All about gaslighting: The word of 2022 defining psychological abuse
A form of psychological abuse, gaslighting has been declared the word of 2022 by the American dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster. Searches for this word increased by 1,740% this year, following the popularity of the "Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss" meme that went viral on social media. Gaslighting involves manipulation that causes a person to doubt their own memories, sanity, or perception of reality.
What is exactly gaslighting?
The term gaslighting has been derived from the 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight in which a wife was manipulated by her husband into thinking that she has some mental issue. The term gained popularity in the mid-2010s. In gaslighting, the manipulator tries to make the victim believe that whatever is happening to them is not actually happening in reality, attempting to sow self-doubt.
Some signs of gaslighting
People experiencing gaslighting often tend to trust the abusive person and feel confused and anxious all the time. The victim frequently starts questioning their perceptions and judgments, doubting feelings of reality, apologizing to the abusive person, believing they are irrational or mad, and feeling powerless and lonely. They also struggle to make decisions and feel unconfident, disappointed, insecure, and vulnerable.
Where can it occur?
Gaslighting can occur anywhere irrespective of the relationships between people. Relationship gaslighting can isolate the partner and break their confidence while child-parent gaslighting can make children face emotional trauma from abusive parents. Racial gaslighting aims to discredit a racial or ethnic group, while political gaslighting involves manipulating information to control people. Medical gaslighting involves wrongly denying a patient's illness and labeling them a hypochondriac.
Things gaslighters might say to manipulate you
They may say things like, "You are too sensitive," or "You knew how I/they would react," to make you feel guilty about something you didn't even do. Saying something like, "Others have it way worse than you," can make you feel guilty for expressing yourself. They may apologize to you but in a twisted way, "I'm sorry you think I hurt you."
What causes gaslighting behavior?
A person can adopt gaslighting behavior by watching others who obtained what they want by controlling people. It also occurs in someone with personality disorders like a narcissistic personality disorder exhibiting abusive behavior. Systemic oppression can also cause this abusive behavior where people in power try to damage the credibility of a person or a group who disempowers them.
How to address and respond to this behavior?
Gaslighting can affect mental health. So, to protect yourself from this behavior, gather evidence of events by keeping a secret diary, talking to someone trustworthy, keeping voice memos, and taking photographs to prove that the victim is not imagining or forgetting things. Stay confident, speak up about the behavior, focus on self-care, and plan escape routes. Do not ever hesitate to seek professional support.