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Have you been gas-lighted?
If you have, you'll probably be questioning why? You might even be questioning your sanity too. Why is this?
Firstly, let me explain what gaslighting is. It is not how you light your home with an old fashion Victorian form of smelly, inefficient, and frankly, quite dangerous form of energy. Gaslighting, for those not in the know, is an abusive and systemic psychological tactic whereby one person makes another doubt their view of reality in order to gain power or control over them. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Bet everyone has at some time in their lives been subject to this form of abuse. Some people may even admit to using it on others too.
Dictators, tyrants, cult leaders, narcissists, and politicians all know how to use gas-lighting—while US President Donald Trump is often accused of using the technique to intimidate, dominate, and control others. Yes, you don’t need to be clever, super intelligent, or clued in to use it effectively; you just need to know the basics, both to use it, and crucially, how to identify it and defeat it if it is being used against you.
Surprisingly the term has a long history dating back all the way to 1938. That year there was a stage play called Gas Light written by Patrick Hamilton doing the theatre rounds gaining critical acclaim, but the story is probably better known for its film version released six years later in 1944 starring Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman.
The two main protagonists are Jack Manningham and his wife Bella (named as Gregory and Paula in the movie version). Jack terrorizes his wife and blames her for mischievously misplacing items, which all the time he himself has systematically hidden from her.
Everything from knives, spoons, and forks to paintings and furniture all go astray and, of course, she has no recollection of moving them because she didn’t move them, yet Jack continues to tell her that she has been moving them.
He tells her she can't be trusted to go out in public and begins to systematically alienate her friends against her telling them that she is slowly losing her mind: all very tragic and sad. At the same time, Bella clings to the single shred of evidence that she isn't going insane, the dwindling of the gas lights that accompanies the late night execution of Jack's trickery, hence the term gas-lighting.
The gas light is the sole thing that Bella can help her keep her sanity intact whilst she struggles to break free of Jack's total control.
So how did a movie reference become a modern day psychological attack? Enter US President Bill Clinton and the debacle over a certain Monica Lewinsky. The term was used to describe how Clinton had been 'gas-lighting America' over whether or not he 'had sexual relations with that woman'. Bill Clinton described Lewinsky variously as unhinged, neurotic, and obsessed, whereas the reality was that he was controlling the media with carefully written and delivered statements that were all contrary to the truth.
Three decades on and another US President has made gas-lighting almost into an art form, albeit in a much more uncoordinated and unpolished form. President Donald Trump has often used the media as his mouthpiece. There are numerous times he has claimed one thing when another is true; usually with zero evidence to back up his assertions. '30-34 million immigrants in the US' (really 10-11 million); he never supported the Iraq War (told Howard Stern on his radio show that he did); unemployment under Barrack Obama was 42 percent (closer to 16.4 percent).
Trump's defense when the media bring him to task is the tired, hackneyed and hollow call of "It's all fake news"—No it's a perfect example of gas-lighting.