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Friday, February 14, 2014

Aspies are gas lighters - Or, "You didn't hear what you thought you heard. You didn't see what you think you saw"

One of the most confusing parts of being married to an Aspie (and those with both Narcissistic Personality Disorder - NPD - and Bipolar Disorder - BP - will do this too) is they do something called "gas lighting".

Gas lighting is where someone tries to alter your reality for their own purposeful gain, usually bad or manipulative.

In order to understand gas lighting, perhaps understanding the origin of the phrase will help.  Gaslighting is a psychological term related to the mentally ill that comes from the 1940's psychological thriller Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) is a man with a mission.  He marries young Paula (Ingrid Bergman) who has inherited a house in which her aunt was murdered many years earlier.  The killer was never found and once Paula became an adult, she moved into the house with her new husband.  Seems the murdered aunt had some valuables stored in the house and Gregory wanted them.  In order to get them, he had to marry and then get rid of Paula, and the way he chose to get rid of her was to drive her insane.

Throughout the movie, Gregory is doing small things to make Paula believe she's losing her mind.  He'll move a piece of furniture then tell Paula, when she asks about it, "It wasn't me.  You did it and must have forgotten".  He'll turn down the gaslights in the house (and this is where the name of the movie came from) and when asked, "Who turned down the gaslights?" Gregory tells her, "Why, you did.  You don't remember..."  He would move her jewelry to other parts of the house and not tell her, leading her to believe she misplaced it, then when she stopped searching he would put it back in the original place.

While living with a gaslighter isn't usually this obvious (at least to the casual viewer), it's just as damaging as it was to poor Paula in the movie.

What gaslighters are trying to do is alter your reality.  I've caught my STBE in so many affairs it's not even funny anymore.  Every time I'd go to him with evidence, he'd deny it and give an alternate (sort of plausible) explanation that was designed to convince me I wasn't seeing/hearing what I believed I was seeing/hearing.  My STBE would deny until the day he dies I was seeing things wrong.  Alternatively, he'll admit the affairs but find some way to make it entirely my fault and work to convince me of this.

Other times, he would say or do something incredibly hurtful and when I'd call him on it, he'd deny he ever did or said whatever it was I came to him with.

For gaslighters, it's not about being right, it's about convincing you to agree with them, even if it's something so off the wall no one in their right mind would ever believe it.  Even the gas lighter may know they're lying, but it's not about that to them.  It's about YOU saying they're right.  Period.  However, with Aspies, they can come to believe their lies so to them, it's absolutely the truth.

What this will eventually do to the victim over the long term is convince them they ARE crazy.  My STBE's favorite term for it was "delusional".  Towards the end, this kept me up most nights, the wondering if I was, indeed, going crazy.  I'd even gone so far as to see a therapist to find out just how crazy I was.  After three or four sessions, the therapist emphatically told me, "Nancy, you definitely don't have a mental health issue beyond depression from being in an abusive marriage".  This was the first time I heard the term "gaslighting" and had it explained to me.  Once I understood what was happening, I felt infinitely better and the most sane I'd felt in a long, long time.


Gaslighters usually don't do this for the same reason Gregory did it to Paula.  Most of us aren't inheriting houses filled with jewels and gems.  Gaslighters now do it as a form of self-preservation.  As I'd said earlier, it's not just Aspies who do this but those with NPD and BP.  Also, people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are known for this, too.

Aspies, NPDs, BPs, BPDs, NEED your admiration and that of others to feed their low self-esteem. (See this article on Narcissistic supply).  If you're confronting any of these people with a fault or problem in the relationship, their first reaction is to deny there's anything wrong with them at all, that it's you who needs "fixing".  They will then launch into a tirade of just how many faults you have and will sprinkle it with "paranoia" (you), utter perfection (them), and will work to convince you of this, all of this.

The conversation might go something like this:

You:  John, I've been concerned about something that's going on and I need to address it with you.

Them: (Giving you an attentive look) Certainly, let's sit down and talk about it.

You:  I ran a virus check on the computer today and was in the history under your login.  I saw in there you're spending a lot of time inside a website that focuses on helping spouses cheat.  Based on the history, it looks like you're going there several times a day.  It has me worried you're cheating on me again.

Him: (Loud sigh, rolling of the eyes and starts with a loud voice/yelling) I'm SO sick and tired of you accusing me of cheating!  I've never cheated on you (and my STBE actually said this to me, after having been caught in several affairs) and if you weren't so paranoid you wouldn't be going into my history looking for it (you'd already given them the real and valid reason why you were in there, but to successfully complete their gaslighting of you, they need to alter reality - both yours and his).  This is SUCH a violation of MY privacy!  I swear, you're getting crazier by the day and WHY I stay with you is beyond me!  Everyone at work always talks about how much they can't stand you and I always defended you but I just don't see how I can do that anymore!  You should see a therapist about this paranoia!  And since you're always accusing me of cheating, how do I know it's not YOU who's cheating and trying to deflect it onto me!  I DEMAND you apologize to me RIGHT NOW for these unfounded and made up accusations of cheating on you!

It's at this point you're really upset and defending yourself.  Several things have happened during this rant:
  1. The gaslighter has gotten you off the original discussion, his possible cheating
  2. The gaslighter now has you on the defensive
  3. The gaslighter is telling you you're paranoid (and not for the first time, I'm sure)
  4. The gaslighter is telling you that you should be seeing a therapist
  5. The gaslighter is now telling you that your questioning his fidelity is actually you attempting to hide the fact that you're the cheater (even though you're not)
  6. The gaslighter is further undermining your confidence in yourself
  7. The gas lighter has successfully diverted not just the conversation about your feelings, but he's also probably gotten you the the point of apologizing.
  8. He now has you focusing on his feelings, his needs, his wants and you feelings, needs and wants are no longer even of topic.
Mission accomplished for the gas lighter.  If you've been in a conversation in the past that sounds like this, it's probably time for you to take steps to either put a stop to this or to extricate yourself from the relationship.

And one final thought to leave you with, as you're reeling from the abuses of the Aspie gaslighting you.  I found this on a website I found called Live In the Moment and it's SO true and SO life affirming!
What creates your “broken heart” when you get rejected
When someone rejects you without saying anything negative about you, you will likely begin to immediately think 2 things. First, you decide what the other person thinks about you, and then you believe that their opinion must be right. In other words, you make an assumption about what they think about you, and then you form the conclusion that what they think must be true.
Here are a few common examples:
  1. The assumption about what they think: “He thinks I’m not good enough”, “He thinks something is wrong with me”, or “He doesn’t think I am worthy of love”
  2. The conclusion that what they think must be true: “If he thinks I’m not good enough, then I must not be good enough”, “If he thinks something is wrong with me, there must be something wrong with me”, or “If he doesn’t think I am worthy of love, then I must not be worthy of love”
You may be aware of these thoughts or you may not be. But if you’re feeling hurt, they are there.
Once we believe these negative thoughts about ourselves, we are essentially worsening our opinion of ourselves. When our opinion of ourselves worsens, we experience the feeling of hurt or being broken hearted. (I won’t get into the details of why this creates hurt in this post).
To help you with this, I'm putting some links here to help you:

10 Signs Your Man Is 'Gaslighting' You to Make You Seem Crazy  (Note: The writing on this is kind of poor and the examples given are pretty mild, innocuous and naive.  This was obviously written by someone who's never been through it.  But the overall message is the same as I'm trying to impart here)