The word “gaslighting” often appears in our society these days. Gaslighting is a psychological term, which refers to the act of reinforcing dominance over others by cleverly manipulating the minds and circumstances of others to make them doubt themselves. The word is derived from the situation in which the protagonist uses a gas lamp to psychologically control his wife in Gas Light (1938). Gaslighting is often occurring in close or intimate relationships, such as at home, school, and between lovers, and is usually conducted when one tries to control and oppress the other with asymmetrical rather than horizontal power. In this essay, I want to talk about the issue of gaslighting connected with social situations.
I wonder if Korea is mired in a collective gaslighting situation. I wonder if something is cleverly manipulating our collective psychology to make us question the way of our own lives. I wonder if this thing drives us to go only one direction. It is ”meritocracy,” a political system where social status or power is determined according to an individual‘s ability. The sad thing is that today‘s ability demanded by our society is simply economic power. Thus, I wonder if the desire to be wealthy is gaslighting us.
By nature, humans are desiring beings. Desire is an essential motive that sustains our life. We live to fulfill our desires. To have desire is natural, so you don‘t have to hide your desires unless you want to become a monk. We are living here to accomplish our diverse desires. However, individual desires have become standardized toward getting much “money” as the highest value in our society. Making much money becomes the top goal instead of earning money to live happily. People don‘t try to earn money as much as they need in proportion to the size of their desires, but they live to make as much money as possible. This way of life destroys the values of our lives one by one. Today‘s society is not emphasizing fairness of living together, but this fairness to accumulate much money like those who have a lot. So, while revering what looks stronger, we call it power. Those who have different opinions are rejected and even hated. And talk to ourselves, ”Originally, life is like this. I am living well.”
Like the gaslighting situation, meritocracy continuously manipulates individuals to follow this social system to strengthen its dominance. So how can we get out of this situation?
“Find yourself!” It is what the experts say to overcome gaslighting.
To begin with, let‘s calculate the size of our desires. Next, let‘s plan how much material foundation you need according to the size of your desire to live happily. No matter how much people whisper to us that you will be a loser if you live like that, don‘t listen to it. And let‘s walk our path proudly. Finally, let‘s say, ”I am happy because I live as myself.”
(Professor of Baird College
for General Education)