The term ‘Gaslight’ came from the 1938, British stage play, by Patrick Hamilton. The play was followed by a film in 1944.
In the play, the husband attempts to convince his wife that she is mentally unwell by making small changes to the home environment, such as turning down the gaslight, and then denying all knowledge or telling her that she is imagining it. His aim is to convince her, and psychologists, that she is so unwell she needs to be committed to a mental health institution so that he has ultimate control.
Since the 1960’s the term has been used to refer to people who make covert attempts to manipulate people, particularly in abusive relationships.
Many of the people we support tell us that they have experienced being told that something did not happen the way they recall and that this made them doubt themselves. Over time this can erode self-esteem and self-worth. In some cases, it can make you doubt your own reality and perception completely and come to completely depend on the abusive person.
Gaslighting is also used by perpetrators of abuse to groom bystanders, friends, and family members of the victim, to divert attention and prevent the victim or survivor from accessing support. Perpetrators of this form of abuse may tell friends and family that their victim is mentally unwell when in fact they are manipulating and controlling them.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and is Coercive and Controlling behaviour which is a criminal offence in England and Wales.