In 1938, a stage play called “Gas Light” debuted for the first time. The play is about a husband who gradually convinces his wife she’s insane by acting strangely and secretly manipulating objects in the house - like dimming the gas lights in the attic - and refusing to acknowledge that they’ve changed. Today, the term “gaslighting” is used to describe any behaviour designed to make another person question their sanity.
Gaslighting is abusive behaviour. Any person who tries to make you doubt your own sanity does not have your best interests at heart. Gaslighting is a tool to keep you in an abusive relationship, and prevent you from reaching out for help.
In its weakest form, gaslighting means convincing you that you are misremembering or exaggerating something that happened. “I never said it like that, you’re exaggerating!” or “You’re making it sound worse than it was!” are common examples of gaslighting. At the end of the conversation, you might even find yourself apologizing to the other person, even though you were pretty sure that they were in the wrong. This sort of thing can happen in a normal relationship, especially if one or both parties aren’t very self-aware, but it’s a concern if it happens all the time… especially if only one person seems to have a faulty memory.
Gaslighting can also mean convincing you that events didn’t happen at all. Your abuser can absolve themselves of responsibility, and keep you in check, by convincing you that abuse never took place. “We never had a fight at my brother’s wedding… are you feeling okay?” or “I’ve never thrown anything at you in my life! Do you have a fever or something?” are more serious examples of gaslighting, and they are absolutely not okay. If someone is trying to convince you that a fight or episode of abuse never happened, that’s a huge red flag that cannot be ignored.
At its very worst, abusers may go out of their way to stage strange events in order to confuse their victims. An abuser trying to keep a victim in check, or socially isolate a victim, may go out of their way to act strangely in order to make their victim doubt their own mind. Abusers may steal things from you, disappear for days on end and claim that they told you where they were going (or deny being gone), or mislabel your reactions as they’re happening (eg. pretending that you are irrationally angry when you are actually calm). These are also huge red flags, and cannot be ignored.
Gaslighting is not unique to abusive romantic relationships: it is also common in toxic parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, friendships or school bullying. Anyone who mistreats you can gaslight you.
The best defense against gaslighting is self-confidence, and careful recording. Trust in your own mind. You know when you’ve been abused. You know your own reactions. And write things down - keeping a careful record of abusive incidents and what was said or done gives you a record to consult when someone else gets in your head.
Gaslighting can make it especially difficult to recognize and leave a bad relationship, and no one deserves to go through it. Know the signs. Protect yourself. You deserve better.
im so fucking angry because terezi pyrope’s personal system of ethics is one of the most nuanced and detailed examples of CLS paired with a critique of justice that i’ve ever seen in a piece of fiction and it’s homestuck