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Can relationships heal after gaslighting has... (DW# 786)

We have been discussing gaslighting and its significant impact on a relationship.

The question we will explore today is this: is it possible for a relationship where there has been gaslighting to heal and become healthy?

Of course, it is not a good idea to write anyone off since people can surprise us and change in healthy ways when we do not expect them to.

However, we also need to be realistic about what is probable.

In relationships where gaslighting is a pattern, or used as a tool of emotional and characterological abuse, change is only possible if the perpetrator is open to intensive and long-term individual therapy. This requires some level of self awareness or awakening on the part of the perpetrator to realize their behavior has damaged another human being’s psychological wellbeing. Since abusers and perpetrators of gaslighting are rarely open to such treatment or to examining their own behavior and its impact, it is often up to the victim of gaslighting to seek...
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Motivation matters (DW# 785)

We have been talking about gaslighting in relationships: that is saying or doing things which cause the person on the receiving end to start questioning their own perceptions, reality and even sanity.

There are various situations where another person may question our view of events or our perceptions and we need to remind ourselves to be careful about being quick to label something as gaslighting or writing the person off as a narcissist.

The first situation is more a matter of personality than of malign intentions. Some people are dismissive of things and attitudes of others as a matter of habit. So what we may think of as gaslighting may simply be a person’s argumentative nature, their air of superiority, or their judgmental tendency. Many high functioning and powerful individuals sometimes have a hard time practicing humility or knowing how to have egalitarian relationships. They may not intend harm on purpose and are often surprised when their partners get angry and hurt...
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Why is gaslighting so harmful in relationships? (DW# 784)

Yesterday, we distinguished between two types of "gaslighting", one where there is intent to control, manipulate, and subjugate the other person compared to where the person doing the gaslighting is simply trying to save themselves from facing accountability.

Experts agree that even when gaslighting is done on a one-time basis and is not part of characterological abuse, it is still very harmful to relationships as it destroys trust between people.

Since trust is the very foundation of an intimate relationship, when this is destroyed, it makes it very challenging to repair. When someone discovers that they were gaslit, they are shocked and traumatized that someone they trusted has the ability to harm them in this way. The breaking of trust leads to not feeling safe in the relationship and often results in shrinking away and protecting oneself from being intimate or vulnerable in the relationship.

Can a relationship continue with this emotional distance and self-protection? Yes of...
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What is “Gaslighting" (DW# 783)

Yesterday we started talking about a situation where you experience a major break of trust, hurt or betrayal from a trusted loved one or colleague and instead of apologizing, they actually deny any wrong doing on their part. And then they turn the blame on you by suggesting that the problem is in your head and not in their behaviour.
 
The psychological term for this is "Gaslighting".
 
The word Gaslighting comes from Gaslight, the 1944 Oscar winning film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the story, a husband (Boyer) tries to convince his new wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, in particular the occasional dimming of their home’s gas lights. (He was dimming the gaslights as part of his plan to rob her of some very valuable jewelry.) Over time, the wife, who trusts that her husband loves her and would never hurt her, believes his lies and starts to question her own perception of reality. What is so disturbing about this story is that there...
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But I never did that (DW# 782)

[Before we go on to today’s message, I need to warn you that the content for the next few days may be challenging for some of us to read. And it needs to be addressed to provide support for many who are going through such challenges and of course to remind ourselves not to be such challenges for others!
Please feel free to skip this week if you find it triggering or not relevant!]
 
Yesterday we talked about how the process of healing and forgiveness for major betrayals takes time and effort.
 
The process begins with an honest acknowledgement from the person who has betrayed trust.  
 
But what if that first step is not taken? What if the person who has betrayed your trust refuses to even admit that they did that which has hurt you? What if they deny the facts in face of the evidence? What if they accuse you of imagining things or being extra suspicious?
 
When I am working with people who are on the receiving end of such behaviour, there is...
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When “I’m sorry” is simply not enough (DW# 781)

This week, we will are continuing our series on making and accepting apologies.

There are certain situations where even if you offer a sincere apology, it will not make things right.
 
If the offending behaviour has been long standing, deeply hurtful or damaging, or involves a betrayal of trust, the process of forgiveness will take some time.
 
Any instance of lying, cheating, breaking a confidence, failing to defend or not prioritizing the relationship would count as a betrayal which weakens the fabric of intimacy and the relationship.
 
There are of course, actions which are much more significant in terms of causing lasting hurt. These are major betrayals.
 
Here are some specific examples of "common" major betrayals that come to mind (there may be others of course):
 
- Taking money out of someone’s bank account without their knowledge.
- Hiding your financial situation such as debt or savings, your immigration status, your health status, your...
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Look what you made me do (DW# 780)

One of the worst kinds of non-apology is blaming the other person when they are the hurt party.
 
You made me do that
You made me angry
It is your fault that I did what I did
I had no choice but to do what I did because of what you did
It was your behaviour that caused me to act as I did
These are ways of blaming the offended party for the behaviour of the offender. Can you think of a more offensive way to behave? This is the language of abusers when they use power, control and manipulation against the victim to deflect attention from their actions. It is called blaming the victim and it is a VERY oppressive way to behave.
 
If we are on the receiving end of such talk, we need to remind ourselves that we cannot be held responsible for someone else’s actions.
 
And as parents, we need to be very careful that we do not say any version of the following:
 
I did not want to hit you – you made me do it
You are making me scream
You are giving me a...
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Can you overdo an apology? (DW# 779)

Can you overdo an apology?
 
Absolutely! It is one thing to express remorse for what we have done, and it is quite another to share the depths of shame and remorse we might be feeling with another person to the extent that they feel the need to take care of our emotional distress.
 
Apologies like this show up in sentences like:

I am sorry I am a horrible person
I can never get over what I did to you
I feel absolutely terrible
 
Apologies like this seem genuine on the surface and they might be. The problem is that the focus is not on the distress of the offended person but rather on the feelings of the offender.
 
We need to be careful about making the offended person feel bad about how bad we are feeling. Processing our feelings of guilt and remorse is ours to process and does not belong in the apology process.
So, if we are feeling awful about what we have done, let us practice sitting in that distress after we have expressed remorse rather than putting the...
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A beautiful prayer (DW# 778)

When we begin making lists of people we owe apologies to, it may cause a lot of distress, especially if the people involved are no longer around or in touch with us (I think of all the teachers at school that I gave a hard time to, Nannies that I may have been sassy with . . . ).

What do we do then? What if we cannot get in touch with them?
 
One way is to earnestly pray for them.
 
It is a good general habit to specifically include two groups of people to remember in our prayers:
1) Those who have done us favours, taught us, served us, shown us kindness or made our life better in any way
AND
2)
Those whom we may have bothered, hurt or harassed (remembering of course that if you know a specific situation and the person is around, it is better to ask forgiveness in person) that we may have forgotten about or are not in touch with.

There is a beautiful section in the supplication Dua Tauba in the Sahifa Sajjadiya which says:

O Allah, counted against me are claims (from...
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Another alternative to the generic apology (DW# 777)

Continuing our discussion on alternatives to the generic apology.
 
We generally want to apologize to people we may have unknowingly hurt to clear our own conscience and to improve our standing before the Lord.
 
If we are at place in our lives when we want to make amends and seek forgiveness for our actions in the past, it is a good idea to start compiling a list of people that we may owe apologies to. Of course, we do not know if they remember us, or hold things against us but this is a good place to start.
 
Secondly, when we reach out to someone to offer an apology, we need to make sure that it is to a specific person and not a mass message.
 
Thirdly, we can check in to see if and why they are upset and offer to make an apology.
 
This may be far more meaningful and healing than a generic apology although it does take a lot more effort and courage to do.
 
Here is an example:
 
Dear [Name]

I am going for – and you will be on my...
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