God is Not a Gaslighter
How to Break Up with Your Anxious Life
Meeting the Need for Reality-- Bonus intro post! (This was originally bonus content for my subscribers...)
In this series, we’ve talked about the God of All Comfort, and how He meets our needs in order to reduce our distress – whether it be distress in our bodies/nervous systems, distress in our minds (compulsive thinking, depression, etc.) or souls (fear, shame, and all their nefarious cousins). If you're new to this mailing list, you can find all the posts on my website, here.
Let’s remember what these needs are:
The need for a name (God’s specific identity-giving endearment for you)
The need for value (knowing what we’re worth)
The need for purpose (knowing what we’re made to do)
The need for rest (accepting God’s invitation to stillness and reflection)
The need to be present (the ability to live in the moment, without excess worry or false hope)
The need for fun (to enjoy God and his world)
The last need I'll focus on is the need to live in touch with reality. "Huh?" you say? I know, this one is a little hard to explain. But one of the things I've learned in years of working with men and women in recovery from mental health issues and addiction, is that somewhere along their life's journey, they were made to question their ability to discern reality.
Whether by an abusive parent or simply a clueless one, by a narcissistic spouse or within a church system, they were taught that what they saw, discerned or felt was not true. In extreme cases, they were told that an abusive parent was actually a loving one, or that an addicted parent wasn't an addict after all. In milder cases, their experiences were simply invalidated so much that they came to believe their emotions held no weight and they had no right to kindness or respect.
In these cases, learning to name the reality of their experiences is incredibly healing. We can't heal from what we can't name.
So the need to live in reality can be said this way: We need to discern the truth of our situations, to name the truth of our emotions, and to live in a community that welcomes truth-telling.
Here's a transcript of what I've been saying on the 'gram recently. You can watch these reels on my feed by clicking here.
God is not a gas-lighter. Gaslighting is simply the practice of making someone question their reality for the purposes of manipulation.
God in contrast is all about reality: Naming reality, even hard reality, and revealing the truth. So any kind of system -- church, family, or relationship -- that encourages you to keep certain secrets or hide certain realties or question what is obviously going around you is not a loving system -- because love rejoices with the truth.
Gods want to name your reality and comfort you by acknowledging it.
When I speak to women who struggle with anxiety and depression, one of the common things I find is that somewhere in their past, they were taught, "You cannot trust yourself. You cannot trust to discern what is good and what is bad." This happens in family systems where there is pain or abuse, conflict or secrets , and they are told, "What you're seeing is not actually happening. "Or "What you think is bad is actually good." Or, "You are being over sensitive."
An enormous amount of distress happens in our nervous systems when we see something happen, and then someone we love and trust says, "That's not really happening."
Jesus has been one of the people in my life who says, "I saw what was really going on. I was there with you when that happened. I can name what was really going on."
It comforts me to have God name my reality.
Another form of gaslighting is this:
Have you ever lived, worked or been raised in a system where if you saw there is a problem, you're told you are the problem?
My brothers and sisters who struggle with anxiety and depression, or those who struggle to determine if you can trust your instincts to tell you that things are going awry: It may make you anxious to speak truth because were were told that naming an issue meant you were the cause of the issue.
It's inconvenient for people to deal with your observations, or they don't have tools to deal with your observations. So they have to blame you for seeing it, rather than working to solve it.
The Bible has a lot of people that named problems. Some of their names are Moses, Jeremiah, Isiah, Deborah, Esther, and Jesus! God wants us to name reality. God is not conflict avoidant. And those who call out wrongdoing are not the ones committing wrongdoing.