Suddenly, I’m beginning to not trust my memory at all.Paula, Gaslight (1944)
What is Gaslighting?
The award-winning 1940s film, Gaslight, is a story about a woman who is continually manipulated by her husband to where she begins to question her sanity. Gaslight portrayed this form of psychological manipulation so well that its title would become embedded into psychology lexicon. So, what is gaslighting? According to Wiki (don’t judge me), it’s a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.
How can I spot it?
At its worst, gaslighting can cause a deep sense of self doubt that requires the person experiencing it to depend on outside opinions. Totally unrelatable, of course. On the “low” end, you’re put into a situation where there are multiple holes poked into your ability to trust your own thoughts and self.
Suffering on account of it is not a sign of fragility, weakness, or an exceptionally damaged psyche; it’s a sign of being human. We all need interpersonal confirmation, especially in difficult situations. And when the interpersonal confirmation is refused, or deliberately thwarted, precisely in order to radically undermine someone’s sense of standing to protest bad conduct, it’s gaslighting.Turning Up The Lights On Gaslighting
Just as any other form of manipulation, gaslighting can take place in any form of relationship (work, academic, family, friend, romantic, etc.) and is often found in politics as well. For me, gaslighting became most influential when my abusive ex would insist that my insecurities in our relationship were based solely on me not being fully invested in the relationship. In reality, my insecurities were rightly manifesting because I was experiencing ill-treatment. Later on, I would also experience gaslighting in dysfunctional business partnerships where I would find myself being blamed for situations that I had little to no knowledge of.
“You’re crazy.” “Don’t be so sensitive.” “Don’t be paranoid.” “I was just joking!” “It doesn’t mean anything” “You’re imagining things.” “You’re overreacting, get over it.” “That never happened.” “There’s no pattern.” “You’re just acting out.”
The look of gaslighting can vary and exist in different kinds of situations. And in too many circumstances, the accused believes that what they’re doing is in good intention. For instance, think of how regularly kids are nudged off as being okay or overreacting when they ask for help or express that there is an issue of concern. Regardless of the reasoning, it can be agreed that gaslighting exists to insist the accused’s reality onto another (i.e. If I think it’s okay, then you should be okay). This process of having a persons experiences derationalized repetitively can have long term damaging effects.
Healing from gaslighting
According to TraumaHealed.com, signs of gaslighting can include: confusion, fears about mental stability, conflict about memory, emotional vertigo, or distrust of your perceptions. Additionally, it’s not abnormal to find that the effects of gaslighting has seeped into different aspects of your life, such as art or any kind of interests that would involve confidence and trust to take part in.
Acknowledging that you are in a situation where you need help is the first step. Moving forward is going to require rebuilding your sense of self trust. Whether this is done with the guidance of a therapist, the help of a friend, or on your own, this process is going to involve navigating through the lies that you have accepted in the past and learning how to give permission for the truth to show up. If you’re in a situation where you can seek help from others, make sure that these are the kinds of people who will allow you to be vulnerable without judgment. You’re going to need to be honest and patient with yourself and healing through what you have experienced. It’s not abnormal to find yourself needing to ask for confirmation of your thoughts while you get used to thinking for yourself.
Gaslighting is all about being caused to question our ability to reason, and experiencing this can cause deeply rooted trauma. BUT. Once we redirect this light onto defining our own reality, we can begin to find paths that lead to healing. So step into your truth! Listen to when things don’t feel right, and manifest what it is that you want to see in the world! If you’re a person who has experienced the trauma of gaslighting, I hope these resources help you to begin your journey of healing. Please, feel free to leave any comments or questions. I don’t want this piece to end after publication.
Call To Action:
Let’s be mindful of how we interact with people.
Let’s practice active listening, even when situations seem small.
Let’s be safe spaces for people to go to without fear of minimization or dismissal.
The Blonde at the Film – Gaslight (1944)
Trauma Healed – Repair Your Reality After Gaslighting
Signature Reads – The History of Gaslighting and the Gaslight Effect
Wiley Online Library – Turning Up The Lights On Gaslighting
A Conscious Rethink – What Gaslighting Looks like: 22 Gaslighting Examples To Be Watchful Of
The Guardian – How To Survive Gaslighting: When Manipulation Erases Your Reality
Adventure Awake – How To Heal From Being Gaslit
Guggie Daly – Is Your Child Being Gaslighted? Watch Out!
Psychology Today – Why It’s So Hard to See This Form of Childhood Abuse
Romper – What Is Gaslighting? Children May Experience It More Than We Know
She Knows – 6 Signs You Might Be Gaslighting Your Child/