The Gaslighting Trap

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:

  1. Lie and Exaggerate – gaslighting starts with a negative narrative, something is wrong about you
  2. Repetition – the previous point is repeated, like a psychological warfare
  3. Escalate When Challenged – if you call them out, the attack will double or triple
  4. Wear Out the Victim – the victims soon start to question their own reality
  5. Form Co-dependent Relationships – the gaslighter gains control
  6. Give False Hope – using manipulation, the gaslighter will give a bit of hope to gain positive momentum in the mind of the victim
  7. 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.

6 Replies to “The Gaslighting Trap”

  1. I have an aspie who has turned my world upside down. I’ve contemplated suicide for years just to escape his mind games.

    1. My husband of 20 years, destroyed my life, and very nearly obliterated the whole of “me”. My heart popped out as I read your 7 steps, because he actually did his deeds with that same modus operandi. Until the spell was broken, by serendipitous events that revealed the breath and extent of his scheming, he now has turned to other tactics such as relentless love bombing and guilt trips, threats of suicide, and creates an environment where I am to have zero mind space of my own. These new tactics he adopted as a consequence of our separation, we have been separated since Sep 2020, his obsession with me knows no bounds. He has refused to ever be diagnosed, with anything. However, the chances of ASD are very high: his brother is is severely autistic; and our two sons, are HFA (high functioning autistic, or “aspi”); and there is ASD in his extended family. There is no family history of ASD in my immediate or extended family.
      Covid has now limited many of my options, but I will find a way out. But I sometimes dream I could move countries, to be free.

  2. To be more specific, its not the lacking empathy that’s the problem. People that are Neurotypical and those with autism simply experience the world in different ways. This often means they’re both gaslighting each other. however, as the majority is Neurotypical, it is often assumed that their way is “right” and the autistic experience is thus denied and shunned. The more of society jumps on and confirms that the autistic experience is simply “wrong”, the worse the situation becomes. Lashing out to control the world is a poor choice by those desperate to make sense of things when no one will give their world view any credit.

    1. It is understandable that Autists feel misunderstood and maligned. But it is also important for Autists to recognize that they are slightly out of step with the empathic NT world. All people want to be understood, appreciated and loved. The first step toward recovery is to know that you don’t know something. Without the Ego involved it is so much easier to find common ground.

    2. It usually isn’t the NTs doing the gaslighting Jacob. Your reply saying that “it isn’t us, it’s them” proves the point perfectly……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *