CW/TW: Abuse, gaslighting, ableism.
Given that autistics are consistently told that our thoughts, actions, and percpetions differ from the “norm,” we are very susceptible to the psychological manipulation of gaslighting. A definition (provided by thrivetalk.com) of gaslighting is as follows: “A manipulative tactic in which a person, to gain power and control, plants seeds of uncertainty in the victim. The self-doubt and constant skepticism slowly and meticulously cause the individual to question their reality.” As an autistic person, have you ever tried to point out how someone emotionally/physically/sexually harmed you, only to have that person claim that you’re misunderstanding because you’re autistic?
Have you ever had someone repeatedly lie about your behavior, but because we auties are so honest, we believe each lie?
Have you ever had a loved one call you “crazy” and “irrational” or insist that you’re having a meltdown when you’ve tried to point out their hurtful behavior?
Have you ever tried to discuss an issue with a person, only for them to list out yout “unreasonableness” given how much they’ve been “patient,” “loving,” and “suppotive” despite your autism?
Autistics of color: Have you ever had someone tell you that you are “too sensitive” or “overreacting” to blatant racism and/or microaggressions due to your autistic lens?
These are just a few of many examples of how autistics may be gaslit while trying to advocate for themselves. So, how can we protect ourselves from this manipulation?
1) Take notes. Every time you suspect that a specific person is gaslighting you, document it. Use specific words, feelings, and actions. This way, you can see a pattern if one emerges.
2) Even if the suspected gaslighter is your most adored loved one, get an outside perepective from someone else you trust. Tell them the situation in detail, using your notes, and be sure to include how the interactions made you feel.
3) With the help of loved ones, escape the gaslighter. It may take lots of support (personal and professional), but you can survive and be proud of yourself for your resistance.