Ask the Psychologist Issue #14: Gaslighting
According to the DSM–5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health … we can cause symptoms of depression — illnesses of the mind, that are caused by abuse, isolation, gaslighting.
The below description of the psychological term, Gaslighting, relates to the topics in the previous Issues, 12 and 13 and will hopefully help people understand the larger picture discussed in these prior issues.
I could not find the author of the below description of Gaslighting, but it is a real psychological term discussed in the literature.
I am deciding to write this issue on Gaslighting now, since my daughter experienced this psychological reaction just 3 days ago.
She was driving home from work on a major LA highway at 6 PM, when the police blocked the road and forced her off the highway. She had no choice but to obey the police and did not have an option which road she was detoured onto. It wound up being an area in LA prone to violence in the past. She then was stopped by the same demonstrators that shut the highway down that she had to leave. People got in front her car and were putting their hands on the car. She was actually fearful for her life for the first time ever. She asked herself, why did the police force me to leave the highway and not ask the demonstrators to leave the highway. Her question to herself was, “Am I In The USA?” The next question was , why are peaceful people, simply driving on a highway, treated with so much disregard for their safety, when people who are illegally closing a highway, allowed to commit this unsafe act? The explanation she got was, they have the right to demonstrate. She asked herself,—Am I Crazy ? No, you are being GASLIGHTED
[ASK THE PSYCHOLOGIST ISSUE 13: Why are so many media outlets providing similar biased information?]
[ASK THE PSYCHOLOGIST ISSUE 12, How Do I know What To Believe in the Media? ]
- According to the DSM–5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health … we can cause symptoms of depression — illnesses of the mind, that are caused by abuse, isolation, gaslighting.
“Have you also ever asked yourself, ‘Am I crazy?’ If you have ever asked yourself that, you’re not crazy. You’re most likely being gaslighted. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse aimed at controlling a person by altering reality to the point where the person will doubt their own sanity.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1930s play called Gas Light. The main character in the play literally tries to drive his wife crazy by gradually dimming the gas-powered lights in their home. When she notices the lights dimming, her husband not only denies that the lights are dimming, he convinces her that she is imagining it to the point where she questions her own sanity.
We are living in a perpetual state of gaslighting. The reality that we are being told by the media is at complete odds with what we are seeing with our own two eyes. And when we question the false reality that we are being presented, or we claim that what we see is that actual reality, we are vilified as racist or bigots or just plain crazy. You’re not racist. You’re not crazy. You’re being gaslighted.
New York State has twice as many deaths from Covid-19 than any other state, and New York has accounted for one-fifth of all Covid-19 deaths, but we are told that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled the pandemic better than any other governor. But if we support policies of Governors whose states had only a fraction of the infections and deaths as New York, we’re called anti-science and want people to die. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
We see mobs of people looting stores, smashing windows, setting cars on fire and burning down buildings, but we are told that these demonstrations are peaceful protests. And when we call this destruction of our cities, riots, we are called racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
We see the major problem destroying many inner-cities is crime; murder, gang violence, drug dealing, drive-by shootings, armed robbery, but we are told that it is not crime, but the police that are the problem in the inner-cities. We are told we must defund the police and remove law enforcement from crime-riddled cities to make them safer. But if we advocate for more policing in cities overrun by crime, we are accused of being white supremacists and racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
The United States of America accepts more immigrants than any other country in the world. The vast majority of the immigrants are “people of color,” and these immigrants are enjoying freedom and economic opportunity not available to them in their country of origin, but we are told that the United States is the most racist and oppressive country on the planet, and if we disagree, we are called racist and xenophobic. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
Capitalist countries are the most prosperous countries in the world. The standard of living is the highest in capitalist countries. We see more poor people move up the economic ladder to the middle and even the wealthy class through their effort and ability in capitalist countries than any other economic system in the world, but we are told capitalism is an oppressive system designed to keep people down. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
Communist countries killed over 100 million people in the 20th century. Communist countries strip their citizens of basic human rights, dictate every aspect of their lives, treat their citizens like slaves, and drive their economies into the ground, but we are told that Communism is the fairest, most equitable, freest and most prosperous economic system in the world. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy?
No, you’re being gaslighted.
The most egregious example of gaslighting is the concept of “white fragility”. You spend your life trying to be a good person, trying to treat people fairly and with respect. You disavow racism and bigotry in all its forms. You judge people solely on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. You don’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. But you are told you are a racist, not because of something you did or said, but solely because of the color of your skin. You know instinctively that charging someone with racism because of their skin color is itself racist. You know that you are not racist, so you defend yourself and your character, but you are told that your defense of yourself is proof of your racism. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.
Gaslighting has become one of the most pervasive and destructive tactics in American politics. It is the exact opposite of what our political system was meant to be. It deals in lies and psychological coercion, and not the truth and intellectual discourse. If you ever ask yourself if your crazy, you are not. Crazy people aren’t sane enough to ask themselves if their crazy. So, trust yourself, believe what’s in your heart. Trust our eyes over what we are told. Never listen to the people who tell you that you are crazy, because you are not, you’re being gaslighted.”
Bart P. Billings,Ph.D.
COL SCNG-SC, Military Medical Directorate (Ret.)
Licensed Clinical Psychologist CA PSY 7656
Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist CA LMFT 4888
—Director/Founder International Military & Civilian Combat Stress Conference
—Initial Enlisted Ranks and Retired as Medical Service Corps Officer with a total of 34 years in US Army
—Recipient of the 2014 Human Rights Award from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International & The University Of Scranton “Frank O’Hara Award” in 2016.
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