(verb) Gaslighting is emotional manipulation intended to undermine the victim’s sense of reality while inserting the abuser’s false reality into her mind as the truth.
The term comes from the 1944 film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman’s new husband, intends to steal her wealth by convincing her that she’s crazy and sending her away to a mental asylum. One of his tactics toward this end, is to make the gas lighting in her home flicker on and off. When she mentions the flickering, he pretends he doesn’t see it and begins the process of undermining her perceptions.
But an abuser doesn’t gaslight only by questioning his victim’s five senses, he also dismisses her emotions and her gut instincts. This is the most insidious form of abuse because it denies the victim the right to set boundaries based on her feelings. Without boundaries, she ceases to be an individual and loses her identity. Without boundaries she is only an extension of her narcissistic abuser, her purpose becomes only to serve his needs. Her very humanity is denied.
The expectation of being seen and understood as a feeling and thinking person, which is created by the attachment context, clashes violently with the brutalised person’s objectification and dehumanisation. Shame is a higher order derivative of this basic affect of pain. Unbearable shame is generated through the incongruity of having one’s humanity negated, exactly when one is legitimately expecting to be cherished. [p 426]“
Our humanity is tied to our human instinct, the instinct to feel and to learn from our emotions. Gaslighting is a form of dehumanizing when it denies our feelings.
Psychopaths envy our humanity because they dehumanized themselves long ago when they stopped feeling. It follows that they want us to become like them: emotionless, gutted, without instincts,unable to feel or trust.« Back to Glossary Index