The term Gaslighting derives from the 1938 stage play ‘Gas Light’ in which a husband attempts to convince his wife that she is insane by presenting false information with the intent of making her doubt her own memory and perception.
With Gaslighting being heavily featured in the 2016 Hollywood blockbuster movie, ‘The Girl on the Train’ and referred to in the media to describe some of the actions of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, the Oxford Dictionary listed Gaslighting as one of the most popular words of 2018.
So what is Gaslighting? It is a term used to describe a malicious hidden form of psychological mental and emotional abuse designed to plant seeds of self-doubt, alter perceptions of reality and manipulate someone into doubting their sanity. Like all abuse, Gaslighting is the need for power and control and anyone can be a victim of it.
There are many signs of Gaslighting but here are some tell-tale behaviours:
- Lying – the Gaslighter tells you obvious lies. You know they are lying and they do it with ease. By lying to you, this leads you to question everything and therefore become uncertain of the simplest of matters therefore creating self-doubt.
- Denial – the Gaslighter denies they ever said something even though you have know they said it. This leads you to question your memory and your reality.
- Ammunition –the Gaslighter uses what you love against you. Whether it is your job or your children, the Gaslighter wants you to question the foundation of yourself.
- Love and flattery – the Gaslighter throws in positive reinforcement to confuse you because they know confusion weakens people. They will tear you down and then build you up just to tear you down again.
- Projecting – if the Gaslighter is a liar and a cheat, they accuse you of being a liar and a cheat and you constantly feel like you have to defend yourself for things you have not done.
- “You’re crazy” – the Gaslighter not only tells you that you are crazy but they tell everyone else too so that if you approach them for help, you will not be taken seriously.
- “Everyone else is a liar” – the Gaslighter will tell you everyone is against you and that they are all liars to reinforce your sense of reality as blurred.
In 2015, the Serious Crime Act was changed to recognise such controlling or coercive behaviour in relationships that stop short of serious physical violence but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse so perpetrators can be brought to justice.
If you or someone you care about need help or support relating to such abuse, there are support networks and charities available to men and women including Refuge, Victim Support and IDAS. If you would prefer to speak with someone familiar, you could make an appointment with your GP.
Be careful when accessing internet resources on these topics on a shared computer or linked devices. Many websites have an “exit page” button to enable you to close the webpage quickly, but you should also check your browser history etc to make sure that there is no trail left of the pages you have visited.
There are also options available to victims in the family courts, including non-molestation orders and occupation orders (collectively called injunctions) and if you need advice from a family lawyer on such orders, please contact us.