Welcome to the Co-parenting Kids Podcast, where you’ll hear all the tips and tricks to co-parent with someone who is difficult or has narcissistic traits. I’m your host, Kirsty Petersen, and I am a family mediator, author, and coach, supporting parents to have more co-parenting harmony, and less angst. Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the episodes as they drop. And head over to co-parentingkids.com.au for lots of free resources about co-parenting and mediation.
A short note on gaslighting and turning the tables.
Welcome back. This is not a podcast episode even though it seems like it. This is just a really short note because I mentioned in episode three that I would quickly talk about gaslighting and turning the tables just in case you are not aware of what it is. So the song Turning Tables by Adele goes into quite good detail about what table-turning is, and it’s pretty self-explanatory if you think about it, but it’s when somebody takes what they did and accuses you of doing it. It’s when they turn the tables on you. It’s when they are feeling guilty about something and then say that you are the person who did it. It’s when they do something, and then all of a sudden you’re finding an affidavit about how you did the thing to them.
So turning the tables is exactly what it implies. It’s when they turn around what they have done and blame it on you. And you see it quite often in romantic relationships as well as in co-parenting relationships. You’ll find it in the workplace. You probably can see your children doing it. I didn’t do that. You did. No, you did. I didn’t do that. So it’s being unable to accept the blame or take the blame or be able to look yourself in the mirror and accept that you are the one who behaved in this way. And so in order to get out of being the one responsible, you blame somebody else. And the simplest, easiest way to do that is by blaming your romantic partner or blaming your co-parent. It’s a way of escaping the guilt, the shame, the embarrassment of something that you have done. So you turn the tables and you blame it on somebody else.
The other topic is gaslighting and gaslighting is just as damaging as table-turning and just as confounding and confusing. And they’re both used also as psychological tools to confuse and degrade somebody’s mental health because when you are told something often enough, you start to believe it, even if it’s not true. So one of the examples that I used when I run my Parenting Orders Program, the Co-parenting Workshop, and when we talk about gaslighting, I say, if you came to the workshop today and you were wearing a white shirt and I said to you, “oh, Hi, I love your red shirt.” You’d look down at your shirt and you’d look at me and you go, “this woman is a little bit of a fool. I’m not wearing a red shirt. The shirt is white. What is she talking about?” So you’re doubting me. You’re very clear that you’re wearing a white shirt. The shirt is not red. It’s me who is confused. And then as the workshop continues and the day continues, I’m constantly referring to how often your red shirt is, and so you start to think, “oh, maybe the shirt went through the wash with a sock and it’s looking a bit pink. Maybe the light is throwing some pink and she’s seeing some pink in my white shirt. Maybe I might need to bleach it a bit or something because it used to be white. It certainly was white when I bought it.”
And then by the end of the workshop, 8 hours later, after spending time together and I’ve constantly affirmed and told you how great your red shirt is, you walk out of there that afternoon feeling really proud and about how you look and how great your red shirt is. So gaslighting is about changing the narrative, usually not for the positive. I always use a positive example just so that we don’t trigger anybody. But gaslighting is usually about undermining somebody, either their confidence in themselves or their confidence in another relationship, the confidence in their ability. So in romantic relationships, it might be something like being out to dinner with your friends and your family and your partner will say something like, “oh, your best friend was really mean to you tonight.” You’ll sit there and go, “what do you mean? We had a great time. We laughed and was fine.” But that narrative will continue over time and every now and then they’ll say something that doesn’t quite meet with reality. It’s not how you experienced it, but you hear it often enough, and their opinion is valuable enough to you because they’re your romantic partner. They’re your children’s other parent. They’ve quite considerable value to you that you start to buy into their opinion, similar to what we were talking about in episode three. And so they say to you, “your friend was really mean to you or your friend doesn’t really like you or look at how your friend criticizes you.” And then you start to see these things, even though they’re probably not really there. So a little bit of confirmation bias, you’re looking for it because you’re being told that your best friend is not really your friend. They’re mean to you. They talk behind your back or they make fun of you or they say negative things and you don’t pick up on them. You don’t understand that they’re being critical or mean to you. And so next time you’re together, you’re actively looking for ways that they’re purposefully being mean to you. When you look for those things, we often find them. So when somebody is gaslighting you, they’re trying to change the negative, usually most likely for the negative so that they can impact you in a negative way or impact your relationships. They might tell you that you’re bad at managing money. Oh, we’re so poor because you’re so bad at managing money or because you spend so much or you’re so frivolous with our money. Or if you just didn’t buy so much, I’m really worried about your spending habits. These statements may not reflect reality. That’s what gaslighting is. So it’s slightly similar to turning the tables, except it has a very different underlying reason. It’s more about control and coercion, whereas table-turning is when the person doing that behavior is unable to face something that they have done or thought all that has happened to them.
The most common table-turning is accusing somebody of having had an affair when they’re actually the one having the affair. Or of having a problem with drinking or gambling or drugs when they are actually the one with the problem.
Another similar one is accusing people or co-parents of certain behaviors with children – “I know that you smack the children” and you’re sitting there going, “I’ve never laid a hand on my children. You’re the one who smacks the children. Why do you keep saying this? You’re the one who does this thing.” And it’s because they’re unable to face their own behaviors or unable to look themselves in the mirror that their behaviors are so far from who they think they are and who they want the world to see them as they’re unable to own up to those behaviors. And so instead they turn the tables and put the blame on you.
So just a really quick note about gaslighting and table-turning.
I’m Kirsty Petersen. This is the Co-parenting Kids Podcast, and I really thank you for joining me. I look forward to having you on the airwaves and around the place in the upcoming episodes.
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