History Behind The Term
The term ‘Gaslight’ is derived from the name of a 1944 Drama/Mystery film. In the movie, after the death of her famous opera-singing aunt, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is sent to study in Italy to become a great opera singer as well. While there, she falls in love with the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The two return to London to live in the very home where her aunt was murdered, and Paula begins to notice strange goings-on: missing pictures, strange footsteps in the night and gaslights that dim without being touched. Gregory tells her that she’s becoming forgetful and fitful, acting in irregular ways. He confines her to the house, and tells everyone she’s not well. To top it all, he tells her she’s imagining things and that it’s all in her head.
But it turns out that Gregory was intentionally driving Paula crazy so that he could look for Paula’s aunt’s lost jewels in her attic without raising suspicion. Infact, Gregory was the murderer of Paula’s aunt. Thanks to the detective work of the police, his scheme is exposed, Gregory is arrested and Paula is free from his sinister influence.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person makes a targeted individual or members of a targeted group feel doubtful/uncertain about their reality, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.
It is a manipulative technique often used by abusers, dictators, narcissists and cult leaders. But one can also experience it in personal relationships because the painful reality is that gaslighting can happen with and be inflicted by anyone and everyone.
How To Watch Out For It
Here are some signs of a gaslighting behaviour taking place:
1. Blatant Lying
The abuser tells extremely obvious lies. You know they are lies. But how can they lie to your face with such ease? The gaslighter actually wants you to doubt everything and become uncertain about the simplest of matters. Gradually, they deny almost every claim you make and force you slowly to give up your perception of reality and accept theirs.
2. They Take What You Love & Crush It
The abuser knows what you hold dear – it could be your identity or your kids or anything else. They start telling you things like you should not have had kids or that you have such a long list of negative traits that might keep you from becoming your ideal self.
3. Abuse Slowly
The mental torture is executed slowly so that the victim doesn’t realise how they are being brainwashed.
4. Actions Don’t Match Words
They say something else but do something else. Their words don’t matter, watch out for their actions.
5. Praise You Sometimes To Confuse You
This person who is slowly trying to bring you down, sometimes will throw a compliment here or there just to confuse you about their character even more. Just when you think that they are harming you, they make you believe that they actually value you.
6. Confusion Weakens People
They know that in the absence of normalcy and stability, a person’s mental health slowly dissolves for the worst.
7. Everyone Else Is A Liar
They make you believe this so that you doubt your reality even more. And so that you turn only to the gaslighter for “correct” information.
8. You Are Crazy
They tell you or others that you are turning into a monster. So even if you want to confront the abuser in front of someone else, you are the one who ends up being questioned.
If you identify with quite a few of these signs, please reach out to someone you find comfort in and/or seek help from a mental health professional for more clarity immediately.