This graphic shows how confusion is used to manipulate you (red path). Someone says or does something confusing, then we have that “wait, what?” confused feeling. The confusion is designed to get an emotional reaction out of you. Once you become emotional, you’re easier to manipulate and it’s easier to polarize you into a camp of like-minded people. Traveling through this path, from confusion to manipulation, can take mere seconds.

The preferable path is to immediately deal with the confusion, either by determining what’s really going on, or just recognizing it as an attempt to confuse you and then just not giving it another thought.

Even if you do have an emotional reaction, you can ALWAYS catch yourself and think “Hey, wait a minute. They’re trying to get a reaction out of me. Not gonna work!”

The Term Gaslighting

This is a really interesting word that you’ll hear being used more and more.  It’s a fun way to slap a tag on any attempt to confuse you.  “They’re trying to gaslight me!”

The expressions comes from a black and white movie from 1944 called “Gaslight” staring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton.  Play the 2 minute trailer below and you’ll have a good laugh.

“Gaslight” refers to how Ingrid Bergman finally unravels what’s happening to her as she’s being confused beyond belief by Charles Boyer. 

Have you ever been in a house where the lights dim when the iron is plugged in and turned on?  Back in the days of this movie people lit their houses with gas and gas lamps, and when someone lit a gas lamp somewhere else in the house the overall gas pressure would drop and the other gas lamps around the house would dim ever so slightly.  Oooooohhhhh.

But why is Charles Boyer “gaslighting” her and confusing her to the brink of madness?  What is he really after?

This two-hour movie is only available for rent on Amazon Video. It has also been a play and a British movie as well. Search YouTube to find out more.

Lastly, here’s a 12 minute unedited TED talk by a woman who was gaslighted – purposely confused – and how she finally got around it. The secret is to not let the emotional reaction (including apathy) manipulate you.

But we’re humans, and we’re going to react emotionally to the things we hear and experience in life and on the news. The skill we can learn is “Catch and Release.”

CATCH the fact that you just had an emotional reaction and then RELEASE and let go of it as fast as you can. Think of catching a fish that’s too small and throwing it back in the water.

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