“Gaslighting“ — Merriam–Webster’s World of the Year
By Michael Laitman
“In this age of misinformation—of ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” wrote the editors of the leading dictionary in their explanation of their choice, adding that “2022 saw a 1740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, with high interest throughout the year.”
Gaslighting, according to Webster’s, 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.”
This reads like a serious offense, and it is, but it is also the reality of our lives.
Governments and big business practice gaslighting as a matter of routine. This is how they seek to perpetuate their power or popularity. If we want to be able to make free, independent choices, we must make continuous and conscious efforts, and even then, success is not guaranteed.
Gaslighting is an attempt to deny us not only of the rights given to us in the First Amendment, but even of the right, and ability, to practice free thought.
Worse yet, it is an effort to deny us free thought while making us feel as though our manipulated thought is actually our free thought, which we have established and cultivated by ourselves and of our own volition.
Surprisingly, the vast majority of people have no real objection to the subjugation of their minds. They prefer convenient obliviousness as long as their lives run smoothly. Thinking is strenuous, and most people prefer to avoid effort when it is not vividly necessary.
But for those who do mind, awareness is not enough. In order to be free from manipulation of their minds, people must build their own minds, their own backbone. They must doubt everything, ask about everything, be ready and willing to change their minds frequently, admit their mistakes, and gradually develop their own perception of the world.
But most of all, they must be willing to suffer the reproach and patronizing of the “gaslighted” majority. Once one has built a strong enough spine, it is possible to face the manipulators and their messengers with confidence.
It would seem like only very strong and determined individuals can do this, and it is true that not everyone can face the scorn of the manipulated. However, people can still be taught and pulled out of the basement where their minds are kept. Even if people are not naturally resistant to outside influence, they can learn how to see the world without the filters imposed on their vision by interested parties.
I am not saying that people should become activists of any kind. Rather, I think it should be internal work, something that a person does without declaring or propagating it. I realize that it is not simple to be active only inwardly, but I am not in favor of external activism in the form of rallies, protests, and demonstrations.
I, too, had to make an effort to develop my own understanding of the world. I disconnected from it, built an inner wall around me, and this is how I lead my life quite comfortably. In this way, even if the outside world attempts to impose a certain view on me, I may see that view, but I do not feel it. I simply brush it off and keep on living as I want.
Initially, it is not easy living this way. You have to build your own world, with your own values, yet function normally in the everyday surroundings. However, once you have built it, you are free: You have an objective perspective from which to look at the world we all live in, and you are free to participate in it or not, and to the extent of your choice.