Gaslighting – word of the year 2022


I’ve read online articles about gaslighting. By publishers such as Psychology Today, Washington Post, Wired, Huffpost. Hopefully most everyone understands what this is about – in personal & social relationships, corporate PR, and politics. Misleading communications, misinformation, manipulation, abuse.

As Carl Sagan discussed regarding critical thinking skills, a good “baloney detection kit” protects against false narratives, especially in unequal power relationships.

This article includes some historical recap. As well as mentioning the rest of the year’s Top 10 words.

• AP News > “‘Gaslighting’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2022” by LEANNE ITALIE (November 28, 2022)

(quote) Merriam-Webster’s top definition for gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that “causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

“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 at large, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s unveiling.

6 comments on “Gaslighting – word of the year 2022

  1. Goblin mode

    Here’s Oxford University Press’ word of the year 2022 (the Press publishes the Oxford English Dictionary). The article includes the runner-up words, as well as past words of the year.

    • > “Oxford word of the year 2022 revealed as ‘goblin mode’” by Imogen James, BBC News (12-5-2022)

    The first Oxford word of the year to be chosen by public vote has been announced.

    The winning word, “goblin mode“, is a slang term describing “unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy” behaviour.

    Thousands managed to drag themselves out of goblin mode to vote, as the phrase won by a landslide with 318,956 votes, making up 93% of the total.

    It is the first time the word of the year has been chosen by the public, a decision made in a year organisers described as “more divided than ever”.

    Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, said that people have been embracing their inner goblin.

    He added: “We were hoping the public would enjoy being brought into the process, but this level of engagement with the campaign caught us totally by surprise.

  2. Goblin mode

    Another take on Oxford University Press’ word of the year 2022.

    • The Atlantic > Culture > “We’re All Capable of Going ‘Goblin Mode'” by Caleb Madison (December 10, 2022) – In goblin mode, we can become our true wild selves, unkempt and offstage, triumphantly invisible to the public eye.

    (quote) People have gone other modes before: We started to go beast mode, for example, in 2007, with savage mode and sicko mode following later. The metaphor originates in video games, where navigating a hidden challenge might activate another “mode”: a special style of gameplay where you might move 10 times faster or appear as a zombie.

    Western mythology is littered with all sorts of goblins … Goblins tend to lurk in cozy spaces. … Goblins represent the impish un-self-consciousness of our private lives. … In the early days of the pandemic, many of us unlocked a new mode in the video game of life: demonically uninhibited domesticity. … I might define goblin mode as “unbridled domestic liberation” or “a complete shedding of the mask of public life” or, my personal favorite, “staying home and getting weird.”

  3. The gaslighter’s playbook …

    • CNBC > “Harvard psychologist shares 9 toxic phrases ‘gaslighters’ always use—and how to respond” by Dr. Cortney Warren, Contributor (July 3, 2023)

    See full article for more detail on each phrase, with appropriate responses.

    As a Harvard-trained psychologist who specializes in trauma and relationships, I’ve observed this firsthand. If someone uses any of these nine phrases, they may be gaslighting you:

    1. ‘You’re being crazy.’
    2. ‘You’re overreacting.’
    3. ‘I was just joking!’
    4. ‘You made me do it.’
    5. ‘If you loved me, you’d let me do what I want.’
    6. ‘I’m only telling you this because I love you.’
    7. ‘This is all your fault.’
    8. ‘Everyone agrees with me — you’re just difficult.’
    9. ‘The real problem is…’

    Gaslighting phrases

  4. Mucking the truth

    Somewhat off topic for this post, but BS can undermine connection with reality as well – for both speaker and listener(s). Another way to manipulate attitudes and feelings.

    • Washington Post > “Harry Frankfurt, philosopher of excrement-level falsehoods, dies at 94” by Michael S. Rosenwald (July 18, 2023) – In Dr. Frankfurt’s view, the problem at the core of his book was more complicated than simply saying something untrue.

    “The essence of bull—- is that the person who produces it doesn’t really care whether what he’s saying is true or false,” he said at the Miami Book Fair. “He’s not engaged in the enterprise of conveying information or in deceiving people. He’s engaged in the enterprise of manipulating opinions, manipulating attitudes and feelings, and he will say whatever he thinks will be effective in that respect, regardless of whether it’s true or false.

    “I claim that bulls— is a more insidious threat to society [than lying] because it … undermines our commitment to the importance of truth.”

  5. Staying grounded ...

    How does one deal with gaslighting? Here’re some tips. Including red flags. Staying grounded in facts and having a support group are vital.

    • Washington Post > Well+Being > “How to deal with the 3 levels of gaslighting – Advice” by Robin Stern and Marc Brackett (April 26, 2024) – From occasional to insistent critical statements, severity depends on frequency, intensity, extensiveness, intentionality, and one’s resiliency.

    Some key points

    Working with James Floman, our colleague at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, we identified five factors that contribute to the severity of a gaslighting experience: frequency, intensity, extensiveness, intentionality (not all gaslighting is conscious) and the victim’s ability to handle adversity.

    Opt out of the power struggle or the endless back-and-forth with a gaslighter.

    If the gaslighter cannot be avoided (for example, a colleague or partner), then limit contact and set clear boundaries.

    Robin Stern is the co-founder and senior adviser to the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, a psychoanalyst in private practice, the author of “The Gaslight Effect Recovery Guide” and the host of “The Gaslight Effect” podcast.

    Marc Brackett is the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, a professor in the Child Study Center at Yale, lead developer of RULER, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning, and the author of “Permission to Feel.”

  6. Reality check

    How to respond to someone who makes you feel like your reality is being questioned? This article offers tips to ground the narrative, set boundaries, and retain focus.

    • Time > Health > Mental Health > “7 Things to Say When Someone Gaslights You” by Angela Haupt (June 26, 2024)

    Gaslighting exists on a spectrum, … and it’s not always possible – or safe – to engage with the person doing it. That’s because their goal is to win, not to problem-solve, she [Laura Sgro, a therapist in Los Angeles] says, so you won’t get anywhere. But sometimes, especially if the gaslighting isn’t a behavioral pattern, you can effectively shut down the conversation and prevent it from happening again.

    Key points (quoted)

    • [Assertion] “We seem to have different memories of that conversation. Here’s what I remember happening.”
    • [Redirection] “I’m not comfortable with how you’re characterizing the situation. Let’s talk about [original topic] instead.”
    • [Validation] “We may not agree, but my feelings are still valid.”
    • [Journaling] “Let’s take a step back and write down what happened from both our viewpoints.”
    • [Mediation] “I feel like we’re not on the same page. Can we involve a neutral third party to help us understand each other better?”
    • [Humor] “Wow, that’s an interesting way to remember things! Let’s try to stick to the facts.”
    • [Wider context] “I’ve noticed a pattern in our conversations where my recollections are often questioned. Can we focus on finding solutions rather than debating memories?”

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