I happened across an article the other day about gaslighting and it stopped me in my tracks. The article was titled, “Word of the year 2022: Gaslighting.” First of all I never knew there was such a thing as “word of the year.” Secondly, what a word. I had written a piece on gaslighting a while back as well, so this is definitely on the brain. They chose this word because searches for this word in particular on their website have spiked by 1740%. Yes, that is an almost 2000% increase in searching for gaslighting. They define the word as the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage (merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year). I think the timing of this word couldn’t be more appropriate. The act has always existed. People have always sought to manipulate things for their advantage and people have always turned other’s beliefs/kindness against them. I’m using people as a general term, not to reference the entire population, just that the act of gaslighting itself has always existed.
What I also noticed is that people are trying their hardest to define what is happening in the world right now. We are evolving and interacting with each other differently. We are learning that human behavior can change and we are acknowledging our inner knowing more—including when we know someone’s treatment/behavior towards us is wrong. We have a greater understanding of the manipulation happening to us and that it’s ALL around us know via media, work, people we aren’t that close to, and even those we are close to. And the truth is, we even do it to ourselves. How often do we feel we aren’t able to do something? How often do we feel we need to be perfect before sharing something? How often do we feel we need to be perfect before we shar who we are?
I started asking other questions around this as well. Why do we gaslight? WHO gaslights? Do we love to live in this victimhood to a degree? Especially if we ARE doing it to ourselves…I mean, why would we stay in the habit if we didn’t like to garner support somehow. The act of being gaslit can turn into more gaslighting based on the definition above. Well, when you’re learning to love yourself again, and you see how you’ve played a roll in your victimhood, you have to learn to tell a new story. What happens when you know you deserve better? Suddenly gaslighting isn’t an option anymore, for yourself, or to accept it in your life. People tend to know when they are doing something wrong and a relationship can’t survive if one person doesn’t have that self-awareness to see the pain they are causing. So when you tell a new story, we have to be open to receive it and we have to be willing to walk away.
It’s also key to recognize this behavior in other people. We can’t have expectations that they will wake up to what they do (I mean, it WOULD be nice). We have to set the boundary ourselves. We have to stick with that boundary as well. I think the reason gaslighting is word of the year is because we are waking up to what is happening around us and we are waking up to the fact that we deserve better in all arenas of our lives. We deserve more than asking for permission for time off, we deserve more than begging our partners/friends/family to hold their weight. We are creating an awareness around things that no longer serve. The human animal is complicated and we need to put language to what is happening. The more we understand, the more we can evolve and change and redefine what is acceptable and what isn’t. It’s not just about who we are, it’s about what we do. And we are clearly saying we are aware and want a different human experience. So let’s stop gaslighting each other, and let’s stop doing it to ourselves. Wake up to our power and believe in it—don’t let anyone take that.