The Sara Ali Khan-starrer Gaslight released on Disney+ Hotstar last week, throwing a fresh spotlight on the term and what it means to be gaslighted in a relationship.The word first rose to prominence globally when the 1944 film Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, became a runaway success. Set in the Victorian era, it was about a husband who repeatedly questioned and disputed his wifes sanity and reality. One of the ways this was achieved was by the dimming and flickering of gaslights (at a time before houses were powered by electricity), whenever the husband left home.However, it was only a few decades later that references to the movie led to the coinage of the term gaslighting in the psychological context. To put it simply, gaslighting is the experience of being manipulated into believing that you are imagining things.Gaslighting is a form of subtle emotional abuse. In most cases, the victim doesnt realise that they are being gaslighted, says cognitive psychologist Meera Sethuraman. Perpetrators are inclined to apportion blame, question the judgement and assessment of their partner, and undermine their perceptions of what is real and true. As a result, victims are prey to self-doubt and low self-esteem. Some of them even question their own sanity and mental health.Let me give you a simple example. If your partner is caught cheating with another woman and you treat it like a big deal, you are valid in reacting in a certain way. But a gaslighter will tell you that you are overreacting, distort reality, make you question things, or try to minimise what youre feeling. Although gaslighting is most commonly seen in romantic partners, friends, family members and those you work with can also be gaslighters. Since gaslighting is so indirect, it is sometimes hard to tell if its happening to you.Meera shares a few red flags to watch out for:- Youre always feeling insecure and inadequate, requiring validation for your choices.- Youre scared of saying things around your partner for fear of being judged, accused, ridiculed, or yelled at.- Youre apologising all the time and feel like youve let people down and are not good enough.- You worry about overreacting and magnifying issues that are major to you, but trivial to your partner.- You feel like youre becoming isolated from others and increasingly dependent on your partner.- You start worrying about your mental health and feel like you are hallucinating at times.- There is a feeling of hopelessness that overtakes or overwhelms you.Gaslighting has been depicted in popular culture often enough. Invisible Man, The Girl On The Train, and Rosemarys Baby have showcased different aspects of this form of abuse. Closer home, the Alia Bhatt-starrer Darlings is a classic example of gaslighting. The protagonists husband insists that he loves and cares for her, which is why his abuse is justifiable a ploy that she buys for nearly two-thirds of the movie. Kabir Singh is another instance of gaslighting, where the titular character justifies his obnoxious behaviour by using love as an excuse.So how does one deal with gaslighting? Therapist and social worker Urvashi Shah says that recognising that youre being gaslighted is the first and most important hurdle to cross. We often look at gaslighting as something that happens in a romantic relationship. Of course, it is most commonly seen there, but that doesnt mean it cannot occur with family, friends, or even at the workplace. Gaslighting can be used to make a colleague feel inadequate, and lay claim to their achievements. Also, if people complain or call out inappropriate behaviour, theyre made to feel like it is no big deal and theyre overreacting. Trust yourself and your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is.If you want to reassure yourself that youre not imagining things or overreacting, visit a mental health expert on your own, without taking your gaslighter into confidence. Seek out safe spaces people who make you feel happy and secure and confide in them. You may feel like you can change a gaslighter, but most often, it is a lost cause. Remember this if youre planning to work on your relationship; keep your expectations realistic. Start putting your foot down for little things that matter to you, and stick to your guns even if your abuser is angry or upset. Lastly, it may be painful to let go of a relationship that you have nurtured and become dependent on. But in the long run, a clean break may be the only way to completely heal. Prioritise yourself, practice self-care, and ask yourself what will truly make you happy.Even celebrities and smart, successful women can fall prey to gaslighting without realising it. Singer Mariah Carey once said on her programme Mariahs World, 'I was with someone at the time that had a lot of control over my life He was older than me by a lot and had a lot of power and he wanted me to remain away from most people. I never thought I would get out of there. She was speaking of her then-husband Tommy Mottola, with whom she spent four years. Actor Vidya Balan has also openly spoken about being gaslit by people she loved and trusted and says that she could not see it at the time, but let herself be manipulated. Today, she says shes smarter and has learnt to spot and avoid them.Author Robin Stern wrote an entire book on gaslighting called The Gaslight Effect: How To Spot And Survive The Hidden Manipulation Others Use To Control Your Life. Among the valid points she made was, Being gaslighted by someone youve trusted for years can be even more debilitating than entering into a gaslighting relationship from the start. Because your trust has a solid foundation, its all the more bewildering when you find yourself being badly treated and you may be even more likely to blame yourself Remember: As long as there's any part of yourself that believes you need your gaslighter to feel better about yourself, to boost your confidence, or to bolster your sense of who you are in the world, you'll be leaving yourself open for gaslighting.