trust in myself. I survived mental abuse that impacted my ability to choose myself, make healthy decisions and navigate my life.
Now, many years later, after much focus on healing my mind and now my body, I am a transformation coach supporting others through the journey of healing, boundaries, and living their best life both in business and in their day-to-day thinking and practices.
I would like you to consider if you are experiencing this form of abuse and how you can rebuild your trust in yourself and heal. Let’s start by defining Gaslighting.
What is gaslighting in relationships?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation (power and control) in abusive and control-based relationships. It’s a form of abuse where the person being gaslighted starts questioning their sanity, judgement, and most importantly, their worth.
It felt like I was living a reality that seemed very different from my abusive partner’s version. I was told:
- Believe what you want to believe; you must be crazy
- You imagine things
- I am only joking when I say you are fat, coloured, lazy, and unattractive
- You made me so angry … You deserve how I am treating you; why don’t you follow the rules I have created for you!
- Why can’t you take a joke?
- That never happened…
- I never did that; they are only trying to hurt you by telling you…
The worst part of gaslighting is that even with evidence-based facts, they still deny their part, and somehow you are to blame for bringing it up or even daring to challenge them with the “truth”. You are convinced you need to believe them to stay out of conflict and keep the peace.
I was punished through being ignored and with anger-fuelled behaviours that made me feel unsafe. I said sorry all the time, and I sometimes still do when I feel uncertain or unsafe.
Lack of self-trust
The confusion and fear we experience erode our ability to trust ourselves, ask for help (because is our reality even happening?), take positive action to leave, set boundaries or even use our voice. Gaslighting erodes worthiness; worthiness is my ability to know that I am good enough for love and belonging.
Gaslighting teaches us to negotiate and trade our worth and to hand over our power to another. If we don’t stop the worthiness trade, we will eventually not know who we are, what we need, and how we feel and will become a disempowered, fearful and deeply scarred version of ourselves.
The good news is that we can heal and be free; it takes courage to choose ME because I am good enough. It’s time to be free.
About today’s writer on gaslighting in relationships
Christina Foxwell life’s journey began in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and ultimately landed her in Sydney, Australia. The road to where she is now was paved with hardships and turmoil. She experienced domestic violence, PTSD, and divorce before she found a path to healing and building a life of gratitude, forgiveness, and love.
Foxwell is the founder of Ignite Purpose, where over the past decade, she has supported leaders in their navigation of their teams and helped people find their purpose and flow. This has led to her support them in their own life-changing journeys to follow their passions, transform their lives, and grow into the people they were always meant to be.
With over 20 years, experience in HR, recruitment, consulting, training, coaching and executive leadership she realized that there was a missed opportunity in people and organizations and the gap between people and performance. She now coaches executive teams, CEO’s, and leaders and team to develop their growth and impact their cultures and performance.
Foxwell is the author of three books. Her first two works are children’s books on emotional intelligence, The adventures of Oscar the Pufferfish: Owning my “pop” and The Story of Astra the Unicorn finding Her Belonging. Her latest book, The Glass Angel, is a powerful look into transformation change and perseverance.