What is Gaslighting in Abusive Relationships?
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a crazy-making form of emotional abuse.
Gaslighting occurs when someone intentionally twists your perception of reality for their own gain.
That gain may be to:
- win a fight,
- cover-up their actions,
- make you think something is true when it is not, or
- think something is false when it is true, or
- undermine your trust in yourself.
Gaslighting is a verb that dictionary.com defines as "to cause a person to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation."
The origins of the term Gaslighting
Gaslight is a play by Patrick Hamilton set in the era when gas lamps lit homes and streets. Gaslight was adapted into a movie staring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in 1944.
The term gaslighting, which refers to trying to make your partner feel crazy, was created based on the story’s depiction of a man trying to do just that.
The male lead character sets up his wife, Paula, to slowly undermine her belief in her perceptions of things. He moves items from where she put them and then criticizes her for “losing” them. He creates the illusion that he is leaving the house every night, but doubles back to enter the attic so that he can search through her dead aunt’s things looking for valuable jewels. He accuses his wife of being delusional to explain the footsteps she hears in the attic and the dimming of the house gaslights caused by him turning on the attic lamp.
"Suddenly, I'm beginning not to trust my memory at all."
--Paula, in Gaslight
Gaslighting in abusive relationships
Gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse seen in abusive relationships.
A gaslighting partner may try to convince you that:
- what you saw, you didn’t see,
- what you said, you didn’t say,
- what you heard, you didn’t hear,
- what you didn’t see, you saw,
- what you didn’t say, you said, or
- what you didn’t hear, was there for the hearing.
It undermines your sense of reality and trust in your perceptions and it shuts down conversation about topics the manipulator wants to avoid.
For more information about Partner Abuse check out my books:
- Ann Silvers