Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting his or her own memory, perception and sanity. It’s even a term used in psychology. It’s origins are from the 1938 play and subsequent films, “Gaslight.” There are two versions of the film, one from 1940 and the second from 1944. I am a fan of the 1944 version with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Many may find it hard to pinpoint being “gaslighted” because of its very nature of leaving you to question your own reality. (If you’ve ever dealt with a loved one who is an addict, you have been gaslighted.) That is why the film (or play) is such a valuable tool.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know anything beforehand, please stop at the end of this paragraph. I don’t think what I share really spoils the film. In fact, knowing ahead of time what is going on will help you see how insidious and evil this tortuous game really is. But I will leave that decision up to you.
In “Gaslight,” Paula’s (Bergman) husband, Gregory, (Boyer) is a con and needs to eliminate Paula in order to fulfill his evil plan. Through a combination of independent observations and intentional deception, Paula begins to question her own sanity. Her paranoia and insecurities become a weakness Gregory exploits by validating her confusion, entirely brought on my him! He moves pictures and accuses her of doing so, hides a broach of hers in order to imply she is becoming forgetful and when she sees the (Victorian era) gas lights dim whenever Gregory is out of the house, she has no one to validate what she sees, making her doubt herself even more.
I started this post well over a week ago because I was recently gaslighted, but gave my airing this incident second thoughts. But as noted before, I believe in recognizing serendipity, the seemingly unrelated coincidences, and gaslighting keeps showing up in social media lately. So it must be germane – not just to me – but others out there..
In everyday life, gaslighting comes in the form of someone making such emphatic yet contradictory statements to your beliefs and experience, that it makes you question not just your own thoughts and reality but your own sanity. It comes from a person in authority to you or someone you consider close. Gaslighting always contains a undertone of sympathy, as if telling you this complete garbage is meant to help you in your lesser state. But don’t be fooled; the gaslighter is never, ever sympathetic. Those words of “help” are meant to hurt you deeply. “I’m not being patronizing, I’m being condescending!” The person gaslighting you doesn’t have to be psychotic, an addict or socially depraved in some way. In fact the more ordinary and seemingly normal she appears, the more unexpected, insidious, diabolical and damaging she can be. But it is always intended to minimize and hurt.
It happened to me out of the blue a few days ago. Now, I’ve been gaslighted before by the aforementioned addicts I’ve known and loved so I only needed it to happen once to know to burn that bridge for good. But when it was happening, I was deeply hurt. Then I was stunned, which quickly turned to mental confusion. I walked away almost numb. Why would a supposed friend be doing this?
I don’t know. And I do not care one tiny bit. There are countless people out there willing to be victims but I am not one of them. I hope none of you reading this succumb to such cruelty. Just remember, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.