Recently, I have heard the term“gaslighting” thrown around a lot; and quite frankly it’s RARELY being used correctly. It is pertinent that we choose our words carefully, especially when making accusatory statements toward others. So for a brief educational moment, let's discuss exactly what gaslighting is...
According to medical news today “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves”
The term gaslighting originated from a 1938 play called Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton and was eventually adapted into the film “Gaslight” in1944.
The story features a murderous husband who tries to conceal his true identity from his wife - dictionary.com
In this story, a husband attempts to convince his wife that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken or remembering things incorrectly when she points out the small changes he makes. The play's title alludes to how the husband slowly dims the gaslights in their home and pretends that nothing has changed.
It is important to note that like the husband's actions in the story, gaslighting is intentional and calculated behavior. When gaslighting is present, the abuser knows exactly what they’re saying and what they’re doing.
Gaslighting may occur in intimate partner relationships as well as those between children and parents or medical professionals and patients. There are also instances of racial gaslighting, political gaslighting (Whoo! We won't even go there today), and institutional gaslighting.
Some examples of gaslighting include actions such as trivializing a person's feelings, withholding by refusing to engage, countering or diverting behaviors, or one of my personal favorites, hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it.
While not always indicative of gaslighting, here are a few phrases a person who is being gaslit may hear:
- You’re so sensitive;
- You know that’s just because you are so insecure.
- Stop acting crazy. Or: You sound crazy, you know that, don’t you?
- You are just paranoid.
- I was just joking!
- You know you don’t remember things clearly.
- You’re hysterical.
- There you go again, you are so ungrateful.
The symptoms of gaslighting can be short or long-term but each has a grievously damaging effect. A victim of gaslighting often feels confused as they are being convinced what they know to be true is false. As a result, they will often second guess themselves. Their ability to make simple decisions may become severely impaired, oftentimes causing the victim to feel hopeless and become withdrawn. Gaslighting symptoms may manifest as anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma. It is common to find that someone who is being abused through gaslighting tactics is unaware of they are being abused. The effects of the abuse on a person's mental health make it crucial that victims be aware they are being abused to avoid growing and more severe abusive patterns.
Unfortunately, to protect one's self from gaslighting, it may be necessary to take such steps as making voice recordings or keeping some form of secret journal or annotations to track events and details to gather proof. However, these steps can be dangerous for someone in a relationship where they live with the abusive party.
It can be helpful to reach out to a friend or loved one to talk about what is going on. It is also helpful to speak with a psychologist or therapist. However, if you feel you are in immediate danger of abuse, particularly in an intimate partner relationship, there are other resources available to you such as calling Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or trying their 24/7/365 online chat at the hotline.org
To recap, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that causes a person to question their perception of reality. Gaslighting can be hard to detect and a victim often doesn't even realize the abuse is occurring but the damaging side effects are still there. If you believe you are experiencing this type of abuse, take the necessary steps to protect yourself. You may need to seek help in order to heal from the effects of the abuse but remember, you are never alone. You can reach out to loved ones, seek professional counseling, or seek emergency services if necessary. And always remember, this platform was created to be a resource and support to all those in need. We are here for you.
So, now that have a little more information about gaslighting, tell us how do you feel? Is this information new or old to you? Do you have any thoughts, experience, or helpful tips you'd like to share with our community?
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