Let’s Talk about Gaslighting?!

By February 24, 2020 No Comments
Upper Valley

 “Am I too sensitive? Am I exaggerating?? Is it all in my head???”

Have you heard about the Academy Award-winning 1944 movie called Gaslight?

An American psychological-thriller, the movie Gaslight is adapted from a play by the British dramatist Patrick Hamilton. Set within a plot of murder, lost royal jewels, and a whirl-wind romance, the movie is a very interesting watch.

The movie centers on the life of Paula who is the niece of world-famous opera-singer brutally murdered by Sergis Bauer who wanted to steal her royal jewels but fails and runs away.

Years later, Paula marries Gregory. Thereon, begin a series of puzzling instances that incriminate Paula as a kleptomaniac. Yet Paula keeps denying having any recollection of stealing. Every night, the gaslight of her apartment’s lighting dims but Gregory keeps telling her she is imagining things. Paula is terrified because she hears faint noises of footsteps coming from her roof and beyond her walls but Gregory assures her there is absolutely nothing.  When Paula believes that her husband is flirting with the young maid, Nancy, he tells her she is exaggerating and becoming paranoid.

So what do you think happened? Did Paula have a multiple-personality disorder or an early onset of schizophrenia?

Upper Valley

No, she did not. In an unexpected plot twist, it is revealed that gaslight did indeed dim every night when another character witnesses it. Rather, it turns out that her ‘kleptomania’ was just her husband stealing precious items and blaming it on her.

Using kleptomania as an excuse, he isolated her from everyone she knew and everything she knew until she couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. You see, her husband was Sergis Bauer, the murderer of her aunt. He would go to the attic every night in search of the royal jewels and when he would turn the lights upstairs, the gaslight would dim downstairs and the tap-tap-tap of his footsteps would reverberate everywhere.

Turns out our Paula was just a victim of some insidious manipulation.  

If you have been active around social media, you will realize that gaslighting has become a bit of a modern buzzword. It began appearing in psychoanalytical studies after this movie the play and is used to refer to “psychological manipulation intended to make the victim question their sanity”.The author of the book The Gaslight Effect, Dr. Stern states that “not all real-life examples [of Gaslighting] are so diabolical”.

Gaslighting is when: you question or you are made to question your thoughts, feelings, understanding, reality and maybe even your sanity. It is often subtle, and deceptively simple. You can self-gaslight and be caught up in a cycle of invalidating your feelings. It can happen in a personal relationship with parents, partners or children, but it can also be in a professional environment with a boss or co-worker.

Remember that…

For people who already undergo major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more, being gaslit can be harrowing. Having issues with behavioral health can already be isolating. Many people are unable to talk about any psychological or mental health issues because they fear they will be judged negatively. Today, many young adults, aged between 18-34 years, associate shame and stigma with mental health issues.

So if you reach out to someone or try to address something hurting or troubling you but someone interrupts that process and makes you think that what you feel may not be serious enough then that is hardly fair.

Please make sure that you watch out for the following behaviors when you are attempting to talk about your feelings or concerns to someone.

  • Trivializing: making you think that what you are saying is not important or ‘that big of a deal’.
  • Denial: refusing to acknowledge you and whatever that is worrying/hurting/concerning you
  • Countering: questioning your memory or recollection and making you rethink why you feel what you feel about a certain situation
  • Diversion: not listening and refusing to let you complete your statements and changing the conversation

If someone repeatedly responds in these ways then you may want to reach out to a trusted friend or a professional who can help you through the process.