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Gaslighting: how a nasty movie by Ingrid Bergman inspired the psychological buzzword

Yyou won’t lose your mind,” said one detective Ingrid BergmanPaula’s in the climactic moments of the movie 1944 Gaslight. “You are slowly and systematically drive out of your mind. “Seventy-eight years later, the term”gas light“Was used in a Supreme Court judgment first published, after a woman’s abusive partner gradually became convinced that she had bipolar disorder.

The term refers to a very specific and insidious type of abuse – the kind in which a person is deliberately manipulated to question their own sanity. Bergman’s Oscar-winning horror film, Best Actress, is adapted from the 1938 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton, an English novelist and playwright who also wrote the source. material for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Interestingly, the title’s “light” is not a method of manipulation, but an important clue to its discovery.

Bergman plays Paula, a young woman whose new husband Gregory (French-American actor Charles Boyer) begins a campaign to abuse her. He gives his wife a precious brooch, only to trick her into thinking he’s lost it. He began removing many objects from around the house and accused her of hiding them. “I hope you don’t start imagining things anymore,” he said with fake anxiety, using her supposedly flustered mind as an excuse to forbid her from seeing any visitors. or leave the house. He openly flirts with the maid (Angela Lansbury in her film debut), and turns her against his wife. As Paula becomes more and more miserable, he turns it against her too – “Paula, silly kid”; “Paula, stop being hysterical”; “Control yourself” – until she believes she is losing her mind.

Just as Paula reached the breaking point, a detective appeared to convince her. Her husband is – spoiled warning – the man who murdered her aunt years earlier, in pursuit of her precious jewels, and he is now trying to kick Paula out of the house and into a refugee camp so he can continue his search for the gems. The gas lights dim whenever he’s out of the house for work? He actually went into the attic looking for jewelry, and when he turned on the lights there, the rest of the house’s electricity dimmed.

When Gregory is captured, he tries to convince Paula to help him escape. She plays him in his own game. “If I hadn’t been mad, I could have helped you,” she said with amusement. Thanks to GaslightThis brutal form of emotional and psychological abuse has given a name, but a form has only recently entered common parlance. New York Times The term was first used in 1995, but it was hardly used again for the next 20 years. Some believe it was Donald Trump that helped push it into the mainstream, with the tendency to make inflammatory statements and then deny ever saying them – a habit that the media began to describe, controversially. , is the “igniter”. By 2016, the Dialectics Association of America named it the “Most Helpful” new word of the year.

Gaslight It’s not the only movie that shows the horrors of this kind of mental manipulation, with Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Sleep with the enemy (1991) all describe different types of gaseous light. More recently, 2016 Girl on the train star Emily Blunt like a woman whose violent ex-husband planted false memories in her head while she was drunk; 2018 is brilliant, causing panic Not clean saw Claire Foy being tricked into a mental hospital; and in the Netflix series UnbelievableKaitlyn Dever’s college student was hit by the entire criminal justice system after being raped.

It can be difficult to corroborate with real-life statistics, but in popular culture at least, lighting fires is something men do with women. Horror blockbuster 2020 Ivisible manmeanwhile, is about a woman who escapes from her abusive partner only to be stalked by his unseen presence – if that sounds ridiculous, well at first. happens to her, but it shows him wearing an invisible suit after faking his death. Elisabeth Moss told The Independent that the film was a “giant analogy” to gaseous light. “The Invisible Man can be your ex-boyfriend, your ex-friend, your ex-boss, whatever you feel like you’re obsessed with in any cycle of abuse,” Moss explains. “That’s the story we’re trying to tell, while the Trojan fools it in this horror.”

Aldis Hodge, Elisabeth Moss and Sam Smith in ‘The Invisible Man’

(Mark Rogers / Universal / Kobal / Shutterstock)

Today, the term “gaslighting” is so well known that there has been a backlash. SNL Parody it earlier this year, reimagining the movie Forties but taking it to ludicrous climax: the Kate McKinnon cast was told that the pineapple was the steak, and the book was the mouse. And an article in New York Times think that due to overuse, the word has lost its meaning. As Jessica Bennett argues in this section, “Gaslighting,” is used to refer to a pattern of behavior, not an isolated instance of it—and that doesn’t mean just lying. She cites psychologist Nick Haslam, who has spoken of a phenomenon known as “trauma” – “when the language of clinical, or at least subclinical, is used to refer to a wide range of experiences. day-to-day experience is expanding”.

However, when used correctly, “airlight” can be a useful, even lifesaver, term. Take the recent Supreme Court case in the family courts of the UK: the ruling that a man actually raped and abused his wife, as well as convincing her that she was the one. bipolar, a judge used the word “gaslighting” in his written statement – the first time the word has been used in a published Supreme Court document. Talking to The Independent, Charlotte Proudman, a leading human rights lawyer who led the case, said that she had used the word in previous cases, but the judge either did not understand the term, or did not consider it a legal term. appropriate reason. She said the new ruling brings in the words “legitimacy and credibility”, adding that abusers have long falsified the “reality” of their victims, but without the legal terminology. any for it.

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Elisabeth Moss explains that several women wrote to her after Ivisible man to tell how they relate to the story. “I would have friends I didn’t know went through an experience like that who told me it was so much fun to watch,” she said. “That overabundance is not something that happened in the last five years. It’s not a band anyone can jump into – it’s an old story. “

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/gaslight-film-ingrid-bergman-psychology-b2015386.html Gaslighting: how a nasty movie by Ingrid Bergman inspired the psychological buzzword

Tom Vazquez

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