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Resist the gaslighting you see

Naomi García explains how gaslighting has existed since biblical times and challenges us to resist it in all its forms.

Michigan Conference staff for change, systems, conflict … 4 good

The earth’s violence began long before words or pictures identified it. Human violence against other humans is said to have originated in the eastern hemisphere. Powerful “white” bodies traumatizing less powerful “white” bodies was normal. Perpetrators were and still are motivated by anger, shame, and fear about safety, self-image, and belonging.

Spin-offs in the western hemisphere as early as the 1600s were all about skin tone. Definitions of whiteness in the United States have shifted over time. Expressions of hate shifted to power-hoarding “white” bodies intentionally harming everyone else. Those judged less white, those practicing unacceptably broad faith traditions and fluid gender identities, continue to be deliberately marginalized, dismissed, stripped of dignity, jailed, denied due process and housing, and subject to all manner of cruelties.

Know that these cruelties depend on the support of institutional standards, social norms, and laws. Know there are many more supporting the cruelties, such as silent observers or those actively denying the cruelties. Silence is betrayal of The Holy One and humanity. Gaslighting has become the twenty-first century we live in, going on for days, weeks, months, and years on end. Gaslighting strategies of othering set us up for our collective, deep-seated self-doubt.

The word “gaslight,” claimed by experts and novices alike, is traced to the 1938 play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. A spouse repeatedly turns down the gaslights and makes noises in the night. This spouse denies both when asked about the dimness of the lights and odd nocturnal noises. This form of psychological manipulation and abuse causes people to question their own memory, perception, and sanity.

Gaslighting is piled-on lies. It is repeating and reinforcing loops of lies, denials, misdirection, and deflections to manipulate people to override their own experience and perceptions. When effectively destructive, gaslighting preserves false ways of being and living. It spins a separate narrative from what individuals know to be true. Over time gaslighting is culturally accepted as the inevitable truth and destiny, as undisputed as breathing and death. Isms groupthink robotically searches to discredit contradictions by any means necessary. It’s not about thinking. It’s about reactive demonstrations of anger, shame, and fear.

Manipulating someone else’s perceptions of an event, idea, or memory has been a long-standing human practice of domination. The Hebrew Scriptures’ Genesis 3 telling of Eve and Adam is timestamped around 3,000 BCE. Serpent, the perpetrator, manipulates Eve to question The Holy One’s instructions about the Tree of Life. The seed of doubt planted by Serpent devolves into Eve and Adam’s cutoff from the Creator, each other, and creation—a classic tale of gaslighting.

Believers commonly interpret Eve and Adam to be victimized by Serpent’s antics. Humans have proven over and over again our serpent tendencies. The social constructs I call isms—racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia, etc.—are perpetual gaslighting schemes. Manipulative self-doubt is a road to dire consequences of avoidable harm, cruelty, and demise.

We each have the God-given daily choice. Either perpetuate the harm or resist it.

What’s your take on The Divine One’s preference?

The Michigan Conference