What is Gaslighting?
If I were to spend the entirety of this piece telling you – the reader – that what you’re reading right now isn’t actually in English, but in Spanish, you’d probably think I was lying. Yeah, sure, there’s a chance that this was originally written by a Spanish person and then later translated, but the odds are that it isn’t. However, if I then continued to insist: No, this is in Spanish. I would know, I can speak Spanish. You would get a bit annoyed, but that possibility in your mind would grow, even if subconsciously.
The insistence would continue, and eventually, it’s statistically inevitable that I could wear you down enough to believe what I say. It could take minutes, hours, days, or months, but having that same fact hammered into your mind would eventually lead you to question what you know. This is what is often called ‘gaslighting’. Manipulation by making one question their own sanity.
A more commonplace example of this is often found in the “you’re being irrational” argument. This is seen in what some may define as abusive, negative, or toxic environments, and can be used to undermine people’s confidence in order to make them easy to manipulate. Gaslighting is incredibly unhealthy behavior and is often considered to be emotional abuse, used to hold power over a person and establish a stronger link between the “gas lighter” and the victim than with others. Other symptoms or similar behavior that follows gaslighting are sudden isolation from established friend groups and social safety nets, and distrust of others started by the manipulator. (i.e. “Are you going to let them tell you that?” or “Are you going to believe them over your own boyfriend/girlfriend?”)