I often talk about gaslighting in my video conferences and teleconferences (check my upcoming conferences and register for the ones that interest you), but not enough in my blogs, so because I have a video conference series upcoming about this exact topic, I decided to write about it.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the phenomenon where your mind is attacked by your partner. They try to convince you that you didn’t say what you said; or that your observations are way out of line; or that everyone else thinks you’re nuts; Like brainwashing, gaslighting turns the victim into a helpless dish of mush if you don’t escape.
Some of you already know the term and others will have an “AHA!” moment when recognizing the traits in your own relationship with your spouse.
Who is using gaslighting?
It’s a technique commonly used by narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. What do all these people have in common? The lack of empathy.
Autism is defined by a lack of social reciprocity. Our “Aspies” are also lacking empathy – the complex term to describe more than just caring about something. Gaslighting is a natural byproduct of an empathy disorder unless the “Aspie” develops a strong moral code.
Who are the victims?
Unfortunately, everyone can be a victim. Your age, gender or social status are irrelevant when you are targeted by someone with no empathy skills. It’s not something you did and you are not to blame.
Why is gaslighting happening?
In romantic relationships, gaslighting is easier to notice (compared with work environments) and is more visible. The motive is also clear – often it’s about being in control.
People on the Spectrum love to control and order, but our daily lives are full of variables. Because of this, they are trying to control as much as they possibly can, including their partner, if they are left to do so. “No, you are wrong, this is the way it happened”, “you are crazy” or “are you stupid?” are common lines that victims hear.
It’s harder to take responsibility for a misunderstanding (or other interpersonal breakdowns), when you don’t have the empathy to compare yourself to another. As a result, “Aspies” can become quite manipulative, narcissistic and engage in the Blame Game.
Stages of gaslighting
Psychology Today has a very useful article, which will help you recognize the stages of gaslighting:
- Lie and Exaggerate – gaslighting starts with a negative narrative, something is wrong about you
- Repetition – the previous point is repeated, like a psychological warfare
- Escalate When Challenged – if you call them out, the attack will double or triple
- Wear Out the Victim – the victims soon start to question their own reality
- Form Co-dependent Relationships – the gaslighter gains control
- Give False Hope – using manipulation, the gaslighter will give a bit of hope to gain positive momentum in the mind of the victim
- Dominate and Control – the goal of controlling, dominating, and taking advantage of another individual is reached
Consequences of gaslighting
As a result of gaslighting, victims often feel ashamed and become co-dependent on their “Aspie” spouse. I’ve written about the Blame Game and how can you tell if you’re co-dependent on your “Aspie” on my blog.
I often talk about taking back your life and this is exactly what I recommend in this case too. You need to take control of your life and escape from gaslighting. Of course, it is not as easy as it might sound. That’s why I created a group of people who are ready to take action and support each other through these tough times. If you want to join us, please check “Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.”
If you need a psychologist skilled in NT/ASD relationships, who can work with you (and won’t tell you to adapt), I offer private Video Therapy/Education Appointments (sessions of 20, 40 or 60 minutes) – please check my Appointment Page.