Today’s episode is all about gaslighting.
This term has become very popular in our culture over the last decade, and I’ve noticed that not everyone is using it in the same way.
“Gaslighting” was Merriam-Webster’s most searched word of 2022, and has taken a prominent role online as people attempt to describe things like deceit, feeling discredited, being misrepresented, and more.
The traditional connotation of the word “gaslighting” has to do with purposeful mind manipulation and crazy-making. It comes from a play that was written in the 1930s called Gas Light, in which an abusive husband purposely and methodically caused his victim to question her own sanity by changing the brightness of the gas lights in the room and then denying that he saw the change when she brought it up. He suggested instead that she was having mental issues.
Gaslighting is an abuse tactic, and an important word to make sure we understand correctly.
I’m joined today by Brittany Johns, my partner at Inspired Resolutions. We give examples of actual gaslighting that we’ve each seen in our work, and some tips for you if you feel you might be experiencing this type of abuse.
True gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where an abuser attempts to sew self-doubt or confusion in their victim’s mind by distorting reality, in order to force them to question their own judgment.
We talk in this episode about the spirit behind an action. Actual gaslighting includes a perpetrator’s desire for control, and planned, purposeful attempts to destabilize another person over time.
That’s different than two people recalling an event differently and arguing about it, for instance. It’s even different than other types of manipulation in parent-child or romantic relationships.
If you feel you’re being gaslit by someone in your life, make sure you set some serious boundaries with regard to what types of conversations you’re willing to engage in with the person. Don’t try to convince them of the truth; protect yourself from those confrontations and let yourself grieve that they won’t acknowledge the truth. Focus on taking care of your mental health.
Find someone who is safe to process these conversations with, so you have an outside person to help ground you in reality.
Also, write in a journal and log the incidents: where you were, the emotions you were feeling, what the other person said, what the truer version of reality actually is instead, and then brainstorm what you’re in control over, who you want to be, and how you want to act.
I hope this episode helps bring clarity around the topic of gaslighting, so we can all continue to arm ourselves against it and continue on our healing journeys.