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: So welcome to this episode of the Gaslight Effect Podcast. I am honored and, um, very happy to have with me today, Amanda Knox, who, uh, may not need an introduction to most of you, but I'm going to give you one anyway, because, um, Amanda is an incredibly special, courageous woman who has survived the most heartbreaking and extraordinarily horrific circumstance. And here you are sitting there under this incredible neon light,
Amanda Knox: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. Um, it's gas lighting is a really, really big and scary topic, and anyone who's been touched by it, I think deserves, uh, support and to know that they're not alone. So thanks for inviting me.
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, thank you for, for saying yes again. And, um, I, in one of the interviews that I heard, I think it was Collier Landry, um, the, the second part where you talked about the gaslighting piece, and I mean, the whole thing was gaslighting or their attempt at gaslighting, but certainly, um, one thing that I wanted to lead with was how triggering gaslighting can be. And so for our audience, if you feel big emotions, it's completely natural. And, um, hope you can stay with the story because the, uh, because Amanda has, and Amanda did work through all of those incredible, uh, years of being. Um, well let her tell you the story. Uh, but I, I do wanna say, if anything triggers you, Amanda, just let me know and we'll move on to something else.
Amanda Knox: Sounds good.
Dr. Robin Stern: So please tell us your story.
Amanda Knox: Oh, gosh. Uh, in a, in a nutshell, how much time do we got
Dr. Robin Stern: In a nutshell?
Amanda Knox: Yeah. So in a nutshell, if I had to condense it all down, um, I was studying abroad as a 20 year old, um, back in 2007 in this beautiful hilltop town called Perusia in the, like the green heart of Italy. Um, it was really an idyllic setting and an idyllic moment of my life. Um, I was living with three other young women in this beautiful cottage that overlooked the valley, and my school was right there. I was making friends. But, uh, about five or six weeks into my stay, a local burglar broke into my home and murdered one of my roommates. Um, she was raped and brutally murdered, and in the aftermath of discovering that this crime had occurred, um, the entire city and country, and even world one could say was a, it was in her uproar. Um, here was this, my roommate was this beautiful young person just like me studying abroad, uh, 21 years old.
Amanda Knox: Um, Meredith was her name, and she was, one could argue doing everything right. She was going to school and, um, spending time with friends. She was at home and, um, on her way to going to bed when she was assaulted and murdered. So it's really just this sudden tragic, traumatic, crazy thing happened out, seemingly out of the blue. And within five days, I was in a jail cell accused of having been a part of her murder. And I spent the next four years in prison, uh, fighting to prove my innocence. I was eventually acquitted and released from prison, but, uh, in Italy, the justice system works a little bit differently than it does here. Um, my prosecutor appealed my acquittal and had my acquittal overturned and tried me again for the same crime while I was here in the United States. So for another four years, I was facing extradition.
Amanda Knox: I was fighting legal battles, trying to prove my innocence all over again. And it wasn't until 2015 that I was definitively acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court, but meanwhile, uh, internationally, I became the girl accused of murder. And I went from being a completely anonymous, creative writing, you know, college student to one of the most vilified and hated young women in the world. And, you know, defined by a soccer nickname that I had when I was a kid, a foxy noxy that was twisted and turned into this, uh, this sort of villain, femme, fatal character persona that came to define who I was in the eyes of the general public, even though it was so, so far from who I really am. So that's, um, that's I guess my story in a nutshell. But of course, there are all these twists and turns and, uh, struggles along the way.
Amanda Knox: Um, particularly when it comes to the idea of gaslighting. I mean, I, I can't tell you what an existential crisis it is to sit there in a courtroom as an innocent person and have a judge say to your face, you're guilty and you are going to spend the next 26 years of your life in prison because you're an evil person. And just be told that, and you know it's wrong, and you know it's not true, but there's nothing you can do about it, and you, and there's no way that you can defend yourself. And you are going back to that prison van, and you are going back to that prison to live out the life of someone that you're not.
Dr. Robin Stern: So I watched your, your documentary listened to your interviews, and for those of you who have not seen it, it is an incredible, um, piece of work and very hard to watch and very moving. And I wonder whether or not the gaslighting started, or you think the gaslighting started when you became so central to this crime that really you should have been incidental to. I mean, not that it would've been any less a horrific crime, of course, but here you were accused when actually you were with your boyfriend on the night that she was murdered. So how did that happen?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, I mean, I think that honestly, the gaslighting started from the very, very beginning, even like the day that the crime was discovered, that Meredith's body was discovered, um, which was five days before I was arrested. And I think that because I have come to realize that the police really did suspect me from the very beginning. I was the person who came home to discover that my house was a crime scene. Uh, it was me and my boyfriend who called the police and asked for them to come to our house and assist us. And from the very beginning, the police have come out and said that they knew that I was somehow involved because they had a gut feeling about me. And whether or not I was telling all the truth of everything I knew, uh, they thought that my emotional reactions to what was happening did not, were not appropriate in some way.
Amanda Knox: They, they've since come up with a lot of justifications for that in initial gut feeling, but like their actions really do suggest that they suspected me from the beginning. They tapped my phone and no one else's phone from the very first day. And the gaslighting itself started right then and there, because from the beginning, they told me that I was their most important witness. So, and, and I believe them 100%, it made sense to me, like of the, of the girls who lived in the house together, Meredith and I had the most in common. We were the closest in age. We both spoke English as our primary language. And so it, it made sense to me that because I had come home first and discovered the crime scene because I had been the one to call the police because I was closest to Meredith out of all of our roommates, that they would put special importance on me as a witness. And they ended up calling me back to the police office day after day for hours and hours of questioning on end, always with the justification of, well, we need you, Amanda. We need you to help us solve this crime. Little did I know that they were actually suspecting me from the very beginning, and they were slowly but surely breaking me down.
Dr. Robin Stern: How did they, how did they do that when you say they were slowly but surely breaking you down, if you don't mind going into that?
Amanda Knox: Yeah. Um, so one of the things that I talk about a lot when I talk about criminal justice reform is what happens in the interrogation room. And there are some really chilling truths about how that the general person, the innocent person, would not know about what law enforcement is allowed to do and not do in the interrogation room and the loopholes that are available to them in order to deny you your rights that are even sp technically supposed to be there, like your right to an attorney. I, again, like I said, I was going into these interrogation sessions believing with and with the understanding that I was a witness, that I was, you know, a a person who knew Meredith, who had seen the crimes, like who had seen the arrangement of how our house was, who would be able to give the police insight into who might have something against Meredith or who might have access to our house.
Amanda Knox: That's what they kept telling me so I could help them. And even, I remember at a certain point I asked them, 'cause my family was so incredibly worried, they were, my mom was telling me like, we need to get you out of that country. It's not safe. Where are you even staying right now? You ha your aunt is in Germany. Can you please just take a train up to Germany until they at least catch the killer, so you're not like in danger? Who knows? Maybe this person was targeting your house and was like a serial killer. Like we had no information at the very beginning. And my mom, of course was very afraid, but when I went to the police and told them like, Hey, my mom is worried. She wants me to go and stay with my aunt, and still, until we know that everything is safe here in Perusia, they told me, no, we can't, you can't leave because you're so important to the investigation.
Amanda Knox: So here they are, like implanting in my mind, this justification for them basically holding me in custody, like having me in custody without officially having me in custody, having me be interrogated for hours and hours and hours on end over the course of five days, 53 hours over five days. So an average of 10 hours of day of questioning and me sort of having to repeat myself over and over again. One of my challenges was that I was in a foreign country and I was not fluent in the language. I spoke a very childlike, um, version of the Italian language that was very limited in vocabulary. And so I didn't have a, a lot of language to understand legal terms or even just the word for prosecutor. Like, I remember at one point they, they brought in the person, the pub who was going to speak with me.
Amanda Knox: And I had no idea what a publi was in Italy, that's the term for prosecutor. But in my, you know, English brain, I thought, okay, publi public minister, is that like the mayor? Who, who is this person? I had no idea. And so I had no idea what I should expect from interacting with him and what my rights were in relation to him. I was never told that I was a suspect. Um, and I was brought into a final interrogation scenario that that took place overnight. It began at around 10:00 PM and I was kept up overnight. I was refused. I was refused food, I was refused sleep. I was refused the right to call my mom. And over the course of many hours, I was told by the police that what I thought was true, what my memories were of where I was the night of the murder and what I was doing was all wrong. They just told me flat out like, we know that what you say you, you remember is not true. And in fact, what we think it happened is that you have amnesia that you don't really remember what happened, and that you were traumatized from having witnessed something so horrible that your brain had to block it out.
Dr. Robin Stern: In talking to people through the years who have been basically seduced into cults, Hmm, that's exactly the kind of gaslighting, uh, and then, um, indoctrination technique that they use no sleep, no food, insisting that their reality is the reality that the memories you have either are wrong or don't serve you well, and that you need to fess up to what is really the truth according to them.
Amanda Knox: Right. And do what they say,
Dr. Robin Stern: Do what they say. And, um, I do wanna just say to you personally that I'm so sorry that you went through this. I mean, how horrific the words do not even do it justice. Just
Amanda Knox: Thank you. I mean, it's, it's, it shocks me to this day as well. And I wonder if this is actually, um, you've seen this also with people who have been, um, indoctrinated by cults if they have also been targeted at a uniquely like vulnerable moment in their lives. Because absolutely. Like here I was just living my life, you know, being a foreign exchange student, and all of a sudden my roommate is murdered and I'm suddenly homeless and I'm 6,000 miles away from everyone I know, and I'm 20 years old and I don't know what to do. And it, it's, it's really sad for me, um, to think about how, especially in those moments of crisis in our lives, suddenly people who can, who are prone to harm are suddenly are attracted, like, like flies because they see a person in a unique moment of stress and vulnerability who could be cognitively opened in a way that they normally wouldn't otherwise be. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: And there's biology that supports that because when you are, uh, in a traumatic moment when you are do have those intense feelings, you're not, your thinking skills are compromised and, uh, amazing that you held onto yourself despite having to go through all that for so long. And what was it like for you when they coerced you into signing?
Amanda Knox: So, I, I talk about how, you know, there were a lot of really bad moments over the course of those, you know, eight years that I was going through this nightmare. And the scariest moment and worst moment I argue, um, was not the day that I received a guilty verdict. It was the day that they made me believe that I was crazy. And, and it was, it. So it was very early on that, that night during the interrogation, when I could not understand why these authority figures, who I had been trained as a child to trust were why they would be yelling at me or hitting me or telling me things that I knew were not true. And I just, in a moment of utter crisis and confusion, I started to doubt my own sanity. I started to doubt everything that I thought was true and, and everything I knew to be true. I, I genuinely did not know up from down anymore. And I was at a place where I was willing to say or or sign anything they put in front of me because I just, I was, I did not know, and I didn't know who else to turn to in that moment, but these authority figures who I had been trained to trust,
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, and they took away all of your other reality bearers by allowing you to have contact with the outside world. I mean, it's classic textbook gaslighting with power and control. They manipulate your reality. And it is, it is that vulnerable moment. Like why would these people who, who are trustworthy mm-hmm.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. And they were the ones who were responsible for keeping me safe. Even like my world was completely turned upside down and I had nowhere to live. I had, I had no, like, no, my parents were not there to help me. So really, the law enforcement became stand-ins for my parents.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yes.
Amanda Knox: And, and in that position, they were able to twist me and break me and mold me into whatever they wanted me to be. Yeah. And it just happened to be someone who would sign a statement saying, yes, I was traumatized, and I, I blacked out because of the trauma, and I don't, I think this person or that person committed the crime. And I was there and, and I signed these statements, and the next thing I knew I was being stripped naked for examination and to be photographed, uh, as evidence. And then I was taken to a prison cell. And even when I went to that prison cell, like the entire time, like they, you know, they, they stick handcuffs on you and they put you in the back of a prison van. But the entire time they told me that I was just a witness, they never, like, even as they put the handcuffs on me, they were saying, this is just a formality. See, we're making them really loose. You know, it's not, it's not because you're like in custody, it's because it's a formality and we're taking you to a holding place for your own protection. And when I asked when am I gonna get to see my mom, they said, you'll see your mom in a few days. And of course, here I am in a prison cell and I was not there for just a few days. I was there for a total of 1,428 days. And if it were up to the prosecution, I never would've left.
Dr. Robin Stern: So during that time when you were experiencing something that was, other than what they were telling you, and when you were able to contact your own reality, how did you hold on?
Amanda Knox: Hmm. Yeah, because there's some really fascinating, um, I've sensed discovered really fascinating research into this, um, by Professor Saul Casson. Are you familiar with him?
Dr. Robin Stern: No, I'm not.
Amanda Knox: Oh, you would be. He's a, he's a psych, um, a psychologist who studies false confessions, um, at John Jay University. You would love his research. In fact, I should send you the article that I read of his, uh, way back, um, after I got released from prison. But like for me in the moment, what my, what my interrogators were asking me to do was try to remember something else than what I actually remembered. Mm-hmm.
Amanda Knox: Like I had a memory of walking down the street towards my house, but it was just a fragment of a memory. And then I tried to piece that memory together with the face of my boss, who I was supposed to work at his pub that night. And instead I was, I didn't have to come to work and I was hanging out with my boyfriend. So I had a vision of his face in my mind, but it was again, like from the day that I met him, not from the actual night of the murder. And so my mind is desperately trying to find memories and piece them together in this cobbled ramshackle way in order to make sense of what the interrogators were telling me, which was that I must have been at my house and I must have witnessed this crime, and that I must have met with this person, Patrick Lumumba. And it was extremely confusing, extremely disorienting. But the entire time they told me, well, it makes sense that you're feeling disoriented because you're so traumatized. And don't worry, the memories will come back with time.
Dr. Robin Stern: Oh my God. So they blame, they gaslighted you about why you were upset about being gaslighted. Yes. So you are your mind spinning and, and it must have been so dislocating. Um, as for you as a human being to think, could this have happened to me? I blacked out. Like, what? Like, how can you believe that about yourself when it's never happened? You knew it wasn't true, and yet these people are physically abusing you, psychologically abusing you, and telling you that the reason that you're feeling crazy is something else besides what they're doing to you.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. Um, like I said, it, I have never, it, it, that was the worst experience of my life, be like beyond all of the other things that I experienced over those years. Um, that experience of being lied to and lied to, uh, on meta levels lied to and made to feel crazy and made to feel like I didn't know anything anymore, and that I was utterly at their mercy was the scariest and worst experience of my life. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: So sorry, so horrific that you went through this. Do you experience the ghost of gaslighting, if you will? Do you feel that there's been, um, a ripple effect or a, a, a weight that sometimes follows you or a cloud that sometimes follows you from that moment of being forced, literally forced to be unsure of yourself?
Amanda Knox: Absolutely. It's something that I struggle with to this day. Um, because once, it's kind of like when you've been hit by lightning once, you kind of can't help but walk through the world trembling at everything that sounds like a thunderstorm. Like anything, any like little hint of something that gives you the sense, like even the, just, just even a, a a little feeling that something might not be, like, someone's not quite telling you the whole truth and they're probably telling you that not the whole truth to manipulate you. Like your mind just immediately goes there. And I struggle with that to this day. It is the only way that I am able to sort of step back is by, I mean, a lot, my meditation practice has really helped me with this because it's allowed me to feel the emotion of, of automatic suspicion, even of like the people that I love that are close to me, who have been in my life for my entire life.
Amanda Knox: Like a part of me is constantly afraid that someone is lying to me and someone is trying to manipulate me and coerce me. And so I have to really take a step back and notice that I'm feeling that emotion and then notice that it's okay to feel that emotion, but also that emotion might not be grounded in the reality that is actually before me. And it could be a very trauma-informed response to the world. And so I really do have to take, take a step back and give, like, giving people the benefit of the doubt and like, get clarification, become a really good communicator, and just say things like, I'm feeling afraid right now because I'm interpreting what's happening this way. Can you please talk to me about, but I'm afraid also that I'm wrong. So can you talk with me about what it is that's really going on?
Amanda Knox: Did you use that tone of voice because you meant this? Or did you not even notice that you were using a tone of voice? Like there all of the like tiny ways that we communicate information with each other can turn into a trigger if you're not aware of them, them. And so I've really had to learn how to break down and identify my emotional reactions to things and be humble enough to, and be vulnerable enough again, to allow myself to feel a sense of trust in others that was, you know, radically, uh, violated at a very crucial moment in my life.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. Well, thank you for the vulnerability in just sharing that very skillful. What you're describing is very skillful. How did you learn those skills?
Amanda Knox: I mean, it's, I'm now 36. It's been, uh, it's been, uh, you know, over a decade since, uh, no, not over a decade, almost a decade since I was definitively, uh, acquitted. And that the entire time this, this whole like almost decade of recovering and trying to rebuild my life in the aftermath of all of this has involved a lot of self-work and has a lot, has involved a lot of recognizing when my trauma is debilitating, me, honestly is preventing me from having the kinds of relationships that I want to have and, um, from pursuing the goals that I want to have. Another thing that has been really difficult psychologically for me to wrap my mind around is the problem of, you know, we all have dreams and hopes in life, and we take steps to pursue them. We make these five or 10 year plans, people talk to me about their five year plans.
Amanda Knox: And, and a part of me just can't, just can't go there because I've had the experience of having everything taken away from me out of the blue all of a sudden for no reason whatsoever. And the feeling that everything could just be taken away from you, doesn't go away.
Dr. Robin Stern: To get married
Amanda Knox: And to get married and have kids like these are all, these are all not just hopes and dreams, but they're risks that we're taking. We're making ourselves vulnerable over and over and over again. But because that's what the stuff that makes life worth living so,
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, I didn't write it in my own list of questions. Um, I feel right now, like I just really wanna ask about your family. Mm-hmm. Uh, first I'm a mother. My son's 36 and my daughter is 33.
Amanda Knox: Oh, there you go. And,
Dr. Robin Stern: Um,
Amanda Knox: I'm really grateful you asked that because I think with a lot of these, um, big cases, um, people typically think of the person who's on ground zero, the person who's in the prison cell. And really what happens with a wrongful conviction is that it's not just the person who's wrongly convicted, but everyone who loves them and cares about them and who's a part of their life, who is suffering the consequences of that wrongful conviction. And so, absolutely my family, while none of them spent a day in a prison cell, they absolutely were plunged into a similar, if not worse, existential crisis than even I was going through, because of course, my mom and dad have never had to defend anyone from a wrongful murder accusation before. They have never had to deal with a foreign legal system before. They have ne like they've never had to deal with international media coverage before, and suddenly their life's daughter or their, their, their daughter's life depends upon them being able to manage an unmanageable situation.
Dr. Robin Stern: Well, not to mention the terror that they must have experienced every single day.
Amanda Knox: Exactly. And like I know that both of my parents would have traded places with me in an instant if they could. At, at any moment they would've, like, they wished they were the ones in prison instead of me. And they couldn't. They just couldn't. And even even so they, they never missed a visitation day. Like I think people might think that, of course you would never miss a visitation day, but imagine what it feels like to walk up to the prison, go through all of the humiliating, you know, strip search things that you have to go through in order to even reach your loved one behind those bars. But then imagine leaving them there, leaving them there knowing that you can't stay, you can't trade places, you know what they're experiencing, you know what they're going through, they're telling you about it, and you can't do anything like the utter powerlessness that my mom felt.
Amanda Knox: And like the the times, like, just over and over and over again, breaking her heart just so that she could come see me and let me know that she was there for me. Um, it's, I I feel like you should talk to my mom
Dr. Robin Stern: So first I would, um, I hope your mother will listen to this and, and that, that I'm sending her a big hug. And I of course would love to talk to her. I and I, I will share, um, something from my own life that was nowhere near this, but was terrifying. Nonetheless, my daughter, um, was a, uh, student at Georgetown who decided to, um, her name is Melissa, and she decided to, uh, study abroad and she was studying Arabic and sociology. So she went to Egypt. And four days after she was there, the Egyptian revolution broke out.
Amanda Knox: Oh God.
Dr. Robin Stern: And I saw it for the first time on television. I turned on the TV and there were riots in tar rear square. And she was there. And I had that overwhelming feeling of terror, like, what is gonna happen to her? I'll never see her again, God forbid. And, and she would call me from time to time before she was rescued by Georgetown, who did a fantastic job rescuing their students. And she would say, um, sometimes it would be very reassuring, I'm fine, I'm gonna find my classmates. And and other times it would be less reassuring, don't worry, mom, I have washcloths for the tear gas. And, um, and I would then one time we got cut off on the phone where she was looking for her group to be leaving the country, and suddenly there was no phone service. And I remember, um, sitting on my bed thinking, what could I possibly do? Like there was nothing more important than rescuing her. And, um, the good news is that she, because she spoke Arabic, she ended up getting a job over in Qatar where Georgetown took them. And, um, I'll encourage her to listen to this episode as well. Um, but I, uh, I, there's nothing more important. And so I couldn't help listening, uh, as a mother
Amanda Knox: Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: To what's going on, because what do you do? What
Amanda Knox: Do you do? Like, do you get on a plane to Egypt and somehow try to find her? And what do you do then? Like, you know, I, the,
Dr. Robin Stern: I would have, I mean, that's what mothers do. I would,
Amanda Knox: Yeah,
Dr. Robin Stern: Exactly. And so how are your parents now?
Amanda Knox: You know, I, my parents are obviously much better now. Um, my, my dad is now retired. My mom is almost retired, and they, I think the thing that they are most happy about is seeing how I have been able to rebuild my life. I think that's the biggest gift that I could give them, is the reassurance that this horrible thing that took over my life didn't utterly break and debilitate me. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. That's definitely the greatest gift.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. I mean, as a mom now, I, and I empathize. Like, it really hit me hard when I had my first daughter. Like, honestly, even before my daughter was born, I was sitting there big pregnant belly, like feeling this life inside of me going, oh my God, if something happens to her, I don't know what I would do. Like, I just, it's so much worse than it happening to yourself. You, the, the idea that it happens to yourself is almost a relief at that point. You're like, yes, let me be hit by a bus. Like, please, I welcome it
Dr. Robin Stern: Know, what's going on if it's happening to you. Yeah. And you can do something to the extent that you can.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. But
Dr. Robin Stern: What is happening to your child? Like, it is the
Amanda Knox: Worst. There,
Dr. Robin Stern: There is nothing worse. Yeah. How did you hope? Hold on to hope?
Amanda Knox: Hmm. I think in a kind of controversial way, well, not controversial, maybe counterintuitive is the better word. Um, because, and this was an interesting sort of conflict, um, that arose between, or debate that arose between me and my mom. Because the first two years of my imprisonment, I was still awaiting a verdict in trial. And I sort of went along with what my family was telling me, and particularly my mom was telling me, which was that here we were in the midst of a very, like, horrible ordeal, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The truth would win out. I would be vindicated and freed. There was going to be a happy ending because that's what we deserved. Like, I was an innocent person. I didn't deserve to be in prison. And so my mom sort of held on to this like deep, deep optimism thinking that like, it's gonna be okay.
Amanda Knox: It's not okay right now, but it's going to be okay. And after I was convicted and sentenced to 26 years, and I was facing the prospect of the best years of my life in a prison cell, I, that, that story of optimism no longer resonated with me and no longer felt true. And I had a, a kind of epiphany moment where I was like, oh my God, I'm just sitting here waiting to get my life back when in reality this is my life and I have to be okay with this right now. What's happening right now being my life. And the only way that I can do that is by not living in this mental space where I'm hoping my life is going to be other than it is. And instead really just sitting and accepting the circumstances as they were, and asking myself, how do I make this life that I actually am living worth living?
Amanda Knox: How do I be okay right now in the midst of things being not okay at all? And this was something that, it was, it was difficult for me to describe this sort of, of epiphany to my mom, because my mom really needed that like, light at the end of the tunnel to keep her going to like really keep ke like doing all the work and all, and all the emotional energy to just like stay on target and to fight the good fight and do what needed to be done. But for me, I needed something very different, and I needed to hope for something different. Like, I, it didn't stop me from hoping that my conviction would be overturned and I would return to freedom, but my hope became more complicated than that. My hope was whatever happens, I hope that I can be okay. And it, my mom like, just couldn't hear that my like, and so it was, it was really this sort of personal journey that I went on to be okay regardless.
Amanda Knox: And that, that was my, that was my personal mission every single day that I woke up. Because I also couldn't imagine how to be okay with 26 years in prison. So instead, I broke it down to how can I be okay today? What can I do today to make life worth living regardless of the situation? Um, and, and that worked for me. And day by day I kept asking myself that same question, and it allowed me to survive a very traumatic experience and very traumatic environment, but it also allowed me in the aftermath to feel like I didn't just lose that I, that I just didn't. Like, I didn't lose four years of my life to prison, and I didn't lose eight years of my life to trials. I didn't lose anything. I went through something super traumatic that I wouldn't wish on anybody, but I absolutely, absolutely gained a lot of life experience and perspective and, and gratitude for life that I might otherwise take for granted. And so being able to feel like I didn't lose has really helped, um, me process my experience and, and put that experience into perspective and compartmentalize it.
Dr. Robin Stern: So beautifully said, you know, when pe when we talk about, uh, how do people move through trauma and move, be, move beyond trauma, making meaning
Amanda Knox: Of
Dr. Robin Stern: Their life and, um, taking it with them with a new perspective mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Is so critically important. And despite the gaslighting, despite the torture psychologically, despite knowing, it must have been horrific for you to know that your family was also going through that
Amanda Knox: Yeah. On
Dr. Robin Stern: The side of the world, you were able to have, you had the strength to do that, to take yourself in hand, if you will, and just say, okay, this is it. You know? Yep. Or epiphany. And I wonder if you've given thought to probably have, um, what early experiences you had that allowed you to show up with such strength?
Amanda Knox: Hmm. You know, that's a really good question because one of the things that
Amanda Knox: Um, and so I think maybe a weird thing to say is that a little bit what prepared me for this worst experience of my life was the fact that I had had such a happy upbringing and childhood and young adulthood that I had been able to live with a sense of security and love and, and, and like there was, you know, endless possibility in my life and that, and I had 100% support from the people who cared about me. Um, it, it made me understand that even when everything else that I thought I could count on fell away and crushed me, I could hold on to that feeling of security that I knew in my heart was at least coming from my family. And, and that had instilled in me a sense of there's gotta be something good that can come out of this. There has to be, there has to be.
Amanda Knox: And I didn't have that, like a deep feeling of just utter nihilistic despair because I had never experienced that before. That was not my experience of reality. And I think that in a large way that did save me is that like, deep, deep, you know, like that deep, deep sense that life is actually worth living. And so I just had to, it almost felt like I was suddenly given a puzzle, like, here's a, here's a puzzle of a life that doesn't look like it's worth living, but find out how it is. And I was like, all right, I guess I'm figuring out this puzzle now because I know that there's an answer. Um, another thing that I talked about, um, or to myself in my head is I, um, I played a lot of soccer when I was a kid, and I actually had a bit of a challenging, uh, and very, uh, yeah, I'll just say challenging coach who would really push all of us, um, to really push ourselves and discover our, like, push past the boundaries that we thought we had to endure longer than we thought we could endure.
Amanda Knox: And I, a part of me sort of turned my experience into that. I was thinking, oh, I think that my, I can't handle this, but maybe I can. And I think this is just too much for me to deal with. Maybe I like this sadness that I'm feel this deep, deep sadness. This feels like it should break me, but look at me. I'm, I'm not broken. I'm gonna push through. I'm gonna push through. And I think that also sort of prepared me to be surprised by my own strength that I didn't know that I even had.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. Well, what a beautiful tribute to your coach, and I know,
Amanda Knox: Right?
Dr. Robin Stern:
Amanda Knox: Trip. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Um, we're almost out of time and I feel like, um, I won't be, don't be surprised if I call and say, will you come back and
Amanda Knox: There's so much to talk about. Yeah. Uh, no worries
Dr. Robin Stern: But where, uh, where can people hear your podcast and where can people read more and, and learn more about you?
Amanda Knox: Oh, thank you for asking. So my podcast is called Labyrinths. I host and produce it with my husband Christopher. Um, and you can find all of our work, all links to podcast writing, advocacy work, speaking stuff, email@example.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at Amanda Knox and on Instagram at Mama Knox. Well,
Dr. Robin Stern: It has been absolute pleasure to, to be with you and I'm so, uh, heartened by your strength and also, um, inspired by the fact that not only did you survive and thrive, but that you are full of joy and gratitude for life.
Amanda Knox: Thank you. Well, thanks so much for having me, Robin. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Robin Stern: It was really wonderful to, to be in conversation and anything you want people to know last minute, should they, um, should they encounter somebody who's trying to drive them crazy and gaslight them.
Amanda Knox: I mean, the biggest thing it to know is that you are not crazy
Dr. Robin Stern: I think that's before you think that's quick emergency.
Amanda Knox: Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Remedy. Thank you. Thank you so much, Amanda.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, thank you so much. Take care.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Salar Karangi, all of my work and my upcoming book is supported by Suzen Pettit, Marcus Estevez and Omaginarium, also by Sally McCarton and Jacqui Daniels. I'm so grateful to have many people supporting me and especially grateful for all of you, my listeners.