Have you ever encountered a lie so blatant that it seems improbable someone would actually use it?
So improbable that you start wondering maybe you are missing something or misremembering a story?
Has anyone ever made you question your reality?
Have you ever been gaslighted?
This is another Field Guide to Bad Behaviour.
Let's explore how to navigate the wilderness of human nature.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and thought manipulation, with the aim of planting doubts in the mind of a person or a group of people, to make them question their own memory and perception of reality.
It's been spotted in abusive relationships, where it can destabilize the victim, make them unable to think clearly and so become dependent on the abuser.
It also lives in the social domain and the political arena, where it's used as a tactic to preserve inequality or gain political dominance over large groups of people.
Gaslighting may first appear as an honest logical disagreement.
But you can identify it by its telling signs such as: repeated lying, persistent denial of facts and evidence, misdirection and contradiction.
The term comes from a 1938 play called Gas Light and its movie adaptations, in which a husband misplaces objects and blames it on the wife in order to convince her she's losing her mind and should be institutionalized.
He also tells her the occasional dimming of gas lights in the house is just a fragment of her imagination.
In reality, the gas lights flicker because he's turned on the attic's lights, secretly searching for valuables.
Gaslighting as a behavior was first noted in a clinical report in 1969, which included a handful of cases where people were sent to a mental hospital through an elaborate plot designed to make them look mentally ill.
This pure form of gaslighting, in which the manipulator intentionally plots to make someone look insane and get rid of them, is quite rare.
More often gaslighting involves a desire to gain influence over someone and keep them around or keep them from causing trouble.
In relationships, gaslighters may repeatedly deny any wrongdoing, even in the face of solid evidence.
In the workplace, an employee who's left out of meetings might be told she's just paranoid and someone who's experienced harassment may hear their just too sensitive.
The idea is to ignore facts, erode a person's judgment and coerce them into believing alternative narrative.
And this strategy works magic in politics.
Although circumventing facts and pushing agendas to masses of people is nothing new, the term saw a spike in interest during the 2016 presidential election in the US and gained a new mainstream recognition.
Gaslighting hasn't been studied extensively and we don't fully understand what exactly drives this behaviour.
But we can take a look at its components: compulsive lying and intolerance for opposition The ability to lie and manipulate others is a universal human trait that emerges early on in childhood.
Researchers speculate that it may have given us an advantage by replacing the need to use physical force to get what we want.
But most people have limits.
Gaslighters, though, lie compulsively and only make up even bigger ones when confronted.
Compulsive lying is a symptom associated with psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder.
And according to philosopher Kate Abromson of Indiana University, gaslighters can't tolerate any challenge to the way they see things.
The anxiety about the possibility of disagreement leads gaslighters to try to erode the other person of their sense of judgment and independent perspective.
So, how can you turn off the gas?
Stopping gaslighting isn't easy, but you can start by taking these steps: Pay careful attention to your own experience.
Instead of doubting yourself ask the opinion of a third person.
And check in with them regularly.
When stuck in a problematic relationship, seek help from a therapist.
And note that not everyone gaslights intentionally.
Be aware of your own behaviours as well as those of others.
Bullet points of actions Human relationships can be strange and treacherous.
But if you know what red flags to look for you can try to avoid falling into some traps.
Until next time.