The term comes from a theatrical play called Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. It is about a husband who attempts to make his wife think she is crazy by inducing and creating false memories and ideas in her head. The actual definition is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt his or her own memory and perception. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting) In other words, the victim is made to believe that someone or something is not what they think it is. In the case of parent-child relationships, this could involve one parent deliberately destroying the positive memories of the other parent with the express purpose of severing all ties to the targeted parent.
Below is a list of feelings and thoughts that one might have who is being gaslighted into not having a relationship with the targeted other parent. Your own personal experience may not involve all of these experiences or feelings, but if you recognize yourself in any of them, you may be a victim of psychological abuse and parental alienation from one of your parents.
- You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
- You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy at school, work, home, or around friends.
- You're always apologizing to your mother/father
- You wonder frequently if you are a "good enough" son/daughter.
- You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
- You buy clothes for yourself, furnishings for your apartment, or other personal purchases with your parent in mind, thinking about what he would like instead of what would make you feel great.
- You frequently make excuses for your parent’s behavior to friends and family.
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
10. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
11. You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
12. You have trouble making simple decisions.
13. You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent topics of conversation.
14. Before your parent comes home, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
15. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun loving, more relaxed.
16. You start speaking to your parent through another person so you don't have to tell him things you're afraid might upset him.
17. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
18. Your parent begins trying to protect you from your other parent based on things that don’t make sense or you do not remember or that you know are lies.
19. You find yourself furious with people you've always gotten along with before.
20. You feel hopeless and joyless.
Please do not despair if you think this is happening to you. It just means you need to find someone else that you trust to talk to, who can help keep you from falling into this trap. It also means you will need to learn to be strong and stand up for yourself to not allow this to happen anymore. Getting counseling help for this is probably the best way to deal with it.
It is important to remember that you cannot change others, but you can change yourself and how you respond. In turn, hopefully, the aggressive parent will see that what they are doing is NOT working and that it is time for them to let go and get their own counseling help to deal with their anger, hatred and rage toward your other parent. Children deserve a relationship with both parents and should not have to take sides or choose one parent over the other.