Has anyone has ever apologized to you by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or some variation like, “Gee, it’s too bad you feel like that.”
Before you feel tempted to accept this non-apology apology, know that it’s hogwash. In fact, it’s worse than hogwash because it’s detrimental to you. It’s really someone abusing you psychologically, masquerading as someone pretending to care for you.
Why is it psychological abuse?
It’s psychological abuse because it’s gaslighting in its most subtle form. It’s making you feel that your feelings are incorrect. It’s making you doubt your reality. The person who says he’s sorry you feel whatever way you feel is not validating your feelings. He’s telling you he doesn’t feel that way, and there’s something wrong with you that you do. That’s gaslighting.
Furthermore, it deflects the culpability away from the non-apologizer back to you. It’s not his fault you’ve been wronged. It’s your fault for feeling you’ve been wronged. It’s making you the guilty party when he really is. And he’s compounding his wrong-doing by gaslighting you, which he’s doing by pretending to be sorry.
Are you staying with me here? Because this non-apology sounds so much like the person is being empathetic. It sounds like you should accept it. It sounds like you can believe that this wrong-doer is sorry. He’s not. Not in the least. He is manipulating you. And he’s doing it to dehumanize you and gain control over you. So he doesn’t have to take responsibility for hurting you in the first place. He doesn’t feel the need to be accountable to you (or anyone) for his misdeed. And on top of that, he commits a further misdeed by gaslighting you.
Clean the Wound Before Slapping on a Bandage
When you have a physical wound, you need to clean it thoroughly before covering it over with a bandage or the wound will get infected and cause even more trouble. An emotional wound is similar. When someone sorry-gaslights you, he slaps on a bandage and ends the discussion. You never get to the bottom of your emotional hurt, which only exacerbates the situation.
The false-sorry is a quick way to end the conflict, but why does he feel the need to do that? What motivates him to add insult to injury? Why doesn’t he have the courage to try and understand what your concern is? A better response for him would be to ask you why you feel hurt, and let you explain yourself.
But if you don’t have the opportunity to finish the discussion in an open, honest way, consider minimizing your contact with this person. He is being abusive while pretending to be caring. It’s a toxic situation you’re better off without.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact