Gaslighting Decoded-Improve English Speaking Skills Ep 642

An illustration of a couple arguing. Turn up the heat on your English skills with our enlightening lesson on Gaslighting. Uncover its implications and ways to respond.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 3963 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 20 min

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English Listening Practice: Discussing The Intricacies Of Gaslighting

Could your boss be gaslighting you without your knowledge? Is the media gaslighting us to manipulate our perceptions? In today's English lesson we discover the insidious concept of 'gaslighting', understand its impact in our relationships, and learn how to respond effectively, all while enhancing your English vocabulary.

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#gaslighting #englishlearning #britishenglish

Can you imagine holding a lively debate, effortlessly tossing around idioms, and surprising your friends with unusual English words?

Our unique lesson can lead you there! It's not your ordinary lecture; it's a journey into the heart of the English language. Can you guess what's the most unusual word you'll learn today? Join us, and let's discover it together!

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can have a devastating impact on victims.
⭐ Lori Gottlieb, author of: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

Fuel your English language journey with our latest lesson on 'Gaslighting'! Explore its impact and learn to respond effectively. Listen on Spotify or watch on YouTube! 🔥

More About This Lesson

Gaslighting is like a slow drip of poison. It starts out small, with a few subtle comments or actions. But over time, it can have a devastating impact on the victim. The victim starts to doubt their own reality, their own memories, and their own sanity. They become isolated and alone, and they may even start to believe that they are the one who is crazy. But just like a slow drip of poison, gaslighting can be stopped. Now wouldn't you like to learn all the English vocabulary needed to have a conversations about this interesting modern phenomena?

Gaslighting is a way of making someone question their own sanity.
⭐ Susan Forward, author of: Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Controlling, Manipulative, and Covert Behavior

The English language is forever growing with new and interesting words that work for today's society. Gaslighting is a relatively new English word, and its often used and talked about in everyday English conversations.

  • Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can have a devastating impact on victims. It can make you feel like you are crazy, and it can make you doubt your own reality. This can be a very scary experience, and it can make you feel very alone.
  • Gaslighting can also lead to isolation. As you start to doubt your own reality, you may start to withdraw from friends and family. You may also start to avoid social situations, because you are afraid of being gaslighted again. This can be a very isolating experience, and it can make you feel very lonely.
  • Gaslighting can make you feel like you are losing control of your life. The gaslighter may try to control what you think, what you feel, and what you do. This can be a very scary experience, and it can make you feel very powerless

The good news is anyone can lean new vocabulary, even when the words sound complex. You really don't need high-level vocabulary and complex grammatical structures to effectively understand and use new vocabulary in conversations. In reality, the key to understanding and discussing intricate concepts like 'gaslighting' lies in comprehending the cultural and social nuances that often accompany such terms. Simple, clear, and straightforward language is often more effective for communication, even when discussing complex psychological phenomena like gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that can be very difficult to escape.
⭐ Robin Stern, psychologist and author of: The Gaslighting Effect: How to Protect Yourself from Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People

Some interesting facts about the word:

  • The term 'gaslighting' has a cinematic origin: The term 'gaslighting' originated from a 1938 British play called 'Gas Light' and a 1944 American film adaptation titled 'Gaslight'. In these, a husband manipulates his wife into believing she's losing her sanity. It's an interesting fact that showcases the evolution of language and how it ties into popular culture. (Source: Oxford English Dictionary)
  • Gaslighting's psychological impact is comparable to physical abuse: While gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse, research has shown that it can have similar impacts to physical abuse. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Understanding this can give someone the motivation to learn more about this phenomenon and ways to respond to it. (Source: Psychology Today)
  • English language's adaptability: The term 'gaslighting' was only widely recognized in English in 2018, showing how dynamic and adaptable the English language is. It constantly evolves and adapts to reflect societal changes and phenomena, making it essential for English learners to stay updated with new terms and expressions. This learning process can be an exciting journey that mirrors societal evolution. (Source: Oxford English Dictionary)

Unlock English with us! Learn idioms, debating, and unusual words. It's not just a lesson, it's an experience to boost your fluency. Are you ready to level up your English skills? Dive in now!

Questions You Might Have...

Imagine this English lesson as a journey deep into the heart of a mysterious forest. It's a forest of words and phrases that shape our reality, where the trees are the relationships we navigate, and the leaves are the emotions we express. Gaslighting is like a thick fog that descends upon this forest, clouding our vision and making us question the path we are on. It's a tricky terrain, but don't worry! With our flashlight of understanding, we will pierce through this fog, uncovering the path back to clarity and confidence.

  1. Why is it important to learn about 'gaslighting' while learning British English? Understanding 'gaslighting' equips you with essential vocabulary, enhances your comprehension of complex topics in English, and helps you navigate interpersonal situations more effectively.
  2. Can learning about 'gaslighting' really help me speak British English more fluently? Yes, it can. As you learn new vocabulary and engage with complex topics like 'gaslighting', your fluency in British English will improve.
  3. How will understanding 'gaslighting' impact my relationships? Recognizing 'gaslighting' can help you identify manipulative behaviours, enabling you to respond effectively and protect your mental well-being in relationships.
  4. Is 'gaslighting' a common topic in British English conversations? 'Gaslighting' is a universally relevant topic. It's not specific to British English, but understanding it will help you participate in a wider range of conversations.
  5. Will this lesson on 'gaslighting' be difficult for someone new to English? While 'gaslighting' is a complex concept, the lesson is designed to break it down in an easy-to-understand way, guiding you every step of the journey.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Gaslighting: A form of psychological manipulation where one person makes another question their reality.
  • Emotions: Feelings like happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, or disgust.
  • Disagreement: When two or more people have different opinions about something.
  • Validate: To accept or affirm a person's feelings or opinions as valid or worthwhile.
  • Idioms: Phrases that have a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words.
  • Evolution: The process of gradual development or change over time.
  • Manipulate: To control or influence a person or situation cleverly or unfairly.
  • Heiress: A woman who is legally entitled to the property or rank of another person after their death.
  • Challenging: Something that is difficult in a way that tests your ability or determination.
  • Introduced: To bring into use or operation for the first time.

Most Frequently Used Words:


Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Gaslighting Decoded-Improve English Speaking Skills

Learn a new English word and a useful psychological phenomenon for your relationships

Hi there. In today’s podcast are you ready to explore the psychological phenomenon of ‘gaslighting’? ‘Gaslighting’ has no doubt been happening for centuries, but it’s only recently that it’s been given its own word in English. Did you know that ‘gaslighting’ was named as the ‘second most useful new word in English’ in 2018 by Oxford University Press? English grows new words all the time - and this one is a useful addition - I’m sure you’ll recognise this phenomenon, when I describe it.

Gaslighting is a real problem that can have a serious impact on our relationships.
⭐ Melody Beattie, author of: Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

We’ll also take a look at how this word came into the English language - that’s really interesting as well! So, sit back, relax, and let me take you on a fascinating journey through the language we use to navigate our relationships. You'll have the opportunity to learn some new English vocabulary with words and phrases that describe human emotions. And if you listen until the end, I'll share some powerful responses that could help you deal with these challenging situations. Learn not just about the phenomenon of 'gaslighting', but also how to stand up for your reality - in English! And right at the end, I’ll be asking an interesting question about politics too!

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

What does the verb ‘to gaslight’ mean?

So the verb ‘to gaslight’, GASLIGHT is usually used with a person as the object - you ‘gaslight someone’. This word is new to the English language - only really being used since the 2010s. If you ‘gaslight someone’ it means, according to Wikipedia, that you ‘cause another person to question their experience or their reality’. Let me explain further. ‘Gaslighting’ happens in close relationships - between people who have an emotional attachment to each other - like in a family or in a couple relationship. So there’s an emotional connection, an emotional bond. And if you ‘gaslight someone’, it means that you purposefully try to get them to doubt their own experience. ‘To doubt’, DOUBT, means ‘to question the truth of something’. For example, a parent might say to a child ‘You’re not really that upset, you’re making a lot of fuss and just pretending you’re upset’. This is really difficult for a child to hear, if they’re having real and strong emotions. And if this is done repeatedly to a child by a parent, then the child may end up believing the parent’s version, the parent’s story - and denying their own experience. That’s very damaging to a child, who’s psychologically vulnerable. ‘Vulnerable’, VULNERABLE means ‘able to be damaged easily’. But this happens in quite a lot of parent-child relationships.

Let’s dive into this emotional phenomenon in more detail - but first, just a reminder if you’re listening on Spotify, it really helps us if you share our podcast with another person. And if you’re listening on a different platform, please give us five stars or a positive review, if you enjoy this. And click subscribe or notify. You don’t want to miss any podcast episodes!

It’s an interesting fact that a shocking 50% of people report experiencing some form of psychological aggression, like gaslighting, in their relationships! It's much more common than you might think. Other places where gaslighting sometimes happens - if you’re really unfortunate with your boss at work. Again there’s what we call a ‘power differential’ here - one person is more powerful than the other. So it’s unfortunate if it’s your boss who is ‘gaslighting’ you. Much harder to deal with when the ‘gaslighter’ is the one with greater power.


A photo of a man lighting an old fashioned London gas lamp. Our lesson on Gaslighting is here to set your English skills ablaze! Understand its role in relationships and how to react.

©️ Adept English 2023

Being gaslighted by your partner

And of course, gaslighting also very common in couple relationships, in partnerships or married or romantic relationships. Here again, gaslighting is when one person in a relationship tries to get the other person to think that their experience isn’t real - or at least to cause that other person to doubt their experience. The person gaslighting may’ve said something really hurtful in an argument - then when it’s being discussed later, they say something like ‘I never said that. You’re making it up!’. ‘Gaslighting’ is a kind of emotional abuse where you try to make the other person question their reality, by insisting that what their reported experience is, is wrong, not true or never happened. Alternatively, ‘gaslighting’ can be done where a person insists that the other person has a particular feeling or motive, when they don’t. A motive, MOTIVE means ‘a hidden purpose’, which sits behind a particular action’. Either way, gaslighting is effectively telling another person what they think or what they experience - and refusing to believe that what they’re actually saying about their thoughts or experience is true.

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The origins of the word ‘gaslighting’

According to Wikipedia, this word ‘gaslighting’ comes from a 1944 American film called ‘Gaslight’, which itself came after a 1938 British play, ‘Gas Light’ by Patrick Hamilton. In this play, the husband, who seems on the surface to be polite and nice uses lies and manipulation so that his wife, who is an heiress to a large amount of money becomes isolated from other people. Then he can persuade his wife that she’s mentally unwell in order to steal her money from her. The word ‘lies’, LIES here is a noun and it means ‘things which are said which aren’t true’, or ‘untruths’. And ‘manipulation’, MANIPULATION - the noun and the verb ‘to manipulate’ - that means ‘to control someone or something, in order to gain advantage, usually dishonestly or unfairly’. So if you ‘manipulate’ another person, you get them to think or behave in a certain way, that gives you an advantage. And the word ‘heiress’, HEIRESS? That noun is used for a woman, who will inherit money from her family. You might say ‘She’s an heiress to a huge fortune’. Interestingly, the 1938 play and 1944 film don’t actually use the word ‘gaslight’, but they are both set in a Victorian house which has….you guessed it….gas lights. Gas lighting was used before electricity was common - both in the streets in Britain - where lamplighters would come round to light the lamps in the evening - and in people’s houses. In the play, the gaslighting in the house is never mentioned, but the gaslights dim when the wife is left alone - as though to make the atmosphere more threatening and dark. A theatrical ‘device’, if you like! And whenever the wife asks her husband about this, the husband says it didn’t happen, there’s nothing wrong with the lights. In fact, it’s him - he’s the one controlling them all the time!

How slowly a new word becomes part of the English language….

And this term ‘gaslighting’ was apparently first used to describe what happens in relationships, in 1995, but it took another 20 years to become commonly used. And as I said, it wasn’t until 2018 that Oxford University Press acknowledged ‘gaslighting’ as a useful new word. So this is interesting from the point of view of how a word comes into being - slowly, it seems and years after the original reference. Perhaps the person who wrote about it in 1995 had just watched the film.

There are ‘degrees of’ gaslighting….

Gaslighting can range between the outrageously damaging and extreme to something more subtle, but still damaging. It can mean one person attempting to insert a different reality or deny the other person’s experience completely and doing this on a repeated basis. A more subtle form of ‘gaslighting’ might be when there has been an argument, a conflict between a couple. The next day, one person wants to discuss it, sort it out - have a conversation to try and make it better. But the second person, the ‘gaslighter’ refuses to have that conversation and will tell the other person that ‘it was nothing’ or ‘they don’t remember it’ or ‘it doesn’t need to be spoken about’ - or even that ‘it didn’t happen’. This means that the person asking to talk about the argument feels ‘invalidated’ - made to feel that their emotions aren’t important and their experience is incorrect. It also means that any ‘bad behaviour’ during an argument - like name-calling or shouting - isn’t discussed or apologised for either. It’s ‘brushed under the carpet’ as we say in that English idiom. We pretend it didn’t happen and we don’t deal with it, leaving the way open for it all to be repeated.

Healthier relating and damage done to children by gaslighting

A healthier way to relate to your partner - or to your child - is to ‘validate’ their feelings. ‘To validate’, VALIDATE means ‘to treat as valid, to treat them as true’. You might say ‘I understand that you are upset - but I feel differently about it’. Showing the other person that you’ve understood their feelings, and that you accept their feelings and experiences are real, even if yours are different - that’s important. You’re much more likely to come out of a disagreement with a better relationship if you do this. Each person can then own their contribution to the disagreement and a more constructive discussion can happen - ‘How do we handle this from now on?’ It can much more of a calm negotiation, rather than another argument.

Think about it, gaslighting in couple relationships is damaging psychologically - but at least the person having it done to them is an adult, right? What’s really, really damaging is when it’s done to a child. A child doesn’t have the adult reasoning to be able to see it - or the knowledge of how best to work against it. They’re also vulnerable and dependent upon their parent and often believe what they’re told, especially when they’re very young. If you have this experience as a child, it’s likely to affect your relationships when you’re an adult.

Positive ways to tackle gaslighting

If you're an adult in a relationship where you feel you're being 'gaslit' or 'gaslighted', would you find these responses helpful? You can say ‘My experience or memory of that is different from yours.’ Or ‘That’s not my experience’. Another one ‘Don’t tell me what my feelings are’. Or ‘You have your experience - and I have mine. And they’re not the same’.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Having a name for this behaviour is useful because it makes it easier to call it out, to draw attention to it - and to challenge it. But it’s also a term that can be overused - in one of the links attached is an article which cites how many Google hits this term ‘gaslighting’ scores. On, I found 21 million hits for the word ‘gaslighting’! But there’s a difference between the ‘gaslighting’ that went on in the original play and film - where the husband is actually trying to convince the wife that she’s going mad, so that he can steal her money - there’s a difference between that and ‘invalidating someone’s viewpoint’. I’m not saying that ‘invalidating someone’s viewpoint’ is good - but it probably isn’t quite the abuse that I’ve been describing today.

Listening Lessons

Are politicians and ‘established bodies’ gaslighting us?

And you know, some might argue that gaslighting isn't just limited to personal relationships or workplaces. Consider this: Could our political discourse today be riddled with gaslighting? Is it possible that certain public figures or media outlets are gaslighting the public, creating a collective version of reality or manipulating our understanding of certain issues? Remember, gaslighting is about manipulating perceptions, controlling the narrative. Mmmm, I wonder - do we think that happens at all in politics? Surely not…... Let us know what you think!


And let us know what you think of this podcast! Don’t forget to share it, if you found it interesting. And in it, there’s some great vocabulary for describing relationships. Make sure that you listen to it a number of times!

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



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