Does he tell you you’re crazy?

Have you heard of gaslighting?

It’s a term that comes from a 1938 stage play called Gas Light in which a woman suffers systematic psychological manipulation by her husband. Film adaptations of the story were released in the 1940s.

In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane, by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes.

The original title stems from the fact that the husband dims the gas lights in the flat above the one he shares with his wife while searching for jewels belonging to a woman he murdered.

The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses the situation with her husband, but he insists that she has just imagined a change in the lighting. He makes her question her own sanity.

Today, the term “gaslighting” is used to describe a specific kind of emotional abuse where the perpetrator makes his partner doubt their own perceptions, memory, and reality.

Psychology experts say that not all gaslighters are intentionally malicious, or even conscious of their harmful behaviour. But other gaslighters are perfectly aware of their coercive tactics, and deliberately seek to establish power over other people’s lives and control the behaviour of those people. In a domestic relationship, this is abuse.

An article published by the BBC recently about a self-confessed perpetrator provides plenty of information about this hurtful and sometimes debilitating behaviour.

Broxtowe Women’s Project staff are experienced in providing support to women affected by all types of abuse, psychological as well as physical. If you have any doubt about how you are being treated, please get in touch.

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