Gaslighting has become a bit of a millenial buzz word, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
I think a lot of people don’t really understand what it means, what it looks like, why it matters, why it’s so hard to deal with, how it relates to wider abuse – or even if it’s actually happening to them or someone they know.
And it’s not just about personal relationships, it’s bigger. It’s about politics, women’s rights, #metoo, and more…
And sometimes when something is big and complicated and hard and I’ve been trying to sort it out in my head for a long time it comes out as a poem.
And that’s not always a good thing, because they can be harder for people to connect with, but if you’ve ever wondered what gaslighting sounds like or feels like then maybe this will help.
Thanks to all the women on this page, and in personal messages, who have shared their stories with me. You’ve certainly helped me.
The Gas Light
when it’s lit, you don’t notice
a fire sitting under a potted frog
did you forget again? silly
it doesn’t illuminate, it obscures
sucking up light and clarity
consuming your spark and turning it dark against you –
but that didn’t happen, I never said that
the gas starts invisible, odourless but poisonous
a mist of missed marks, misunderstandings, mistakes, failed tests,
that’s okay, I forgive you
the canary sent in ahead is long dead
and a colour you second guess yourself used to be yellow
but now can’t be sure if you saw it at all,
because you’re being over sensitive
and maybe the red of the red flags is just menstrual,
are you on your period or something?
you’re overwrought, did you take your pills?
you need to chill
because up is down and down is up
and black and white come in stripes of static
and logic defies gravity but you are always wrong, somehow,
and everybody thinks you’ve lost the plot
I cannot deal with you when you get like this
it’s not normal
beginnings and middles and ends and causes and effects get muddled,
and you’re falling
down the gap between words and actions and stories and evidence,
and at the bottom of the trap are spikes
you’re talking crap, I’m the one being reasonable
you’re behaving like a fucking terrorist
because beneath the gaslight smoke are mirrors –
no, you’re controlling, YOU abuse ME
look you’re gaslighting me, now, can’t you see that?
and you can’t see so you close your eyes to clear them
but it’s the only peace you’re allowed
and you’re so tired maybe you should just keep them shut,
like your mouth,
you’re being paranoid you need to get a grip
are you thick? don’t be ridiculous
and as the gas light turns up things just get dimmer, diminished,
no one else would put up with you
you’d be nothing without me – less –
and maybe, maybe nothingness would feel like relief
and it scales all around you blocking escape
I grabbed her by the pussy but that’s not assault it’s your fault I’m like this
and 350 million lies on a bus means nothing don’t fuss,
look at me I’m a good guy, I’m trying here, it’s you
and what do you do if everywhere bare-faced truth isn’t true
and alternative facts before your eyes are/aren’t presented as lies
and in the eyes of the beholder, bolder is realer than real
and swagger sways, pays well, and steals actuality
and whatever you feel is a betrayal, a pale imitation of you
that will always lose but you’re the one that’s confused
an unreliable witness unfit to think your own thoughts
your mind undermined
tricked by a ruse in a rose that you chose
you made me do this
why are you like this?
what’s wrong with you?
what the fuck is wrong with you NOW?
and the cycle of create, stipulate, manipulate, capitulate, abate and wait
for it all so start again, starts again –
flaring in the black the gas-light is back
throwing shadows into the future long and low
no one’s going to believe you, I argue better
you’re a psycho
and you will host ghosts inside
because you can’t hide from the fact that secretly you will always believe –
even if you’ve managed to retrieve something of yourself from the fog –
you will still ask, was it me? is it me? is it me?
maybe I am the mad dog, after all?
and in your heart of hearts there will always crawl doubt,
lit by him
fuelled by gas.