Many don’t know what gaslighting is. They have a sort of understanding that it has a negative connotation, but nothing else. Gaslighting is when someone is psychologically manipulated into thinking that they have done something that they haven’t, usually from someone who is trying to psychologically abuse them. A simple example might be, “You did say that to me last week, you just do not remember”. This reinforcement from another in stating with firm affirmation makes you misjudge yourself, and believe them, hence changing your thoughts into believing what they are saying.
I think it difficult to not come into paths with gaslighting in some way or another, whether directly or indirectly through another. It can happen anywhere. No one is immune to this. It can happen at work, or at home. You could be the victim of gaslighting or might even be the perpetrator of it. You can be a woman or man. It doesn’t matter your age, or the colour of your skin.
I have come across gaslighting often, as unfortunately many of my patients in mental health have been victims of this. However, I have had the awful experience also outside of my profession. It’s a shock to the system when you do experience it. I have noticed however, that those that do the gaslighting, almost become addicted to it, it becomes a way of life for them, they start to believe what they are saying and doing it factual correctness. When the victim attempts to shatter the unreality of the gaslighter worlds they have created, it becomes the victims fault. A toxic world is created, where truth is weeded in an abusive link with another, with fear of removing oneself due to the degradation one is forced to feel about themselves due to the web of insanity created from gaslighting. It’s like a fire, it grows and worsens with time. There is not end, and no boundaries to what is fabricated. And in the end of burns you, whether the victim or abuser. Both will hurt with unhappy results, in either affecting the victim and their own mental health, as well as the abuser as they will not be able to prevent the intoxication of gaslighting which will in turn hurt their mind.
A film I came across exploring such themes was from Tatjana Anders, named Your Reality. The film, which of course I won’t say too much about, as I never like to ruin that for those that have yet to see, deals with the very theme of gaslighting. The title says it all, you don’t quite know what reality is real. This is exactly how ones feels when being gaslighted. It terrifying, you doubt yourself, you doubt what you have done, how you feel, and your thoughts almost become mastered and controlled by the individual doing so.
For the gaslighter, I think it’s a complete sense of power which they are afraid of losing. The psychology behind such a person is fascinated to me as a psychiatrist, but on a human level, it’s someone I feel that is insecure, desperate for an ideal, and frustrated with the reality of their life trying to perfect it to what they want it to be. Its destructive. Usually they don’t know when to stop, its’ not a flirtation of gaslighting, but an almost pathological need to hurt someone in order to fulfil their need of love for themselves.
Tatjana, wrote her film based on her friend that unfortunately suffered from gaslighting, that was the inspiration for Tatjana to further reach this topic, that is largely misunderstood by the public. When I speak To Tatjana, I gather a sense of sensitivity when she speaks about her film, it is clear that she has taken the time to research and understand what gaslighting is, how it is formed, and how it can solely detrimentally damage a person. Her film poster as well as the title sums the film perfectly for me as well as the topic of gaslighting: It shatters your world and the way you see yourself.
I think when a victim finally breaks free from the perpetrator, their delusional world that has been created for them shatters alongside how the view them and themselves. This is an important step in order to regain control of ones own life again.
This issue is so prevalent amongst our community, and if you look closer you will it all around. We need to highlight this, and help to make our worlds safer. No one deserves to be a victim of this, and I am happy that Tatjana is breaking stigma in discussing this with a feature in the works concerning gaslighting.