I think it’s safe to say that the years 2020 and 2021 have brought with them a variety of new and unfamiliar terms. Some are easier to figure out than others, but one in particular that a lot of people struggle to understand, myself included up until recently, is gaslighting.
When I first heard this term, I honestly thought to myself what in the actual hell does that even mean?, and I doubt I was the only one. It seemingly came out of nowhere and soon became present everywhere, more specifically across social media platforms.
A few days ago, I heard someone break down the definition of the term in the simplest explanation I’ve heard to date; gaslighting is, in my own and their words, causing someone to feel as though their feelings, opinions, or beliefs are unwarranted, and that they are at fault or to blame for what they are feeling.
Say, for example, a woman and a man are newly dating. Perhaps they go out for dinner, on a date, and the man makes the woman uncomfortable by being very touchy and invading her personal space. The woman voices her concerns to the man and tell him that his behaviour is making her uncomfortable, and the man responds by telling the woman that she should loosen up and enjoy the attention he is giving her, and that she is in the wrong for feeling the way she does without him taking any accountability for making her feel uneasy.
This is what is referred to as gaslighting.
Knowing the definition of the meaning, it is arguable that gaslighting has always been in existence – we just didn’t have a word for it. It is furthermore arguable that we have all been victims and perpetrators of gaslighting as well, whether we knew it at the time or not.
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