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Trapped in the 8 of swords "Gas-lighting"

The end of 2019 saw me entering a phase of my life that I can only describe as "bat-shit crazy." I found myself believing in someone else's version of reality, more than I believed in myself.

I am partly writing this blog to explore the 8 of swords Tarot card. But more so in case you, or someone you know is in this God-awful state- just in case it helps.

Lets look at the Rider-Waite card first to understand the imagery.

We see a person bound and blindfolded "restricted or restrained" with swords surrounding them. Now interestingly the swords are not completely surrounding them- there is a path out. And she could be thought of as peeking from underneath the blindfold. She seems somewhat trapped, but not completely so.

I see the swords as representing thoughts, words and the logical mind.

In a general, or everyday reading this can just mean feeling overwhelmed or trapped by your own thoughts, not moving forward because you are over thinking, or have self limiting beliefs.

But sometimes this card (especially when paired with the 6 pentacles or an appropriate court card) can represent "gas lighting" which can present in a romantic, workplace, friend or family relationship.

The term is taken from a 1944 film (originally a play) starring Ingrid Bergman. Her husband secretly tampers with the gaslights to make them dim, when she comments on this he maintains they haven't dimmed at all- she is imagining it. This may seem like an insignificant thing, but in a relationship it can be used as a very nasty form of emotional abuse and control.

In normal life we constantly reference our subjective view on the world by other people's reactions, conversations and opinions. Some people's opinions we may hold very valuable, others less so. Some we may expect to disagree with us, and so their disagreement may let us know that we our subjective view is still relevant!

Through out the day we hear music, read text, listen to media, hold conversations- and we subtly adjust out subjective opinions based on all the information coming to us.

But what if someone whose opinion we value, who we trust, starts to feed in opinions that are expressed specifically to control our behaviour, whilst totally invalidating our thoughts and feelings. Then we have entered the madness of gaslighting.

It can slip in and out of some relationships, only surfacing in times of great stress. If a boss asks you to work late and includes comments like "everyone else would do this for me." " Its only what any good employee would do", but its done as a one off to "guilt trip" you into working late, most of us would understand the boss was stressed, used emotionally manipulative language, and many of us go there at some point. You may well work late, resent working late, but also know you've manipulated.

True gaslighting is when you actually start to believe what your abuser is saying to you. Their opinions start to become your truth. It is hard to express how this can happen if you haven't actually been in this situation. But that woman in the 8 of swords demonstrates exactly how it feels.

It doesn't feel like a tight trap- often the words are described as being helpful, supportive, or even for your own good. "I'm just letting you know...." "you need to know this..." "let me just tell you"

Often the gas lighter is talking about their emotional experiences, which may seem valid "when you go out dressed like that I worry if other guys will hit on you" and like many people you will listen, and try to show respect. But when you express your feelings, your side of the discussion that's when the abuse really hits- with a common reaction being "you're over sensitive" or "I didn't really mean it, I was only joking".

And so you are left trying to understand something that doesn't actually make any sense. Your heightened emotional response, and the position of value this person has in your life, means their words hit home- even if they don't quite make sense.

You become the 8 of swords. Your understanding of the world is defined by the gas lighters words. Their judgements on you alter your perception of the world, and your perception of yourself. Your inner reality is literally defined by their opinions, which they only shared to deliberately control and hurt you. In time you internalise your abuser to such a degree you become the abuser to yourself.

I still struggle to look back to this time last year and realise just how my husbands negative judgement on me defined how I thought about myself. The honest truth is that although I have removed some of the swords there are still quite a lot left, it is a difficult process to recover from.

I am sharing this because I consider myself to be emotionally intelligent, stable and self aware- but I fell into this abuse deep and hard. I want to remove the shame associated with gaslighting, emotional abuse and (as so often follows along) domestic violence.

I am sharing it because as tarot readers we often forget the impact of our words on our clients. I was exceedingly blessed with the most patient of friends who understood that I couldn't process what they were saying about my relationship. When you are in the 8 of swords situation if new information comes in that doesn't validate your abuser's opinion, then you often ignore the new information. Partly I think out of a feeling of hope (he really isn't that bad), often out of safety (if I keep trying to meet his expectations I can get through this) but mostly because it is too painful to acknowledge the true state of this relationship.

So if you come across the 8 of swords and it resonates as "gas lighting" tread gently, that is a person in deep pain. If possible ask the cards what they most need to hear right now, your gentle support might be the most important thing they hear in a long time.

If you know someone in this situation, be patient. Their understanding of reality is blocked right now, gently keep telling them the truth.

And if it is you. The water at her feet, that is your best hope. The water represents emotions and feelings. even in the depth of gaslighting when your head is full of mesmerising lies, something feels wrong.

Trust your feelings- that sadness, heart breaking sadness. That is the reality. Follow your emotions to find your path back to reality.

I love sharing an teaching Tarot- I have lots of free resources on my website here. Or join me on Zoom- I'm talking tarot most weeks on a Monday evening- find out more here.


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