Let’s Stop Calling it “Gaslighting”

Gaslighting vs. Disagreeing 

Disagreement is a natural facet of human interaction. If we’re honest in our relationships, conflict is inevitable. Whether it’s between a partner, a friend, or a family member, clashes in opinion are bound to occur. However, I’ve seen a trend of labeling a difference of perspective as “gaslighting.”

We invoke the gravity of this term for a myriad of reasons, often because being in conflict feels shattering. It can rumble the ground beneath our feet, leaving us uncertain, frightened, and even disoriented.

Gaslighting, in its original meaning, involves manipulation and exploitation of power dynamics within a relationship. It is a serious violation that can damage mental and emotional well-being. However, not every disagreement fits the criteria of gaslighting. When emotions run high, our perceptions are clouded, and we interpret situations and memories differently. Sometimes we literally cannot see straight.

When we’re in this state, it can be very alluring to concretize around the idea that we are right. Righteousness is delicious and grounding, yet it erodes our connections. When we grow entrenched in our own narratives, we lose the opportunity to truly hear one another. Cultivating curiosity and openness allows us to learn more about our beloveds, regardless of whether we think they’re right or wrong. Conflict does not have to equal opposition. We can look at a conflict together and seek a new approach. This is how we build trust over time.

In cases where someone deliberately distorts another’s reality to gain power or control, we need strong interventions to disrupt this cycle. However, getting stuck in disparate viewpoints and struggling to see the other’s perspective? That’s just being in a relationship.

Conflict as a Catalyst for Growth

As partners, metamours, and friends, we can resist the temptation to view each other as adversaries. Instead, let’s commit to navigating conflicts with empathy and a willingness to repair rupture. By reframing our approach to disagreements and prioritizing connection over contention, we can foster healthier and more resilient relationships built on trust and mutual respect.

Conflict may be inevitable, but it’s how we choose to engage with it that ultimately defines the strength of our relationships. Going through the fire of conflict can actually strengthen our bonds, and lend a trust in the resilience of our connection. When we choose empathy over ego, we build trust between each other and with ourselves.

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