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Recovering confidence in memory and recollections after gaslighting - tips please!

(12 Posts)
FastidiaBlueberry Fri 11-Jan-13 12:40:47

Hi I didn't know where to put this as it's not really about relationships or health but touches on both and the other feminist sections (like feminist support) don't seem to be used, so I thought I'd put it here as most likely to be seen.

I lived with the father of my children for nearly a decade and it's only recently that I've become aware of the extent that he fucked with my mind. Here's an example: he'd hide my train pass so I'd spend 20 frantic minutes looking for it while I missed the train. Then I'd find it in a place I'd already looked twice and he would smile indulgently and say I hadn't looked thoroughly or must have forgotten to look there. He'd do this with other stuff as well - books, keys, clothing etc. He'd also deny conversations that had happened and events that we'd both been at and had totally different versions of what had gone on.

At the time, I put it down to me having a bad memory and being disorganised and untidy. I now realise that for the last 10 years or so, even though I consciously knew he'd been a liar and had deliberately denied reality and gaslighted me, I've had this internal narrative that I'm an extremely forgetful, disorganised person who can't remember anything. Which of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. At work, whenever I'm asked what my weaknesses are, it's memory I go for (when I'm being honest). My boss recently told me that at least 90% of the time I'm right about something, but I come across as not being sure of it and I know it's because I don't trust my memory and am afraid that I'm remembering wrongly.

But before I met Mr Gaslight, I never even thought about it: I just knew stuff, it never occurred to me to wonder if I'd remembered the stuff I knew correctly - I just knew it. I never had any memory problems before he fucked with it.

My question is this: now I've realised how much his mind-fuckery damaged my perception of how good my memory was and therefore my confidence in how it works, how can I regain confidence in it? Anyone got any tips, links etc.?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 11-Jan-13 14:36:35

Wow, that sounds awful, poor you.

I don't know about your specific situation but taking a CBT approach, could you note down times when you don't forget things. Start small if it's hard to think of things eg today I remembered where my shoes are. Build back your confidence and it should come more readily as time goes on.

CailinDana Fri 11-Jan-13 14:40:28

I would advise counselling or therapy of some kind. He has planted ideas about you in your mind, and you need to root these out and kill them. The only way to do it is to talk it through and bring them to light.

I have a similar problem from my childhood that I haven't really dealt with. I know I should but I have a fear of bringing it up. You might feel the same? The messages I was given about myself were so negative that I shy away from actually confronting them, but deep down I accept them and they play in the back of my mind all the time. I have had counselling before but I didn't tackle this problem. I know I must though.

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 15:37:01

I am so sorry you had to put up with that blueberry. I haven't got any real advice other than to listen to the people in your life such as you boss and really listen, if your boss says you know what you are on about and they must feel that way or you wouldn't have a job. That means something, unlike fucking with you which your partner clearly enjoyed your boss doesn't get anything by lying to you.

Beyond that I believe faking it is a great way to build confidence. Seriously. If you feel you are unsure and are doubting yourself attempt to play act that you know what you are talking about that you have the confidence behind you. People will doubt you because you seem unsure which is unfair on you. After a while when you see that others have confidence in you, hopefully you will find your confidence "act" is no longer an act.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 13-Jan-13 15:23:02


I was hoping to try and do this without more counselling - feel like I've spent hours droning on about myself in counselling! grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 13-Jan-13 15:35:57

I'm so sorry to hear this, fastidia - though, also, go you for getting away from such a total wanker. I had heard you mention his wankerishness before, but, god, what a horrible person he must have been.

I haven't got any useful links or anything, but you've always come across to me as someone who thinks hard about their views and is good at being certain without being simplistic or one-sided. It is impressive you can do that after being made to doubt yourself and your memory like this, so you need to give yourself credit - like picadilly says, you need to keep reminding yourself to take the compliments and to accept you are fucking good at this stuff.

Something that helps me is to think about the language you've got into the habit of using. Because he was gaslighting you, you will have got into the habit of responding to people as if you already expect to be wrong and you're covering yourself against that. Lots of women do it. So we end up saying 'well, one way to see this .... there's a possibility ... I think, but I'm not sure ....'. You're doing it in your OP:

I didn't know where to put this
- You're entitled to put in here and this is a completely feminist issue. If someone else had posted it, you would have been right in there, dissecting the issue in your usual style and knowing 100% it is a feminist issue.

I think maybe if you can catch yourself when you're using language that runs you down, maybe you can also gradually get rid of the mindset that goes with it? Because gaslighting works when it gets someone to internalize the idea they are this useless or forgetful or untidy, and that shows up in your language. So maybe if you can get it out of your language, it will also get it out of your mind?

You do know things. You are certain of a lot and you express that very clearly when you're talking on behalf of other women.

AbigailAdams Sun 13-Jan-13 17:52:59

Fastidia that must be shit for you. LRD is right, you do speak very well for other women and confidently. It must be a mind-fuck to doubt your own memory.

It's not the same thing as I have never been emotionally involved with him and so have a different perspective from you, but my boss gaslights. He is a bully and I have my suspicions he is abusive to his wife and children. I am now meticulous about writing notes when in meetings with him because a month down the line he will come out with bollocks and spin the actions of the meeting for his own ends.

So maybe making a few more notes in meetings, task lists always help me too. Most electronic mail systems have these. Setting reminders are always good too!

With regards confidence in speaking and presenting ideas or projects or thoughts etc I have found that since finding feminism again, I have made a concious effort to drop the "I think" from before presenting ideas. Other things such as saying we should rather than we could makes you sound more certain in what you are saying. Also avoiding asking other people's opinion. More often than not (especially if they are male, as you know) they will give it anyway and asking them for it makes you seem unsure (even if you aren't). I am going to do it now however grin and ask is this the type of thing you mean?

With regards trusting your own memory you could try things like these brain games? On a slightly odder note you could try Amateur Dramatics? Lot's of memory stuff there! Or even taking a course with exams at the end. The OU have smaller courses and easier end courses if you wanted to give that a go and help gain some confidence. Or maybe your work has other more relevant courses with coursework or exams to prove to yourself you can do it.

GunsAndRoses Wed 16-Jan-13 00:42:21

How awful for you. As others suggest councelling may help. Also spend time with friends to help rebuild your confidence.
A book like this might help

FastidiaBlueberry Wed 16-Jan-13 16:35:52

Thanks all, am trying to drop the "I'm not sure if you answered this e-mail already so apologies if you did, but I have no record of it, could you answer it please" type approach and go for the "hi x, haven't had an answer to this yet, are these dates OK for you?" type approach. Actually found myself doing that today and consciously changed it to the less diffident tone. I suppose it's all about being aware of it and being on the case, isn't it.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 16-Jan-13 19:22:22

Good stuff FB! It's really easy to sell ourselves short, I think.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 16-Jan-13 19:27:56

This might help - for every 20 "please send me the info like I asked" emails I get one "yes, I sent it on XX " I check and if they did indeed so? Just send a "sorry, you're right and thanks'l - No-one minds and people prob quite like getting the odd apology and being in the right.

The point being - the consequences of the "mistake" take less time and worry to fix than worrying about your phrasing in the first place.

<has taken me a while to practice what I preach here!>

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 17-Jan-13 10:46:41

Yes yes yes, you're right.



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