Helping or gaslighting

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Harryh

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Helping or gaslighting
« on: September 25, 2019, 11:51:15 AM »
My GF with c-ptsd and I have established a beautiful relationship over the past eight months or so. During that time we have had many trials, but most importantly she has made great progress, managing to bring to light very troubling memories from her childhood, and she has been sharing whatever feeling that has brought out in her. Inspired among other things by Pete Walkers ideas, she has asked me to remind her that often her fight-mode reactions are valid, but sometimes misdirected. And this has worked really well, in particular when she is reactying with self hatred or self loathing.

Recently, she experienced something very important, as both she explained it and as I understood it from my point of view. What happened was that on a day when she felt stronger and more in touch with herself than usual, she "unlocked" a few very disturbing memories of childhood abuse. She was not unaware of the events, but she had never connected them to other events that has always triggered shame in her. At the time I assumed this was a positive breakthrough, but I am beginning to doubt. What has happened is that, as she has done before following similar breakthrough experiences, she has had a pretty strong reaction, which this time around I was prepared for. When she goes into the heavy work of dealing with the Unloaded memories, she gets irritable and becomes prone to both fight and flight reactions. In exactly these situations we have successfully used the reminder technique mentioned above, but this time around, she reacted differently. I hope everyone takes this at face value, when I assure you that virtually nothing had happened. Ok, I realise that something so ordinary that to most people it was probably nothing, actually triggered a fight response. I was the rewcipient of this response, but reacted as I have bben asked. I calmly suggested that her anger might be misdirected, and that maybe she would be wise to take some time to figure out where to direct all those feelings. Unexpectedly I found myself accused of gaslighting her. I was not taken aback and actually hurt, by this but we deescalated. Later I have tried to take up this event a few times, when I believed she had calmed down, but it has somehow stuck that I am only trying to devalue her experience. So I have tried to ask her what that experience was, but she responds in broad accusations that has sometimes been too harsh tofor me to keep 100 % cool, so I have snapped back and ended the conversation.

So, my question is this. Was it a bad idea to begin with to try and remind her of the Walker theories? And how do I reestablish trust, now that it seems broken. I have asked her, and she seems to believe that I need to accept the blame, and even to admit to loosing control over some inner demon of mine that made me start the gaslöighting to begin with. This seems a slippery slope to me. If I thought it would help her get out of the grip of whatever is currently holding her I would take on any and all blame in the world, but I am actually afraid that doing so would only cement her flashback driven mistrust.

Is there anything I could do to help her without making things worse. maybe, I should add that when mistrust gets her, she closes in physically as well, so non-verbal cues are definitely off limits here. At the moment she is staying at a friend's, constantly texting me the same story again and again, telling me that she is desperate for me to admit to my wrong doings, because otherwise she will never trust me; I am as bad as her father once was. I am starting to feel desperate myself, which makes me scared that if this continues I will eventually loose my cool and become the monster she seems convinced I am already.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2019, 12:05:42 PM by Harryh »

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Blueberry

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Re: Helping or gaslighting
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2019, 02:03:57 PM »
First of all, welcome to the forum, Harryh. It sounds as if you and your gf are pretty clued in on dealing with cptsd, even though you're experiencing difficulties atm. I'm sorry about those difficulties that have brought you here today.

"Ok, I realise that something so ordinary that to most people it was probably nothing, actually triggered a fight response." Actually the overwhelming majority of members who post regularly have cptsd themselves, as I do, so we know about being triggered by something that people without cptsd probably wouldn't even notice.

"I was the recipient of this response, but reacted as I have bben asked. I calmly suggested that her anger might be misdirected, and that maybe she would be wise to take some time to figure out where to direct all those feelings. Unexpectedly I found myself accused of gaslighting her. I was not taken aback and actually hurt, by this but we deescalated. Later I have tried to take up this event a few times, when I believed she had calmed down, but it has somehow stuck that I am only trying to devalue her experience. So I have tried to ask her what that experience was, but she responds in broad accusations that has sometimes been too harsh tofor me to keep 100 % cool, so I have snapped back and ended the conversation."

I personally feel out of my depth here in saying whether it was bad to remind your gf of Pete Walker's suggestions. It seems to have been bad for her this instance, but that doesn't mean that your action per se was bad. It was your standard routine, she'd asked you to do it, I'm not sure that blame is an appropriate response or even appropriate for you to take on. Do you have a therapist or counsellor? There are certainly partners of people with cptsd who get therapy for themselves, or couples therapy might work too, so long as the therapist really understands relational trauma (from childhood).

What to do atm? Is she signalling anything to you? Maybe she needs time and space to at least come back out of her triggered state before the two of you try to sort things out? I personally need longer than a day to come out of an EF and have a 'normal' relationship with somebody again.  Though I'm not in a partnership so that is a bit different. It sounds too though as if you maybe need some time and space.

I hope that's a bit helpful. I hope somebody in a partnership responds too.

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Three Roses

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Re: Helping or gaslighting
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2019, 03:00:38 PM »
Hello, Harryh. Welcome to our forum.

You don't say whether you also have complex post traumatic stress. As this forum is for people who do have it, I'm not sure you'll get much help here. Our focus is not on helping the non-cptsd person navigate their way through a relationship with a trauma survivor, but rather to help the cptsd sufferer learn how cptsd is affecting him/her and how to deal with troublesome symptoms like EFs, dissociation, etc.

Maybe you could recommend our website to your gf. The other thing I could recommend is finding a couples' therapist.

In the meantime all you can do is validate her feelings as much as possible. She is likely in an EF. Good luck to you both.