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How much do you value the relationship(DW# 800 )

As we end our series on apologies, I leave you with one final thought:
 
If we value our relationships, we need to learn to apologize effectively. When we apologize, we send a clear message that the other person matters to us. That our relationship with them is valuable enough that we will do what it takes to make amends for our poor behaviour without evasion, excuse making or blaming.
 
Sometimes the process of apologizing is less about insisting on justice and more about investing in the relationship and the other person’s happiness. It is also about having the maturity and emotional intelligence to apologize for our part even when the other person’s reactions seem exaggerated, or when they can’t see their own contribution to the problem.
 
Here is how Dr Lerner ends her book Why Won't You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts:
 
Lead with your heart and not your attack dog. It’s difficult and it’s worth...
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Have the last laugh(DW# 795)

As we conclude the series on emotional abuse, let us just remind ourselves that regardless of other people’s behaviour, we can still choose how to respond to it.
 
With support, with increased emotional awareness, by learning to identify and call out the gaslighting, we can learn to validate ourselves. When others challenge our perception, we can choose to ignore them. We can work against adopting the self-doubt that is so crippling in emotionally abusive tactics such as gaslighting. We can practice reminding ourselves that despite the challenges we are currently experiencing, we have the resources to emerge stronger.
 
Let us look at what happens in the last scene of the movie Gaslight:
 
Paula, realizing that her husband Gregory has been manipulating her and intentionally trying to drive her crazy, turns the tables on him. In the final scene, Gregory has been caught and tied to a chair by police. When Paula enters the room, he instructs her to get a knife...
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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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