There’s a new but not so new term in town. But what does gaslighting really mean? It’s a form of emotional abuse where you make the other person the problem. It can make you doubt your reality and at worst question your sanity.
It’s really a form of manipulation.
The term comes from a play written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938 and later developed into an Alfred Hitchcock movie; ‘Gas Light’. In the film a manipulative husband tries to make his wife feel like she is going insane by ever so slowly dimming the gas lights in the house. He also controls and abuses her and ends up cutting her off from family and friends. As a result, the wife always second guesses herself and feels neurotic and hypersensitive.
Sometimes you can’t see it’s being ‘done’ to you. Sometimes you don’t even know you are doing it to another. It comes in lots of forms so let’s just look at some examples so we can get a sense of it.
Has someone told you that you’re being dramatic? Maybe you were but this is making the emotional reaction the problem and places the emphasis on the ‘drama’ response and not the issue.
Have you ever said something unkind or even mildly attacking someone and then seconds later taken it back by saying; “I’m just kidding” or “Just jokes”. This is a form of it. So, when the other person reacts you make it their issue because you were only joking.
Your partner may say to you; “Why are you even with me then?” Or your boss or colleague says; “Why did you take the job then?” This is making our decision the problem and not the issue. It’s what narcissists love to do to shame us.
It’s even when we weaponise conversations and turn them into finger pointing exercises. Something we might all fall into the trap of. Again, taking it away from you to make the other person at fault.
And how hard is it to talk with someone when they are completely denying something ever happened. When you know, 100% for sure it did. That’s gaslighting. Now your memory is the problem, not their actions or inactions.
When we spread rumours or gossip about others, we are gaslighting. So people side with the gossiper.
It gives you that icky feeling in your stomach where you are confused and it’s all about you and what you did, said or didn’t do.
Keep in mind that it can be unconscious for many – the giver and receiver. But really important to look out for. Both ways. Because if you end up finger pointing at them without clear explanations and specific examples you might be contributing. It’s a tricky space but really important to call out.
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