The term “gas lighting” has become more widely recognised in recent years with the definition of domestic abuse having been progressively expanded. The phrase comes from a 1930s play, where the female character is driven mad by her duplicitous partner who is hell bent on psychologically controlling her to conceal his double life. He succeeds in convincing her that she had lost her grip on reality. In terms of less high-brow cultural touchstones, the vintage 2018 episode of Love Island had Rosie heralded for calling out Adam, who became inarguably enamoured by other participants yet refused to accept it – preferring to double down on the double crossing.
Gas lighting can be a systematic pattern of behaviours that result in someone doubting themselves and second guessing their sense of reality. In extreme scenarios survivors can even wonder if they have developed mental health issues and a bitter sting in the tail can be that victims begin to believe that they are “lucky” that their partners tolerate and stay with them.
The speed and efficiency with which gas lighting may impact someone can be frightening. Friends and family may start to worry that you have changed or that you have lost your sense of identity.
The mechanism by which gas lighting can take hold is sometimes referred to as “love bombing”. This is the process by which someone can be overwhelmed by loving and caring messages and actions. Maybe they are inundated with compliments and gifts. They might get the sense that they have never been so adored and are, finally, truly loved. Some can be particularly vulnerable to love bombing where they have experienced bad or uncaring relationships in the past. You can go from feeling like you are walking on water to slipping under the surface before you’ve had time to notice that the whole dynamic of the relationship has flipped.
In some circumstances, there may not even be an initial outpouring of positive feeling – in other cases, the status quo of a previously healthy relationship can become addled.
If you have a partrner who is gaslighting you, it is vital that you get help as quickly as possible. Please contact our specialist team who can support you and explain the options and protection that are available. Please call 999 if you are in imminent danger. In circumstances where calling the emergency services may inflame the situation, you can press 55 once you have dialled 999 and the emergency services will go to the address from where you have called without you having to say anything.