“You’re right. I’m the absolute worst. I don’t even understand why you’re with me.”
Have you heard this, or some version of it, before? If yes, you’re not alone.
This is what I refer to as “Chronic Victimhood” and it’s one of the most powerful, invasive forms of gaslighting.
If you’ve experienced an abusive relationship, I’m about 99% positive you’ve heard this before.
Why do I bring this up?
Because this is so invasive and manipulative that it eats at your very soul. We often don’t think of it as gaslighting because it pierces our hearts.
This teaches us that we need to walk on eggshells around other people and that we’re absolutely horrible people who’s feelings inconvenience other people.
We have internalized this and made this our way of living our way of existing because we want to make sure we don’t make anyone else uncomfortable. Their discomfort means we’re uncomfortable and we just can’t have that. You know what, boo, I can tell you right now, you deserve so much better.
What is gaslighting?
Check out this post for a deep dive. But as a brief overview:
Gaslighting is when someone manipulates you into thinking that your own thoughts, feelings, reactions are wrong. This is done because they want you to put them above you and their feelings above yours.
It is one of the first things the abuser will do. Before they can mess with you any other way they have to get in your head. If they can gaslight you into thinking that your thoughts, feelings, emotions and reactions are wrong it’s much easier to do whatever else they want to do.
This has become a major trigger for me now.
I not only grew up with it but heard it in every single abusive relationship that I was in. Even when things happened when I was six and seven years old, this was the response that I was given by speaking up and by saying, hey, you hurt me. It was an automatic switch flip: Oh my gosh, you’re right. I’m just horrible. You shouldn’t be with me. I’m the worst. I should just kill myself.
Our response? “Oh my gosh, that’s not what I meant. You’re right, I shouldn’t have said anything. I should’ve just left it alone. I’m the problem. Please don’t talk like that.”
And what does this do? Pulls all the attention off of us and what we were trying to communicate. It puts all the attention on them. This teaches us that asking for respect is disrespectful.
I am here to tell you that that is just not true.
What do we do now?
The response really does vary depending on your situation. It is not always safe for you to speak out, to speak back, or to even basically communicate because it may end up getting you physically hurt.
This is really, really important because abusive relationships vary all the way from completely non physical to being very physical. I personally know people who are no longer here because of physical abuse.
If it is not safe for you to do so, don’t respond. If you hear this and something clicks, that’s a sign that the situation you’re in needs to change. It’s time for you to get out and move forward. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s time.
Honestly, the best response is no response. They can’t use anything against you. You’re not agreeing, you’re not disagreeing, and you can truly just walk away.
This was something that I learned to do from a very young age. And, frankly, something I should have done more often, I was sick and tired of having my life controlled instead of having any control over it. So my mouth got the better of me more often than not, and I talked myself into some situations that never ended well. But if you can manage no response, that’s the best response.
While it may seem like no response is a safe thing to do, even in a physically abusive dynamic, no response can cause them to lash out and have a temper tantrum. Just like a three year old will throw himself on the floor in the grocery store over some cookies, a grown adult will do the same thing. The downside here is that the grown adult isn’t gonna kick and scream on the floor, they’re gonna take it out on you.
There is no single response that’s going to work in this situation. While that may seem depressing, “like, well, Karleigh, where are you telling me that if I can’t do anything about it?”
Awareness is the first step to healing.
So if you’re hearing this and going, “Wait a second, I relate to that.”
“Wait a second, that happened to me.”
That can be the thing that helps you to recognize and burst that bubble.
What I mean is that if you’re not aware that this has happened, you may not even recognize that you’re still being run by your abuser. You’re living your life according to the way they wanted you to live your life months, years, decades after they’re no longer in it.
Awareness is the first step to freedom.
If you’re no longer in this situation, but you relate to it, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I didn’t recognize until just a couple of years ago that chronic victimization was a big reason why I struggle to communicate how I feel. I’ve come a really, really long way and I am incredibly proud of myself.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s a one and done and I never have to address this again.
Recognizing that this has harmed me, has changed my brain, and planted a seed of fear of communication is really important to recognize.
If I didn’t know that’s what was going on, I wouldn’t have the platform that I do because I’d be living in that fear.
Whether you’re in the relationship, or you’re no longer in the relationship, I want you to know that I am incredibly proud of you.
And I truly hope that you are proud of yourself.
This is not easy. Just the fact that you clicked on this and you’re reading it right now, that is already a major sign that you know that you’ve got healing to do and you want to move forward. That’s a step that 99% of the world ain’t going to take so I want you to recognize just how amazing you are and how proud of you I am because you’re taking that next step.
If you’re wanting to move forward but don’t know where to start on your healing journey, check out this playlist on my YouTube channel. I’ve included everything here to jumpstart your healing journey.