Words & Banter

Shining A Light On … Gaslighting


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I still can’t believe that “gaslighting” is Merriam-Webster’s 2022’s Word of the Year. But it does remind me of the 1944 movie “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman. Although I watched it on TV decades later, it was probably the first psychological thriller I ever saw, and it didn’t surprise me it won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actress that year.


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Actually, it started with the 1938 play “Gas Light,” which became a 1940 British film titled “Gaslight” (one word), and four years later, MGM made the version you remember with Charles Boyer as the husband. All with the same plot – a man trying to make his wife believe that she is going insane by insisting the house’s gas lights are not dimming, although they are, making her question her sanity.


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I’m the movie buff, not you! So, why would you know all this? Are you going to try to convince me that you’ve become interested in old movies?


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There are many things I might be able to mislead you on, “gaslight” if you will, but that is not one of them. Years ago, when I first heard the phrase “gaslight,” I was curious about its meaning and origins.

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Well, all I know is the movie took place in England during the late 1800s before electricity was used in houses, and London was known for its incredible fog, which lent an extra layer of “creepiness” to everything. But what I found so “scary” about the plot was that it started as something mundane and seemingly plausible but, over time, almost drove the wife over the edge.

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That is how gaslighting works. In that instance, the “victim” was intentionally and systematically given false information by her husband, someone she trusted, so he could discredit her. But, whether in movies or real life, it is used to control people – emotionally, financially, physically. And, as we have seen, even politically. Think about all the misinformation out there, especially on social media.

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When you stop and look at it that way, it’s even scarier. And it’s not only incredibly effective but also dangerous. I understand the huge political ramifications but have also seen how, on a personal front, it can subtly undermine you. And relationships.

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Is there something you are trying to tell me?

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I just found it a coincidence that “gaslighting” was named word of the year, as I’ve been using it with someone who often tries to “gaslight” me. It’s nothing serious, just annoying. No, make that very annoying. At first, I thought it was an amusing game or even an “excuse” for either forgetting something or not listening in the first place.

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At first? What about now?

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Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it’s more, although I might be giving the other person too much credit. It’s one thing to cover your tracks or deflect blame, but what if it’s something more, well, sinister?

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I started to say, “Now, your theater degree is showing,” but gaslighting can be difficult to recognize. And, especially in personal relationships, where it can be abusive. When I was married to Larry, and since he drank every night, I could easily claim I told him something, and he would not remember whether I did or not. But, trying to make someone question their sanity or judgment is very different.

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Exactly. And did you really do that? Anyway, I didn’t realize the many aspects of gaslighting. Or how serious a problem it is.

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It does not get enough attention in terms of mental health, but the concept seems to be almost a daily occurrence in the news, and especially politics.


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And if the mere existence of gaslighting isn’t scary enough, even standing up to it doesn’t always work. I doubt you watched it, but the limited series “Gaslit” was about Martha Mitchell and Watergate. She was an early whistleblower but was ridiculed by people, including her husband, in an attempt to discredit her.


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It is an extreme example of gaslighting – on both a political and personal level. And, went so far as to involve medical professionals who diagnosed her accurate perceptions of real events as delusional (now known as the “Martha Mitchell Effect”).


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Talk about a living nightmare.


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Which makes you wonder ... are you better off letting gaslighting continue, even if you do not believe it, or adamantly refusing to accept it?


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Seriously? Or are you gaslighting me?


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Good question.
Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock

Are you taking the Dry January challenge and not having any alcohol for the month? Or, maybe you plan to drink less (but not nothing), which makes it Damp January. Or, maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it. (If so, there’s still time to start!)

Well, nothing much has changed from our approach to Dry January last year, except the one who had started drinking more last year is continuing the trend …



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I keep getting emails about where to go for mocktails. I know alcohol-free cocktails, like Virgin Margaritas, have been around for a while, but I’d never heard that term before. Do you think it has to do with New Year’s resolutions?


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It can if any of your resolutions are to lose weight, save money, sleep better. Or, drink less. Psychologically, January is the month when we “reset”, so a UK-based organization, Alcohol Change UK , started Dry January , where you abstain from drinking alcohol.


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Perfect timing since many people shop, eat, and drink more than usual over the holidays.


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I know you used to drink a glass of Cold Duck on New Year’s Eve, a tradition going back to our childhood, but that hardly counts as drinking. But, I have always wondered why you rarely drink, but never asked.
Keep Reading ...Show less

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It’s January, and everyone’s probably tired of reading about New Year’s resolutions.

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Not me. Since I never make them, I never feel the need to read about them.

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Of course, you don’t. So, what should we write about?

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How about that we celebrate some of our favorite things in January?

So many “National Days” in January are fun (we’ve written about them over the years) and remind us of some of our favorite things. (Can you pick which are Red’s favorite holidays and which are Black’s?) And whether or not you make resolutions, it’s always important to have a sense of humor and enjoy the simpler things in life …

Answer: Red’s favorites are Bagels, Popcorn, and Hugging. Black’s are Clean Desk, Bagels, and Backward.

Wishing you Happy 2024 – with new beginnings and much more!