my death hill is the way ‘gaslighting’ - a term specifically coined from a 1944 movie in which a murderous thief tries to convince his wife she is going insane so he can institutionalize her - is being now used all over the internet as a trump card to claim people who disagree with you are in fact, abusing you.
it’s super fucked up, because it implies there’s an abusive dynamic present between relative strangers in an online medium and is just nonsensical, because gaslighting has a specific definition.
gaslighting is a systematic technique used by abusers to consciously to undermine their victims’ sense of their own judgement and reality. it is an incredibly damaging form of emotional abuse, because controlling a victim’s sense of reality and sanity puts the abuser in complete control of the relationship dynamic between them.
gaslighting is not:
-simple disagreements over how an event went down. we all perceive things differently, radically so sometimes, and memory is a tricky thing. if two people disagree over what happened, but they both truly believe their own version of events, it’s not gaslighting, even if one person is not remembering things accurately, provided they are not consciously trying to undermine the other person’s reality.
-a difference of opinion, in general, or disbelieving what someone says.
-something that can take place without a relationship of trust between abuser and victim. the victim has to believe in the good faith intentions of the abuser, which is why it works - why would someone you trust and love and who loves you lie to you in this way? so it can’t ever really take place between strangers online because there’s no established trusting relationship.
-anything described in this post.
-intentional. this is tricky, because a lot of creepy abusive types do appear to believe their own bullshit. so the line is fuzzy, but it still exists.
-systematic. gaslighting is not a ‘one-time thing’ - someone saying something that you know did happen or didn’t happen once isn’t going to make you doubt your own perceptions assuming you’re a reasonably confident person. it’s a campaign that is designed to gradually make you doubt how you perceive with and interact with the world, making the abuser the ultimate arbiter of what is real - how convenient for him, yeah?
-serious fucking business. this is hardcore sociopathic shit, and is not something that is present in every or even most abusive dynamics. and not something that can even be assessed that well unless your abuser admits to it, because you cannot see inside their head.
to this day, i am really ambivalent about whether gaslighting was part of the dynamic of the abusive relationship i was in. my ex lied to me constantly and certainly did everything in his power to get me to doubt my perceptions when my perceptions told me he was being abusive. but he was a creepy fuck who usually seemed to believe very strongly in his revisionist version of events and inaccurate cognitions.
ironically, with the way “gaslighting” is being used on tumblr and elsewhere, i could be accused of gaslighting by stating that the emotions based on these faulty cognitions were abusive! example: “she is talking to that guy, who i think wants fuck her, so i am angry at her for speaking to him, because she is trying to make me jealous and she wants to fuck him.” but i’d be the gaslighter for telling him his perceptions of the event were incorrect by this logic!
i’m still on the fence as to whether or not the reality-denying behavior was systemic and conscious on the part of my ex. like the term ‘abuse’ in general, gaslighting is not something to throw around lightly and yet it’s important to name it when it is happening. and it’s really important for everyone to hold ourselves responsible to not inflate or exaggerate or twist genuine differences of opinion or regular conflicts into situations where we’re appropriating survivor’s experiences for points or to bully others.