Content Warning: Discussion of Psychological Abuse, gaslighting, terms such as crazy

With November being Family Violence Prevention month, I want to talk about a form of emotional abuse that is perhaps more insidious than physical violence: gaslighting. As a specific form of emotional manipulation, gaslighting causes one to call in to question one’s own sanity. A partner purposefully (or sometimes non purposefully, through psychological defense mechanisms) attempts to exert control on the other by making them psychologically unstable.

This makes the gaslit partner have to rely on the other while they contemplate their sanity. Gaslighting makes you feel as though you are going crazy and, even deeper, like you’ve lost yourself. You begin to doubt everything that makes up who you are – your beliefs, your values, your worth, your reality. And when that happens, what are you left with? In some ways, you feel like an empty shell of your former self.

“He told me that I was the reason he was depressed and angry all of the time. He said that to me whenever I got angry about something he had done, or a poor choice he had made for the family. And it’s not like I acted bad when I was angry, I just wanted to talk it out.  It got to the point where I couldn’t let myself show my anger anymore, because somewhere along the line I started to believe that my anger was the problem, and not his behavior that led up to that. It’s actually funny to think that I believed my angry reaction was the problem, and not the fact that he stayed out all night with friends and got fired from work. But this whole thing had me going to different psychologists and counsellors for years, trying to get help for my “anger management” issue. Everything that went on in the relationship, we both started to blame on my anger. It took a long time for me to figure out that I wasn’t the problem”.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first step is to recognize that you are gaslit, and how drained you have become. This can be extremely difficult, since one of the very side effects is believing you are the source of the problem. However, some clear signs you are being gaslit in a close relationship are:

  • constantly second-guessing yourself and your choices,
  • having trouble making decisions,
  • frequently asking yourself, “Am I too sensitive?,” and
  • making excuses for a partner’s behaviors to family or friends.

The next step is to ensure your safety in whatever way you can. If you are physically safe, the next steps in this process involves discovering yourself again, filling your “empty shell” once more. Here are small ways that can begin the process of rediscovering yourself:

Write down what you value. What do you value? Family? Spirituality? Respect? Write down your top ten and rank them from most valued to least. Then, think about ways you use these values in your life with others.

Write/type a paragraph on all the roles that you have. Ask yourself “who am I to others?” Perhaps you are a parent, aunt, cousin, friend, grandfather, teacher, etc. List them.

Carve out time to reflect on your own unique qualities. What makes you stand out from the others? Is it a quirky personality? A sarcastic sense of humor? Reflect on these positive qualities

Explore your character traits. The VIA character strengths can help you figure out your top character traits. This positive psychology tool provides you with a list of your top character strengths. Read the list and reflect on the traits. Do they accurately capture you?

Write a list of your qualities, beliefs, and values that guide how you treat others. Ask yourself based on your values, roles, qualities, and character strengths, which of these guides how you treat other human beings?  Then reflect on if you are being treated in the way that is important to you.

Validate yourself. Emotions are normal human experiences. The brain creates these emotions for good reasons – we can’t control our initial emotional reaction. (We can, however, start to control the way we behave when we feel emotions intensely). It is important to remind yourself that all of your emotions are okay to feel.

Check in mindfully on a daily basis.

Take time out of your day to do a brief mindful exercise.

S – Stop

T – Take a moment and take a breath

O – Observe what is happening in each of your 5 senses. What are you seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting? Observe what is happening internally. Non-judgmentally ask yourself “What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What body sensations am I experiencing?” Just notice these things and move on.

P – Proceed

Take it from a survivor, it can take time to understand that you are not the problem. Like fuel to a flame, gaslighting can leave you feeling as though you’ve exploded into pieces of your former self. It’s time to collect those pieces and bring them back into wholeness once more.


20181009_113447Erin Newman is a therapist by day, and a writer by night. She is also a parent, student, advocate, artist, and teacher.

Media Release

Syrian Canadian Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Montreal, Sept. 2, 2015 – The outpouring of support from Canadians towards the Syrian refugee crisis has been overwhelming. The Syrian Canadian Council has been inundated with requests on how people can help refugees going forward.

“We are asking people to send an email to their government representatives. It is crucial at this time that Minister Alexander, the Prime Minister and all those in the opposition, understand that Canada MUST open its doors to help with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis in the world.” Faisal Alazem, spokesperson for the Syrian Canadian Council said this morning.

“Unfortunately, 4 years of constant lobbying for a family reunification program to protect the families of Syrian Canadians has been denied. Similar programs were implemented after the typhoon in the Philippines and the earthquake in Haiti, but not for Syrians, who suffer from the largest refugee crisis in the world.”

“If this program existed 3 year ago Aylan Kurdi would still be alive today. We know that his aunt was trying to bring him to Canada with no other alternatives except the tedious private sponsorship route. Her application was rejected. We ask for people to help pressure the government to end these unnecessary deaths.”

“We also ask that Canada help Syrians stop the senseless barrel bombing by the Assad regime by helping Turkey establish a No Fly Zone. This will stop Assad’s daily reign of deadly bombs on schools, hospitals and markets. It will keep people safely in their homes and stop the outflow of refugees.”

For people who would like to send financial assistance or sponsor a refugee, please see the information listed below.

Send an email

Send emails to Members of Parliament, Immigration Minister, etc.. You can use the example below or write your own heartfelt letter. Contact Information is below:

Dear Hon. [Minister Alexander],

After seeing the tragic photo of the Syrian child found dead on the shores of Turkey, I believe that the government is not doing enough to help more Syrian refugees come to Canada.  Accepting only 2300 Syrians over the past 4 years of a crisis that’s created over 10 million displaced people is an embarrassment. Furthermore, only prioritizing people based on their religion is against everything Canada stands for as a nation.

I ask you to open the doors to more Syrian refugees to prevent more deaths like Aylan Kurdi’s from continuing to happen. Please instate a family reunification program to protect the families of Syrian Canadians. Similar programs were implemented after the typhoon in the Philippines and the earthquake in Haiti, but not for Syrians which the largest refugee crisis in the world.

If this program existed, 3 year old Aylan Kurdi would still be alive today. We know that his aunt was trying to bring him to Canada with no other alternatives except the tedious private sponsorship route. Her application was rejected. We ask for you to end these unnecessary deaths.

We also ask that Canada help Syrians stop the senseless barrel bombing by the Assad regime by helping Turkey establish a No Fly Zone. This will stop Assad’s daily reign of deadly bombs on schools, hospitals and markets. It will keep people safely in their homes and stop the outflow of refugees.

Thank you,

[NAME]

Contact Information:

Minister Chris Alexander:         Chris.Alexander@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:     stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Paul Dewar:                 paul.dewar@parl.gc.ca

Tom Mulcair:                 thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca

Justin Trudeau:             justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Elizabeth May:            Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca

Give to the following charities:

UOSSM-Canada – The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations is a charitable medical relief organization that provides humanitarian and medical assistance to all Syrian victims of war regardless of their religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. UOSSM-Canada also aims to strengthen the capacity of the health care delivery system in crisis affected areas, and coordinates efforts with other organizations in Canada and abroad to deliver support and raise awareness for the Syrian medical and humanitarian crisis.

http://uossm-canada.org/supporter/

NuDay Syria is a non-profit organization focused on bringing humanitarian aid inside Syria and to help displaced Syrians in the bordering areas around Syria. We focus on bringing housing and food to displaced families with single mothers or wounded family members. We are especially concerned with the lack of safe shelter and living for single mothers with daughters.

http://www.nudaysyria.net/support.html

The Syrian Kids Foundation (SKF) aims to offer humanitarian relief and social services to Syrian refugees from all different backgrounds, sects and religions. The services include free education, psychological counselling, social relief, recreational activities, and essential subsidies. Al Salam School in Reyhanli-Turkey, a project of SKF, blends the best of Syrian and Canadian values — to rebuild trust, self-worth, compassion, and open-mindedness in Syrian refugee children. We aim to empower a new generation with a worldview that would help create the necessary conditions to establish a democratic society.

http://syriankids.ca/donate/

Karam Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to help people help themselves.

We seek to restore the dignity and quality of life for people affected by conflict by eliminating barriers to success through innovative education, entrepreneurial development, and community-driven aid.

http://www.karamfoundation.org/donate/

Project Amal ou Salam is a volunteer-run grassroots organization that sponsors schools and provides workshops for Syrian refugee children. We use music, art, sports, photography and team-building activities to teach the kids about trust and unity and help them deal with the trauma they have sustained.

http://projectamalousalam.org/donate/

Islamic Relief works with communities to strengthen their resilience to calamities, and we provide vital emergency aid when disasters occur.

We help the impoverished access basic services, including education, water and sanitation, as well as healthcare. We provide lasting routes out of poverty through our sustainable development schemes. Our integrated approach to progress is transforming communities worldwide.  http://islamicreliefcanada.org/donate/

Help sponsor a refugee

Sponsor Refugees Financially

Private sponsorship requires that private citizens cover the living     expenses of refugees for their first year of settlement in Canada. You can become a financial sponsor by joining an existing sponsorship group or creating your own.

Sponsor Refugees by providing settlement support

Private sponsorship requires that private citizens support the settlement of refugees into Canadian society for their first year in Canada. We need Canadians to join existing sponsorship groups. This ensures non-Syrian Canadian sponsors and Syrian refugees have a Syrian connection in Canada.

Spread the Word

Lifeline Syria is engaging the Canadian general public to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.  Share our work to help create awareness.

For more information about this please visit: www.lifelinesyria.ca

Media Contact:

Faisal Alazem

faisal.alazem@gmail.com

438-994-6293