Society problems

How the act of lighting gas isolates people from society and distorts their immediate reality

In 1938, playwright Patrick Hamilton wrote a thriller called The gas lamp, which tells the story of a man who tries to drive his wife crazy in order to rob her. He convinces her that she was going insane, to the point that she was made to believe that the noises from the attic and the flickering gas light were imagined by her, when in reality, he was responsible. Although not used in the play, the etymology of the term “gaslighting” can be traced back to it, which was later adapted into two films in the 1940s. Psychologists R. Barton and JA Whitehead have coined the term “gaslighting” in 1969 when they analyzed involuntary hospitalization as a form of abuse. Rarely used thereafter, the term was popularized by psychotherapist Robin Stern in 2007 and has now become a ubiquitous term.

The operation of the phenomenon

Gaslighting is a phenomenon in which manipulation techniques are used to control people in politics and interpersonal relationships. Stern explained that for such abuses to exist, “mutual participation” between the “gaslighter” (perpetrator) and the “gaslightee” (victim) is imperative. When a person is gaslit, they experience confusion, anxiety, and a loss of self-confidence. If successful in the act of lighting the gas, the perpetrator may isolate the victim from society and even their closest social circles to the extent that the gaslightee begins to believe that the gaslighter is the only person he can trust.

In relationships, especially romantic or intimate, the process begins gradually, with the abuser gaining the partner’s trust by showering him with romantic gestures. Over time, the abuser tends to suggest that their partner is unreliable, forgetful, and endlessly dependent. They then isolate them from any system that might provide assistance to victims. Using these techniques, the abuser tricks the victim into doubting their sense of rationality by suggesting that they are mentally unstable.

Different approaches

There are various methods gaslighters use to manipulate their victims into questioning their realities.

During a counter-attack, the aggressor interrogates the memory of the victim. “I don’t think you remember what happened?” or “Are you sure about that?, you tend to concoct things in your head” are some questions that can frequent such conversations, in order to sow doubt in the victim’s mind about their reality. The abuser acts as if he does not understand the conversation or refuses to listen convincing the victim that he must have misunderstood.

By trivializing the victim’s experiences or feelings, the abuser ensures that the victim begins to question their own personality. “Are they right? Am I overly sensitive or have I overreacted? is a familiar question the gaslightee might ask.

The abuser also tends to deny taking responsibility for their actions of hurting the victim by blaming the victim for causing the situation that resulted in the gas lighter abuse. Additionally, they distract from a discussion, when the gaslightee begins to question the gaslighter’s credibility. For example, they might say things like, “These books you’re reading are manipulating you. This is what real relationships look like.”

Abusers may also use negative stereotypes, based on the victim’s gender, class, caste, race or ethnicity to lower their self-esteem.

Sociology of the concept

The concept of gaslighting is primarily considered to be psychological in nature. This highlights the importance of intimate relationships in the phenomenon, ignoring the gender-based inequalities that make it a common feature of domestic violence. Studies show how the sociological implications of the concept should be taken into account. Perpetrators of such abuse use existing structural inequalities and stereotypes, as well as institutional vulnerabilities, to control their victims. A social environment is created that distorts the victim’s sense of reality, autonomy, mobility, identity and community, isolating him from society, completely dependent and at the mercy of the aggressor. By placing the phenomenon in its cultural, structural and institutional contexts, we understand that while men can also be victims of abuse, the patriarchal structure that subjugates women deprives them of the power to define a man’s reality, which makes women more likely to be victimized. Until a woman manipulates society into believing she is the victim, it becomes difficult for her to turn on a man, and such an exception is shown in the film. missing girlas the protagonist, Amy, personifies the act of gaslighting.

The act of lighting gas

So what might a gaslighting act look like? X, a charming man, who knows how to handle words, pursues Y, a woman. In the “honeymoon” phase of their romantic relationship, he is well-dressed and polite and showers her with gifts, flowers, and chocolates. He spends time with her and gains her trust. Once Y is comfortable with X, she begins to share her issues, traumas, and vulnerabilities. He slowly begins to use his vulnerabilities against her. If Y has denounced her family and friends, X manipulates her into believing that they are not trustworthy. If she has insecurities about herself, this is used to lower her self-esteem. X begins to be secretive and controlling while tricking her into thinking he loves Y, making sure she depends on him. He begins to disrespect her and make fun of her or flirt with other women in front of her. When questions about this abusive behavior arise, he is trivialized as he denies taking responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blames Y for being too sensitive or for being too insecure and jealous. Since he is charming and kind to most people, Y begins to believe that she is actually overthinking or making things up in her head. Y’s memory and rationality are challenged, ensuring that she relies on X for everything. X takes full charge of Y’s life, behavior and personality and can be compared to a puppeteer, who pulls the strings of his puppets.

Gaslighting is a serious problem that can be difficult to recognize, especially when involved in an intimate relationship. Moreover, it is possible that a person gets used to such behavior from his partner, taking it for love. The film darlings is an interesting example that depicts the stages of abuse – dependency on the relationship, denial of the abuse, dissolution, difficulty accepting reality, and finally acknowledgment of one’s role in gaslighting – all throughout the movie. Thus, the first step in abusive relationships is to become aware of one’s own role in gaslighting, how one’s behavior, desires and fantasies can lead to idealizing the gaslighter and seeking his or her approval. .