what is gaslighting?
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - what is gaslighting?

What is gaslighting? The meaning and origin of the term explained. There are plenty of buzzwords in the dating and relationship worlds which are silly and of little consequence long-term.

Breadcrumbing, breezing, and zombieing are all dating trends that constitute 21st century savagery, but are unlikely to bother the recipient of the behaviour too much. Gaslighting is on a totally different level to this, and is a pattern of behaviour that is part of abusive relationships.

The term originated from the 1938 play (and 1944 film adaptation) Gaslight, where the protagonist's husband slowly manipulated her into believing she's going mad. The name comes from a part in the film where the husband is using the gas lights in an upstairs flat, causing them to dim in his own.

His wife brings this up, and he convinces her she's imagining it, which is characteristic of gaslighting. Essentially, the abuser uses persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying to make the victim feel unsure of their own sanity. They may use this tactic to make the victim feel that they 'imagined' other abuse, or simply to disorientate the victim as a form of abuse on it's own. Gaslighting can happen in romantic relationships, as well as friendships or in families.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - what is gaslighting?

The goal for the gaslighter is to make their victim undermine their own judgement and reduce their self-esteem, making the victim dependent on the abuser for longer. It can start with seemingly inconsequential physical things - such as the abuser moving an item you put down, then suggesting you misplaced it when you ask for help finding it.

This may then escalate to flat-out lying about events. They might deny things you know they said, or claim full events (like violence or verbal abuse) didn't happen at all. They might call their victim 'crazy' in a bid to make them genuinely believe it, slowly eroding away at the difference between what's real and in their own head.

Gaslighting eventually isolated the victim, meaning they have a smaller support network to escape the abuse they're suffering. Consequences can include depression and other mental health issues, and in some cases has been shown to lead to suicide. The term, was used in a political sense recently in reference to Donald Trump in an article for Teen Vogue by Lauren Duca.

She asserted that he used the technique to make people believe his previous indiscretions had not occurred, and make people believe that many truths they were seeing were 'fake news'. Some people criticised her use of the term (given its seriousness in relationships) while others agreed. It's now often used in popular culture.

If you think you're being gaslighted?

In the UK you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence freephone helpline on 0808 2000 247.

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