Gaslighting and The Rashomon Effect


Gaslighting (wikipedia): Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.

Rashomon Effect

Rashomon Effect (wikipedia): The Rashomon effect occurs when the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gaslighting, specifically as a result of the heightened us of it in my own life. I’ve been saying it a lot, and I’ve been hearing it a lot, too. What about you? I began to wonder if the term gaslighting wasn’t just an easy and comforting way for me to say “this person must have intentionally been trying to hurt me” when the reality of the situation was too confusing, or too complex to truly break down and understand.

I was telling Jason about this the other day and asked if maybe some of my experiences where I had said I’d been gaslit were really just me experiencing a situation differently than someone else.

He showed me the wikipedia page for the Rashomon Effect, and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Particularly the part where, in the eponymous movie, they stress that the Rashomon Effect arises due to the social pressure for closure. 

More simply: when we can’t understand why something has happened, and it appears obvious to us that someone has manipulated the situation, we rely on our one perception of what happened as the truth. However, there are many other perspectives of what happened occurring simultaneously.

One could get into murky waters here pretty quickly. I don’t want to suggest that anyone’s experience is wrong or misread. I don’t want to say my experiences are wrong, or misread. (I have been gaslit, but I’ve also been quick to take my experience as the one truth.)

It has caused me to pause and think about how I label my experiences.

Post Goals

  1. Spend some time thinking about how you’ve hurt someone and find ways to take ownership of the pain you caused them.
  2. Consider someone who has hurt you and ask yourself ways in which they may have been hurting first to lead to that action of hurt.
  3. Honor your experience and your feelings exactly the way they are without trying to change them or explain them. If you feel hurt, you deserve to feel hurt. If you feel angry, you deserve to feel angry. If you feel sad, you deserve to feel sad. Don’t try to morph those feelings into what you feel like they “should” be.
  4. Give yourself time to heal whether you were the (1) person who hurt or (2) the person who was hurt or (3) both. Try to think of ways you can be kinder to yourself and others.

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