Posted by: Jack Henry | October 28, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Gaslighting

Some days I come up with ideas for Editor’s Corner based on an article I read or a conversation I have with someone. Other times, I hear it is “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” or I see that a certain holiday is coming up, and I want to tie in our lessons with that. Today’s fodder is just based on an odd occurrence. I was reading an advice column and the advisor told the writer he was being gaslighted. I wasn’t that interested in his problem to start with, so I just skipped to the next letter and then decided I’d had enough of other peoples’ problems.

Fast forward an hour or two, and I opened one of my grammar emails. At the top of the email was the term gaslighting. Well, if that wasn’t a message from beyond to include this in Editor’s Corner, I don’t know what is. So, without further ado, I have the following article from The Grammarist.


Gaslighting is the process by which a person manipulates another person into doubting his own sanity. For instance, an employee might ask a boss why he gave a plum assignment to a colleague who is less talented or competent than herself. Instead of giving a rational explanation, the boss counters by telling the employee that she’s too sensitive. This is a form of gaslighting.

Another gaslighting example is a parent who accidentally steps on his child’s foot. When the child cries, instead of apologizing and comforting the child, the parent trivializes that child’s pain.

Gaslighting can be insidious as individual examples of manipulation may seem inconsequential, but the effect is cumulative. The victim of gaslighting begins to second-guess himself, to not trust his own perceptions, to doubt his memory and finally, his sanity.

The term gaslighting is derived from the 1938 play Gas Light, written by Patrick Hamilton. In the play, a woman is nearly driven mad by her manipulative husband who is after her inherited jewels. One of the ways in which the husband makes his wife doubt her sanity is to deny that the gas-powered lighting occasionally dims, though in truth, it does. The popular play was adapted into two movies; Ingrid Bergman won an academy award for her portrayal of the harried wife in the American version, Gaslight. The verb form is gaslight; related words are gaslights and gaslighted. Note that the term is now rendered as one word.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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