Being gaslighted often creeps up on you. Through small digs over time, your perception of reality is altered, and you no longer know if you can trust yourself. The resulting self-doubt can be debilitating despite the truth ironically being on your side.
“Gaslighting” was announced to be Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2022. They define this word as “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories.”
The term gaslight is said to have origins in a play, 1938’s “Gas Light.” The plot revolves around a husband manipulating his wife until she became convinced that she was going insane. In the almost 84 years since the play debuted, the word has continued to show up in popular culture, and it has never been as popular as it is today, appearing in music, politics, and even on our TVs.
As the word gains traction in our day-to-day language, it’s important that gaslighting is differentiated from lying. A lie becomes part of the act of gaslighting when its part of a larger intent to maintain or gain power, undermine the reality of others, or seriously mislead and manipulate someone. Gaslighting is far more sinister than lying or simply disagreeing over something. In order to address this type of abuse, we have to properly identify it. Making this the word of the year will help many people put a name to a struggle they’ve been going through and connect with others experiencing the same specific type of abuse.
Gaslighting can occur in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. It can take place in the relationship between a doctor and their patient, a boss and their employee, or even between children and their parents. Gaslighting also exists on a much broader scale in our social systems. By strengthening the power imbalances that so negatively affect marginalized communities, gaslighting plays an ugly role in sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism.
If you aren’t sure if you are being gaslighted, you can look for signs, such as feeling confused and not like yourself, questioning yourself, isolating yourself from your support system, and making excuses for the other person. The results of this psychological abuse can be devastating.
However, you can break free from this cycle and create new boundaries in your relationships. If you can first identify the manipulation that is happening to you as gaslighting, then you can begin to get the help you need to see change. Along with reconnecting to the support system around you, therapy is a strong option to help you increase your emotional awareness and regulation so that you can gain back the confidence that was taken from you.
Trained counselors at D2 Counseling are ready today to help you identify unhealthy patterns, make changes in your relationship, or find the strength to leave an unhealthy situation. Group therapy, such as a new D2 therapy group created to empower women struggling to find their voice and feeling stuck due to codependency and blurred boundaries, can be another step in your healing journey. See below for more details.