What Are Negging & Gaslighting? Abuse, That’s What.

Earlier this week, I shared an article about Training Your Partner/How to Start a Relationship off Right and I fittingly, had the opportunity to put Step 5 into practice this week, too (see my final word below).

I had been on a few dates with someone and there were red flags that I noticed but chose to ignore in the name of being mature and responsible and giving this person the benefit of the doubt. Once I followed my own advice, Steps 1-4, it was most definitely time for Step 5. Why? Because he was exhibiting abusive behavior. It was subtle, sneaky. I didn’t really see it happening. He was a fun and pleasant person, and I genuinely enjoyed his company. But in the midst of our good time, he would insult me and challenge me so regularly, I started to feel inadequate. And then I realized why: I was allowing myself to endure abuse.

Finally, there are names for these patterns. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s time to learn, look and listen. Equip yourself and be aware: This. Is. Abuse.


NEGGING

Negging is that tricky subtle negative garbage that is intended to knock down your confidence just enough so that you’ll be more <air quotes> approachable. The Neg-slinger hopes to pique your interest for being seemingly so disinterested with you that they treat you as if you’re nothing special. AKA passive aggressive insults. AKA bullying.

In this article, where negging is introduced as a pick-up method complete with tips and tricks for using the best neg at the best time to get the girl you want, the author also warns against using the negging <air quotes>“technique” inappropriately, where is comes out as an actual insult. Well guess what, it is an actual insult. Negging is bullying. Negs are passive aggressive self-esteem-crushing blows no matter how you want to define and refine it. Negging is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Do not put up with it.

Some that I heard recently:

“Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

“Omigod, I can’t believe you’re not wearing tights. That dress is so short. Aren’t you cold?”

“Three kids, huh? What’d the third one do walk outta there?”

“Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

Please imagine my face in response. There were no words. <Negger, please.>

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GASLIGHTING

Have you ever been made to feel like you don’t remember things correctly, or your judgement is off, or that you’re just plain going crazy? Yes, that’s a thing. That’s an abuse thing. It’s called gaslighting. Gaslighting is when your abuser makes you question your own sanity.

“Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term has been used in clinical and research literature.” (Wikipedia)

“Wow, you totally made that up.”

Unfortunately, gaslighting and negging can go hand in hand. Because in the context where you might actually stand up for yourself against a neg, a gaslighter might say:

“Wow, you totally made that up.”
“You’re just too sensitive.”
“I’ll talk to you when you’re not PMSing.”

No, a-hole you need to stop being a jerk. It’s not me. It’s you. I’m not internalizing things incorrectly; you are saying hurtful things and you need to stop.

Gaslighting is a high-stakes mind-game for control of your emotional and psychological dependence. Be aware. Your experience, perception, and opinions are all valid, especially when you feel hurt.
Emotional abuse is brutal. It peels back your skin and digs its nails into your most vulnerable places. It’s an infection that seeps into your soul, telling you there’s something wrong with you; you’re not good enough; you’re a disappointment; no one wants you. Emotional abuse speaks life into whatever your self-defeating thoughts are. It crumbles you from the inside out, ultimately making you fully dependent upon the abuser as you fight for their approval. But it will never come. You will bend over to satisfy them, but they are insatiable. You’ll fear the same rejection by a stranger so you want to stay where its comfortable. At least you have someone right?

Wrong.

Be strong, be confident. Even if you have to do it alone. You deserve to be happy, comfortable and fully accepted by yourself as well as in your relationships. If someone isn’t making you feel seen, loved and valued, then you deserve better.

So, here’s what I sent to my once-gentleman caller after I had certainly endured quite enough of both his negging and gaslighting:

I just listened to your message. Let me be clear that I am not now and was not Friday riled up, angry, or upset; nor have I overreacted. I am very calm and matter-of-fact. I know what kind of man I want to share my time with and energy on and you have simply shown that you are not that man. Plain and simple.
We are not married. I am not obligated to keep company with someone who has imposed negative critique on both my physical figure and my home in addition to continually taking a teacher/preacher tone with me as if I need to learn lessons in patience, wisdom, confidence and my family relationships. I have the right not to entertain a relationship where I do not feel fully accepted and cared-for as-is. I do not need to be coached/changed/fixed/improved/educated and if I do I will take the initiative myself, not because you told me to.
I appreciate your effort after the fact, but I cannot trust words, only the actions you have shown me and what you have shown me is that you want to be with someone tidier, more physically fit, and willing to be lectured. I am not that person. I am quite comfortable in my skin and in my apartment and I am mature enough to handle my own relationships and decisions without you imposing unsolicited advice.
In your next relationship I do hope you do not imply her body or home need improvement. Most women will not respond well to that or as mildly as I have. Also, thank you but no thank you for dinner. If you’ve already got one foot in DC, I really don’t see the point even if you managed to stop casually insulting me on a regular basis. I’m certain there is someone that is a better fit for you as I am sure there is for me as well. Good luck.

AND SCENE. Do not settle. Be strong. Advocate for yourself. It is much better to be alone and healthy and happy, than in a relationship that is defeating and miserable.

~OR

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Winter Storm Octavia (pt II)

*flashback*

So there’s this guy.

We’ll call him Nameless. Nameless because I literally stopped writing just before that last sentence and spent 15 minutes trying to think of an appropriate pseudonym, but nothing worked. He just is. He’s a confusingly attractive person; an author, a sort of introvert, an artist, a tech geek, a well-read intellectual snob, a phenomenal car-singer, a time-stopper…and just…cozy. But he’s wonderful and one of my favorite people on the planet. Anyway, last year, Nameless told me, “you’re like… a fat girl…”

I wanted to punch him. Once for me, and about 80 more times for all the big beautiful ladies out there.

But I let him continue, “No, you’re not fat but you’re like one of those insecure women that just want to be touched, or loved, or noticed. When I hug you, you react like you haven’t been hugged in years.”

That stung. It was kinda true.

It took me this long – yes, a full Earth’s rotation of the sun – to see it. I’ve been starving for unconditional companionship. The kind where I am accepted for all my goof, SNL-host wannabe-ness, full-sleeve tattoo dreams, dredlocks, quirks, wild ambitions and nerdish tendencies.

enlightened

I looked (and still do) for it from my mother. Fail. My father. Extra fail. My husband. Super fail. And now I had been trying to make up for lost time by this sort of speed dating, desperately seeking connection to another human. Epic fail. Ok, not-so epic fail; oddly enough it has been incredibly healing in many ways.

As a mother, my most passionate task is to always exhibit to my boys the no-strings-attached agape-love I never received.

It is also my job to love myself unconditionally and treat myself like a great prize to be won. My job. Mine. Just learned that. That right there. That’s the moral.

I’ve said comically before, screw this, I’ll date myself. But really. Truly. I need to date myself. I need to love myself first. I need to be my own hero.

Fine. Whatever.

So, here’s my storm: I’m going to tell my own story. Not just glamorize ridiculous past dates like I have been. But really tell my story. All of it. From the beginning. From my mother teaching me to pinch my nose when I was four years old so it wouldn’t get too wide, to never feeling thin enough to be on national television in a bikini; from my father never being around to having my husband tell me I look ridiculous and need to be more like Michelle Obama. I have a voice that needs to be heard. It is not meant to shame or embarrass; it is meant to inspire, empower and heal — not just myself, but others. There are many sides to every story, and I’m not ashamed of mine anymore.

It is called Eighty-Five Cents, and I hope to complete it in 2015.

It took my life getting wrecked, me ignoring my calling, my life getting second-wrecked, and me being willing to be an open book for me to really be ready to love me, let go of the hurt, and realize that I’m not the only normal person out there struggling to acknowledge their own value in this world.

I know it’s a little cheesy to end on the Frozen note, but really…have you actually listened to these words?

The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.

It’s time to see what I can do

Test the limits and break through.

No right. No wrong.

No rules for me. I’m free.

I’m one with the earth and sky.

You’ll never see me cry.

Here I stand.

And here I’ll stay.

I’ll rise like the break of dawn.

That perfect girl is gone.

Let the storm rage on.

~ OR

Winter Storm Octavia (pt I)

So I took a few days off. Actually, several weeks. I had a huge weight on my heart. No, maybe weight is the wrong word. Weight sounds too negative. More like a burden. Wait, that sounds negative too, but burden is more appropriate than weight. So burden as in duty; a job you know you need to do but you kind of put it off. Kinda like laundry. But more earth-shattering and time-bending.

(Disclaimer: all this rambling is a glimpse into my churning thoughts. I obviously haven’t weeded through all the overgrowth yet, but believe it or not, this is clearer than the weight had been back in January.)

Ok, so back to this non-negative burden: it was like a balloon that was filled too full. It is like a balloon. A growing storm inside. Yeah that’s right. And it materialized.

winter storm octavia

(No, really. There is a winter storm named Octavia that is shaking up the nation. And yes, I feel like Elsa from Frozen. [commence possibly obnoxious “Let it Go” references])

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside. Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried.

I’m just finally facing it. Embracing it. Going into it, fearful, but yes, willing to face it.

What is it?

It is a story. Yes, another one. But not a fantasy novel where I am the superhero I always wanted to be. It is a real story. The story of a girl that was – dare I say it—emotionally warped. A girl that never felt her own value or worth and continued to cling to people that fed the self-depreciation. My own truth is incredibly terrifying for me to own.

While I received very clear instructions from God-Universe-Energy-of-the-World that this story needs to be told, I retreated. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to expose myself.

Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know.

I didn’t want to feel the wrath of people that will undoubtedly be offended. I needed silence. I continued to pray, meditate and ask for clarity.

A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen.

Why? Because I was certain the story wasn’t the answer. I knew I was just hearing it wrong. I ignored the calling. I asked for even more clarity.

“Dear Universe, please clarify…because I know you don’t really want me to do what I know you just told me to do, so I must have misunderstood you. Try again.”

That was stupid.

Because I got the reality check of a lifetime. I made a bad decision. One giant awful life-smacking decision. I once again let another person into my circle that would not treat me the way I should have been treated.

Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I need logical, commonsensical outside-me to tell me-me when we-we are being stupid. But hindsight is 20/20 and this is the last time I accept the role of The Fool.

So my life got temporarily wrecked. Again.

As I was stubbornly ignoring the nagging on my heart, (which I’ve been ignoring for several years… I’ll get to that part later. Don’t let me forget about The Ladies Sent By God) I decided to reconnect with friend from my past.

This guy – we’ll call him The Wreck (he’s a professional musician and while I’d like to call him The Singer, I don’t want to confuse him with the other singers I’ve gone on dates with that might appear on this Road, –what I have a thing for musicians! ((swoon)) — so for disambiguation, this musician shall be known as The Wreck) – is NEVER free on weekends. But the one weekend he was free happened to be the weekend of a very big party that I badly wanted a date for.

Sidebar – I LOVE parties. I LOVE having dates to parties. I’m sure this is another lingering symptom of being a wallflower all my life, so when I have a chance to bring a date and not go stag to anything, I jump on it. I thought marriage would have solved that, but I went stag to as many events during my marriage as I did single – again, another nother story.

So I say, great! – I’ll bring my long-lost friend to this party, and we shall reconnect and it shall be grand. Well there were numerous red flags along the way that I chose to ignore. Why? DENIAL. With a hint of naivety.

While I’m expecting a fun weekend with an old friend, The Wreck had other plans. I will spare the details for both his dignity and my own. Nothing criminal happened, but long story short, it was the closest I’ve ever felt to being violated in many ways. One violation is more than enough. But this was jarring on many planes of energy.

Yes, I kicked him out. No, I haven’t spoken to him since. And no I haven’t slept in my bedroom since I sang “To the Left, to the Left.” There is an aftertaste in my room that I will deal with…later… until then, I’m blessed to have a very comfortable couch.

But!

I can name my illness now. Denial.

I have been in denial about myself for…ever… Denial about my intelligence. Denial about my strength. Denial about my dancing ability. Denial about my musical talent. Denial about my worth. Denial about my beauty. Denial about my purpose. Denial that a guy from my past really wants to visit to “catch up.”

Denial about my everything. I never felt worthy. I always settled. Not only have I never felt successful, I never felt success was for me. I felt goosepimply fairytale love was not for me. So made exceptions. I felt like I should just take whatever I can get because why should I want or expect better. I’m black. I’m ugly. I have a fat ass. I’m short. I’m not the smartest. Or the prettiest. Or the funniest. Or the most artistic. Or the most disciplined. And I have weird name.  A name that is now, so fittingly, a storm.

Black Elsa

…to be continued…

~OR