Gaslighting, The Political Tactic of our Time

Not Just An Interpersonal Dynamic

Photo by Philippe Mignot on Unsplash

Gaslighting and Intimate Relationships

Psychologists were the first to define gaslighting as an interpersonal dynamic between two people, often a romantic couple, in which one partner is manipulated into doubting their sense of reality. The term has since expanded to include other kinds of relationships.

Who Are Gaslighters?

So what kinds of people tend to be gaslighters? Psychologists say narcissists are likely candidates because they are more invested in getting what they want, regardless of the needs of other people, and then feeling no remorse. According to Sweeton, the gaslighter generally holds the following beliefs, either consciously or unconsciously:

Gaslighting as a Social and Political Construct

Paige L. Sweeta, a postdoctoral fellow with the Inequality in America Initiative at Harvard University, claims that gaslighting is primarily a sociological rather than a psychological phenomenon and should be “understood as rooted in social inequalities, including gender, and executed in power-laden intimate relationships.” She argues that abusers mobilize gendered stereotypes to win over their victims and says gaslighting could not exist “without inequities in the distribution of social, political and economic power.”

Beating Down the Opponent

Tenacity and repetition are critical components of gaslighting, particularly in politics. Lying, denying and twisting reality to deceive and gain control is a classic characteristic of gaslighters. The idea is to wear down the victim by constantly challenging what they believe to be true. Repeated claims that news is fake, science is fake, the coronavirus is a hoax (nothing to worry about here folks!) are typical examples of undermining people’s judgment and encouraging them to doubt what they can clearly see and hear for themselves.

Collective Gaslighting

The ultimate danger of gaslighting is not just insanity but death. In the modern era we have seen cult leaders skillfully guide their followers into collective death. In the same way, we are being asked today to tempt death by ignoring warnings to wear masks at rallies for the purpose of lauding a leader who cares little about the effects on his fans. For some, that may indeed be a death sentence. In personal gaslighting relationships, victims of gaslighting have been known to commit both literal and figurative suicide as they slip into deeper and deeper levels of perceived insanity. The willingness to put one’s life at risk was highlighted in a recent interview with a Trump supporter who, when told about the dangers of not wearing a mask, said, “If I die, I die.” She was willing to go to her death in support of Donald Trump, claiming she was free to do so.

I am a licensed MFT, Certified Jungian Analyst and published author and writer. I am interested in anything that affects humanity

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