The term originated from the British writer Patrick Hamilton’s book and movie called Gas Light, in which the husband Gregory manipulates his loving wife, Paula to the point where she no longer trusts her perception of reality.
In one scene, Gregory turns on the gas lights in the attic, causing the lights in the house to flicker. When Paula comments that they are flickering, Gregory says they are not, that it is in her mind.
When systematically used, it aims to disorientate the other person, and create doubt in their mental sanity so that the abuser can take complete control.
The problem is that it happens over time, slowly. Building up from small ‘mistakes’ to big ones. It might go from: “I told you I don’t like Indian food. You know I don’t like Indian.” You wonder if he ever said that. You don’t remember him saying he didn’t like Indian food. Maybe you are wrong.
As time goes on, the lies get bigger: “Remember you said you would pay off the credit card this month? Well, I transferred the money from your account today” – You never agreed to this. Or did you . . . now you wonder…
If you think you are being gaslighted, please get help. Talk to someone. Nobody has the right to do this to you.
Take care of yourselves, Jen