Once when I was little, I was happily playing on a friend’s swing set, when for some reason, I loosened my grip on the swing’s chains. I don’t remember what I was thinking; all I know is that one minute I was soaring into the air and singing to myself, and the next, I was flat on the ground, staring up at the sky, unable to catch my breath.
That was the first – and only – time I’ve ever had the actual wind knocked out of me. But I’ve had the metaphorical wind knocked out of me plenty of times.
Have you ever tried to talk to your partner about something and had the entire conversation go off the rails, ending up in a terrible fight that leaves you feeling like you might be certifiably insane? Whenever it happens to me, I’m reminded of that sunny afternoon when I suddenly went from having the time of my life to being unable to move or breathe, lying on the ground and wondering what the hell happened.
The Mamamia Outloud team explains Gaslighting and how to know if it’s happening to you. Post continues below.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse in which the perpetrator tries to make their victim question reality. The term actually comes from an old Ingrid Bergman movie – the 1944 thriller Gaslight (1944) – in which a man purposely tries to make his wife believe she’s going insane. Part of his evil scheme involves flickering the gas lanterns in their house and telling her that it’s just her imagination. If he can convince his wife that she’s crazy and have her committed to an institution, he can find her long-lost family jewels and steal them. Oh and also, he murdered his wife’s aunt years ago and has been planning this whole thing ever since.
Of course, in real life, gaslighters aren’t usually murderers and thieves spinning out intricate criminal plots. But they do tend to be narcissists, abusers and power-hungry men. (A certain president of the United States comes to mind.) Having the upper hand is what gaslighting is all about: a person who gaslights his partner wants her to stop trusting herself and believe that everything is her fault. This is much easier to do than you might think; when a person you love, and who claims to love you, begins to tell you that you’re wrong about things, including your own intentions and actions, it plants a seed of doubt that can quickly grow into a feeling of isolation and confusion that shakes you to your core.