I grew up in a pretty ‘black and white’ world.
I’m not talking about the colour of people’s skin. I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario – just a few minutes from the Toronto International airport – which is one of the most wonderfully multicultural cities in the world.
I am talking about the ideas that people in my closer spheres had about truth, and how we make sense of it.
In the world I grew up in, truth was absolute. It was only possible to establish truth externally – someone else would tell you what was true, and it was your job to believe them. The idea of relative truth was not only uninteresting, it was evil, dangerous and a significant threat to our survival.
More than that, I was taught that our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and other people around me were all unreliable witnesses. That they were there as a test of my commitment to “the truth”, and must be ignored and blocked out at all cost.
This world did not teach me that I could discern truth for myself.
This situation is sometimes called gaslighting, and can take place in any controlling or abusive relationship – whether between partners, parents and children, or within certain communities.
This experience of gaslighting is also heightened for many people with disabilities – because our disabilities may distort and constrain our perspective even more than that of others in a similar situation.
If you have experienced gaslighting, one of the major challenges is learning to trust your ability to interpret the clues and cues of your emotions, body, mind, values, environment, relationships and goals.
So here are some of the questions I’ve learned to ask myself, when I get uncertain about my own perceptions of what’s going on.