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  • Writer's pictureclaudiaherman

Gaslighting Ourselves

The term originated from the 1938 play Gas Light (known in the United States as Angel Street) by the British dramatist Patrick Hamilton and two film adaptations (1940 and 1944), both named Gaslight, about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane. › Where-does-the-term-gaslighting-come-from

Most of us are familiar with the concept of 'gaslighting'. It is acknowledged as a key component in the abusers' toolkit. But can we gaslight ourselves?

Sometimes we lie. We are not truthful. We are dishonest. There are several reasons for this. Maybe we wish to deceive someone for our own gain or benefit. Maybe we are fearful of disappointing someone. Maybe we tell ourselves that we are 'protecting' someone from the truth. Maybe we believe the truth might cause someone pain. Maybe we wish to protect ourselves from pain.

Why is lying a problem?

It requires effort, planning and a good memory to maintain the lie. Telling the lie is easy. Maintaining it is hard.

The lie might relate to who we are - our identity. Maybe we like to cultivate an image of ourselves suggesting we are richer, cleverer, more successful, more important than we actually are in the cold light of reality. We might view these as harmless lies. They are exaggerations that do not cause anyone harm.

When a lie becomes established, when we have invested effort in maintaining the lie we start to believe the lie ourselves. We incorporate the lie into the narrative that we write for ourselves so that the lie requires less energy to maintain. I believe this phenomenon is currently called 'post truth'? Or to put it another way, we gaslight ourselves.

We disappear under the lie, or maybe several lies, and the lie(s) become woven into the fabric of our very identity. We've got lost in the lie. The lie(s) take on a form and identity of their own. We lose sense of where we and the lie(s) begin and end.

To retrieve ourselves from a web of our own making can involve embarrassment, shame, humiliation, loss of face, perceived loss of status. So it requires enormous strength, bravery and commitment.

Maybe the lies feel safe. Maybe they make us feel acceptable and accepted by others. To strip away the lies that we have used to shield ourselves from pain - the pain of rejection, judgement, isolation - requires tremendous courage. When the lies are stripped away and we are just us we must learn to accept ourselves precisely as we are. This is rarely an easy or painless process.

What if we look for affirmation in the wrong places? What if the only approval we need is our own? What if we are enough - good enough? What if we are of value and worth without need for embellishment or exaggeration or fakery? Imagine the energy and effort we can save when we accept ourselves and value ourselves just as we are.

Be brave. Be you.

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