“Why did you stay?”
“Why didn’t you leave?”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
These are the questions that are fired at a survivor of gaslighting.
So what is gaslighting?
It is one of the most manipulative form of emotional abuse. It is when the victim blames themselves and has lost the faith in their own abilities. It is when you start to question your own ability to make decisions or even think. It is when someone that you are emotionally attached to becomes the person who causes you immense distress and pain.
The victims stay because they genuinely believe that they may be the cause for the distress. They stay because when it comes to someone you trust, it isn’t someone who you’d give up on that easily. They stay longer than they should because it is painful to watch someone that you love and care about (in any form be it friendship, relationship or otherwise) turn into someone that you hate. They stay out of genuine concern for the abuser’s well being.
As for why they don’t leave, it’s because they believe that they wouldn’t be able to make it without their abuser. To put it dramatically, they think that they wouldn’t be able to live without them. They believe (as they have been made to) that they are incapable of doing anything without the abuser.
Sometimes, they don’t leave out of fear of the abuser spreading false information about them or maybe because he/she has threatened to reveal the victim’s weaknesses.
They don’t tell anyone the full extent of damage being inflicted because isn’t it a human tendency to protect the people that you care about? Regardless of the type of behavior, when it comes to someone you trust, you’d tend to be protective of them and wouldn’t want anything that you say to hurt them.
So they don’t tell anyone about this sick form of demagoguery fearing whether they would even be believed or whether they would in turn be questioned about their willingness to submit to the oppressor’s wishes.
How did you let it get so bad?
What people don’t seem to understand is that the changes are so subtly done and the manipulation is so carefully implemented that the victims don’t even know what they’re falling into.
These are people you trust so at first they believe that maybe they have some hidden agenda which would lead to the betterment of themselves when in reality they are falling face flat into an emotional trap.
Then, the victims start questioning the very facts that have been presented to them because the oppressor would have made slight changes to the version of the truth which in turn would result everything being the fault of the victim.
They cut off the attachment with them only when it reaches a point where they have been hurt so badly or the abuser does something so morally wrong that no amount of excuses could pardon their behavior and they run out of instances to defend the manipulator.
This isn’t something that the survivor can “move on” from or just “get over”. It takes time to heal the wounds that have been cast on their minds.
They have been through a mental trauma, an emotional rollercoaster and a psychological assault on their very mind and these aren’t the type of scars that can be healed very soon.
It is a battle with themselves and their mind that follows in their path to recovery.
It is enough to drive anyone to the point of insanity and requires and immense amount of grit and emotional strength on their part to overcome such an ordeal.
These abusers may actually be someone who may have cared for them, or someone who may have been dealing with their own issues in such negative way or just a manipulative piece of shit who cares only themselves and don’t give a damn about how their words and actions have destroyed someone that they may have claimed to care for.
The process of healing is slow and painful. There may or may not be any physical injuries but the degree of hurt that has been cast on their minds takes a different duration for different people depending on the extent of trauma, the support from genuine well-wishers and their own strength.