Hello Universe

Gaslighting and the Single Girl

by Aurora Starr

I spend way too much time observing others. It’s both a curse and a gift. I’m certain this activity could be pathologized in some way, given the right psychiatrist on the wrong day. “A maladaptive attempt to give her boredom an outlet…Does not play well with others or reality.” Not that I could actually do anything productive with my annotations other than voice them on occasion with the readers of this blog. However, I do think there is value in being able to read others well, even for the sake of feeding my maladaptive daydreaming disorder (I’m not certain that’s even a thing, but I’m sure it will be).

Gaslighting 101

So color me mystified that in spite of my best observations and guardedness a full-time gaslighter recently managed to seep into my personal life. I’m certain you know at least one of these toxic jackasses, who is probably within throwing distance now as you read this (not that I’m advocating violence), but just in case here are a few general things to be aware of when dealing with someone who gaslights for a living:

  • The only time they are not lying is when their mouths are shut or they are not typing a text.
  • They lie to others on your behalf. Then they make you think that the lie originated with you.
  • Their mistakes, poor choices or problems are now yours.
  • They manipulate your feelings and thoughts.
  • They shut you out, cast doubt on you, and minimize your feelings when they are approached.
  • Their recall of events is dramatically different than yours and your recall is then questioned.
  • You grow increasingly anxious and depressed when thinking about this person.
  • They will not own any of these traits, characteristics or behaviors. It’s someone else’s fault.

To anyone who has experienced this type of person or persons, I’m sorry.

You deserve better. If you have someone in your life who gaslights, lose this person as quickly as possible before you lose yourself. Now let’s talk about the term itself. I’m not a mental health professional because, well, I’m not. It’s not my calling. However, when you think about it, someone who “gaslights” would have been called a manipulative, lying asshole some years ago before everything needed a diagnostic code or reframed in a way that was appealing and lucrative to a mass of pharmaceutical companies and researchers. My point is this, gaslighting or any of the so-called Personality Disorders are pure hokum and just shitty science. I’ m not going to substantiate that claim here. I don’t have to. Go research it yourself.

Hold your letters and pitchforks, please.

I’m not suggesting that all mental health issues are hogwash, but I know enough to tell you that the American Psychiatric Association has created a self-perpetuating, self-serving category of “disorders” for personality types. A few of these include Nacassitic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Obsessive Personality Disorder. It would seem that these traits and characteristics are rolled together in a gray area where psychiatry and psychology lose all their credibility. Medications and most behavior modification for a personality disorder are useless and again continue the belief that everything must be explained away by science, even being a manipulative jerk. There are people out there hurting. They have real problems. Focusing on personality disorders or researching “gaslighters” takes time and funding away from the work that needs to be done in the areas of depression, schizophrenia, trauma and anxiety, just to name a few. You know, real stuff? Not a disorder to allow a selfish (insert your own colorful metaphor here) off the hook. Can we please all agree that not every person needs to be defined by some sort of pathology?

Regarding my recent encounter with someone who gaslights? She knows who she is, and I hope that someday she will want to change. I doubt it though. I cut her from my life completely. Insight comes through self-exploration and an ability to take responsibility for my actions. Awareness doesn’t grow on trees or come in pill form, but it does help if my life has meaning beyond hurting others as way to validate my existence. If my being is dependent on how well I spin my narrative then it’s time to rethink who I am.

Shine bright,

Hello Universe

Shadow, Light and Latte

by Aurora Starr

Sitting in the coffee shop I watched with fixed curiosity as a thirty-something woman entered from the rain-soaked sidewalk.  Her choice of attire; a colorful skirt and solid blouse with smartly matched leggings and subtle make-up simply shrieked of someone who was poised and full of purpose. As she carefully ordered some variation of a flat white, caramel, green tea infused what-the-fuckuccino I took note of her face. Was she rushed? Flustered? Indecisive? No, shit, she looked beautiful and confident, didn’t she? One might even say that she appeared to be brimming with self-assurance. I quickly adjusted my sweater, smoothed out my skirt and then thought about shifting my attitude.

Mean Girl – Table for One

My thoughts can quickly leap from that of cool, calm Zen goddess to the founder and CEO of Imposter, Inc. Self-sabotage is something that I’m sure most women and girls are familiar with, but we rarely talk about it. Yet, the inner-mean girl seems to always be waiting just on the other side of the locker room and she is not happy. How am I certain of that? Well, if my thoughts suddenly shift to, “There are people far better and more talented than you. Life comes to them naturally and everything for you is a struggle. You’re going to fail so why even try?” then I know I am committing self-sabotage.  My personal favorite from the Mean Girl Greatest Hits Compilation, “Who do you think you are? Don’t be too happy. You lucked out and people will see through you soon enough.

The Great Pretender

What I just described is known as impostor syndrome and it is produced by feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, insecurity, and devaluation of self. In fact, even high-achievers often fear being exposed as frauds. It can occur when trying something new or even when doing something familiar. It is a constant threat of “being exposed” on a professional and/or personal level as a con-artist, and a belief and bias that most of what you do is all about the timing and people will find out.

Self-awareness can be a frustrating quality to possess. I know these things, but what do I do with them? Talk to a friend, a therapist, a priest? What good will any of that do? Then the light-bulb goes off, no amount of thinking will change anything. I’m caught in the same self-defeating, help blocking loop that brings me full circle when it comes to self-sabotage. Something must change, and I’m the only one with any control over that realization.

I am not an impostor or a fraud. I am here because I’ve worked for it. There will always be others doing it better than me, but there’s only one me. Period. I have a voice that is my own, and I want to share it with the world. It’s not about being selfish or egocentric. It’s about affirming my right to be alive and engage with others in a meaningful and helpful way. Doubting my self-worth will do little to help.

Now if this is beginning to sound like one of those self-help books or seminars, let me save you the trouble. Stop reading. I won’t mind, really. I am the first one to call bullshit on all the women and men who profess to have the answers to life and happiness and peddle their reality as truth and common sense as some sort of universal awakening.

Being Perfect in My Imperfections

When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and goals that are based on what we think others want then we are drafting the blueprints for self-sabotage. Instead, begin to focus on the value of what you’re doing rather than how you’re doing it. In other words, determined action is far better than perfection. Ask yourself, what value can you find in the things you do? And don’t compare yourself with others, especially on social media. Those outlets are little more than masturbation, fun for a moment, but not a substitute for a real face-to-face encounter.

Allow for the time to honor and take inventory of your professional and personal achievements without shrinking away in self-deprecating negative talk or minimizing your efforts. Again, there will always be someone, smarter, richer, prettier and more talented, but that shouldn’t stop you from being a creative beast and contributing your efforts to the world. Big or small, your accomplishments and hard work count. Be proud – smile and say thank you when you are recognized for an accomplishment. Above all, own it.

Our life journey should not be one based on comparison. It really is not a competition. I am no better or worse than the person next to me. Our life situations are different, and we are unique, but we are no better or worse by comparison. It’s all relative.

As for the woman in the coffee shop? I watched her exit as composed as she had entered, quickly hailed a cab and made her way into the rainy cityscape. I wished her the best on her journey and then wished the same for myself.

Shine bright,