Where does the idea of “gaslighting” come from?
It’s a question you may have found yourself asking, given how ubiquitous it’s become.
In recent years, gaslighting has acquired new meanings online.
It’s not just a term for bad boyfriends anymore. On TikTok, even parking lots have been accused of gaslighting hapless car owners looking for their vehicle.
In 2021, with the “Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss” trend, social media users gave the concept new meaning — while parodying the “Live, Laugh, Love” aesthetic.
However, the origin of the word “gaslighting” actually goes back to a play written in the 1930s. That’s the subject of a now-viral TikTok, by a user named Bett (@_bandoola_).
The TikToker, who identifies as transgender-fluid, posted a clip spelling out how the term developed its meaning. Bett’s clip has attracted over 1.2 million views.
It’s worth noting that Bett, by their own admission, mixes up a few details about the play’s plot. Overall, though, the point they want to make checks out.
According to Dictionary.com, the word originated in the 1938 play Gas Light. The psychological thriller, later adapted into several movies, tells the story of a husband who attempts to drive his wife insane.
Among other tactics, he tries to achieve this by subtly dimming the gas lights in their home. As his wife begins to question this, he insists that she’s imagining it.
The narrative lines up with the current definition of gaslighting — an attempt to deceive someone by making them doubt their own memory or sanity.
“And that’s the painful truth of being successfully gaslit,” Bett says in the video. “Because when somebody actually pulls that s*** off, you do go f***ing crazy.”
Many TikTokers were blown away by the revelation.
“Thanks for the explanation, I actually never knew what this meant,” one user wrote.
“So THAT’S where the term “gaslighting” originated from!” another added. “The story itself sounds so frustrating to hear!”
“My therapist had me watch this film,” another wrote. “It gave a perfect visual for gaslighting.”
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