Gaslighting is one of many strategies used by Narcissistic Abusers. It is a psychological manipulation tool that is just one of many in their arsenal to control, demean and belittle their intended victim.
Where Did The Word Gaslighting Come From?
The term Gaslighting was coined after the 1940’s film ‘Gaslight’ where a young woman named Paula falls head over heels in love with a man named Gregory. Their whirlwind romance results in marriage, at which point Gregory’s narcissistic personality traits are slowly revealed.
The title of the film refers to the dimming of the lights in the home of the couple, when Gregory uses gas lights in the attic to seek hidden treasure. When Paula comments on the dimmed lights, he vehemently denies it and tells her it’s all in her imagination, which makes Paula question her memory and her sanity. The term gaslighting is now widely accepted and used to refer to a narcissist’s pattern of behavior against their intended victim, much like Gregory, who uses deliberate emotional and psychological manipulation tactics on Paula.
The destruction of someone’s sense of reality is an extremely dangerous manipulation tactic. It is a method used by Narcissists and Psychopaths who use it in their repertoire to exploit people, charm others, lie and deny culpability. Most victims of narcissists and psychopaths feel unable to accurate rely on their sense of reality.
Gaslighting takes place in various different relationships. Romantic partners, parent-child relationships, friends, workplace affiliations where there is a power imbalance between managers and staff, medical professionals and patients, and even as a political strategy by politicians to belittle or demean as a way to control.
A defining marker of gaslighting is poor boundaries between individuals. The perpetrator projects negative mental constructs onto the victim while the victim simultaneously integrates these negative constructs. The how and why this happens I will explain further in later chapters, but I believe this sums up what happens for many people, but more often, specifically women:
“Girls learn the lesson of cognitive deference most clearly, perhaps, growing up in patriarchal families. Taught to discount their own judgments and to depend on those of the family's dominant men, they lose self-trust and cannot take themselves seriously as moral deliberators. I argue that through the telling of counterstories, which undermine normative stories of oppression, it is sometimes possible for women to reclaim these families as places where they have cognitive authority.” - Hilde Lindemann Nelson, feminist philosopher
Have you ever been Gaslighted? What is your experience with Gaslighting and Narcissistic Abuse?