Gaslighting: A Psychologist Explains What the 2022 Word of the Year Means for Mental Health by Dr. Bethany Cook Clinical Psychologist
Q. Gaslighting was named the 2022 word of the year by Merriam-Webster. So what exactly is gaslighting?
The term gaslighting originated from the 1938 play where a husband slowly manipulates his wife into believing she’s going mad while he systematically, over time, dims the gaslights in their home. When she mentions it to her husband, he denies noticing any changes in the light, making her think she’s lost touch with reality.
Q. Why does gaslighting work?
The abuser uses persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying to make the victim feel unsure of their own sanity. The goal is to make their victim undermine their own judgement and erode their self-esteem in an effort to create and foster dependence on the abuser.
Q. How do abusers gaslight?
They start with small inconsequential lies, such as moving an item then suggesting you misplaced it (when you ask about it). This escalates to blatant, bold-faced lies. They will dismiss things they did/said and deny all types of abuse. Even if there is physical proof.
Q. Why can't a victim of gaslighting easily escape/leave?
Over time, the abuser eventually isolates the victim by poisoning all their relationships with others, telling them no one loves them or will believe them. This significantly reduces the victim’s support network, making it harder for them to escape.
Q. What does gaslighting do to the victim?
A survivor often struggles with mental health issues associated with:
That’s to name just a few. Survivors also struggle with trusting and opening up to family, friends and even themselves because their lived reality has been denied for so long.
Q. Can someone recover from gaslighting?
Yes! A person can overcome this type of abuse. Therapy, reconnecting to family and friends and cutting all ties with the abuser are steps toward healing.
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