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Merriam-Webster's word of the year 2022: Gaslighting

In case you haven't heard yet, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year has been chosen and it's "Gaslighting". Lookups for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740 percent in 2022 over the year before. “It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor. “It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said.



Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It is an insidious and often subtle form of abuse that can be difficult to detect, but can have serious and long-lasting effects on the victim.

The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1938 play "Gas Light," in which a husband tries to drive his wife insane by dimming the gaslights in their home and then denying that the light changed when she points it out. The term has been used more broadly to refer to any situation in which a person is made to doubt their own perceptions or memories through manipulation and deception.

Gaslighting can take many forms, and it can be carried out by an individual or a group. It can involve denying the victim's experiences or reality, manipulating evidence to support their own version of events, or even staging events to make the victim question their own sanity.

Some common tactics used in gaslighting include:

  • Lying or denying facts: The gaslighter may deny that certain events occurred or may present false information as if it were true.

  • Isolating the victim: The gaslighter may try to separate the victim from their support system, making them more vulnerable and dependent on the gaslighter.

  • Discrediting the victim: The gaslighter may try to make the victim appear unreliable or untrustworthy to others, often by spreading false information or rumors.

  • Manipulating the victim's environment: The gaslighter may try to alter the victim's surroundings in small but significant ways, such as moving objects or changing details in the environment, to make the victim question their own memories and perceptions.

Gaslighting can have serious and long-lasting effects on the victim, including damage to their mental health, self-esteem, and trust in their own judgment. It is important for anyone experiencing gaslighting to seek support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional. It is also important for those around the victim to be aware of the signs of gaslighting and to offer support and help to those who may be experiencing it.

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