When I was living in Charlotte, NC for a few months in early 1977, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. The city was, in the words of my father “a big old country town”; BTW, it’s gotten much better there, IMO.
One of my few outlets was to go to the main library and read books and magazines, or see movies. One of the films I saw was Gaslight. It was the 1944 US version, not the 1940 UK take; both were based on a 1938 play, Gas Light. The iteration I saw “was directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut.”
Without getting into the particulars of why: “Paula loses a brooch that Gregory had given her, despite its having been stored safely in her handbag. A picture disappears from the walls of the house, and Gregory says that Paula took it, but Paula has no recollection of having done so. Paula also hears footsteps coming from above her, in the sealed attic, and sees the gaslights dim and brighten for no apparent reason. Gregory suggests that these are all figments of Paula’s imagination. Gregory does everything in his power to isolate his wife from other people.” In other words, Gregory is trying to make Paula think she is going crazy, and nearly succeeds.
From these movies, and the play, came the term gaslighting, which “has come to describe a pattern of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality. This can involve physical tactics (such as moving or hiding objects) or emotional ones (such as denying one’s own abusive behavior to a victim.)” I thought it was a nifty term, and have used it regularly since.
I am watching the game show JEOPARDY! which is my wont. Episode #6428, which aired 2012-07-25, in the category “GAS” UP (which means the letters GAS appears in the correct response). The $600 clue: “To manipulate events, as Charles Boyer does to Ingrid Bergman to make her think she’s crazy.” I say “to gaslight”; none of the three contestants even rings in. Then I ask other people. No one seems to know this verb, except for my wife, and she only recognizes it because I’ve used it so much.
So I commit to you the word “gaslighting.” Use it in good health; don’t let it make you go crazy.