‘Gaslighting’ is a term that is getting more and more media attention these days and so here is a quick summary for anyone who isn't familiar with the term.
What is Gaslighting?
'Gaslighting' actually dates back to 1938! It originates from a play called “Gaslight”, in which an abusive husband attempts to convince his wife that she is insane, by deliberately manipulating her environment and insisting that she is delusional when she points out these changes.
These days, the term is used to describe a specific type of psychological abuse, where an abuse attempts to make their victim question their own version of reality, which ultimately gives the abuser more control.
What does it look like?
Gaslighting is a common bullying tactic which can happen in any kind of relationship at any age. Here are a few examples that could happen amongst young people:
● A young person might cheat on their partner, and when their partner becomes suspicious, they flat out deny their behaviour. They might try to convince their partner that they are crazy/paranoid.
● A young person might convince their friend/partner that their family and friends don’t care about them, and gain control over them through isolation.
● A young person might make plans with their friend/partner, not turn up, and then say something like “I told you I had to cancel” or “We said Sunday, not Saturday” - shifting the blame from themselves and making their victim question their own reality.
How might this affect young people?
Gaslighting, like many other forms of abuse, can have long term psychological effects on victims. It can lower their self-esteem and confidence, making them feel worthless. It can isolate them from much-needed support networks and limit their own independence. It can even make them question their own sanity, which can lead to long term conditions like depression and anxiety.
How can we educate young people about Gaslighting?
While some people gaslight their victims intentionally, many people use gaslighting as a defence mechanism, and might not even be aware that they are doing it. That’s why it’s so important that young people receive education on this issue, not only so they can recognise it if it happens to them, but also recognise if they are using this technique themselves.
You can use our free lesson plan on Gaslighting which can be found here. This lesson plan uses interactive learning techniques to help young people understand what gaslighting is and how it can affect people.
To explore gaslighting and other types of relationship abuse in more detail, you could book our “Safe and Sound” programme, which addresses the issue of safety and respect in teenage relationships.
By educating your young people on issues like gaslighting, together we can help them in developing healthy, happy and safe relationships.