The term “gaslighting” has returned to common parlance possibly as a consequence of our pandemic isolation. Hermit though I am, I know of two people who feel their spouses may be gaslighting them.
According to one website, “Gaslighting refers to intentional attempts to manipulate you into doubting your feelings, perception of events, and reality in general. Someone trying to gaslight you typically wants to confuse you and make you doubt yourself to make it more likely you’ll go along with what they want.”
Even the healthiest and most well-balanced folks I know are feeling a little unhinged by the last 15 months. Others, who’ve always marched to a different drummer (but are way more fun than their more staid counterparts!) are messing up the band big-time. Whether unscrupulous partners are taking advantage of the almost universal shut-down-instability to give a final push to someone teetering on the edge or whether the teeter-er is imagining things is beyond me to figure out.
But I’m not the only one trying to analyze the phenomenon of an almost 80-year-old expression making a comeback. The term gaslighting is all over the limited social media I participate in.
There’s an odd juxtaposition between “gaslighting” practices and the also au courant term “cancel culture.” While there are significant differences, the acts of canceling and gaslighting are both forms of manipulation. They require that the victim be isolated and shamed. He must offer apologies for acts he’s not even sure he committed. What a power trip for the abuser!
It’s gotten pretty hard to determine who or which societal group is the abused and which is the abuser. So many of us have become hyper-sensitive to the tiniest slurs. Things that, a few years ago, would have been handled with a dismissive wave of the hand are now expected to make it to the Supreme Court. Few of us are willing to tell someone else to go jump off a cliff if they offend us. For one thing, I imagine you could be sued for such a response. Or canceled for your insensitivity. Or gaslighted into believing that your intentions were to actually do the shoving off that cliff.
C’mon people. Grow a spine. Stop wallowing in victimhood. There are plenty of people and groups who are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the next sucker who will fall into their shame and blame trap. Straighten your shoulders and practice that dismissive wave of the hand. Stop volunteering for the Sap of the Year award.
If you’re genuinely crazy, the men in white suits will come along with their nets, put you on a government program and turn you loose on the streets; don’t despair.
And, if you’re as sane as can be, start acting like it.