Dr. Robin Stern: Welcome to The Gaslight Effect podcast. I'm Robin Stern, co-founder and associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and author of the bestselling book, The Gaslight Effect. I'm an educator and a psychoanalyst, but first and foremost, I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, aunt, and healer. And just like many of you, I was a victim of gaslighting. Please join me for each episode as I interview fascinating guests and explore the concept of gaslighting. You'll learn what it truly means to be gaslighted, how it feels, how to recognize it, and how to understand it, and ultimately how to get out of it.
Dr. Robin Stern: Before we begin, I want you to know that talking about gaslighting can bring up challenging and painful emotions. Give yourself permission to feel them. Some of you may wanna go more deeply with your emotions. While some of you may hold them more lightly, no matter what you're feeling, know that your emotions are a guide to your inner life. Your emotions are sacred and uniquely you respect and embrace them for they have information to give you. If you want to listen to other episodes of the Gaslight Effect Podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for being here with me.
Dr. Robin Stern: Hi everyone. On today's episode of The Gaslight Effect podcast, we have the privilege of listening to a conversation I had with Erika Sanchez. Erika is the New York Times bestselling author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican daughter, which was a National Book Awards finalist, a Tomas Rivera Award winner, and was recognized by time as one of the best ya novels of all time. Her book is now being made into a film directed by America Ferrera. Personally, I can't wait to see it. Erika is also the author of her recently released memoir, Crying in the Bathroom. I know you're going to enjoy listening to this episode. As much as I enjoyed being with and talking with Erika. Welcome everyone to this episode of the Gaslight Effect podcast. I'm really delighted to have with me today Erika L. Sánchez, who is an author, a poet, an essay writer, a memoir writer, and, um, my wonderful guest. So thank you, Erika, for saying yes to coming today. And please tell us a little bit about your background, how you came to write and to publish.
Erika L. Sánchez: Thank you for having me. Um, I guess I'll begin at, you know, in my childhood when I discovered how much I loved to read, um, I didn't have a lot of, um, other stimulation in my life in, in many different ways. So reading was a way for me to be entertained, to be moved, to be lost. Um, it provided so much for me. And so, um, I realized one day when we were writing poems in, um, sixth grade, I was 12, I realized that I loved poetry and I needed to be a poet. And it was because there was a poem by Edgar Allen Poe that really struck me, or several of his poems. And for a little weird Mexican girl that that was something to hold onto. Um, and I began writing poems, uh, little love poems, poems about nature, things like that. And it felt really good, um, to be able to articulate so much of what I felt inside. And that gave me a lot of power. And so that's when I began to write and I would introduce myself, the audacity of this. I would introduce myself to people as a poet. And, um, you know, and you were how
Dr. Robin Stern: Old?
Erika L. Sánchez: Um, when I was in high school, when I, you know, was in college, when I went away on my Fulbright to Spain, I would just, that, that was my identity, right? Like, that was who I was.
Dr. Robin Stern: It was who you was, were, and it is who you are.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. Yeah. It hasn't changed. I'm still very much a poet. Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: And do you still feel that tremendous sense of fulfillment and, and resonance with who you know yourself to be? When you write something, when you see something and write about it or think about something and write about it?
Erika L. Sánchez: It's a pleasure that I don't know how to describe. Um, I, I can't write about how much I love to write. It's just so challenging. Um, it, it's, it's something that feels very spiritual to me, and it feels like I am, um, transforming something and that I'm creating, uh, a life in a sense. And so for me, uh, if it wasn't so pleasurable and exciting, I wouldn't do it. 'cause it's so hard. It's just so hard.
Dr. Robin Stern: What makes it so hard?
Erika L. Sánchez: Um, well, one is, you know, writing in a way that is distinct and, um, singular and alive, you know, like that, that takes a lot of skill and it takes a lot of inner work and excavation, I believe. And so that's one thing, just the actual act of writing. And then the career of writing, especially for a woman of color, uh, is very difficult because we haven't seen it much before. Like, the only person I really saw was Sandra Cisneros, and she provided a template of what I could do. Um, but getting there was so, so, so hard. And I went through many I failures. I had many breakdowns. I had many doubts. I felt like I wasn't cut out to exist in the world as I was and, and to do the thing that I loved the most. And so it was really scary at times because I would be working at this, at an office job that I hated.
Erika L. Sánchez: And I felt like I was dying inside because I wasn't writing and I wasn't being creative. And, you know, that may not seem like a serious thing to some people, but for me, it created this existential crisis. Like, what am I doing here if I'm not writing and creating, what's the point of anything? And I think a lot of young women of color think about that. Like, and that's why our suicide rates are so high, because we're like, we don't even have choices. Like, we don't even get to live the way we want to live. And that's frustrating.
Dr. Robin Stern: How did you then get from, um, being a creative poet since you were 12 to writing a book? How did you move through some of the angst you were just describing of feeling unfulfilled on your job, knowing that you needed to write? Um, and, uh, knowing that you didn't have a lot of role models out there, how did you move? Tell us about your path, our audience will wanna know.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. It was not a straight path as, um, you would imagine. It's, it was a very complicated, messy, um, sort of journey that involved just feeling so hopeless at times and not knowing how to live in a world like this when you're so sensitive and you, you, you know exactly what you want and what you need to be doing, and you can't do it, oh, it's so painful. And so I think a lot of women feel that way 'cause they just don't have the opportunities to, to do what they were meant to do, what they were good at doing. And so, uh, for me, I felt like I, um, I felt very stifled by my circumstances, by capitalism, by, you know, how, how am I gonna make a living as a writer, as a woman of color? Um, but I, I just kept going and kept going because I felt like that's, that's what I was meant to do, and there's nothing else for me to do like that is it. And so I persisted.
Dr. Robin Stern: How did you have the strength to, uh, to follow your inner voice and your inner knowing when, um, when things were tough on that path?
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, there was no one really telling me that this was a possibility, um, except for like, you know, the vague examples that I had, uh, of women writers. And, um, you know, my parents didn't know anything about such a field. And they had, they have very little education in fact. And so to, to them, that's all very foreign. Um, and, you know, the, the world is, is both misogynist and racist. And so I, you know, I felt that I had to really believe in myself in order to keep going. 'cause people were not going to believe in me necessarily. And so, you know, I had certain people support me here and there, mentors, et cetera. But the world at large was not very, um, encouraging to me, a a girl who grew up working class, who didn't have resources, who, um, suffered from severe depression and who wanted a, a different kind of life for herself.
Erika L. Sánchez: Like, I wanted to, to be independent. I wanted, I I never wanted to depend on a man, um, to get by because I saw how how painful that could be to a, a woman to be strapped in a relationship that she doesn't wanna be in because of monetary reasons, financial reasons. And so I wanted to just have my own money. I wanted to write because I knew I was good at it. And I, I, I felt in my heart that that was who I was. Um, and even though everyone else seemed to, to doubt, for the most part, I I felt like I had something to say and that it was important and that other people would connect to it.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so where did you get that confidence?
Erika L. Sánchez: You know, I talked to another friend of mine about this, 'cause she's also a poet, and she's brilliant and amazing. She's written, uh, a, a memoir that's her latest book. Um, and so we both talk about this idea of, of being born, uh, a writer. And I know that sounds hokey, but
Dr. Robin Stern: Doesn't sound hokey
Erika L. Sánchez:
Dr. Robin Stern: You're, it's not hokey you are. So what's your friend's name?
Erika L. Sánchez: Sophia Sinclair.
Dr. Robin Stern: Sophia. Good for you.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, no, Sophia is a, a, a brilliant, brilliant person. And so we, we've talked about like that feeling of, of knowing that that's what we're called to do. And I think a lot of it has to do with my ancestors manifesting themselves through me. You know, like for so long, women in my line, were not allowed to do much of anything besides serve other people. And, and so now, and, and I know like my mom laments that she didn't have a, a better education, but she loves to read. So she, she didn't go past sixth, sixth grade, but she reads a lot of like, philo philosophical texts because she's very curious. And so I feel like I was the one given that chance to really, uh, explore, uh, my, my creativity, my, the stories that, that are in my family that a lot of people would never know about unless I wrote about them. And so, um, it's just, it feels like a, a sort of responsibility and a calling. And, and if if it had been a choice, I would've chosen something else,
Dr. Robin Stern: Not. I'm glad. Well, just
Erika L. Sánchez: To save myself some trouble. Uh, but it, it was like so overwhelming. I was like, I I, I'm a writer, what are you, what are you gonna do? That's it. I had to do it
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, how did you make it happen knowing that you were a writer with all these powerful, this powerful legacy and ancestry on your shoulders that you felt was yours to, to bring to the world? I think this beautiful image, actually, to have your ancestors with you, and, and here you are, bringing it to the world. How did, how did you go from, this is something I wanna write about to actually making a book?
Erika L. Sánchez: Well, I started with poetry, and poetry is the basis of all of my work. It's where, uh, everything begins. It's the way that I learned how to, um, create vivid images. I, it is the way that I, I learned about rhythm and concision and precision and, uh, meter, all of these really important things that I think, uh, prose writers should be very, you know, um, aware about or, or schooled in. Um, so poetry created that foundation for me to then be able to write, I am not your perfect Mexican daughter. Because I had, I think an eye for, um, for image. I had, uh, a way of expressing myself that was very poetic and alive. And, and that's that I owe that to poetry and all my, um, poetry teachers and, you know, all the books that I've read that they, they made me a person who can, who can take something that, that is quite ordinary at times and, and create it into something that is extraordinary. And so I, I find that so magical when that's when I'm able to do that. Um, so I, I kept writing, uh, this story in, in my late twenties, and it was about a girl, Julia, um, and it included her mother and her grandmother as well. Those stories were gonna be intertwined, but it didn't work out that way, which is actually great because now I'm writing a story told through the perspective of someone like her mother. And so, um, I'm going through all the generations
Dr. Robin Stern: That's beautiful. And that's actually your, your generations are coming through you, so that's perfect metaphor. So, um, and vehicle for you pathway. So what, how did you go from picking up a pen or using your computer? Where did you write, did you write with pen or pa, pen and paper or computer?
Erika L. Sánchez: Both. I still do both.
Dr. Robin Stern: So how did you go from that, um, where you were writing poetry to actually writing prose, and was it hard to make that shift?
Erika L. Sánchez: You know, it wasn't, once someone put the idea in my head, it kind of spilled out and I wrote obsessively. And yes, it was difficult in many ways emotionally, and, um, you know, time-wise it was really hard to, to find the, the space and the time to, to create the story. But, um, it, it was kind of like, like a flood had just been unleashed. And, um, all it took was someone asking me, have you ever written a novel? Because I was writing a blog, um, and people seemed to think it was funny and interesting, and I just did it to keep myself sane during a very challenging time. And once that was, you know, put into the ether, I was like, wait a minute, I should write a novel. And, um, I, I started writing Mexican daughter, and nothing ever came with, with the relationship I had with these people.
Erika L. Sánchez: They were so-called producers. I'm not really sure what they were, but they, they had just, they, they prompted this, um, awakening for me. Like, oh, yeah, I need to write a novel, duh, this, this will help me not only emotionally, but like, hopefully financially I can perhaps like, move up somewhere in, in this world. I'm not sure exactly where, but, uh, I, I had no concept, concept honestly, of what it could be. And, and what it, what it is today is, is something that I, I just couldn't have dreamt about. You know, it was just, it's beyond that.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so when you began to win prizes, when you began, began to win awards, how, how validating that must have been for you? How amazing that must have been. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like to have your response like that, to have a response like that from the world?
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, it felt like a whirlwind. Uh, I was so happy and it felt, uh, unreal at times. And just a lot of different kinds of emotions like relief because I'm like, okay, I, I, I'm not crazy. I am doing something that people want to read. And, um, at, at the same time, I, I now see that this, this constant, uh, vying for, for prizes and validation was partly a result of, of trauma and growing up in poverty and not having, you know, much to fall back on. And, you know, like for me, winning the prizes was, uh, a way to show that I was a valid person, that I was important, that I, uh, was worthy. And now I don't see it that way. Um, I of course, who doesn't love a prize, but, um, for me it's more about like, you know, am I proud of this work?
Erika L. Sánchez: Am I happy doing this? Um, are are people connecting to it, et cetera. So it's, uh, I've shifted, um, how I see it, because I'm no longer like claw my way up. I was just so desperate to just be in a better position because I didn't want to be poor. Like I, I was when I was younger. And I, I didn't want to have to depend on a man to get by. Like all, all of these different worries and considerations. And so, um, yeah, it's, it's just different now. I, I, I would love to win more prizes, but I'm not gonna be shattered if I, if I don't win a prize, you know what I'm saying? Whereas before it would've maybe wrecked me like, oh, I didn't get it. You know, like, I'm not a worthy person and no one likes me. And, you know, you start down that spiral of, um,
Dr. Robin Stern: But it's so interesting because you had so much confidence really in, in the person you were, and the stories and the poems inside of you all along. Or you wouldn't have in the first place gotten to that. And yet somehow with the outside validation, it becomes, oh my God, I have to get that right. And yet you already had it all along.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. Yeah. I guess it's funny to discover that, but, uh, and I'm glad I don't have that sort of stress and, um, anxiety about how other people perceive my work. Um, of course, I want everyone to love it, but like, not everyone has to. And that's cool. I can survive that. Uh, I just need to know that I'm proud of it and that, you know, when, when people like me, when I go out into the community and, and women tell me how much my books mean to them, that's what it's about, essentially. Like to know that I, I'm reaching the people that I wrote these books for.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yes. That's beautiful. Thank you. And I'm gonna ask that we switch gears a little bit because I did wanna have space for, and, and hold space for you to, to just step into your poet self and your writer self a little bit and tell us, 'cause our readers will be fascinated with your story and, and just, um, compelled by your passion. I mean, I think it's wonderful and your incredible role model for young people out there who know who they are inside and, and need to tell that to the world, need to enact that in the world. So thank you, thank you for your great gifts to the world. What interested you about talking with me and being on this pod about gaslighting?
Erika L. Sánchez: Well, I'm very interested in psychology, in relationships and just human behavior, why we do the things that we do. Um, and I felt like, I don't know, it'd be an interesting conversation, honestly. I was like, I wonder why she picked me. And in fact, that's a question that I have for you,
Dr. Robin Stern: Okay. So you want me to answer your question first?
Erika L. Sánchez: Yes.
Dr. Robin Stern: Um, I think that, uh, one, because I was just compelled by what I was reading about you, um, two, because I thought that I'm, I'm interested in having a diversity of women talk about their experiences growing up where they're not, uh, where they might be being gaslighted because of who they are. Um, and so I thought you might be able to speak to that, or you might have had that experience. And, um, and I, I really love the idea of showcasing people who have, um, who have known about themselves all along and struggl, and yet struggled through the world to get there. So the idea that you didn't have to listen to the voices of the world define you, and you had your own reality. I think that that was really a, a big reason. And, and also, um, and we can say as much or as little about this as you like, but the fact that you just got let go mm-hmm.
Erika L. Sánchez: We can talk about that
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah, that's great. So I, it's great. Not that you got let go, but
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, I, well, thank you so much for all that. And it's, it's interesting, um, to hear you say that, that I knew it all along and, and I guess I did. I just never think of it in that way. Um, I just had this idea of myself and what I was supposed to do in the world. And, um, and a lot of people, not surprisingly thought it was silly, thought it was impractical impossible. Um, you know, I, I felt undermined by, by many different kinds of people. Often it's felt racial and gendered and, uh, just a lot of doubt. And also not really, um, not acknowledging my expertise and my level of education, my, my work, my accomplishments. And, and that's why with DePaul it was, it was really hard to go through that experience because I felt like I was at the top of my game, and I am still, I mean, I am doing so many amazing things, and they really enjoyed, you know, um, telling people that I, that I worked there, that I taught there.
Erika L. Sánchez: Uh, they wanted me to really, um, highlight DePaul whenever I would do interviews or visits or whatever and, and try to get students interested. And so I felt like, well, if they need me like this, then why wouldn't they ever fire me? You know, it's, it's silly, especially because the, um, the, the percentage of Latino students, I think right now, it, it's at like 23%. They're thinking of making it into a Hispanic serving institution, uh, faculty, however, uh, Latino faculty is at 6%. So it's just, it doesn't match. It's, it doesn't make any sense to get rid of someone like me, especially. 'cause the students, for the most part, loved my classes. And I loved my work, and I was good at it, and I felt really proud of what I was doing, and I felt proud of my students. And, you know, it was a really great experience.
Erika L. Sánchez: And so when I, when I was told that it was possible that I, I might lose my job because of the budget cuts, I was just incredulous. I was like, for real. Like, you're gonna, you might get rid of me, like, not to sound like an, but I was like, why would you, it doesn't make any sense, you know, in, in terms of attracting students, in terms of attracting attention to the university, um, the work that I was doing and the community also, and like, it, it is, it seemed pre preposterous, and yet that's the choice that they made. And it felt like no matter what I did, no matter what I do, where I go, white supremacy is right there. It, it's not, you know, I cannot be saved by my achievements. I can't be saved by, you know, my, how, how hard I work or, or how much the students respond to me. Like, none of that is really relevant because I'm seen as someone disposable ultimately.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so, one of the things that I think is so powerful about what you're saying now, and, and so glad that you are here with me, and we're talking about this for our listening audience, is that, that you have the opportunity to step into agreement with some of those outside voices, right? That say, okay, you know, it's not that important that you be here and that there were budget cuts, but you're saying something else. You're saying there's something else at work, or there's something else at play, and that has to do with racism, that has to do with, um, not seeing you as a valuable person, and you're not stepping into that. And so my question to, to you, um, which is similar to some of what you're saying about your growing up as a poet and as a writer, that there were dissenting voices. There were undermining voices. And how, where did you find it in yourself to stand up to those, those voices and that, that offer to do what I call in my book, the Gaslight Tango, which is like, okay, I'm gonna tell you it's ridiculous for you to be a writer, and then someone more susceptible to gaslighting might then take my hand and say, you know, maybe you're right. And even if you said sometimes maybe you're right, you kept going anyway. Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: So how did you do that?
Erika L. Sánchez: It was survival in a sense. Uh, I just, I wrote because it was the only way that I felt, um, really seen that I could feel that I can be free, that I can do whatever I wanted, and no one could tell me anything. And I was in conversation with all of these books that I loved. And for me, it was just like also, uh, a big you to the establishment, because I've always been that way and I've always, you know, questioned, um, capitalism and authority and, um, to the chagrin of my teachers and my parents. Um, but yeah, I, I always cared about the truth and whether that truth was pleasant or unpleasant, like that's what I wanted. That's, that's what ultimately drives my work. It's, it's that search for the truth. And so all of these, you know, people around me talking nonsense, I understood that they were not the truth, you know, that they, they were not relevant.
Erika L. Sánchez: Um, but it, it was hard because, you know, it's, it very discouraging, um, when everyone around you just seems to think you're an I idealistic, um, naive, dumb dumb, you know, like, oh, you're gonna be a writer. Like, that's pretty funny. Um, and, and I just felt like, yeah, I am
Dr. Robin Stern: So were your mental breakdowns around the, the, the discrepancy between, um, what you knew to be true and what you were hearing? Yeah. Or
Erika L. Sánchez: Was
Dr. Robin Stern: The pressure from the outside, first of all, um, really sorry to hear that you had what you're calling mental breakdowns. Um, were, can you tell us or tell us a little bit more if you, even if you don't want me to play this part? Like what do you mean by that? Yeah,
Erika L. Sánchez: I can talk about that. Um, I'll just give an example. When I was in my early thirties, um, and I write about this in my memoir, um, I had a job that gave me such anxiety that it, it made me just not be able to function in my life. I was so scared and nervous and worried all the time, and it, it, it made me really spiral, uh, in a way that I never expected. And, and I think a lot of what happened was it was uncovering some trauma that I hadn't looked at. Um, but also the, the job itself was traumatic. They, they were incredibly demanding. And, um, there was like, this, this time tracker a system that was really humiliating. And, you know, there were a lot of things that felt so oppressive. And I was like, I just wanna be a writer.
Erika L. Sánchez: Like, why can't you let me write? And, and that was what I was hired to do. I was hired to write, um, PR materials for different reproductive rights organizations. And, and I would turn something in and my boss would just like, tear it apart, you know, like, where did you get this language? What is this? What is that? You know, just making me feel like really, really small and stupid and scared. Like I didn't know how to be a writer. And, and that, that wasn't true. It just wasn't true. I was a good writer. She was just, um, oppressive and terrible. And so that, that created a really horrible, um, depression. And I had just gotten married, and then I realized that was a lie. I was like, this is something that I can't keep doing. Um, and so, you know, I, I had that happen and I, then I got divorced and, you know, it was just a whole complicated process, but I just couldn't, I couldn't keep up with, with the show of like, having this fancy job and this, you know, new marriage and, and pretend like everything is fine. It wasn't fine at all. Like, I, I really couldn't keep going in that way. Um, and I, I just really wanted to, as I said, many times, be a writer, and they made it so demoralizing. Um, when I would write
Dr. Robin Stern: By, by criticizing you or, um, yeah. Bullying you or having given you unrealistic deadlines, like what, it sounds like there was a lot of pressure.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. There was a time tracking system where everything was tracked. It was very, very, um, tedious, uh, and annoying. And I had to account for all the time that I was working. Um, so don't
Dr. Robin Stern: Just mean checking in and checking out you're No, no. About, okay.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. And then you would have to write a description of what you did during that time. It was, it's just very, um, infantalizing, you know, and to, to not be trusted with the work that you were hired to do because you're good at that. Um, and then revising documents. Um, once I, I revised something 11 times and I know how to write, you know, like, I'm a writer, so, uh, I don't understand why it was so bad, honestly. It felt like, um, some sort of mind game with my boss. Uh, and, you know, just things like that where I, I was second guessed, I was invalidated, et cetera. And so I felt like the thing that I loved to do most was taken away from me. And I couldn't write. I just couldn't, I would write for work and then feel traumatized by it, and then just not write anymore because I, I just didn't have it in me. They had like, broken my spirit
Dr. Robin Stern: So the effect of that kind of pressure and, and demeaning treatment mm-hmm.
Erika L. Sánchez:
Dr. Robin Stern: Spirit. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. And yet you had a strong inner voice that helped you move through, that helped you move through. And did you have support of friends and people who were your champions at that time?
Erika L. Sánchez: You know, I kept a lot of things to myself during that time. I felt very isolated. So my family had like a, a vague idea of what was happening. But, um, my husband knew about, at, my husband at the time, knew about all of it, and yet he was upset that I was quitting because then I wouldn't have a job. So, you know, I didn't feel supported at all in that way because it, it started to be a life and death situation. 'cause I was, I was suicidal and my anxiety just kept getting worse and worse and worse. And there was no way that I could keep working because I was going to have, I don't know, I didn't know what was gonna happen. It scared me.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. How did you pull yourself out?
Erika L. Sánchez: You know, I, I started practicing Buddhism, and that was really helpful. And I started to understand that everything changes and nothing is permanent. You know, all the basic things that we should know, but we don't. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: It's really wonderful for you to share this with people because sometimes we do, we are isolated and we don't have the social support that we would want. And, and for people listening who feel like they're on a path that they know is right, but don't have the support to, of, of others to help them, to scaffold that, to hear that, that you were able to find, um, support within yourself, that you were able to seek a more spiritual path, that you were able to listen to messages from ancient wisdom mm-hmm.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. You know, I realize that my intuition is really accurate, and whenever I ignore it, I get into a lot of trouble. And so, as I grow older, I, I trust it more and more. If there's a person that makes me feel, um, a little anxious, then I, I know that perhaps we're not gonna be friends, you know? Um, I'm, I'm very, uh, into, you know, tapping into the intuition and, and trusting those feelings, because those feelings don't come from nowhere. And so it's like, it's, it's information your body is giving you. And now that I am more in tune with that, I, I make better choices. And I don't, you know, invite people into my life who end up harming me. You know, like I, I especially, 'cause I have a child now, and so my intuition is even more acute, and I pay so much attention because I, I want her to be safe. And so, um, that's just how I operate now. And, you know, being such a, a, you know, a public person at times, at times, I, I also just want to be myself and with my family and not, um, be available or present or, um, or to care about all that, all that riffraff.
Dr. Robin Stern: I, I love what you're saying. And, and, um, you could be in any of the meetings that we have here at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and talking about how important it is to trust your emotions and to honor them, to listen to them because they have information and how important it is to allow your emotions to guide you to, uh, be in service of your greater goals, you know? And, uh, so I really admire what you've done. Really wonderful to hear your story. And, and also, um, you're great at talking about your feelings and you're so
Erika L. Sánchez:
Dr. Robin Stern: Really, it's, um, really appreciate how candid you, you are. And, um, before I ask you, okay, so now that you've achieved your goals, what's next? Um, I, I do wanna go back into gaslighting a little bit because you had said early on that, that there were some concerns you have about people who, uh, young women or, um, people who follow you and, uh, whether or not they're experiencing in gaslighting. So can you say a little bit more about that?
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, I think brown girls in particular, black girls also, um, have this unfortunate, especially when they come from a working class, um, environment, and they're, they don't receive a lot of affection or attention from their parents. And, um, there's this, they're susceptible to older men giving them attention and making them feel special. And that is really scary. I've seen it happen so many times where, uh, a young woman runs away with an older man or what have you, and, um, terrible things happen, you know? And, uh, they're controlled by this man and they have no autonomy. And, um, I don't know. It's something that really scares me. So I, I really instill in my daughter, um, this idea that we love her no matter what. We give her a lot of attention because there's no way she's gonna grow up and start dating some. Like, I just can't, I can't fathom it. And so, um, how
Dr. Robin Stern: Old is she?
Erika L. Sánchez: She's two and a half, so, okay. So a long time from now,
Dr. Robin Stern: A long time to give her those messages over and over. Yes. Yeah.
Erika L. Sánchez: No, she's very confident and she understands that everybody loves her, so she's good. Um, but, you know, I worry about a lot of young girls who they just need to be, feel seen, they need to feel special, and some guy comes along and supposedly gives that to them, and it could lead to a really difficult life. Um, you know, teenage pregnancy, which is very, very challenging for so many different reasons. I, I've just seen it in my environment, in my culture, in my community a lot where just younger girls, older men, um, the power dynamic is not even obviously, and, and they can sell them basically anything. If you isolate someone, you could brainwash them easily. And so that freaks me out. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: And I think, and it's certainly not confined to a community of people where there are brown girls and black girls, and there is certainly gas lighting is ha gas lighting and grooming are happening in sure. Whether there are white girls, brown girls and, and black girls. And, and, um, that kind of power dynamic is ground zero four, uh, for people to buy into, oh, I, you know, I need this relationship. I want this relationship. He, um, he's such a great guy. And then what the halo effect of, there's a term in psychology called the halo effect, where if you think well of somebody in some way, then they, all of a sudden you give them other attributes, he must be right. He says, he loves me. Why would he ask me to do this if he doesn't? Um, if it isn't loving, if he says he loves me, and even though I don't feel like it's loving, he says, it's loving. You know?
Erika L. Sánchez: Right. And you have no model of a healthy relationship oftentimes, so you're, you just get swept up by this person, uh, as a way to escape your circumstances as well. And so, you know, when someone doesn't have a lot of options and society doesn't think, think they're valuable, um, they might latch onto a man to make them feel that way. And that's really unfortunate.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so for sure, just to validate the fact that there are in certain communities where people don't have access to other kinds of validation, that perhaps you are more vulnerable to somebody Yeah. In and, um, being that person to validate you and then to after validation control.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. It's just a really bad recipe, and I've seen it unfold. And, um, it's something that I think about a lot and it's actually a, a topic that I wanna write about at some point.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. The, the grooming of it, or the power imbalance,
Erika L. Sánchez: The power imbalance, the girl who runs off with her boyfriend, why does she do that? You know, there are many reasons. Um, it's, uh, it's a story that is so familiar to me.
Dr. Robin Stern: Have you heard it a lot in your community? Is that why?
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. At school, uh, I remember there were girls who were married. I was like, what? This was high school. I just couldn't believe it. Um, one of my friends, she died in a mysterious circumstance, and it, it was related to her boyfriend. I don't know exactly what happened, but I think about her a lot and how she didn't have any resources or parents were always working. She was basically raising herself, and then here comes this man to save her, and instead she ends up dying. And I still don't know exactly how.
Dr. Robin Stern: My God, that's awful. Mm-hmm.
Erika L. Sánchez:
Dr. Robin Stern: Tragic.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Please write about it.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. Yeah. I wrote a little bit about it in my memoir. Um, I think about her quite a bit.
Dr. Robin Stern: It's a blessing that you think about her. Please write about it. People need to hear it, and people need to. And if I can help in any way by giving you articles or, um,
Erika L. Sánchez: Thank you. Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Talking with you about it. Um, that kind of grooming is much more popular than, than people know.
Erika L. Sánchez: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: So two things I wanna ask you. Now that you've achieved some important goals for yourself, what's next?
Erika L. Sánchez: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern:
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. So I've been writing a, a new book. I've been working on it for the last few months. And, um, you can see over here, well, there's more tapes. Ah, it's, um, this construction paper, it, it just looks like a giant scroll that I've been writing on, and I'm writing plotting out ideas, um, just different characters, different images, and it's all here. And then there, there's a family tree right there. Uh, and then over there, that's just a, a mural that I started, and it's just perpetual. It, I'll be painting it until I'm too old to get up here, I guess.
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, that's so wonderful. So you're surrounded by your work all the time, and you're using your wall space like a desk. I love that. That's, yeah,
Erika L. Sánchez: It's fun. It, it makes me really happy. I, I just, I feel so happy that I have this space to myself and that I can do whatever I want.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so for those of you who, who can't see, because we're audio here, um, Erika is surrounded by her scroll that's opened up and pasted onto her wall of her work ongoing. And then there are other places on her wall where she also has taped up construction paper, um, that from here looks like wooden, like, um, blocks of, of art, um, that has notes on it, and a mural in the background that's continuing to expand. So your book, you're working on your book, and that's next for you. And what's, what else is exciting for you, your daughter? Exciting.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah, she's so exciting. She is incredibly funny and interesting and empathetic and independent and so much fun. She is a blast. And, um, I'm really enjoying my time with her. And I'm, I'm so grateful that I get to spend time with her, get without all this baggage of, you know, work and, um, you know, paying the bills. Like, I, I, I feel comfortable and I don't have to always be fretting about such things. Like I could really focus on her. Um, and she's just a delight. Uh, everyone loves her. Everywhere we go, she just charms everybody. And, you know, I'm working on this new book and I'm interviewing a lot of women, um, women of my mother's generation. And so that's been really interesting. And, uh, you know, the movie TV show eventually one day,
Dr. Robin Stern: That's very exciting for people to know about and to watch for, right? Mm-hmm.
Erika L. Sánchez: Yeah. I've been waiting for a long time, so I'm just like, when is it actually gonna happen?
Dr. Robin Stern: So what would you like to leave or a listener is with?
Erika L. Sánchez: Uh, I, I guess I would like to underline how gaslighting is, is often a tactic used, uh, with against women of color, of, um, making them second guess themselves of, uh, making them feel like they're crazy. Uh, that I think that's something we need to be really vigilant about. Uh, you know, being told a, a narrative that you know, and your heart is not true. And, um, you know, this, this narrative at DePaul of, you know, just, it was just a budget cut. I don't buy it. Like they just mm-hmm. Nope, it's more than that. It's more than that. I'm a person and they just, you know, tossed me to the side and that's not okay. And it, it'll never be okay. And I didn't, I wanted my students, most of all, to see me stand up to this because I taught them how to stand up to these kinds of things. Like, I wanted to be that model like this, this isn't okay. And we can't pretend it is.
Dr. Robin Stern: I think that's a beautiful note to leave us on that, um, that it's, when you know that what people are trying to tell you about yourself or about the world is not true, it's never gonna be okay. Mm-hmm. To pretend it's true. So I wanna congratulate you on your just tremendous successes and Thank you. Thank you. Just so much gratitude for what you've given to the world for, for brown children and black children and white children. And where can people find you? Where can people buy your work and, and read more about you?
Erika L. Sánchez: Sure. So I have a website, eric l sanchez.com. I'm on Instagram, uh, and I've deleted everything else 'cause I wanna be more present in the world. So, um, that, that's really the only place you can find me.
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, that's good enough for us. So thank you so much for coming on my podcast, and, um, for those of you who have been listening, I know it's been meaningful and rich, uh, conversation and what a role model you are.
Erika L. Sánchez: Thank you so much for the people
Dr. Robin Stern: Role model for, and thank you everyone, and I'll see you the next time on The Gaslight Effect podcast. Thank you, Erika.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thanks for joining me for today's episode. I hope you found it helpful and meaningful. If you want to listen to other episodes of The Gaslight Effect podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. And please leave a rating and a review. I also invite you to follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. This podcast is produced by Mel Yellen, Ryan Changcoco, Mike Lens, and me. The podcast is supported by Gabby Caoagas and Solar Karangi, all of my work and my upcoming book is supported by Suzen Pettit Marcus Estevez and Omaginarium, also by Sally McCarton and Jackie Daniels. I'm so grateful to have many people supporting me and especially grateful for all of you, my listeners.