Gaslighting. It is a word that seems new, but is not quite new. It is an emotional abuse where abusers slowly and steadily strip the confidence of victims, by conditioning the victims to doubt their own thoughts, memories, timelines, events, and even sanity.
Gaslighting happens at homes, at work, in the media (including social media), and certainly in politics as well. Often, gaslighting language is brutish, harsh, sarcastic, threatening, and litigious. These are the simple signs.
Where and when did this word “gaslight” emerge?
In 1944, there was a classic film, titled “Gaslight”, which starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. It was about a young woman who witnessed the murder of her aunt. She later married a man who seemed all good and dandy. However, when a dark secret of his risked getting exposed, he began to be abusive to his wife through emotional and mental manipulation, hoping to drive her insane. The term “gaslight” was when the lady saw the gaslights dim, but her nefarious husband insisted she was deluded.
How do we spot gaslighting?
While most psychological references of gaslighting tend to talk about personal relationships between partners/spouses, and family members, the spread of gaslighting is far wider and deeper. It can be one-to-one relationships (intimate gaslighting), or many-to-one/some/many (tribal gaslighting). It is extremely dangerous when gaslighting is tribal, as many people affirming a delusion or a lie, can crumble the truth and reality of the one/few or even many.
Take the recent news and commentaries in mainstream media. It is extremely EASY to spot gaslighting examples, where victims are oppressed, emotionally and mentally abused ad nauseam, until it would appear lies and half truths become “facts”, while reasonable assertions may be termed as “conspiracy theories” (until truth emerges, which always happen). There are also cases where abusers would use emotional blackmail, as if the victims are the ones who are out to hurt, when it is truly the other way around. Another thing is that abusers will ALWAYS insist that they are right and you are wrong, no recourse. How can that be? There are always opinions and perspectives, and nothing other than Gospel is set in stone. All else, even science, is transient and changing. So, never be duped by abusers even in guises of “saints”, who insist they are right and you are wrong.
This illustrative video surely may help you grapple with this:
9 tips to fight gaslighting
Now you have understood the basic signs of gaslighting, it is easier to deal with them. Identifying what is gaslighting is the most powerful first step to flushing out these toxic people. What are some basics?
- Trust your INTUITION (God/Nature’s first line of defense).
- Identify patterns of gaslighting.
- Understand and even empathize abusers’ pathological and mental weaknesses.
- Never feel apologetic or be simply put down by abusers.
- Make sure you develop a community of trusted people, never be isolated.
- Define and keep a clear boundary for everyone (intimate and tribal).
- Read and research far, wide and deep – never trust 1 or few information sources.
- Strengthen yourself mentally and physically (mindfulness, meditation, prayer, fitness).
- Leave (retreat, quit, relocate, disown, block, any strategy works).
Remember, no matter how close someone is to you, or how important some people think they are, NO ONE is your lord, and you are to be the master of your own journey. Never allow anyone to wrestle your world away from you and substitute with the poor excuses and lies they supplant you with. After all, it is YOUR LIFE.
Let us remember Genghis Khan and the spirit of self mastery, through this powerful song Wolf Totem from the HU band (read the English translation):
Seamus Phan has 35 years of professional experience. Polymath Problem-Solver & Strategist – Leadership, Cybersecurity, Branding, Crisis, Scientist, Artist, Author, Aviation, and Theologian. Some articles are reproduced at McGallen & Bolden, where he is CTO and Head of Content. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2023.