The power games started subtly. Emily’s co-worker frequently withheld key information about their shared clients and projects. When confronted, her colleague asserted that he’d sent her the reports. But each time Emily double (and triple) checked her inbox, she came up empty.
Emily* found herself constantly apologizing to upper management. She feared being perceived as disorganized. She felt as if she was going crazy. “You need to get it together,” her colleague would say, followed by, “And get your emotions under control. You’re making us all look bad.” When Emily pushed back, her colleague told her to stop being so sensitive. The denials, lies, and passive-aggressive manipulation mounted. Soon, Emily lost all confidence in herself.
Emily was experiencing gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse that causes a person to question their self-worth and sanity. The term comes from the 1930s play Gas Light. In it, a husband tries to steal his wife’s savings by having her committed to a psychiatric hospital. He convinces his wife she’s insane by flickering their gas lights, then denying anything is afoul. The wife soon doubts her perception of reality.