“Gaslighting, explained.”

Robin Stern wrote in Vox of Jan 3, 2019:

“The term has been everywhere since Donald Trump’s inauguration, so much so that the Oxford Dictionaries named it one of the most popular words of 2018: gaslighting.

It hasn’t just seeped into our lexicon. It is now part of how we acquire information. Anderson Cooper’s nightly news roundup, Anderson Cooper 360, has a special series called “We’ll Leave the Gaslight On,” dedicated to the lies of politicians.

In the vernacular, the phrase “to gaslight” refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings. Targets of gaslighting are manipulated into turning against their cognition, their emotions, and who they fundamentally are as people…

Maybe we’re all being gaslighted by the president or other political figures. But it’s likely there’s someone much closer to us doing the job. Most of us have been gaslighted at some point in our lives, making it important to learn how to spot the technique, shut it down, and minimize the psychological impact on our daily lives. When left unexamined, gaslighting can have a devastating and long-term impact on our emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical well-being.

I’m a licensed psychoanalyst and the associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and over the years, I have spoken with hundreds of people experiencing gaslighting in their personal lives. It’s why I coined the term “gaslight effect” in my 2007 book, referring to the long-term consequences of experiencing repeated gaslighting over time. My book was rereleased earlier this year when gaslighting became a cultural phenomenon — specifically, the constant lies from the Trump administration while his supporters trumpeted his fast and loose twisting of reality.

The phrase originated from a 1938 mystery thriller written by British playwright Patrick Hamilton called *Gas Light, made into a popular movie in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the film, husband Gregory manipulates his adoring, trusting wife Paula into believing she can no longer trust her own perceptions of reality.

(Wikipedia: “Gaslight (released in the United States as Angel Street) is a 1940 British psychological thriller film directed by Thorold Dickinson which stars Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and features Frank Pettingell. The film adheres more closely to the original play upon which it is based – Patrick Hamilton’s Gas Light (1938) – than the 1944 MGM remake.“)

In one pivotal scene, Gregory causes the gaslights in the house to flicker by turning them on in the attic of the house. Yet when Paula asks why the gaslights are flickering, he insists that it’s not really happening and that it’s all in her mind, causing her to doubt her self-perception. Hence the term “gaslighting” was born.

The term appeared in academic discourse before it hit the mainstream. Its use goes back as far as 1980 in academic journal articles about women’s socialization…vulnerable to exploitation of their attachment, which is exactly what gaslighting is.

It’s unclear when exactly the term seeped into the world of popular psychology, but it’s now frequently employed in couples counseling and self-help books to describe a specific type of toxic relationship.

Gaslighting in interpersonal relationships often develops or builds on an existing power dynamic. While it’s most common in romantic settings, gaslighting can happen in any kind of relationship where one person is so important to the other that they don’t want to take the chance of upsetting or losing them, such as a boss, friend, sibling, or parent. Gaslighting happens in relationships where there is an unequal power dynamic and the target has given the gaslighter power and often their respect…”

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