Are You a Victim of Gaslighting? (approx. 5 - 6 min. read)

The first time I heard the term gaslighting was about three years ago and I didn’t think it had anything to do with me or the abuse I’ve endured. I used terms like manipulation or brainwashing to describe my reality, but let’s look at the word and where it originated because maybe it is a better term for describing what happens to someone that is raised around a narcissist, or narcissists.

It’s an odd word and I wanted to know why we’re using the word ‘gaslighting?’ Like I said, to me it was brainwashing, not gaslighting, but then I did some more research and it makes total sense to me why they use this particular term.

First of all, I found out that a gas light was a form of artificial lighting, that was used prior to the invention of electricity. Gas lighting had quite a few flaws like leaky pipes, low gas pressure, fires, and suffocations, but it was a popular method of illumination for centuries.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering what this light has to do with psychological manipulation, and I’m going to start with the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The Brittanica defines gaslighting as an ‘elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.’

The definition goes back to the late 1930’s where a British playwright, named Patrick Hamilton created a play called “Gas Light.” His play was about a form of psychological abuse where false information was presented to the victim, with the sole purpose of making the victim doubt their own perception or memories.

Then in 1944, Arthur Hornblow Jr. produced a film adaptation of the play called, “Gaslight,” where Gregory, the husband, manipulates Paula, his wife, into thinking that she’s going insane. Gregory leads Paula to believe that she’s seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. Gregory kept switching the lights on and off in the attic which made the gaslights dim and brighten to create the lights to flicker. When Paula expressed her concern about the lights, Gregory would tell her it was all inside her head, which made her believe she was losing touch with reality. Rendering her pathologically dependent on Gregory in his thinking or feelings.

Gaslighters tell blatant lies and you know that they’re lying, but they’re trying to set up a precedent to keep you tottering on the edge of their reality and yours, so that you don’t know what to believe.

Gaslighters deny that they’ve said certain things, even though you know the truth, they deny it - outright. They want you to question your reality and at the same time brainwash you into accepting theirs.

Gaslighters use the people and things that are close to your heart as bullets, that rip through you causing mass destruction of your life and the relationships in it.

My gaslighters attacked the very foundation of my being by telling my kids that I never wanted them. They told them I had Munchausen’s syndrome and that I was incapable of taking care of anyone but myself and they used things like my moving away as proof that I never loved them.

Gaslighters wear people down, but they do it slowly and deliberately so that you aren’t even aware that it’s happening to you.

Gaslighters say one thing and then do another.

Gaslighters try to confuse you by praising you for something they previously criticized you for. They want you to question everything that you do in order to keep you tottering on the edge of your reality.

Gaslighters accuse you of being a gaslighter to discredit your character and to distract you from seeing them for who they are.

Gaslighters are masters at what they do, and they know exactly who they can manipulate into joining their army. As you know, my gaslighters have convinced all of my biological family that I’m not right in the head, that nothing I say is the truth. In fact, I just turned down another mediation to prove myself and the things that have happened to me because I know my reality and they can no longer manipulate me.

For decades, I let gaslighters manipulate my every move. I was terrified to make a decision on my own and I had to bounce ideas off everybody, before making a choice. I was so afraid to make a mistake that would shame my biological family that I found myself unable to make a move without asking someone what they thought I should do.

In fact, when I discovered that my second husband (he’s now an ex), was cheating on me, I found myself standing in a phone booth trying to figure out who to call? I had undeniable proof that my ex-husband was cheating, yet I had to bounce that proof off someone before I made the decision to leave him. Worse yet were the people I chose to bounce the idea off of because I knew they would turn it around on me, but I decided to reach out anyway.

It was decades ago, but I still remember taking in a deep breath before putting a quarter in the slot. I dialed the number and waited for someone to pick up, hoping it wouldn’t be the step-parent, but it was. I briefly described what was going on and told the step-parent that I was standing in a phone booth, but all I got was, you’re thirty-five years old, it’s high time that you figured this shit out on your own, and then the line went dead.

I remember crying and feeling completely lost, but I got through it, just like I’ve made it through so many other troubled times. I believe that phone call, so many years ago was the start of my breaking free of the gaslighters that were destroying my life.

Since then I’ve distanced myself from the gaslighters and nay-sayers, as well as their version of the Stepford wives. I’m done being subservient to anyone or being so perfect and obedient that outsiders think I’m a robot spewing other people’s truths instead of my own.  

Stay safe and stay strong, and for goodness sake, get yourself far, far away from the gaslighters in your life.