From Gas-light to Go

Gas-lighting. Have you heard of this?

I read an article last week that brought it to my attention and I have been thinking about it ever since. The term was made popular by a 1938 play, Gas Light, which was later made into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. Guess what we’ll be watching soon.

Here’s the gist- it is a form of mental abuse in which a narcissist manipulates situations (dimming the gas lights) to disorient and confuse their victim by lying, denying, or changing information (no, the lights are just as bright) so that the victim questions their perception, memory, and ultimately, their sanity. It is about gaining control and keeping people in their place. Under their thumb. Quiet. Small. Insignificant.

I can think of a figure or two that have walked through my history with behaviors that could reflect this. One was even in a professional setting- how unfortunate and potentially dangerous.

But what this REALLY makes me think of (thanks to Brené Brown, of course)- is shame and fear. If you are unfamiliar with Brené’s work, watch this. Then, this. Then read all of these. Seriously. Then thank me. 😉

Anyway, I have learned that shame/fear is the voice that- when you are embarking on something new, deciding to teach something in an innovative way, or following your gut to challenge the norm- whispers (or shouts) things like, “what makes you so special to be an outlier?” “What makes you think you can teach this is a new way and not the way technique has been taught for hundreds of years?” or “What makes you think YOU are the person to lead?” I could go on, and on, and on. But it comes to this, my mind is playing tricks- to keep me in my place, to keep me small.

I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t go through this.

Usually, this is my own voice. For a while it was the voice of the gas-lighting person I worked with, even though it was the look on their face and their sneaky actions that did most of the talking. Regardless of the sound of the voice, when I am able to label it as fear or shame (Literally, stopping and thinking or saying, “this is fear”). I can let it pass. (Thank you Jon Kabat-Zinn).

When I accept not all of my thoughts are truth, I am able to produce again. To take the risk, to teach in an innovative way, to be an outlier of the norms that hold us back. To write. To move. To get back to who I really am and the reason I do what I do.

Are you?