Gaslighting

'Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilise the target and delegitimise the target's belief.'

As Aspies, I'm sure we're particularly prone to this.  I know I am. My experience, too - with a sister-in-law who's a consummate narcissist - has caused me much grief and upset over the last 30 years.  These were years when I not only didn't know that I was autistic, but I also didn't really know what her motivations were.  I've found out so much more about it all since my diagnosis, and through having someone else who knows her tell me that she isn't just like it with me.  For most of those years, I simply thought there was something wrong with me - and she was the one who, more than most, was at pains to keep reminding me.  The damage this woman has done - not just to me, but to other members of my close family - is profound.  Much of it is irreparable.  But at least now I no longer have any reason to have any contact with her - notwithstanding the fact that she's married to my brother.  I'm well rid of her.  She's controlled and manipulated our family for far too long.  My brother is her puppet.  And so competent a puppeteer is she that he doesn't even realise he has strings!  He's well and truly Stockholmed!

For years, I've been told I'm gullible, susceptible, credulous, naive, etc.  I've had my leg pulled time after time, and been the butt-end of jokes.  I've been taken for a ride, scammed, made to look ridiculous.  But I take people at face value.  If they tell me something, I tend to believe them.  Why wouldn't I?  Why would they lie to me?  But people have, and do.  It's why I detest gossip and won't have any part of it, because all it really is is manipulation and destabilisation, perpetuated by a group.  Victimising the vulnerable.  And it gives people a sense of 'belonging' to be onside in the gossip.  If you're not happy with the way someone's behaving or performing - tell them!  But no.  Gossip is easier... and it's more fun.  Huh!

Anyone else got any 'gaslight' tales to share?

Parents
  • Just wondering...

    Does anyone think it might be a good idea for me to put a general message in the Staff Communication Book at work just to warn everyone about parking in that car park, because I'd received some damage to my car in there?  That way, I'm not pointing the finger or implying anything.  Just telling everyone to be careful.  I could say I've reported the matter to police.  I think that could be perceived as being thoughtful to others.  When she reads it, too, she'll probably be reassured that I don't know anything about who might have done it - but it might warn her off.

    Any thoughts?

    (I'm just leaving for work now - 7.30 am.  Something is going to happen today.  I can feel it.  Not looking forward to going in.)

  • Personally I wouldn't do this. The best way of disengaging from her  game is to avoid any unnecessary communication at all. Putting the note in the book still has the intention of communicating with her, albeit indirectly. Narcissists are incredibly clever, this will just confirm to her she's still got you on the hook.

    If you want it to be 'game over' you have to pretend everything is "water off a duck's back" (someone else said that on this thread but I can't find it). I find this incredibly difficult to do myself because it goes against the principles of justice. Starving her of what fuels her behaviour is the only way to put the fire out though. 

    If you are sure something is going to happen today do you have to go in to work?  Is it time to invoke that fit note you arranged? I am still off work and time away has helped me to recover my equilibrium. It was only when I stopped trying to cope that I realised how exhausted I was.

    If you are off with work related stress usually a risk assessment is done before you return. The HSE provide a helpful template. This then leads to a proper action plan designed to avoid any further harm. This is the process I am going through with Union support.

    For a long while I would not stop working because I thought I might not be able to go back again. Ultimately the decision was made for me when my ankle injury immobilised me. The impossibly high levels of stress I had been under then became apparent. I am glad I was forced to stop working - I think something catastrophic would have happened had I continued. 

    I should not give advice because this is a decision you can only make for yourself. These are my thoughts though. Take care whatever you decide to do. Those of us who have been in similar situations really feel for you. 

  • Thanks, Sunflower.  I'm trying to carry on 'as normal'.  My relations with all other staff are good, and with all the service users.  I also get on very well with the bully's closest friend there.  I'm cautious with her, but she's definitely more genuine, and seems to make her own judgments about who she likes and who she doesn't.  She knows nothing of my 'issue' and I don't give her any intimating info that could be passed back.  With her, I'm normal, 'happy-go-lucky' me.

    It wasn't too bad a day yesterday.  I was working in a different part of the building and didn't see her once.  I spoke to my manager at the end of the day and told her about last week (she was off last week).  She said she'd had her own car scratched in that car park.  She thought that, even though the owner of it had given us permission to use some spaces, some of the other users were still against our using it (it is a staff car park for an adjacent store), so were trying to force us off.  Even so, she admitted that the circumstances were highly suspicious.  I told her I'm going to go on as if nothing had happened.  Today will be a more challenging day, because we have several other staff members off on training.  I have, though, been offered an opportunity for a couple of shifts a week working off-site, in supported living, so I may take that up.  It's with a chap with Asperger's, so that'll be good.

    I also found out yesterday that I've been shortlisted for the position at the college again.  I don't really want the longer hours and weeks, nor the longer traveling time and difficulties with parking near the site, (I estimate the traveling alone will make my day at least 2 hours longer, and will involve much stress-inducing traffic), but I can at least go to the interview and see how it goes.  To be perfectly honest, I think what I really need right now is a long period of rest.  I think, if I did take time off, that like you I would realise just how much it has taken out of me.

    But the prospect of negotiating the UC system scares the hell out of me.  I could cash in a small pension I have (from when I opted out of SERPS) and live off that.  But it would only last a few months, and that would be every scrap of savings I have gone, with nothing at all to fall back on.

  • If your local contact is not helpful talk to the national office - with autism it is important to have someone with appropriate expertise and insight into autistic communication issues when under extreme stress.

    I managed to p**** off my Unison rep when I objected to an admin sssistant falsely claiming I had told her she was being unhelpful. I actually said "I am getting upset now so I am going to pass you over to my husband". My husband spoke to the Union rep and confirmed this was exactly what I had said, but since then my emails have gone unanswered. 

    At my last Absence Management Interview the Union rep was 35 minutes late. I had to phone the office to ask where she was. We had met earlier that week to prepare for the meeting. I tried to confirm the time and day with her then but she just said "I never look ahead in my diary I just go wherever it tells me to on the day". I found this quite extraordinary! 

    To be fair I know they are under extreme pressure and my case is probably considered to be on hold while we wait for the full ASD report to arrive. I still find it hard when someone's emails say "I will keep you updated" and then they don't! 

  • Incidentally going to interviews while off sick was something else I discussed with my Union rep - worth checking with yours to see what they say. 

  • My rep seemed quite cantankerous.  She kept interrupting me before I'd got a chance to properly explain any points, which just made me more flustered. In the end, I almost put the phone down on her.  She refused to accept my argument about why formal complaints/mediation wouldn't work.  "If you don't want to take those routes, then you're better off just leaving the job."

    I'm going to ring the national office first and insist on speaking to someone who has experience with ASC and this type of situation.

  • I'm not going to go with this college vacancy.  I'm going to pull out of the interview.  I can't face anything else right now.

  • My psychologist encouraged me to focus on jobs that are a good fit and not to apply for roles that won't suit me. My interview earlier this week demonstrated it is not sensible to pretend everything is ok when it is not. The energy I spent was wasted and it knocked my self confidence. On the plus side I got to find out the shift pattern would not have suited me so I won't be wondering "What if..." 

  • I wonder what autism training Union reps have had and if it was delivered by autistic people? 

  • More than anything you probably need to rest

  • The college job is a good fit - except for the longer hours, days and the stressful traveling.  It'll mean hitting a difficult city centre at peak time.  It takes around 20 minutes to get there... then it's usually 20 minutes of stop-start traffic to travel around a mile... then at least 15 minutes walk.

  • Unison National Office have told me to contact my branch.  I said I didn't find them very helpful... and she said 'Then you need to take that up with them.' Huh!

  • That's a shame - I got passed back to a different local branch by Unison Direct when my branch was closed on a Friday. The out of office message said to contact Unison Direct if urgent advice was needed but they said they don't give advice just route people back to local branches. It is all very confusing and unhelpful...

    What we really need Is a Trade Union specifically for autistic people, run by autistic people. 

    As an alternative to Union advice you could contact ACAS and/or Access to Work, but I would try and get some rest first. 

Reply
  • That's a shame - I got passed back to a different local branch by Unison Direct when my branch was closed on a Friday. The out of office message said to contact Unison Direct if urgent advice was needed but they said they don't give advice just route people back to local branches. It is all very confusing and unhelpful...

    What we really need Is a Trade Union specifically for autistic people, run by autistic people. 

    As an alternative to Union advice you could contact ACAS and/or Access to Work, but I would try and get some rest first. 

Children
  • Actually spoke to a very sympathetic and understanding woman who took my details.  She's going to get a rep to call me back sometime today. 

    I'll try ACAS if necessary. 

  • That is really encouraging. I am so glad you are getting some advice and support from them. 

  • My GP is giving me a certificate stating 'Work-related stress, related to Autistic Spectrum Condition.'  I'll wait to hear from the Union, then see what our HR department has to say.

  • That is really good, it makes it clear the absence is disability-related 

  • The rep's just rung me.  She was very understanding, and listened to what I had to say.  She said that as far as she's aware, based on the information she has, there is no legal requirement for an employer to pay me disability-related sick pay, even if they accept that the sickness is disability-related.  She asked me what it says in my contract, and it only mentions general sick pay and how long it's paid for.  I'd need to check with HR if there are any special conditions or circumstances.

    She's also suggested that I have a meeting with my manager (and a senior manager, if required) to tell them precisely how this issue is affecting me and what I need in order for it to be satisfactorily resolved in terms of reasonable adjustments.  I can only ask that I have no contact with this person.  If they suggest mediation, which I'm sure they will, then it'll open up a whole new can of worms.  She'll play the game that she wasn't even aware that there was an issue, so what is there to mediate?  Then, too, she'll know I'm on the run.  If they insist, then I don't know what I'll do.  Go back to the rep, then to ACAS.  I don't want to get into a protracted thing with them.  I just want to return to work and do my job - which I can only do if we are always working apart.

  • Great!  Now I'm in a dispute with HR.  They're claiming that I've exhausted my entitlement to full pay.  By my reckoning, I'm still entitled to 22.5 hours.  Half pay will leave me seriously short in January.  So I guess it's UC.  It never rains but it pours.

    Feeling really low today.  If it wasn't for this f***ing woman f***ing everything up.

  • They've confirmed that I've used up my entitlement.  And work have told me that they won't let me return until they're convinced that I'm fit enough to go back.  Even if the doctor signs me back, I don't even know if I'll be fit enough.

    So I'll be down several hundred pounds in pay in January.  And I can't apply for UC as I'm getting Working Tax Credit.  It's crazy.

  • I feel for you.  I went through something similar, sick notes, bullying, HR disputes, Universal Credit madness.

  • I remember, Robert. 

    I just don't know what to do.  I dread going back.  I can't afford to leave.  I'm losing a lot of money... and then, when they do the back-to-work interview, I'm basically going to have to lie in order to get back to earning. 

    They let me down yesterday.  They had me working on the same floor, with this woman, all afternoon.  I couldn't face that.  I should have just demanded that they swap us over.  Then none of this would have happened.  Now, it's just made a bad situation even worse.

    Feeling the lowest I've felt for a long time.  The whole thing feels f**ked up now - thanks to this woman, who always gets what she demands.

  • The woman who I had most difficulty with in my last job was the manager in overall charge of the centre.

    After going on sick leave and returning, HR accommodated me by changing the reporting structure so I reported to a different manager.

    At my dismissal hearing this 'new' manager called my previous manager as the main witness to prove my incompetence to do the job.

    And the fact that I went by the rule book and had meetings with HR was also used against me.

    It's a mad world.