Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Do Not Let Them Gaslight You

That should be the title of this Shel Silverstein poem, because that's really what it's really saying in simple, straightforward words. It's advice that any child can understand, but that so many adults, myself included, have trouble following.

Technically, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which another person makes you doubt reality and your own sanity. I'm using the term more loosely, to include situations in which you doubt yourself because of the way you feel others are perceiving you, or because you're simply too willing to defer to someone else's judgment or society's expectations. And it makes you feel unmoored and crazy.

Today I had an emotionally draining day for various reasons. I decided to call a friend. One I've known for years and see often, but don't feel like I spend as much time with as I would like. I cried a little bit as I told her how special she was to me. The "voice" told me that it is important, when you have those thoughts, to share them, although we rarely do. Society wants us to wait for weddings and funerals to say how we feel about each other, but really there's never a better time than the moment it occurs to you to tell someone you love them.

The same is true, I think, of drawing boundaries to preserve your own sanity and self-respect. Even at almost 39, I have a hard time doing that. I am often too quick to accept things and situations that feel wrong to me, and then I don't do anything about it until something inside me breaks. I gaslight myself, in a way, by constantly elevating the judgment, actions, and opinions of others, in all kinds of situations, over my own.

Shel Silverstein had a knack for subtle, accessible profundity. This is a great poem that reminds you not to let the world gaslight you, and not to gaslight yourself, either. 

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