Have you heard of gaslighting? I did a quick dive on the origin of this peculiar word. It’s one of those words that wasn’t a word – until it was. And it’s a fairly new word, in the context of the history of words.

Gaslight, as I understand it, was first a British play, then made into a movie released in 1940, then remade in America by MGM in 1944. A “thriller” about a psychologically abusive man and his wife, whom he eventually drove “mad” by his behavior. Plenty more can be learned on Wikipedia about the origins of the movie and the word.

Gaslighting became a word sometime after these shows, directly because of what is portrayed in them. It is psychological manipulation of another person’s emotions and thoughts, causing them to question their feelings, instincts, and even sanity. It most often occurs inside trusting relationships. And it’s very common, and very detrimental to relationships.

Here’s the part I would rather not write:

I’ve done it. I didn’t know what it was called, but I still knew what I was doing. I was trying to hide something in me (an insecurity, a failure, a fear) by causing someone else (most often but not exclusively my wife) to question their own intuition and reason. As I’ve learned I am safe in relationships and stopped trying to hide my own failures, intentions, and weaknesses, I find there’s no perceived need to continue gaslighting. I can bring my full self to the table, per se, and I don’t need to hide or deflect.

Recently, someone I hardly know tried gaslighting me. Or at least, that’s the sense I got. I brought up a specific concern to them, and they quickly turned it around on me. Made it seem like I was the problem; like my own understanding was somehow wrong or inept. It stung at first, and then I realized what was happening and became curious about what they were trying to hide. Did they feel embarassed, ashamed, or inadequate? And how far-reaching was their deception? Was it to the point of self-deception? Also, if they would try it with me – just an acquaintance – what would they do with closer connections? It also made me very wary of trying to build any further relationship with them. After considering what to do next, I felt my best course of action was to not only call them on it but share about it with someone who was in more of a position to address it than I.

And then I stepped as far away from them as I could. At least for now – unless or until I can see clear change in their way of responding to others.

How about you? Have been gaslighted? Were you able to address it? Then what?

And – I’m really curious – have you experienced this outside of a close relationship?

5 thoughts on “gaslighting

  1. Emily Yvonne

    I’ve thought about writing on this subject, but I don’t know if I want to. It’s a tough one. Gaslighting is so dangerous to relationships. I’m sorry for the recent experience you had. I’m glad you were able to bring it up with someone in the position to address it. I hope the outcome is more fruitful than mine was six years ago… Another girl and I were sexually assaulted by a peer on a leadership team we were a part of that summer. Prayerfully, with the guidance of our parents, we approached one of the senior leaders of the group. Someone in the position to do something. Someone we trusted to /protect/ us. The situation was put back on us and he questioned our motive for speaking up. Called us both a gossip. If I didn’t have the support of my parents I’m sure I would have questioned my instincts and sanity. That person certainly lost my trust. I think he was hiding his embarrassment and trying to escape his responsibility.

    Sadly I’ve gaslit other people, too. I’m not completely innocent. I’ve allowed my sin nature to take the reins of my speech multiple times. I am grateful for the Lord’s redemptive power in my life as I’ve grown in faith and maturity.

    Writing this comment felt therapeutic. I’m just hesitant to flesh it out into a researched piece like yours. Thanks for writing about the hard things.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Stephanie Seven

    Sadly, I know exactly what you are talking about . I think that even though the word gaslighting has been around awhile , the meaning and the harm it does is much more recognized now.
    I did not even realise I was being gaslighted till I spoke to someone who explained that this was exactly what I was going through ; I was being made to think there was something wrong with me and I believed it, I did not believe in making my own decisions.
    Once I realised – it’s not me, yes, I am not perfect but I am not crazy and delusional – it was as if I had found myself again – my identity , who I was.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. David Post author

      I mean, it’s something to be aware of, in myself. I don’t want to treat people like this! And also to watch for – and not accept from – others.

      Liked by 1 person


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