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Gaslighting: Word of the Year 2022

Jun 22, 2023
young lady with her head in her hands

The results are in, and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Word of the Year 2022 is... GASLIGHTING.

Gaslighting is defined as the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one's own advantage.

The origins come from the title of a 1938 play, “Gas Light,” and its film adaption. The plot involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is mentally ill. His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim. The wife continuously asks if the lights seem dimmer, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own thoughts.

Common Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a common form of abuse in unhealthy relationships used to make victims doubt their own thoughts and feelings. When someone is being gaslighted, they are deliberately and regularly fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true. Over time, the manipulations can grow more complex and effective.

Some common signs of being gaslighted include:

  • Having significant self-doubt, lack of confidence, or second guessing oneself
  • Being made to feel out of one’s mind, irrational, sensitive, or incorrect
  • Feeling confused, chaotic, depressed, or isolated from loved ones
  • Having a gut feeling that something feels off or is not right
  • Feeling the need to apologize for the other person’s behavior
  • Trusting the other person’s choices more than your own

Common Gaslighting Tactics

The core of gaslighting, like any form of emotional abuse, is that it involves a pattern of behavior. If this behavior occurs once, it could be someone having a bad day or doing something by accident. Often, someone will take responsibility for this behavior. It’s important to remember that gaslighting occurs very gradually over time. The effects of these subtle, deliberate behaviors can be hard to recognize. One way to identify if this is happening is by observing behavioral patterns over time.

Common tactics include:

  • Denying Reality: This is when someone questions a partner’s memory, sanity, or perception of reality. They may say things such as, “I didn’t say that. I don’t know why you would think that,” or “Are you sure about that? I remember things differently.”
  • Minimizing: This occurs when a person belittles how someone else feels, leaving the other person feeling invalidated in their emotions. Their partner may accuse them of being “too dramatic” or “too sensitive”.
  • Trivializing: Trivializing involves making the victim believe that what they communicated is insignificant and unimportant. They may say things such as, “You’re going to let something like that come between us?” or “Why do you always overreact?”
  • Separation: It is not uncommon for gaslighters to isolate and alienate their victims from their support systems. Partners may claim they know other people are saying negative things about the victim. They may say things like, “I don’t think your family has your best interests at heart” or “I don’t think your friend actually likes you.”
  • Withholding Information: This involves someone pretending they do not understand the conversation, or refusing to listen, in order to make the other person doubt themselves. For example, they might say something along the lines of, “I don’t want to talk about this again,” or “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

If you are experiencing gaslighting in your relationship, it is not your fault. It can be difficult to recognize, but help is available. The Adult Services Program at The Center for Family Safety and Healing provides services, with safety and confidentiality as the highest priority. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact (614) 722-8293.

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Jacqueline Taylor
Jacqueline Taylor, BSW
Center for Family Safety and Healing

Jacqueline Taylor, BSW, is the Trauma Care Manager with The Center For Family Safety and Healing.

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The Center for Family Safety and Healing

Alena Schuckmann is the Digital Communications Specialist for The Center for Family Safety and Healing. Alena graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in art from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Alena is a skilled digital content creator who has had various articles and photographs published locally and nationwide.

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