Do you have a bad habit of gaslighting yourself? Do you tell yourself your trauma wasn't so bad? Or that maybe you had a hand to play in it?
Survivors do a better job of gaslighting themselves than their abusers do. It's one of the reasons it's so hard to accept what happened and heal. Instead of staring their trauma in the face, survivors get trapped in a cycle of downplaying and dismissing it.
In this episode, I'm going to give you my top technique for beating this toxic gaslighting cycle. Stop blaming yourself, stop pretending it didn't happen, and most importantly get yourself out of the Pain Olympics and stop comparing your suffering to others.
By the end of this episode, you're going to learn how I, and others like me, have exited the gaslighting cycle and embraced a reality we can heal within.
Love the podcast? Leave a 5* review on Apple Podcasts. Ready to commit to the next level of transformation? Join my email list to get my best advice. Want to get coached by me? Apply now: www.therealebjohnson.com.
Welcome to the Practical Growth podcast with me, ebi Johnson. Author, nlpmp and cognitive reappraisal coach. This is the podcast created for people like you, people looking for more, more health, more peace, more happiness. Each week, I explore a new topic in pop psychology and help you build a better life and better relationships. Join me for special guests, exciting ideas and practical advice that you can use to improve your life from the inside out. Let's get into it. Hello, hello, hello, my lovelies, and welcome back to another episode of the Practical Growth podcast. It's me, ebi, your favorite writer, your favorite TikTok coach and, most importantly, your favorite NLPMP and cognitive reappraisal specialist. And here I am, back, back, back, with another great episode. Now, I told you guys that we were going to be talking Ruby Frank and there was going to be a guest this week. I misspoke. That is going to be taking place next week. We have a couple of big developments in the case I'm going to be talking about with a guest and I'm very excited to bring to you. But today is actually, I think, an even more important episode, right? Because it's all about growth. It's all about helping you grow and helping you overcome a lot of these big emotional obstacles in your life, of which trauma is usually the root cause, right? Especially those of you listening who have childhood trauma. Maybe your parent was narcissistic or emotionally immature, or you just grew up in a really chaotic environment as a kid. Because what this episode is going to do is it is going to help you with what I find with my clients is one of the biggest hurdles, and that is the gaslighting. We, as trauma survivors especially those with a quote, unquote stiff up or lip tend to gaslight ourselves, and when we do that, we prevent a lot of healing. We create roadblocks in our relationships. There's all kinds of stumbling blocks, hurdles that we kind of create for ourselves emotionally when we gaslight ourselves in terms of our own trauma. So that's what we're going to be talking about today, but, specifically, I'm going to be giving you my secret recipe, my secret formula, the technique that I usually only hand out to my one-on-one clients. Ok, and this technique is going to help you stop gaslighting yourself in terms of your trauma and the feelings that you have, even here in the present moment, and that's so. That's what we're going to do today. That's what we're going to do. We're going to banish the gaslighting, we're going to put that tune in and give you a solid technique that you can use to do that intentionally and consciously in your everyday life. Before we jump in, though, I do just want to make a little bit of a plea and a little bit of a plug. Ok, A little bit of a plea and a little bit of a plug. As most of you probably know because most of you probably found me that way I am a writer on mediumcom. That is where I share a lot of my articles, a lot of my content. I've been extremely fortunate for years now, since 2019, to have that's been my primary source of not only communicating with you guys my fans, my listeners, my followers but that's also been my primary source of income. Unfortunately, due to mediums new direction, new changes that is no longer the case. It's very hard for me to reach anyone there. I've got, basically, I have 33,000 followers unless than 1% of them see my stories, and it's just really hard for me now to reach anyone on the platform. So I have moved most of my original content and my whole library of old content over to substackcom, and I would be extremely grateful if those of you listening could head over to Substack and support me there. There are two options. You can pay $5 a month, just like you would for medium, and that gets you not only new weekly stories but the entire back catalog of my work. Everything I ever posted on medium is over on substack. So you get access to all of that for $5 a month. Plus for that $5 a month, you get extra content from me. So, for example, a couple days ago I sent out a free ebook to all of my premium subscribers on substack. We've got some video series that are going to be coming out soon, with some, you know, some of my coaching tips, tricks and addressing some of the really big topics that you guys struggle with in terms of emotional regulation. There's a lot of goodness there over on substack and that is again, yeah, for $5 a month or $50 a year. I would be eternally grateful for those who can and listen. I know it's rough out there, but for those of you who do have the change in your pockets or the, you know, a little bit spare, if you could head over to substackcom, sign up, support me there. It's really easy to do. You just head to practicalgrowthsubstackcom, hit subscribe and they'll walk you right through the process. You'll start getting my emails every time they come out and you'll get access to the entire back catalog. So if you've got the time, if you've got the means, I would love it if you guys could support me on substack, kind of help me stem the flow of the disastrous changes at medium. I would be very, very grateful. Again, that is practicalgrowthsubstackcom to subscribe and listen. If you don't have the means, I also appreciate you. Go ahead and sign up for a free subscription there. You still get access to some of my articles. They're still send out stuff for my free subscribers because I know how it is and I want my advice, I want my content to be accessible for everybody. So, everybody you know, if you're listening to this, head to practicalgrowthsubstackcom to support me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. All right, let's get into the good stuff, the light stuff, the joyful stuff. Survivors gaslighting themselves after trauma. What am I talking about? What are we going to be talking about today and how can we fix it? Because I'm sure, if you're listening to this, this is a problem that you've had. I'm sure that you have had that moment where you have thought back to something that happened in your childhood and then you quickly snap yourself out of it and go oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, no, no, no, no, it wasn't that bad. Childhood wasn't that bad. It couldn't have been that bad. We have all been there. It's one of the biggest problems. You know, when we talk about healing trauma, a lot of people point to their issues with others. People don't believe me, people gaslight me, the flying monkeys come after me, all that kind of stuff. But when we're healing, we are also one of our biggest obstacles and a lot of it comes down to the way we gaslight ourselves, talk ourselves out of our feelings, dismiss or diminish our experiences and the effect that they had on us. And there's, you know, there's there's a few reasons that this happens. But before you can understand the why, you need to understand the how. So, by and large, this gaslighting is done both subconsciously and consciously, and it's done very subtly as well. When we gaslight ourselves, it's not so much of telling ourselves we're crazy. It's more of absorbing this feeling of shame and then diminishing our feelings, diminishing our experiences, downplaying them and denying the damage, denying the effects that they have had on our current lives or, you know, even our past memories, histories, relationships, whatever it is. You will see yourself doing this, hear yourself doing this, find yourself doing this when you, let's say, think back to a traumatic memory, a traumatic moment in your past or a very upsetting kind of critical crossroads in your childhood or your adolescence, and right when you get to the point of thinking, wow, that's terrible, that other voice kicks in and goes oh no, no, no, it wasn't that bad, it wasn't that bad. And you'll hear yourself downplaying this to people. When you're talking to them Like, for example, I have a tendency of telling stories from my childhood that I don't think are that bad. And as I tell them to especially my British friends they just will get this look of horror on their face, like, oh my God, what are you talking about? And I immediately have to comfort them. Right, I'm comforting them and saying, oh no, no, it wasn't that bad, it wasn't that bad, it wasn't that bad. That is, that is a form of gaslighting ourselves. We think the same way and it's kind of done as a form of comfort, but mostly it's done to as a form of avoidance. Right, we don't want to believe that it was that bad, because then that's a whole other bucket of fish. We have to cry. So why does this happen? Where does this come from? Why do so many of us have this seemingly innate ability to just dismiss our own suffering out of hand? Because you know, again with my clients, you see them, they come to me, they're so full of empathy and I myself, right, I can feel empathy for a pencil. There was a comedian who said that one time Lee, feel empathy for a pencil. If you tell me this pencil's name is Jim, you snap in half. I'm going to be devastated. Very similar to myself. Very similar in my clients. We have huge empathy for others. We have no problem accepting their stories and accepting that they are victims of serious, serious, horrible trauma that shouldn't have happened to them. And then we look at our own stories and we're like, oh, it wasn't that bad. Look at you, you're fine, it wasn't that bad. Why do we do that? Where does that come from? Starts early. For a lot of us, that is a type of conditioning that begins in the home. If your home was anything like mine, you heard things all the time like don't you tell people what happens outside of this house? That is where it starts. That's where the conditioning starts when you have parents who are telling you keep this a secret, or when you have parents telling you it's not that bad, Stop crying, you have nothing to cry about. There are children in China who don't have anything to eat. Stupid comments like that. That's where the conditioning starts. You learn to dismiss and diminish your experiences because as a child that's repeatedly done to you repeatedly Again. If you grew up in a household anything like mine, you felt like an inconvenience more of the time than like a welcome invited guest in the family. That's where it starts. Now, as we grow up, we get away from our families. We find ourselves still doing that. You'll go to work and horrible things will happen at work. You'll take on way more than you should. You'll be talked to horribly by bosses or whatever it is. Maybe your friendships are like that or your romantic relationships go that way and you downplay it. You start downplaying it. Maybe you're in an abusive relationship. Your partner hits you and your friends are like, why what? You're like, oh no, no, no, it's not that bad, it's just a little bruise on my neck or something like that. That continues because of fear and shame. Fear and shame those are the two mechanisms that build from that early conditioning and childhood. You're fearful that if you speak up, it's going to get worse, or that if you speak up, you're going to lose the only way of life that you've now grown uncomfortably comfortable in. And then there's the shame of it all. I let these things happen to me, or I feel shameful for having these emotions, having these thoughts in the first place. So I should just shut up and get on with it. Those are the mechanisms that lead us to continue this pattern of gaslighting ourselves, diminishing it, telling ourselves we're crazy, telling ourselves that we don't have it bad enough to complain, yada, yada, yada, yada yada, which then just keeps us silent, shut down, locked in the pattern, taking up zero space in our own lives. I need to be really, really clear here as well, before I go on to explain kind of my story and how I developed this tactic that will help you stop gaslighting yourself. There is a serious cost if you don't stop this behavior and I don't think I reiterate this enough in these topics that I talk about. It's just kind of like ho, ho, hee, hee. Here's some advice. But I'm being very serious right now If you don't stop gaslighting yourself, if you're someone who tends to do that, who tends to downplay stuff and just act like your problems aren't real problems. You're going to crash and fail. Okay, because you're going to burn yourself out, not only on your own end, just trying to keep your head above water, but you're going to burn yourself out for others because the nasty, controlling, abusive, toxic element, selfish, corrosive people in your life. They will sniff you out from a mile away and they will take advantage of the person who can downplay being wronged over and over and over again. So this comes with a serious cost. If you keep gaslighting yourself, you're going to feel like you're not worthy, like your emotions aren't capable of being dealt with, like you are weak, like you are a failure, like you are anxious, like you are hopeless. That's what you're going to do to yourself In terms of your relationships. You're going to become a doormat to others and that's going to reinforce a cycle of worthlessness, of hopelessness, of poor behaviors, of a wrecked nervous system. So there is a serious cost If you don't start taking action I'm serious taking conscious action to stop thinking this way, to stop allowing yourself to dismiss and diminish your experiences. Okay. So keep that in mind as we move forward. So where do we go? How do we stop this behavior. This is not something that they just teach you openly in classes, right? They don't just hand out this knowledge when you're on an NLP course or a psychology course or anything like that. This is something you have to learn to kind of do on your own, and that's exactly what I had to do. I was probably the queen, the champion of gaslighting myself. I mean, I was an absolute warrior for my mother, basically until she died. Until she died, because I was so good at gaslighting myself, gaslighting myself out of my experiences in the name of her. Every time I spoke to my mother, it was absolutely exhausting. Right, the last three or four years of our relationship, I lived 6,000 miles away in another country. We only spoke on the phone, but we did speak on the phone every day and it was exhausting. It exhausted me every single time, even if we didn't get into a fight which usually there was some kind of disagreement, some kind of fight but it was just negative. She's just a negative person. It was negative all the time, exhausting, exhausting, exhausting Every encounter I had with her. Essentially, I don't have any positive memories with my mother after the age of maybe 8 or 9. She was just an exhaustive, argumentative, corrosive, depressing personality in general, and I gaslit myself. I told myself, all of these terrible experiences that I had with her, all this negativity that she exuded around her, not that bad. It's not that bad. She wasn't hitting me, right. She didn't call me a whore every day, right. She would go and splurge in her shopping addiction and buy me a bunch of random shit at random points in her life. So that was good, right, because sometimes she'd get something you liked, so that made her a good mom, right. I did this for years and years and years, and it wasn't until she died, which I'll be discussing. I've got an article coming out about this, so make sure you're following me on Substax. It's a pretty powerful revelation. It wasn't until after she died that I was able to stop doing this, but it came at a cost and it came with a fight, and it came because I got angry. After she died, I was finally able to look back at specific experiences and as I was looking back at these experiences, I realized like, oh my God, there was no excuse for them. There was no excuse for them. And what was worse is I realized all this time when I was diminishing these experiences, diminishing the way I felt, telling myself I was crazy for having so much disdain for my mother. I realized that I was kind of repeating relationships similar to her around me and making similar excuses for myself and for others in my life, making the same excuses, and it stopped me in my tracks and it's also what has led to this technique that I am about to teach you now. So this technique is essentially my. It's not a Rolodex of hate, as Bianca says, but it's very, very similar. It's a Rolodex of powerful memories. It is a righteous anger, reinforcing memory bank of sorts. Okay, and this is what you are going to use to stop gaslighting yourself, exactly the way I learned to stop gaslighting myself. You ready, if you need a pen and paper this is the point pulling out, let's go. Here we go the tactic that you're going to use, the technique that you're going to use to end this pattern of gaslighting yourself, and we're going to start just with childhood trauma and we're going to build from there. You can use this in terms of romantic relationships, friendships, whatever it is that you're trying to weigh, get the big picture of and figure out the truth about, so that you can stop gaslighting yourself. Here we go Step one, you need to create a memory bank. Create a memory bank so it's really powerful if you feel comfortable doing this in a journal, but you don't have to. It's a kind of meditative process. If that's something that's more comfortable to you, you need to look back at your experiences with this person. So, for me, I looked back at these experiences with my mother, which was the relationship I tended to gaslight myself about most. So I looked back at those experiences. What are the biggest memories that you can remember? Okay, how did they make you feel? I started doing that. I was seeing things like you know, little EB sitting outside by herself, struggling to get the training wheels off of her bike by herself, pedaling up and down a little porch and the winter, cold is raining and gray skies up and down this little porch teaching herself how to ride a bike by herself, running inside by herself to tell her mother how excited she was because she finally taught herself how to ride a bike, and her mother who's just rotting on the couch saying uh-huh, that's great. And going back to watching her. You know her daytime television. So that was a pretty powerful memory that came up right away. I thought let's find some positive memories. Were there any cooking memories? Did she ever teach you how to cook anything? No, were there any memories? Positive memories, like cleaning or going somewhere together or taking a trip together that was good, or a hobby None of those. So what's another one? Maybe she came to a band concert? That would be a positive one. Oh wait, no, she didn't do that. Okay, there's another memory not showing up there. What about when you went to the hospital? Nope, didn't show up there. You see what I'm saying here. You create a memory bank of core times that you know you had an experience with this person that should not have happened. Okay, and as you form this memory bank, this concrete memory bank, you are forming a clearer view of the situation, which will empower you to cut through the gaslighting. Step two if you are using this to stop gaslighting yourself in regards to a toxic relationship or your childhood trauma or narcissistic abuse, then the second step is to leaning into that memory bank, allowing yourself, in little timed bursts, to go back to that place. You need to foment a righteous anger, and this is one of the big things that so many of my clients struggle with, because anger is the number one emotion that you were never allowed to feel growing up as a child, and if you are in a narcissistic family or narcissistic relationships as an adult. Narcissists cannot tolerate anger. They are happy to see you be sad, they are happy to see you be frustrated, they are happy to see you be disappointed, but they will not allow you to be angry, because every narcissist knows that your anger is motivating your anger, is a threat to them, because your anger will motivate you to act against them, to stand up to them, to speak out against them and to, most importantly, leave and strip their power from them. So for you to stop gaslighting yourself, more than just having these memories that you know were shit and shouldn't have happened, you need to actively embrace righteous anger, a sense of there's no effing excuse for that. There's no excuse, there's no justification, and if I haven't gotten justice for it, I'm allowed to be upset about it. I'm allowed to be upset about that little girl who couldn't even get a wow, well done, congratulations, let me see you ride the bike. That little girl's allowed to be angry that her mother didn't care to teach her any skills, to show her any real fundamental form of love outside of her shopping addiction. So you gotta foment this righteous anger. And what I tell my clients a lot is you almost you can imagine it as like a centurion or like a warrior of some type, a soldier that's there to protect you. Your anger exists like any other emotion, exists like your happiness exists when good things happen, like your grief exists when you lose something that's important to you, be it a person or an opportunity. Your anger exists because something around you is not right. Maybe it's your reading of a situation, or maybe it's because something in the environment is truly going against your boundaries, your values, your beliefs, your needs. So you've gotta foment this anger and allow yourself to be in that anger and the understanding of none of that should have happened and it was inexcusable. And when you can hold onto that, that's when you are able to set boundaries and say never again. And at that point of never again we get to number three. You have to start consciously and intentionally countering that gaslighting voice with that anger and those concrete memories that you identified. Every time that voice pops up, you have to consciously, actively confront them. And what I tell my clients, what I tell my readers, what I tell my followers to do, is that gaslighting voice, turn it into a person, imagine it as a person and when it comes up, you need to imagine another person yourself, someone big, brave, courageous, whoever you really respect, confronting that gaslighting voice with that memory and with that anger that you know is righteous, that you know is justified. So in my case, when I have doubts about because it does occasionally still happen when I have doubts about my experiences with my mother, I look back at her sitting on the couch when that little girl was outside, taking off her own training wheels on her bike and peddling up and down a 12 foot porch Probably wasn't even that big Over and over and over again, while cars pass by, while other kids ride by with their families on bikes and I'm freezing in my little cheap gloves and my mother's sitting inside watching Sally Jesse Raphael, I give that memory to that gaslighter voice and say okay, it wasn't that bad. Explain that. Or I tell the gaslighter about the time that my mother found a rock CD she didn't like and so she hit me with a belt until I vomited on myself and I asked the gaslighter how bad it was that. Did you do that to a child? There's usually no response from the gaslighter. They usually shut up at that point. And that's how you have to intentionally counter that gaslighter with that anger and those inexcusable memories, to back that voice of doubt down. Because, make no mistake, that voice is the voice of your abusers. It is the voice of people who wanted you to fail or who wanted you to stay beneath them. It did not come from a good place, so you don't have to treat it well. You need to counter it, you need to shut it up, you need to silence it. There's no making friends with it. You need to shut down that gaslighter inside of you. And that's it in a nutshell. That is my technique. That is my way to counter the gaslighter. You build that concrete memory bank, write it down in a depth journal or whatever you want to call it, the journal of doom. If you can tolerate it, allow yourself to be in that anger and then counter that gaslighting voice with those memories and that anger. Just let that gaslighting voice absolutely have it. I mean, why not? You don't need that voice there. Again, it doesn't come from a good place. It serves no good purpose, save to keep you below somebody or to keep you short of your goals. So don't let it happen. Thank you so so much for listening. Hopefully you've gotten something great from this episode. I hope it inspires you. I hope it motivates you. Next week will be something totally different, but this week this was the message that I felt was really really important to address. So thank you again for listening. Thank you for those who are still supporting me on Medium and TikTok, but, if you could remember, follow me over at substackpracticalgrowthsubstackcom. And for anyone else who's interested, I have a couple of spots opening up for my next round of coaching, which will be starting up in a couple of weeks. So if you want to be a part of that, you've got less than a hundred days left. Basically, by the time this program, the next program, starts, you will have less than a hundred days to the year and then it's the new year. So you can either go in the way you're feeling right now and the stress and the chaos and the exhaustion, or you can work with me. So if you want to do with that, head over to the reallybejohnsoncom, click on Working with Me. And for everyone else, again, follow me on substack and keep your heads up, keep your eyes on the stars and keep moving forward Until next time. Bye, bye.