Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group. It makes them question their own memory, perception and sanity.
The tactic relies on persistent denial, contradiction and lying in an attempt to delegitimize the victim’s belief.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 play, and subsequent 1944 film adaptation, in which a murdering husband manipulates and confuses his wife by dimming the gas lights in their home and then denying it’s happening.
Psychology Today: “It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.”
Psychologist Bryant Welch, who wrote a 2008 book entitled State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind, told NBC News that President Donald Trump uses the tactic regularly with the American people.
Said Welch: “The very state of confusion they are creating is a political weapon in and of itself. If you make people confused, they are vulnerable. By definition they don’t know what to do.”
He added: “You come in and undercut their trust in the established sources of information. It tells them to go ahead and hate this person who is delivering bad news. Then you begin to substitute your own news, your own version of reality. If Donald Trump can undercut America’s trust in all media, he then starts to own them and can start to literally implant his own version of reality.”
A related term is “alternative facts.”