Gaslight — 1944. Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman, falls in love with Gregory, played by Charles Boyer. Soon thereafter they get married, moved to Paula's recently deceased aunt's house, and hell begins for Paula.
Gregory starts to change things around in their home, without her knowledge, with the sole purpose of making Paula doubt her own perceptions and sanity. For instance, he alternately dims and brightens the lights, removes paintings from the wall, misplaces objects, and puts things in her purse. At the same time, while noticing his wife's increasing state of confusion and self-doubt, he tells her she is becoming "forgetful." Instead of doubting him, she doubts herself. Every time she tries to explain to Gregory what is going on, he accuses her of "imagining things." To make things worse, Gregory does everything he can to isolate Paula and to prevent her from having contact with other people.
These crazy-making experiences are called "gaslighting", coined after the movie (and play by the same name). Many more women than we think live in similar situations. Since gaslighting is so insidious, it is often not identified as harmful. Many of its victims do not realize they are in fact in an abusive and controlling relationship.
Have you experienced any of the following?
- You often feel confused and even crazy.
- You are constantly doubting your perceptions.
- You sometimes find yourself confessing things you never did in order to avoid escalating confrontations.
- You frequently apologize to and for your partner.
- You can't understand why you aren't happier, since on the outside you seem to have the perfect life.
- You have become isolated from your friends and family.
- Your gut tells you something is wrong, but you can't seem to explain what it is.
- You feel like you are walking on eggshells, and try to avoid conversation with your partner.
- You doubt your own ability to do things right.
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