The line is so fine it stinks of Pinot Noir. A rich, dark, delicious Pinot Noir one could get drunk off without paying very close attention to. When looking at the three terms in the title of this essay one can see that there are actually lines all over the place. Who draws the line, who gets to decide what constitutes a white lie (which, let’s admit, we’ve all told), a lie told to protect someone we love, and systematic lies told over a period of time that eventually drive a person mad?
Ten years ago when I set out to break societal taboos and discuss mental health and abuse, very few people had heard of the term ‘Gaslighting’, even though it’s been around for several decades. It originates from an old movie where a husband sets out to drive his wife mad by messing with the lights in their home (gas at that time) and then denying it when she runs downstairs screaming! Hence, the term, gaslighting, from the movie, “Gas Light” with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. Ironically enough I was in the middle of a marriage and family that were gaslighting me at the time, leading to an eventual suicide attempt, 3 years into my advocacy, and years of recovery. That’s what happens when someone denies your reality for long enough. In the case of my reality, there was an old murder case, generations of abuse, etc., etc., etc. all of which I’ve healed from and moved on – minus the husband and family (other than my kids of course). So, that’s the dark introduction to Gaslighting…..let’s move forward.
In the olden days the term “Gaslight” meant a systemic manipulation wherein the manipulator’s intent is to cause the victim to question their reality.
As a Mother, AND as a Scorpio, I’ve always, always, always detested lying, and so I would promise my children that they could tell me the truth, no matter how difficult it was, and we would work through it together. They knew me well enough to know that it was smart to give me a heads up that they were coming clean about something, and if they would, I would promise not to get mad, and we would move forward.
In my opinion, the white lie was invented by the white knight. It was born out of myths and legends, and that’s where it belongs. Just as a white knight is there to swoop in and save the day, so too is the white lie. And yet, it’s an illusion, a dream, and a lie to ourselves more than anyone else. After all, this is 2020! Who actually needs a WHITE KNIGHT? Anybody? Anybody? No. We live in a day and age where we have the ability to grab hold of every good thing we desire ourselves, even if we must fight for it, but we don’t need anyone to come in and save us. And we don’t need to save anybody else. At least, we don’t need to protect them with white lies and half-truths.
In the past 10 years the understanding of what gaslighting is has increased dramatically. In the past 4 years, it has skyrocketed. The relationship between the President of the United States and the citizens of the USA is, quite literally, a relationship similar to a Grandfather (with lots of power) and a bunch of rowdy toddlers, and so, to have the Father of our Nation, stand in front of us and deny reality over and over and over again, has brought the nation to their knees. It brought us to tears as the results of the election became clear. Why? Because we were going to have a new Father who understood that, and we were at a breaking point.
In the world today, the term “gaslighting” refers to the simple act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, feelings or the environment around them. (Vox) You don’t have to be intentional about something to know that the way you’re treating someone isn’t cool. You’re on social media and you’re likely watching half a dozen influencers who are telling you that the way you’re treating that person is really shitty. So….knock it off. Because seriously? You’re gonna drive them mad. Literally.