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 bhofack2 for iStock

Popcorn! Quite simply, it’s one of my absolute favorite things. Starting when I was a child, whenever I went to the movies, I’d get (and finish!) the largest bucket of popcorn available. And I always thought movie popcorn was far superior to what you could make at home … until a recent trip to visit a close friend in Tennessee, and she introduced me to Great Northern Popcorn (I promise this isn’t a paid ad). Now I’m addicted to it as I can make it on my cooktop. I know Black would be more interested in the science of what makes popcorn pop, but I prefer to just be obsessive about my popcorn …

Popcorn. Just the thought of popcorn makes me smile, makes me want to indulge, makes me happy. And I’m guessing my popcorn obsession makes Black roll her eyes (although she might admit it can be a healthy snack). However, plenty of people must love popcorn as much as I do. Why else would there be a National Popcorn Day?!

Over the past few years, the pandemic posed challenges that none of us could’ve foreseen (and I’ll never forget the dedication of the front-line workers or make light of the sacrifices so many had to make). But part of me has to laugh at the irony because it ended my seemingly easy “escape” from the stresses of life – going to the movies and enjoying the largest bucket of popcorn – when I needed it the most.

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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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You’re going to roll your eyes, but lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about myself.


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That is totally out of character, unless you are thinking of New Year’s resolutions.


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Actually, no. For decades, my priorities, and therefore my life, have always been focused on the girls and Mom. But that’s all changing. And I’m not sure how to “change” with it.
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Wherever you may be … we wish you a happy and healthy ’23!