You might never have heard the term, but no doubt you’ve been gaslighted countless times.
If you’ve ever been told something that’s upsetting you is, “all in your mind”, or that what you experienced never actually happened, you’ve been gaslighted.
In the 1944 movie “Gaslight”, a jewel thief cons a woman whose aunt has bequeathed her some gems into marrying him and proceeds to manipulate her. He makes small changes to objects in her environment, secretly moving items with which she’s familiar and dimming the gaslights in the house. Every time she says she suspects something funny may be going on, he invalidates her and brainwashes her into thinking nothing is wrong — that her suspicions simply mean that she is going insane. As the film progresses, his repeated insistence that she is losing her faculties has the desired effect, and she begins to believe him. She ultimately loses all confidence in her own perception, doubting herself and substituting his lies for her reality.
Toxic and abusive people manipulate people in this way so commonly that the writers of the story soon found they had a very popular thriller on their hands. The film was so well-received and so accurate, in fact, that decades later, the term “Gaslight” is still used to refer to abusers’ attempts to prevent their victims from trusting their own awareness of what is taking place.
How to recognize when you’re being gaslighted:
- You’re being told that what was said to you was not. You’re certain it was, but with repeated insistences that you are mistaken, you begin to doubt yourself and become confused. You aren’t entirely sure anymore, even though you were sure before being exposed to the denials. You may be told that you “have a vivid imagination” or that you’re “crazy” or “losing your mind”.
- You are told that events did not happen (or did not happen as badly as you recall). You feel hurt and confused, because you knew they did; however, now you’re repeatedly being told you’re mistaken. Over time, you may feel doubtful, resentful, confused or conciliatory. You may even apologize to the gaslighter for things you haven’t done, or for having behaved so “irrationally” when initially refuting the gaslighter’s claims.
Watch the classic film, “Gaslight”:
Gaslight, Part One
Gaslight, Part Two
Gaslight, Part Three
Gaslight, Part Four
Gaslight, Part Five
Gaslight, Part Six
Gaslight, Part Seven
Gaslight, Part Eight
Gaslight, Part Nine
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