Google defines Gaslighting to as manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. Gaslighting is common in conversations between oppressors and their victims. The term comes from a 1938 play called Gas Light, where a husband attempted to drive his wife crazy by changing certains things about the environment and then dismissing her comments on it. One of the ways he did this was by dimming the lights in their home and then convincing her she was confused.
Gas lighting is a dismissal of people’s feelings and views. It is insulting and can be found in conversations between men and women about sexism or white people and people of color about racism. It’s common on social media and in unhealthy relationships. Manipulation at its finest.
Gaslighting in relationships can be a sign of abuse. It is what happens when the person you are conversing with goes out of their way to make you feel like you are crazy. When people pretend to be shocked by your response and try to belittle you and dismiss you by pretending you are overreacting.It works though. It guilts people into not speaking their mind. It frustrates people and leaves them feeling ignored and sometimes helpless.
Some signs of being gaslighted are:
1. Second guessing of past events: When an argument goes back and forth and you find yourself questioning if you are misremembering or forgetting something. The other person is denying the truth so effectively that you start to believe them over your own mind. This saying goes “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
2. Questioning if your feelings are justified: Not being able to decide whether your initial response to something is warranted. When you can’t trust your instincts it leads to self doubt which impacts choices and actions.
3. Trusting others judgement over your own: The end result of gaslighting is for the victim to question themselves . One becomes unable to trust their own decisions and feelings because they have been manipulated into believing they are wrong so often.
Gaslighting silences people. If someone loses the ability to trust their voice they become silent. Gaslighting stops people from standing up for themselves and from defending themselves. Many times microaggressions get gaslit away. Abuse can be gaslit away. Complaints about triggers can be gaslit away.
Gaslighting is often used to victim-blame and put the responsibility on the injured party.
Not only used in conversations about oppression or in relationships, gaslighting has been used to describe the relationship citizens have with the current president. The use of ‘alternative facts’ , the deception and general disregard for facts and truth by the Trump administration can be considered gaslighting.
Gaslighting breaks down potentially meaningful conversations and robs people of their voice and defenses. If the past two months are any indication people need to be better prepared to handle it both on a micro and macro level.