Gaslighting refers to the act of making someone doubt their own memory, perceptions or sanity, and is often seen as a form of emotional and psychological abuse.

Gaslighting is often used to convince oppressed people that their experiences are not real. Consider how people are told they’re overreacting, crazy or sensitive when they express their feelings and perceptions of their own experiences; sometimes, this can amount to gaslighting.

An example of gaslighting is telling an abuse victim that they weren’t, in fact, abused, and that the entire scenario was made up in their head.

Another example is a homosexual person saying they don’t feel safe in their environment, and that they’re constantly exposed to homophobia, and another person coming along and saying that they’re wrong: there is no homophobia in their environment.

Gaslighting is also used to invalidate people’s experiences of sexism: perhaps someone will feel like they’re being subjected to sexist treatment, and their perception is brushed off as ‘oversensitive’ and ‘crazy’ by those around them.

At the core of gaslighting is invalidating people’s experiences.

The term comes from the 1944 film, ‘Gas Light’, in which the main male character tries to convince his wife that she’s going insane. He does this by dimming the gas lights and telling her that she’s imagining the dimming. – SF

Image by Michelle Avenant


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