What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that causes victims to doubt and question their own judgement, reality, self-perception and sometimes their sanity.

Gas-lighters twist and distort the truth in order to manipulate, confuse and control their victims.

The term originates from the 1938 play Gas Light, by Patrick Hamilton which was adapted for film in the 1940’s. The storyline features a man who manipulates and deceives his wife into believing she is going insane. One of the tactics he uses is to dim the gas lights in their home, making them flicker. Whenever his wife ask about the flickering gas lights, he convinces her she has imagined the dimming flames. Gaslighting also featured in the 2001 film, Amelie, Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, written by Jeunet with Guillaume Lauran. The main character, Amelie, sneaks into a shopkeepers home and moves numerous objects around and programs his phone to dial a psychiatric institution when he believes he is phoning his mother. Frightened and confused, the shopkeeper believes he is losing his sanity.

We now use the term ‘gas lighting’  to describe the tactic of manipulation victims into doubting their reality, memory or perception.

Victims can be gas-lit by questioning, mocking or denying their reported experience until they lose confidence in the own senses. Over time, victims of gaslighting struggle to know what is truth and what isn’t. This often becomes a trigger point for victims in the aftermath of an emotional abuse which we refer to as Trauma. Living in the era of persona and fake news, the world can become a scary place for victims of gaslighting.

At A Positive Start we use the S.T.A.N.D strategy – Stop, Think, Act – NEVER DOUBT, to re-train our minds how to respond in situations when we might otherwise doubt our own judgement.

Gaslighting may occur in many different types of relationships including; romantic partner relationships, professional relationships and friends and family relationships. The side affects of gaslighting can have lasting effects in many areas of a victims life and may include;

Lack of Confidence/Self Esteem
Unhappiness/Loss of Joy
Repeated Apologizing Unnecessarily
Indecisive/Incapable of making decisions
Self Doubt
Denying/Unable to recognise Gaslighting Behaviours
Extremely Stressed