Gaslighting: Fiction or Reality?

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“Gaslighting” may not be a widely known concept, but a considerable number of people have certainly felt its effects. Gaslighting describes the psychological influence of a person attempting to make another feel defective, helpless, or abnormal by incorrectly asserting that their experiences or feelings are invalid. It manifests itself in various forms, from malicious jokes, to accusations and intimidation. A person consciously using this type of psychological violence in their relationship may even do so in a way that seems unobvious to the victim. Our heroine, Elena Oskolovich, found herself in such a situation. Here, we will explore how Elena was able to escape a toxic relationship while holding on to her optimism and finding her life’s work along the way. 

Elena got married at the age of 19, and the first few years of her married life were full of optimism and hope. However, her relationship with her husband began to progressively deteriorate, especially after the couple moved to America in 2018. Elena’s upbringing and philosophies drove her to attempt to save her family rather than back out of the toxic relationship, but she found this impossible, as her partner did not share her ambition. 

Eventually, Elena was able to find a common cause that interested her, her children, and her spouse: a YouTube channel. After moving to the United States, the family began hosting their first channel, which focused on their relationships and their time spent together while resettling into their new home. The videos gradually gained popularity, and the family grew excited about the increasing feedback and subscribers. 

But at some point during 2019, Elena’s spouse decided that he would lead the project on his own and, to put it mildly, “asked” Elena and their three children if he could take over the channel. Afterwards, the family channel turned into a one-person show. Elena, possessing a strong spirit and relentless determination, responded by starting a new project from the ground up– a children’s educational channel with her children, Artem, Nastya, and Mia. Elena created her own style, in which she is one of the few bloggers using a smartphone to shoot her videos. It simplifies the workflow as much as possible, allowing her to create creative videos anytime and anywhere. As Elena’s project developed and started to prosper, her husband’s channel faded. This left him unnerved and irritated, and the family began to acquire a new dynamic as Elena’s spouse began to engage in more open and frequent psychological violence. On set with the children, he showed aggression and intolerance, causing them to feel exhausted and bewildered. He went so far as to film the children’s reactions and send the videos to friends and subscribers with captions such as “How they don’t like me,” “How bad they are,” and “How poor I am.” His numerous apologies after each breakdown did little to assuage the family. 

The last three years of Elena’s marriage were the most difficult for her and the family. Public humiliation, constant tantrums, and– most especially– insults and psychological abuse thrown at the children had brought her to a boiling point. Any inquiry into the reasons behind her husband’s actions provoked only a dry “it wasn’t what you thought” or “no such thing happened.” Elena admitted that the regular invalidation of her concerns had her wondering if she was going crazy. Similarly, the children also felt affected by the gaslighter’s influence. With divorce seeming like the only way out, Elena prepared her family for survival by pulling herself together and developing her YouTube hobby as a means of bringing in income and providing for herself and her children. 

Currently, Elena and her children have close to three million subscribers on YouTube, and they have no plans of stopping– the family continues to expand their creative ambitions in new directions. Together with the children, Elena professionally shot a film based on their own experience that explores the reality of living with a gaslighter. Elena is promoting the film all the way to Hollywood, showcasing the importance of being publicly open with stories of emotional abuse in order to support those who have been victims of similar circumstances. 

Elena has also written an autobiography, which is currently in the final stages of editing. The book is set to be released in Russian, but Elena plans to subsequently distribute it in English for an American audience, as the issue of gaslighting is global and equally important in the United States. The book depicts how a series of difficult family trials began for Elena and the kids, how her relationship turned into an abusive one, and how gaslighting affected the self-esteem of her and her children. The autobiography discusses key moments that one cannot ignore– beacons that portend an imminent storm on the horizon. Thanks to Elena’s openness on Instagram, she was able to collect reactions from girls and women living in America who were subjected to similar abuse. She shines a light on their stories in her upcoming book, providing women in situations like hers with advice and encouragement. Throughout Elena’s work, she remains motivated by her main goal to grant social significance to the topic of abuse and gaslighting, acting as a model for those who share her experience.


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