Gaslighting is an emotionally abusive tactic that makes the victim question their own sanity and perception of reality. In this important talk, Ariel Leve shares some of the life-saving strategies she adopted as a child to survive her mother’s gaslighting.
TEDArchive presents previously unpublished talks from TED conferences.
Enjoy this unedited talk by Ariel Leve.
Filmed at TEDNYC Rebirth 2017.
Ford had already moved 3,000 miles away from the affluent Maryland suburbs where she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party — a charge he would emphatically deny. Suddenly, living in California didn’t seem far enough. Maybe another hemisphere would be. She went online to research other democracies where her family might settle, including New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I’m moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court,’ ” her husband said. “She wanted out.”
.. On the day that Ford publicly identified herself as Kavanaugh’s accuser in an interview with The Washington Post, her husband was driving their 15-year-old son and his friends from a soccer tournament in Lake Tahoe. He couldn’t answer the calls that were blowing up his phone; by the time they reached home, a crowd of reporters was waiting.
.. Russell struggled to explain it to his children. “I said that Mommy had a story about a Supreme Court nominee, and now it’s broken into the news, and we can’t stay in the house anymore,” he recalled. The family was separated for days, with the boys staying with friends and their parents living at a hotel. They’ve looked into a security service to escort their children to school.
.. Quietly, she garnered a reputation for her research on depression, anxiety and resilience after trauma — telling almost no one what she herself had endured.
.. Ford’s inner circle was, “How do you say this? The pretty, popular girls,” explained Andrea Evers, a close friend. “It wasn’t like we were a bunch of vapid preppies, but God, we were preppy then.”
.. the drinking age was 18 then
.. frequently left the girls feeling embattled.
“The boys were pretty brutal,” Evers said. “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.”
.. Kavanaugh and his classmate Mark Judge had started drinking earlier than others, she said, and the two were “stumbling drunk” when they pushed her into a bedroom.
.. Her biggest fear afterward, she recalled 37 years later, was looking as if she had just been attacked. So she carried herself as if she wasn’t. Down the stairs. Out the door. Onto the rest of her high school years, she said. On graduation day, she wore the required white dress and carried red roses. She told no one.
.. Years later, Ford would describe college as a time when she “derailed,” struggling with symptoms of trauma she did not yet understand.
.. She’d been a cheerleader in high school and joined a sorority, but the lifestyle was too much like the place from which she’d come. Despite the talent for math she had shown in high school, one college classmate recalled Ford failing a statistics class.
.. “He said, ‘You’re really smart, and you’re just like totally [messed] up,’ ” Ford recalled. She remembers him saying, “ ‘What are you doing? . . . Everybody’s getting it together but you’re like not.’ It was kind of a harsh talk.”
If she was going to graduate on time, he said, she ought to major in psychology. The major didn’t require students to take classes in a specific order, so Ford could take them all at once.
That was how Christine Blasey Ford came to spend her life researching trauma and if it is possible to get past it.
.. “I think she had really reinvented herself,” said Jeff Harris, her supervisor at the University of Hawaii counseling center. “A surfer from California is a different image than a prep-school girl from Bethesda.”
.. He knew that more than a love of water had brought her west.
“She didn’t always get along with her parents because of differing political views,” Russell said. “It was a very male-dominated environment. Everyone was interested in what’s going on with the men, and the women are sidelined, and she didn’t get the attention or respect she felt she deserved. That’s why she was in California, to get away from the D.C. scene.”
.. As their relationship deepened, Ford told him she’d been physically abused years earlier. He would learn the specifics of the event, including Kavanaugh’s name, during a couple’s therapy session years later. But then, he just listened.
.. Her master’s thesis explored the relationship between trauma and depression.
.. admired by colleagues for her analytical mind and inventive mathematical models.
.. She took a particular interest in resilience and post-traumatic growth — the ideas that people who endure trauma can return to normal and even wind up stronger than before. Ford said she has given speeches about this topic to students, telling them, “You can always recover.”
.. She will probably be asked to detail every moment of the alleged attack. How much she had to drink. Why she went upstairs. What she was wearing.
May had a “very simple message” for the Kremlin. “We know what you were doing and you will not succeed,” she said, “because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.”
Trump’s message to the Kremlin is simple, too: Do what you want.
.. He believes President Vladimir Putin is “sincere” in denying Russian attempts to meddle in the American elections ..
.. Far from denouncing Putin’s continuous assaults on human rights and free speech in Russia, Trump has praised him as being a better leader than Obama.
.. Contrast Trump’s behavior not just with May’s, but also that of Ronald Reagan, who was viscerally opposed to Communism and entered office determined to bring down the Soviet empire.
.. In February, when Bill O’Reilly pointed out to Trump that Putin is “a killer,” the president replied: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
The most important environmental factor in children’s early lives, researchers have shown, is the way their parents and other adults interact with them. Beginning in infancy, children rely on responses from their parents to help them make sense of the world. Researchers at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child have labeled these “serve and return” interactions. An infant makes a sound or looks at an object—that’s the serve—and her parents return the serve by responding to her babbles and cries with gestures, facial expressions, and speech. More than any other experiences in infancy, these rudimentary interactions trigger the development and strengthening of connections among the regions of the brain that control emotion, cognition, language, and memory.
.. When parents behave harshly or unpredictably—especially at moments when their children are upset—the children are less likely over time to develop the ability to manage strong emotions and respond effectively to stressful situations. By contrast, when a child’s parents respond to her jangled emotions in a sensitive and measured way, she is more likely to learn that she herself has the capacity to cope with her feelings, even intense and unpleasant ones.
.. Just as early stress sends signals to the nervous system to maintain constant vigilance and prepare for a lifetime of trouble, early warmth and responsiveness send the opposite signals: You’re safe; life is going to be fine. Let down your guard; the people around you will protect you and provide for you. Be curious about the world; it’s full of fascinating surprises. These messages trigger adaptations in children’s brains that allow them to slow down and consider problems and decisions more carefully, to focus their attention for longer periods, and to more willingly trade immediate gratification for promises of long-term benefits.
.. When teachers and administrators are confronted with students who find it hard to concentrate, manage their emotions, or deal calmly with provocation, the first instinct often is not to look at them as children who, because of a lifetime of stress, haven’t yet developed a healthy set of self-regulation mechanisms. Instead, the adults see them as kids with behavioral problems who need, more than anything, to be disciplined.
.. When children and adolescents misbehave, we usually assume that they’re doing so because they have considered the consequences of their actions and calculated that the benefits of misbehavior outweigh the costs. So our natural response is to increase the cost of misbehavior, by ratcheting up punishment.
.. The guiding theory behind much of the school discipline practiced in the United States today—and certainly behind the zero-tolerance, suspension-heavy approach that has dominated since the 1990s—is behaviorism, which is grounded in the idea that humans respond to incentives and reinforcement. If we get positive reinforcement for a certain behavior, we’re likely to do it more; if we get negative reinforcement, we’re likely to do it less... Jackson’s new index measured, in a fairly crude way, how engaged students were in school—whether they showed up, whether they misbehaved, and how hard they worked in their classes. Jackson found that this simple noncognitive proxy was, remarkably, a better predictor than students’ test scores of whether the students would go on to attend college, a better predictor of adult wages, and a better predictor of future arrests... Jackson found that these two groups of successful teachers did not necessarily overlap much; in every school, it seemed, there were certain teachers who were especially good at developing cognitive skills in their students and other teachers who excelled at developing noncognitive skills... In essence, what Farrington found was this: If you are a teacher, you may never be able to get your students to be gritty, in the sense of developing some essential character trait called grit. But you can probably make them act gritty—to behave in gritty ways in your classroom. And those behaviors will help produce the academic outcomes that you (and your students and society at large) are hoping for.
.. four key beliefs that, when embraced by students, seem to contribute most significantly to their tendency to persevere in the classroom:
1. I belong in this academic community.
2. My ability and competence grow with my effort.
3. I can succeed at this.
4. This work has value for me.
.. Giving students more autonomy in their learning meant giving up control. And like many teachers at other high-poverty schools, those at MS 45 had come to believe that with students as potentially disruptive as theirs, strong, dominant teacher control was the only way to keep the classroom calm and orderly; handing over the reins would mean chaos.
.. Many EL students will tell you that their crew meeting is the place where they most feel a sense of belonging at school; for some of them, it’s the place where they most feel a sense of belonging, period.
.. In general, when schools do try to directly address the impact that a stress-filled childhood might have on disadvantaged students, the first—and often the only—approach they employ has to do with their students’ emotional health, with relationships and belonging.