Gaslighting: Word of the Year in 2022

In November, 2022, Merriam-Webster (the dictionary company), chose "gaslighting" as the word of the year. They based the designation on the increase in online lookups of gaslighting 1,740% over lookups in 2021! We seem to hear the term everywhere. It is used perhaps too loosely and not always accurately.

The number one definition of gaslighting from Merriam-Webster is:

"The psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

The second definition provided is: “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.”

Gaslighting can occur in intimate relationships, in families, and even in business. It happens over time and isn't a one-time event, even though people misuse the term to describe an isolated event. Gaslighting can be subtle in its delivery, and its impact. It can be difficult to know it's happening because a skilled gaslighter can make the victim question their own reality. People often say, I don't know how I got to this point. Once they realize what is happening, the impact can be huge. And interestingly, I have found in my work that it is not uncommon for the gaslighter to claim to be the victim.

What do you do if you realize you are the victim of gaslighting? Gaslighting is considered a tactic used by abusers. Limiting contact with a gaslighter is a good first step, and often easier-said-than-done when you are co-parents, or family members. Finding a good therapist to give you the tools to protect yourself and regain your self-esteem is the best course of action.