Turning Off the Gaslight in Your Relationship

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With few exceptions lawyers are not psychologists and have no business trying to play in that field. But experienced lawyers inevitably see their fair share of psychological wounds when interacting with clients. Although we lack the training to formally diagnose or treat these problems, it’s not difficult to intuit their existence.

            There has been a great deal written about people who allow a spouse or loved one to “gaslight” them. This typically involves a person telling you that you misunderstood their conduct or contrived conduct that never took place. It can involve denial of your own feelings. Divorce lawyers see this a lot. People commonly blame themselves for a failed relationship in ways that don’t seem to match real experience. But today we ran across another species of this branch of disorder; people who gaslight themselves.

            The idea seems counterintuitive but Kati Morton‘s video suggests that a person’s experiences in childhood often inform how they will react to events they experience when adults. Among other things we often blame ourselves for failures in a relationship or dismiss our feelings as either insincere or contrived. This is not to say that you are not contributing to the demise of your relationship but that you are rushing to blame yourself, dismiss your feelings or validate your spouse’s perception without looking at the subject more broadly. If you grew up in a home where your parents or siblings denied the legitimacy of your thoughts and feelings, that denial often travels with you in your later relationships.

            The video posted on YouTube is short but quite compelling. Therapist Morton goes through how others can manage to gaslight your feelings and perceptions but then looks at how you may be also be experiencing a self-inflicted wound. If you watch the video and it resonates with you, the best thing you can do is sit down with a professional and explore this more deeply. Friends, family and even your lawyer really can’t help you unlearn reactive behavior triggered by criticism and denial of what you thought you perceived. That requires a trained mental health professional. What makes it all the more important is that your vulnerability to gaslighting actually inhibits your ability to move forward with a divorce or life generally because you don’t believe your own thoughts and feelings. Again, this is not to say that your perceptions are accurate or fair. But you need help to figure out what is accurate and/or fair before you can really move on with your divorce or, for that matter, your life generally.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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