Gaslighting is defined in Wikipedia as follows: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting)
"a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs.
Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to belittling the victim's emotions and feelings, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The goal of gaslighting is to gradually undermine the victim's confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from delusion, thereby rendering the individual or group pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thinking and feelings."
In a recent podcast interview with Darshana Hawks, I shared about my experiences with gaslighting and how it has effected my life from the moment of conception when the collective gaslighting of women had my mother in a state of complete ignorance about her fertility and thinking she needed to focus on pleasing her teenage boyfriend to have value as a person.
We continued the conversation to discuss the varied ways that the collective gaslighting built into patriarchal systems to perpetuate female dependency on men has influenced our lives and how my Womb Centered Healing work is focused on providing holistic remedies for this.
You can find the complete podcast episode here: https://drdar.com/how-gaslighting-occurs-everyday/
During the conversation, we discussed a term that I was using to describe a state of freedom from manipulative control that is the signature of relationship dynamics that include gaslighting. I had been reflecting on this type of freedom a lot recently given the political turmoil we have recently been reeling from in the United States around an expert gaslighter who managed to get himself elected as president, and the collective sigh of relief many are feeling as he has been voted out of office.
I have been through many rounds of liberating myself and my life from gaslighting situations on a smaller scale, but being part of a whole country experiencing this pathology brought it into even greater focus. Darshana asked me to create a graphic that outlined the qualities of sovereign self-responsibility versus the qualities of its opposite, irresponsible freedom:
Gaslighting is one of the most extreme ways that people practice irresponsible freedom. The outline above helps us to recognize when this is going on, not only in the behavior of others, but perhaps in our very own behavior. The truth is, most people alive today have been raised within societal structures and systems that have shaped our relationships to be founded in domination based ways of relating. Gaslighting is intrinsic to maintaining the domination based relationship dynamics that our entire society relies upon. We all learned how to relate to each other from within these dynamics. It is so close to us, so intrinsic to who we are, it is hard to see.
In order to heal from these unhealthy dynamics we must begin to notice these dynamics and develop new ways of relating. This requires a great deal of self reflection as well as somatic, body centered healing practices that can help us to release the habitual bio-chemical stress responses and energy exchange dynamics that these relational patterns have us addicted to.
An example of how this addictive dynamic works is our gaslighting relationship with the menstrual cycle. The womb powerfully weaves us into interconnected bio-mystical ecological communion with all of life. The menstrual cycle is designed to guide us with wisdom from all realms throughout the different phases of the cycle, just as the phases of the moon and the seasons of the year do. Unfortunately we have been indoctrinated by patriarchal gaslighting to gaslight our own central intelligence system. It is so deeply ingrained that an alarming number of womb bearers tell themselves that this source of empowerment, wisdom, and divine communion is a curse, a nuisance, and go in for voluntary hysterectomies to get rid of it.
Fortunately for the survival of humanity, the menstrual cycle is such a powerful force of nature that many womb bearers are waking up to the system of lies that has been woven into the fabric of our society about the menstrual cycle and we are reclaiming its power. There is much resistance to this process, as one can easily notice anytime we stand up to a gaslighter and refuse to participate in the dynamic anymore.
You see, gaslighting sets up an addictive energy dynamic. The gaslighter is dependent on the one they are gaslighting as well. They need their victim to be dependent on them because they are siphoning power from them. Gaslighters manipulate their victims into giving them all of their sovereign power. The gaslightee then sees the gaslighter as the only one who has power in the relationship and must please them to be cared for. But the care rarely comes, the gaslightee becomes ever more depleted, and the gaslighter more vehemently demands to be appeased.
This is how we have been taught to relate to our wombs. We complain bitterly about the natural cycles of the womb, insisting that only one of her phases is worthy of appreciation and that nothing else about her is valuable. We go about our lives forcing ourselves into performing at optimum creativity, demanding that we be the seductively soothing music that is so favored during ovulation, but all the time, completely denying the needs of the womb bearing body to go through the entire cycle to develop and replenish these gifts each month.
We completely deny that this magic requires any kind of special nourishment and expect it to keep delivering its nectar again and again with no rest. We have been taught to be ashamed of the natural rhythms and changes that are essential aspects of this flow of feminine nectar. And when the system starts to fail under this exploitive treatment, we abuse it more with invasive medical procedures and harsh chemicals, tricking it into behaving how we want it to.
One of the most common interventions for painful, difficult menstruation is the birth control pill, often given to young womb bearers before they are even fully developed. These synthetic hormones are designed to trick the womb and the whole endocrine system to bypass its natural rhythms that were simply indicating the understandable energy imbalances and nutritional deficiencies our lifestyles tend create in the womb.
By the time most womb bearers get to the point in their lives when they want to birth a child or create a great work of some kind, their center of creativity has become so depleted and confused that there is little left for this great work of life generation. And then ever more invasive interventions commence.
The way out of this mess is to stop and listen to the voice of nature speaking to us through our wombs. We must first validate that voice, seeing our biological rhythm as a source of wisdom that can guide our lives to be brilliantly creative. And we must recognize the cries of that voice that often show up in the form of painful, disruptive menstrual symptoms and diminished fertility/creative energy as signs of an inner hunger for care. The womb has needs that our modern lifestyle does not meet. When we tell lies about her aching hunger, denying its true meaning, we are gaslighting her. We must return to honoring her wisdom in order to reclaim our own sovereignty.
One pathway back to this honoring is that of Herbal Womb Wellness. Herbs give us essential nutrients and energies that help to restore our natural rhythms. Developing a relationship with herbs helps us to restore our relationship with nature. Specifically nourishing our wombs with herbs helps us to return to gently listening to and honoring the wisdom of nature that is crying out from within our very own center to be valued once more.
I will soon be publishing a guidebook about Herbal Womb Wellness that you can learn more about and pre-order here: https://www.samamorningstar.com/herbal-womb-wellness-workbook
I talk more about how these Herbal Womb Wellness practices can help us recover from the collective gaslighting patterns we all suffer from in the podcast interview with Darshana Hawks mentioned above. Here is the link to find that again: https://drdar.com/how-gaslighting-occurs-everyday/
Please share your reflections about gaslighting, sovereign self responsibility, irresponsible freedom, and/or reclaiming our womb wisdom in the comments below.
Sama Morningstar is the founder of the Womb Centered Healing Temple. Her blog posts here will likely be included in her next book, The Bio-Mystical Womb. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive the latest updates: