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Communication in Relationships: What is Gaslighting?


Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film Gaslight

By now, you’ve probably heard of gaslighting. It’s a hot term these days, mentioned and discussed in blog articles and on internet forums like sociopathy was two years ago, and narcissism two years before that. It describes a set of disturbing behaviors and a way of communicating with loved ones that’s extremely damaging and troublesome. And since October is communication month, it made sense to talk about it here.

So, what is gaslighting anyway?

Google offers up this definition:

“To manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”

Here’s a more complete definition from Wikipedia:

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to a 1938 play Gas Light and its 1944 film adaptation. The term has been used in clinical and research literature, as well as in political commentary. read more…

Marriage, Communication, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse


So October is communication month. In Dr. Christie’s world, that is, not anywhere else. Communication in dating and relationships is important, even crucial, if you want to succeed at them. And I know you do, because successful relationships make life WAY better.

Today, I’m going to introduce to you a fellow author, psychologist, and academic who studies relationships… using actual scientific methods. Yes, for real. This guy knows his shit. His name is Dr. John Gottman. You’d think I’d know about him from my training, my work as a scientist, or even my years dispensing advice. But that’s not the case. I actually learned of him at a marital seminar I attended. With my ex. Just before we divorced. Yeah, long story. Although the marriage didn’t work out, boy did I learn a lot at this seminar about what marriage is and what makes it work (and fail).

Anyway, Dr. Gottman has, through observation and research, discovered how to predict with pretty decent accuracy whether a couple will make it or not. One way he does this is by watching them communicate. There are many predictors of problems, but one that’s always stuck with me is what he calls the Four Horsemen of the (Marital) Apocalypse. Any one of these things are, according to Gottman, lethal to a relationship. Recognize any of them?? read more…

Learning to Ask Questions, Part 2


Last week, I talked about conflict and how asking questions, rather than making assumptions, can make communication easier and prevent problems. This week, I want to delve a little more into this topic and then offer up some tips on the right way to ask questions.

In conversation with anyone, including those we’re closest to, it’s extremely easy to make assumptions about how that person feels, what they think, and why they do the things they do. We make these assumptions based on our own beliefs and our own issues, and if we don’t ask questions, we never really know where that person is coming from. And if you don’t know where that person is coming from, good luck succeeding with them.

Here are a couple of examples:


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Learning to Ask Questions (Instead of Making Assumptions)


See? The Fonz knows…

Happy October, everyone.

September was devoted to Getting Our Personal Shit Together. We covered fundamentals like taking responsibility for our life, learning to live by our values, and getting rid of self-entitlement. These create an important foundation for our relationships, whether casual, professional, or romantic.

October will be about communication. What we say and how we say it can make the difference between getting dates and scaring dates away, and it can make the difference between a successful marriage and one that goes down the stink hole.

The topic I wanted to address today is one that I’ve given a lot of thought to for a long time, and something I’ve learned from experience. And that topic is learning to ask questions. This is useful in any kind of communication, but can be crucial in relationships. Take this example: read more…

What Does it Mean to “Love Yourself”?


We love you, Oscar, but WTF are you talking about?

You’ve heard it before.

“Love yourself.”

“Self-love is the most important kind of love.”

Or this little doozy:

“You must love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

You can’t pick up a book in the personal growth section of Barnes and Noble or scroll through Pinterest without some guru pontificating about self-love. And while one member of our community associated the “self-love” phenomenon with Eat, Pray, Love, I can vouch for the phrase having been around much longer. As a lifelong consumer of self-help books (I know, shocking, right?), I’ve been reading about loving thyself for decades. And it’s still a thing.

I’ll be honest with you. I hate any saying about self-love or loving yourself. It’s cheesy as shit, for one thing. But much more importantly, it’s vague. And vague advice gets interpreted in all kinds of troublesome ways, to the point where it becomes meaningless. So, at the request of a community member, I decided to explore the big question:

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Forgiveness and Letting Go of the Past


So, to continue September’s theme of Working On Your Own Shit, let’s talk about the past. What do we want? To find the right person. Or, if coupled, to succeed with that person. But if there’s anything that can fuck up that process, it’s the dark hauntings of the past.

Our pasts influence us. Difficult or traumatic events change us, for better and for worse. Those bad events can come from childhood, or they can come from previous relationships. They can range from enduring abuse as a child, to having been lied to or cheated on by a partner, or even just having been disappointed over and over again. Sometimes, those wounds don’t quite heal. And unhealed wounds can make finding or keeping relationships really difficult. Why is that?

Well, think about this. If you’re hiking in the forest and sprain your ankle, what happens? A lot of your energy and focus goes toward nursing that ankle and preventing further pain. No longer are you enjoying the hike or noticing the birds and trees. You need to get that ankle dealt with before you can resume hiking again. It’s like that in relationships too. If you have wounds, you’ll do what you can to protect them, and that makes it tough for the relationship to grow or thrive.

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Christie Hartman, PhD

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