This is a term in the psychological and pop-psych world which is a catchphrase term for a specific type of insidious manipulation that takes place in relationships.
The term gaslight originally comes from a 1938 play that was later made into a film. In the story, the wife was made to feel like she was losing her mind by a manipulative husband who feeds her false information….
But how does it work in our modern day relationships?
Where the experience of gaslighting can be quite pronounced and overt (as portrayed in the film), our experiences of gaslighting can often be more subtle.
One way that “gaslighting” is experienced is when we are expressed information which causes us to doubt and question ourselves. For example: You share something which feels true for you, based on your experience, and you are made to believe that you are wrong/stupid (or any other combination of guilt, shame or doubt) for expressing that thought / having that experience.
Another way that it takes place in our modern society is where the sender of the information does not take any responsibility for the impressions you are receiving from them and insists that it is all your “projections” and nothing to do with them.
For example: You are in a work-group and your sense is that something is not being said in the group, something feels “off” and it is not flowing or working for you on some level. You perhaps can’t put your finger on it, or you have a clearer idea about what is not going well. You express your impressions to the group and are told that this is “your” energy that you are contributing to the group and nothing else to do with any of the other participants or the group as a whole. Go home and reflect on what you are doing / feeling / contributing to the process and when this changes in you, then things will be different in the group. I.e. nothing to do with any one else – this is all your stuff to process and resolve.
A note about projections…
Working with our projections is powerful work that can take place in relationships so that our internal conflict, tension and unresolved wounding does not create external conflict and tension in external relationships. We have the opportunity to drastically reduce stickiness and angst in our relating with other people, and the world at large, the more we are able to clearly look at our own projections…
That doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING is a projection…
We are in constant relationship with everyone and everything around us. What this means is that we are constantly influencing and being influenced by everyone and everything. It’s like we are playing one big cosmic game of tennis…. We put our vibes out and we receive them right back with the added spin from our opponent.
In practical terms, you are “picking up the vibes” (return ball with spin) from your environment and sensing what is not being said / their own internal marginalized blind-spots.
So when you are feeling “something is off” with a situation and/or a conversation with someone, as much as it is important to “check yourself” (i.e. is this coming from somewhere in me which I am unwilling to look at or own); it is equally important to own what you are feeling and/or experiencing. To be made out that you are “crazy”, “unlightened” or “just don’t get it” is essentially……. Gaslighting!
For more information on identifying and managing gaslighting take a look at some of these online resources:
- How to spot 5 Core Tactics of Gaslighting
- Some links between Gaslighting and Imposter Syndrome in the workplace
- Gaslighting – what are the signs and how can it be addressed?
Here are some tools to support you in response to being gaslighted:
- Invest in your own personal development where you can untangle some of your own blind spots or unresolved wounding which can get projected into your relationship.
- Slow down…. This is one of the tips which I offer in my blog on managing boundaries. By slowing down and giving ourselves time to respond to our environment we can strengthen our ability to stay within our centre and increase our capacity to attune when things pull us off centre.
- Discover how to turn your anger into an ally. This is discussed further in my “7 Tips for Being WholeHearted” downloadable resource.
- Free your voice and strengthen your capacity to communicate clearly and with personal authority. I discuss this in my interview with Jeremy de Tolly in the free interview series: Divorce, Money, Emotions and Me
- Engage in personal healing with your own inner child. Part of the healing from gaslighting experience requires validating yourself. Engaging in self-trust vs self-doubt. Learning to self-soothe and affirm yourself and what you are feeling and experiencing.
This list is not all inclusive and there are many other ways that you can tune into yourself, and strengthen your ability to decipher the space between you and your environment. What is yours and what is not.
Coming soon I will offer an online course resource where we will learn to support our emotional bodies through addressing the health of our internal organs. Our spleen in particular, which is related to our immune system and our ability to determine what is ours and what is not, what belongs to the system and what is an invader is a powerful ally in strengthening our ability to respond and defend ourselves from gaslighting. If you would like to be kept informed about this and other upcoming courses then please let me know here.
Tiffany Stone is an Internationally Accredited Family Law Mediator, Systemic Family Constellations Facilitator and Divorce & Relationship Coach.
She works with individuals and couples, both in person and online. You can view reflections from previous clients on the testimonials page.