Family Law Blog

What is Gaslighting?

With Season 6 of Married at First Sight recently aired in Australia, the term “gaslighting” was often mentioned in commentary around the show, but what is “gaslighting”?

The term “gaslighting” is adopted from the well known 1930’s play “Gas Light”, where the Husband dims the lights in their house without his wife knowing and then tells her she is crazy for thinking they are dim; he tells her the lights haven’t changed at all and the reason she thinks they are dimmed is because she has a problem. “Gaslighting” is a series of manipulative behaviours designed to make a person question their own reality and is a form of psychological abuse.

An example of gaslighting can be where a person (the gaslighter) says things like “everyone thinks you’re crazy” or “its all in your head”. More extreme examples can be where a person projects their own actions on to you – ie: accuses you of infidelities when in fact it is themselves having an affair.

Essentially the “gaslighter” wants to make you doubt your own sanity, feel vulnerable and in turn be entirely dependent on them.

Typically, gaslighting occurs between adults in a domestic relationship, however it can occur between a parent and child.

Gaslighting can occur during a separation, where a parent (who is typically a gaslighter) may feel they are losing control of the family unit and will try to manipulate the child’s view so it aligns with their own.

Gaslighting towards a child is a form of child abuse, it can change the developments of a child’s brain and have serious impact on a child’s future mental health.

This type of behaviour was discussed in the recent ABC article https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-21/gaslighting-is-domestic-violence-happens-to-children-too-expert/11003116

If you believe your child is at risk of being “gaslighted”, you should arrange for your child to speak with a counsellor/psychologist or look into family therapy.

https://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/

https://kidshelpline.com.au/

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