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Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude

Gaslighting

  • 03 Dec 2022
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Gaslighting & It’s Emergence

For Mains: Gaslighting & Its Impact, Common Signs of Gaslighting, Significance of Gaslighting

Why in News?

Recently, Merriam-Webster, America's oldest dictionary publisher, has chosen "Gaslighting" as its Word of the Year.

  • Searches on its website for the word have spiked by 1,740% in 2022, according to the company.

What is Gaslighting?

  • About:
    • Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gaslighting as “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.”
    • Gaslighting involves an imbalance of power between the abuser and the person they’re gaslighting.
      • Abusers often exploit stereotypes or vulnerabilities related to gender, sexuality, race, nationality and/or class.
  • Emergence of the Word:
    • The term “Gaslighting” comes from the title of a 1938 play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton, and the movie based on that play, the plot of which involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane.
  • Impact on Mental Health:
    • Gaslighting is meant to provoke uncertainty and self-doubt, which is often harmful to a victim’s mental health.
      • A victim of gaslighting may experience Anxiety, Depression, Disorientation, Lowered self-esteem.

What are Some Common Signs of Gaslighting?

  • The “Twilight Zone” Effect:
    • Victims of gaslighting often report feeling like a situation is surreal, it’s happening on a different plane from the rest of their life.
    • Being told that the victim is exaggerating.
    • Feeling confused and powerless after leaving an interaction.
  • Isolation:
    • Many gaslighters make efforts to isolate victims from friends, family and other support networks.
  • Tone Policing:
    • A gaslighter may criticize the tone of voice if the person challenges them on something. This is a tactic used to flip the script and make them feel that they are the one to blame, rather than the abuser.
  • A Cycle of Warm-Cold Behavior:
    • To throw a victim off balance, a gaslighter may alternate between verbal abuse and praise, often even in the same conversation.

What is the Significance of Gaslighting in Modern Time?

  • Gaslighting of Misinformation:
    • In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for Modern Time.
  • Gaslighting and Gender:
    • Gaslighting in Medicine:
      • Some women are gaslighted by their doctors, who may use the stereotype that women are irrational and convince a female patient that nothing is actually wrong with her.
    • Public or Collective Gaslighting:
      • Many women experience the effects of public gaslighting, also called collective gaslighting, when statements by a public figure or an ordinary person that are widely shared on social media can lead women as a collective to second-guess themselves.
    • Gaslighting of Transgender People:
      • A gaslighter may try to convince a transgender person that they have a mental health disorder.
    • Gaslighting in the Legal System:
      • The legal system becomes a critical site of gaslighting when abusers gain control of the narrative and ‘flip’ stories, drawing on stereotypes about women as irrational and aggressive.
  • Gaslighting and Race:
    • The political, social, economic and cultural process that perpetuates and normalizes a white supremacist reality through pathologizing those who resist is the prime example of Gaslighting and Race.
  • Gaslighting in the Workplace:
    • If a person in a position of power causes one to question themselves in a way that is negatively affecting their career or confidence in their abilities, they may be experiencing gaslighting.
  • Gaslighting in Politics:
    • In modern times, it’s not uncommon for a politician or political entity to use gaslighting as a tactic to divert public discourse and use manipulation to garner support for or against a certain viewpoint.

Source: IE

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