The word gaslight may inspire the image of old-fashioned lanterns along a dark, cobblestone street, dispelling the damp and fog with their warm glow. In contrast, the term as we use it today is more about encouraging fog and definitely doesn’t leave one warm and glowing.
Here’s how the word gaslighting is defined at Merriam-Webster.com:
psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.
Our usage of the term stems from the 1944 film Gaslight, directed by George Cukor, and starring Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist and Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton. The movie, originally a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, is the story of a wife who is psychologically manipulated and controlled by her husband. She begins to doubt her own sanity, relies heavily upon her husband, and withdraws from relationships outside of her household.
Bergman’s Oscar for this role is well-earned: watching elegant, loving Paula unravel is excruciating. The tactics Gregory employs become especially cruel as Paula believes he is the one person she can trust. By film’s end, Paula and her strength win out - in no small part because someone validates her and supports her.
The film is an example of gaslighting in romantic relationships. But gaslighting can occur in other areas of life. Here are a few examples:
Seeking support and talking to trusted individuals are among the steps to take if one feels they are being gaslit.
Simply Psychology Article: Origin of the Term Gaslighting
Newport Institute Article: How to Tell If Someone Is Gaslighting You
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT