Into the light
But reality states it's never as simple as that. The abuse from people we trust begins very softly, very subtly, and goes on for a while without us knowing what it is, and then that subtle abuse begins to erode our beings little by little. The destruction lies on the psychological plane, barely detectable yet potent nevertheless. So we hold on, unaware that we are being destroyed.
Sometimes we call this “gas lighting” or “gaslighting,” a throwback to the 1938 British play Gas Light.
The play is set in the foggy London of the late 1800s, and in it, the evil husband secretly spends time at night in the apartment above theirs, carrying a gaslight, to search for the hidden jewels of a wealthy woman who used to live there but was murdered for them. His wife starts to notice this, and to allay her suspicions, he gradually makes her believe that she is losing her mind. After all, just because you see it happening doesn’t mean that it’s really happening. You must be only imagining things.
And that’s precisely the end-goal of abusers. They want us to think and believe that the evil they are doing to us is not evil, that we deserve to be treated that way, because we are not worthy of being treated with respect and love. They tell us no one will listen to us if we tell someone else about it. They tell us other people will just laugh at us and think we are stupid for making up things. They gradually erode our self-esteem and self-respect for days, months, years, in the guise of love, until we are left with almost nothing.
By the time the abuse becomes greater and more obvious and starts to get physical, we have already been rendered weak and unable to fight back. This is why abuse usually goes on for years. This is why abused people can't just walk away: we have already been destroyed even before we had any idea we were being destroyed. We were slowly, gently backed into the shadows and taught that we were still under bright lighting. Some abuse victims never emerge from these shadows into true, real light.
I have. At first the light was blinding, and I was terrified. I thought my skin would catch fire from the light and my entire body would burn because I was not meant to be there. I closed my eyes and covered my face, afraid and ashamed. I felt unworthy to be in the light. But after a while, when I actually did not burn, I removed my hands from my face and opened my eyes, and I started to see the truth. The terrifying feelings gradually went away. It took a while, but I eventually started loving myself again. I started living again. Here’s what abuse has taught me: truth is always stronger than my frailty.
[Image credits: 1, 2]