October is Domestic Violence awareness month. When a woman shows up with a black eye or broken arm at the hands of her spouse, abuse is obvious. When she lives with a broken spirit, the effects of abuse are just as real, but less obvious. God tells us a broken spirit is damaging and hard to live with (Proverbs 18:14).
Gaslighting is a form of covert abuse. It’s become a kind of buzz-word lately so you may have heard the term but what is gaslighting? How do you deal with it in your personal relationships?
The word actually comes from a famous movie released in the 40’s called “Gaslight.” It’s about an accomplished opera singer named Paula who falls in love with and marries a man named Gregory Anton. Gregory begins to torture his wife, not physically but psychologically. He manipulates things around the house. For instance, he would dim the lights in the house. When Paula mentioned it, Gregory would say it’s her imagination. He hides things that Paula puts in a certain place, and when she can’t find them puts them back. He accuses her of going crazy and, with his manipulations, she begins to believe him.
When you hear the term “gaslighting” it means a very intentional form of psychological manipulation. It’s a way of confusing, controlling, and intimidating someone to the point that she begins to doubt her memory and her own reality. This leads to believing that marital problems are her fault.
The ultimate goal of gaslighting is to destroy a person’s self-confidence so she can’t function independently. She stops trusting her own judgement and becomes unable to make decisions. Realize…this can happen over time without anyone so much as raising their voice. This type of covert abuser often appears like the “good guy” because his cruel behavior is hidden from those around him.