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What does Gaslighting mean and where does it come from?

How To Spot Gaslighting in a Relationship

The word “gaslighting” has been named Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

It's a term that's suddenly appearing everywhere, with people typically using it to describe behavior which makes someone question reality or doubt themselves.

Searches for the word saw a 1,740 per cent increase year on year, with high interest throughout the year.

So what exactly are the origins of this word?

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Merriam-Webster explained that the word stems from the 1938 play Gaslight, which also turned into a 1944 movie with the same name.

The plot focused on a man trying to make his wife think she was losing her mind.

His peculiar activities in their attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he tells his wife that nothing is wrong with the lights and that her perception is off.

So when gaslighting was first used in mid 20th century, it was synonymous with deception.

The leading definition of gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of someone, generally over time, so that they “question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem…”

Gaslighting is also used in abusive or coercive control in relationships, whether romantic or with friends and family.

It can also be used by politicians and other newsmakers - especially ones who spew conspiracy theories - in an attempt to mislead the public about the reality of situations.

As a result, with the increased amount of channels and technologies that are used to hoodwink, gaslighting has become the preferred word to describe the deception of discernment.

According to Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, Peter Sokolowski, “gaslighting” was in 2022’s top 50 words searched online to earn this year’s word of the year.

In 2021, “vaccine” made it to the top spot.

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