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Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological term that is taken from literature. We’ll look at what gaslighting is, who perpetrates this psychological manipulation and where the term is derived from. We’ll also look at a few instances of the term’s use in sentences.

Gaslighting is the process by which a person manipulates another person into doubting his own sanity. For instance, an employee might ask a boss why he gave a plum assignment to a colleague who is less talented or competent than herself. Instead of giving a rational explanation, the boss counters by telling the employee that she’s too sensitive. This is a  form of gaslighting. Another gaslighting example is a parent who accidentally steps on his child’s foot. When the child cries, instead of apologizing and comforting the child, the parent trivializes that child’s pain. Gaslighting can be insidious as individual examples of manipulation may seem inconsequential, but the effect is cumulative. The victim of gaslighting begins to second-guess himself, to not trust his own perceptions, to doubt his memory and finally, his sanity. The term gaslighting is derived from the 1938 play Gas Light, written by Patrick Hamilton. In the play, a woman is nearly driven mad by her manipulative husband who is after her inherited jewels. One of the ways in which the husband makes his wife doubt her sanity is to deny that the gas-powered lighting occasionally dims, though in truth, it does. The popular play was adapted into two movies, Ingrid Bergman won an academy award for her portrayal of the harried wife in the American version, Gaslight. The verb form is gaslight, related words are gaslights and gaslighted. Note that the term is now rendered as one word.


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Examples

When a medical emergency occurred and he had 100% unsupervised access to my phone, he deleted all emails, texts, etc. that showed his exact gaslighting behavior. (The Huffington Post)

But we wondered, if the whole point of this insanity-inducing tactic is to make you, the survivor, doubt yourself, how can you trust your own instincts that you’re being gaslighted to begin with? (The Ionia Sentinel-Standard)

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