In recent times the invidious practice of gas lighting has been much highlighted.
Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself. It's often subtle, seemingly innocuous comments that slip under our radar and yet invite us to question our sense of things. When this happens again and again we can become quite disturbed, we question our own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. We lose trust in ourself and then it becomes very difficult to work out what we really believe, want or deserve.
The term is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.
In conversation recently, I was struck by the parallel drawn between this gas lighting attack on a person's sense of themselves and what happens when an individual has a very critical, doubting internal dialogue.
When we second guess everything that we do, judging, criticising, doubting ourself, we are essentially gaslighting ourselves. Most importantly, when we ignore our intuitive, felt sense of what is right and what we have faith in, then we lose our grounding and centre, and we become lost in the flux and flow of thinking.
It is of course important to question yourself. We all need to look carefully at our actions and motivations, and to be truthful about what we see. There will be aspects we are not proud of and don't like. The crucial thing is the energy with which we do this inner exploration. To enhance our sense of balance and congruence, it needs approaching with kindness and curiosity.
When we ignore our inner sense of knowing, our intuitive, calm self, we risk becoming incongruent and conflicted. We are embodied beings, our sense of things matters. It is useful, important information that we can use as a compass and guide.
Next time you hear yourself full of self-doubt and criticism, why not take some time to sit still and breathe. Come back to your physical experience of yourself, and tune into your embodied experience. Then, from a place of contemplation, ask yourself these questions:
- what am I feeling in my body?
- what messages are these sensations communicating?
- what would I like to have happen now?
- what seems good to do?
If you want to explore your relationship with yourself, then get in touch for psychotherapy sessions.