February 28, 2023
What is it and where does it come from?
In psychology, there is a manipulation technique known as gaslighting, where an intended victim or members of the intended group are encouraged to doubt their own memory, perception, or sanity. The term "gaslighting" originates from the 1938 drama “Gas Light”. The play tells a story of a husband tricking his wife into believing she is going crazy by dimming the gas lights in their home. Later on, he denies that they ever brightened when the wife points it out.1 Similar to this, in a gaslighting scenario, the manipulator will fudge the facts and information, deny the events, and create doubt on the victim's memory of the events, leading to uncertainty and instability. It is a harmful and unethical behavior that can cause significant psychological distress and harm to the victim. The manipulator can do it consciously or not.
Similarly, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and can have serious consequences on the victim's mental health and self-esteem but it is not always intentional or malicious. If you suspect that you or someone you know is a victim of gaslighting in a relationship, it is important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
Gaslighting is not necessarily a sexist practice. However, interactions in gaslighting are frequently sexist in a variety of ways. Men more regularly use gaslighting, whereas women are more frequently the targets of it.2
How do you know if you are being gaslighted?3
You continually question your decisions. You question, "Am I being too sensitive?" every day. You constantly apologize to your boss, boyfriend, parents, and parents. You frequently defend your partner's actions in front of friends and family. You discover that you are hiding information from friends and family so you won't have to give justifications or explanations. Despite your best efforts, even to yourself, you are unable to describe what is seriously wrong. You begin lying to avoid the criticism and reality-based surprises. You struggle to come to easy decisions.
What to do when you are gaslighted?4
Identify the problem:The first step is recognizing the issue. Trust your instincts: If something feels off, it probably is. Keep a record: Write down instances where you feel like your perceptions are being questioned or dismissed. Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. It can be helpful to have a sounding board and someone to help you process your feelings. Set boundaries: Let the person know that you will not tolerate being manipulated or having your perceptions questioned. Consider ending the relationship: If the gaslighting is severe or if it continues despite your attempts to set boundaries, it may be necessary to end the relationship to protect your well-being.
Here are some resources that can help if you are gaslighted:
No More Abuse.org can guide you to find help nearby. Family violence resources provides contacts of all the international Hotlines. If gaslighting happens at work - your HR department may offer support. iCALL - Initiating Concern for All, is a free psychosocial helpline, which offers counseling services by telephone, email and chat to individuals in emotional or psychological distress.5
Abramson, K. (2014). Turning up the lights on gaslighting. Philosophical perspectives, 28, 1-30. Morgan, R. (2007). The Gaslight Effect. Stern, R. (2009). Are you being Gaslighted?. Psychology Today, 19. DiGiulio, S. (2018). What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it’s happening to you. NBC News. iCALL. (2023). Retrieved on 06.02.2023 from https://icallhelpline.org/faqs/.
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