Gaslighting is a particular kind of emotional abuse, whether intentional or not, that over time makes the abused feel that her perception of reality or of herself is false. The gaslighter manipulates the victim’s sense of self in order “to be right [and] preserve his own sense of self.” From wikipedia:
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term “gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy.
In the post on gaslighting below, there are several people sharing stories about how they were gaslighted (gaslit?) in romantic and in parent-child relationships in the comments. Although Yassar Ali, the author of the article that Caperton deftly dissects below, doesn’t have his understanding of gaslighting quite right, he is correct that it’s a form of emotional abuse that is often levied against women, and it works precisely because of prejudices about femininity, that women are nervous, hysterical, and less prone to intelligent reasoning. Probably the most common form of gaslighting reported is in a domestic violence situation where the abuser flatly denies that any abuse happened at all — leaving the abused to “prove” that the abuse happened not only to bystanders and authorities, but eventually to herself. Gaslighting also happens frequently in parent-child relationships, in which the parent denies abuse or neglect to continue to appear to be a good parent, and the child eventually accepts that their own perceptions of reality and memory are suspect because of the parents’ systematic denial of abuse. Another form of gaslighting is when a person tries to make you believe you are something (usually negative) that you are not, clumsy, slutty, dumb. A gaslighter, in other words, is trying to rewire the narrative to preserve a positive self-image, even at the expense of the people around him.
In the interest of information-sharing and catharsis, I want to solicit your gaslighting experience stories and I will arrange and publish them here. If you’d like to share them in your own space, please feel free to send me a link. Please let me know whether you wish to remain anonymous, and email me before the end of the day on Friday, 11/18/11. Send emails to fauxrealtho at gmail with the title “Gaslight” or leave them in the comments. Forgive my pronoun usage, as I am using heteronormative language to describe this dynamic, but it happens to everyone. My thought is that by sharing en masse we can represent this experience as women better than Ali was able.
This is a guest post by Lauren Bruce, founder of and former resident blogger at Feministe, who has, shall we say, an intense personal interest in this subject.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- “One Abuse Script with Many Faces” by Lauren November 21, 2011