Is It Gaslighting?
Updated: Sep 12
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.” (Wikipedia entry)
Gaslighting. I hear the word and I feel it physically in my heart. I experience an adrenaline rush, together with a fear sensation. I feel almost dizzy.
In a different season of my life, I experienced gaslighting.
I normally know what I believe. I have strong discernment and intuition. I trust my judgment. In that season of my life, I felt like I was losing my grip on reality. I could not make sense of what I was experiencing and what I was being told. In order to live with the cognitive dissonance, I forced myself to set aside all of my own convictions and to accept as truth what was being portrayed to me.
Living this way, I felt like I almost lost myself.
The term “gaslighting” apparently originates from a stage play from the 1940’s called “Gas Light.” In this play, a husband sadistically and deliberately mentally abuses his wife by gradually convincing her over time that she is insane. The term “gaslighting” comes from his intentional manipulation of the gas lights, paired with his calculated responses of incredulity towards his wife when she notices the changes in the lights.
As I write this, the feeling of fear in my heart almost overwhelms me.
During the season in which I experienced gaslighting, I remember sharing some of it with a friend. She expressed that none of it made sense. At the time, I simply thought I was not explaining it well. Now I realize that she was right. It did not make sense.
I felt like I almost lost myself.
A time came when friends helped me move on.
I have been learning again to trust myself, to trust my grasp of reality, to trust my discernment. I still sometimes notice the lingering effects of gaslighting in me. I frequently realize that I have viewed events from the past through the lens of that season. I sometimes alternate between keeping my insights to myself and sharing my insights with a desperation that is no longer needed.
I am thankful today to be living God’s call on my life in joy.
Are you experiencing gaslighting? If you recognize you might be experiencing gaslighting, and you do not know how to begin processing this, I would be glad to talk with you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at email@example.com.
You are not alone, you are not crazy, and you matter.
About: Jenny Switkes is a pastor, mathematics professor, and missionary who is passionate about Jesus and loves the bivocational life that God has given her. She loves helping apostolic leaders clarify their calling and take next steps to live their call.
Photo by FreeImages.com/Rodolfo Belloli