Many of us have heard or read the word “gaslighting” somewhere, but not all of us might understand its significance in today’s times.
If you Google it, here’s what you will find:
*manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
Well, the truth is gaslighting is more common than a common person thinks it is. In 2018, the Oxford Dictionary named it one of the most “popular” words. This might just reflect the toxic times or the “informed” times that we are living in.
Let’s trace the origin of this term that came into being after a 1938 play by the same name (Gas light) written by Patrick Hamilton in Britain. The term became colloquial after a movie was made in the US named Gaslight(1944) starring Hollywood actor Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. The film received 7 Oscar nominations and Ingrid took away the Best Actress trophy.
Coming to the plot, the play is about how a husband (a murderer) manipulates his wife into believing that she’s insane by making her question her reality. He has murdered the wife’s aunt years ago for jewels that he could never find.
As he manipulates her into questioning the strange occurrences around the house (orchestrated by him), we see the wife increasingly confused and isolated.
When she informs him of the dimming gaslights in the house and the strange noises in the attic, he doesn’t believe her and questions her. He does everything to convince her that she is going insane and she, in turn, loses self-confidence.
The film has been called “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the US National Film Registry.
There’s definitely a reason why we are talking about a movie that was made 75 years ago in another country. It is because this term has taken on a meaning that impacts all of us.
Until now, I believed it was women who were mostly the victims (they still are the majority in that category!). But as I have dived into the subject deeper and talked to those who have faced it, I have come to believe that it is human nature to engage in gaslighting. We need to go much deeper to understand its impact and how it can be avoided or handled.
Over the next few weeks, we will try to understand this technique used by those who want to manipulate others into believing something that’s isn’t true and also learn how to spot gaslighting, shut it down and not let it affect us psychologically.
When not identified or worked upon, gaslighting can lead to serious long-term psychological issues. We will be talking about both the perpetrators and the victims, so feel free to reach out to us with your stories. You can remain anonymous if you want.
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