“Anything is better than lies and deceit!”
— Leo Tolstoy
How could anyone fall for that? How could I have been so foolish? Why do they believe such lies? How could we have been conned like that?
There are emotionally manipulative people of varying degrees all around us. When we are young we like to think that we are immune to the psychological pressures that confuse, manipulate and condition other people. We are not so gullible, are we? But part of truly maturing as an individual involves understanding how you too are led by the environment, influenced by others, and driven by the needs you have as a human being.
Human beings can be manipulated precisely because we share innate psychological characteristics that render us ALL susceptible, to a point. Although, like any other weakness, some people are naturally more prone to succumb, while others have higher levels of immunity to the external pressures that can make us do things we would normally never think of doing.
But assuming that we are already “immune” is naive and the surest path to being a victim of manipulation. Let me give you a powerful example:
Emotionally Manipulated to Death
The day is November 18, 1978, and you’re in Guyana. There you stand in the middle of Jonestown, a loyal member of Jim Jones’ cult known as “The People’s Temple”. He commands you to drink a cup of poisonous, cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and take your own life.
What do you do?
Well of course you don’t do it, right? Who is Jim Jones, or anyone for that matter, to tell you to end it all? You are not a robot that can be ordered to kill yourself against your own will! But an astounding 907 people simply followed his orders and died that fateful day. And many of these people poisoned their children before they took their own lives. People who wanted to live and wanted their children and spouses to live.
Why did these people do this? Why did men and women, many college educated, allow themselves to be abused and brainwashed by this man? Why did they agree to sell their homes and give all their possessions and money to “The People’s Temple” – an obvious cult?
Were these people of abnormally low intelligence? Were they clinically insane? Or was Jim Jones a highly skilled manipulator of human emotions? Did he know exactly how to push a human being’s “buttons,” and string them along even to the extent that they would poison their own children before ending their own lives?
Either way, that was just “Jonestown”, right? It was an isolated event.
Wrong! “Jonestown” has happened numerous times throughout history – and it will happen again. I bet you can think of other examples where people were willingly driven to their own demise. It may not be “Jonestown” – it may go by a different name, but we see the same exact psychological mechanisms of manipulation in play. Understanding these mechanisms can help immunize you not just to the grosser psychological manipulations of a wicked cult leader, but also to the more subtle psychological conditioning that we all encounter as part of everyday life.
We All Have Basic Human Needs
Jim Jones was a master of deceiving people by appearing to give them what they needed. And this is the crucial point to grasp. We all have innate human needs. If your fundamental psychological needs as a human being are not being adequately met, then, unless you understand precisely what’s happening and respond appropriately, you will be motivated to latch on to any source that appears to satisfy these needs.
Some of your basic human needs include:
- The security of a safe environment in which to grow.
- A sense of autonomy and control of your life.
- A sense of self-worth earned through creative problem solving and the achievement of personal goals.
- Being part of a broader, likeminded community.
- A sense of status within social groupings (which includes feeling important or respected in some way).
- Being emotionally connected to certain people (family, friends, etc.).
- Meaning and purpose arising from being able to make a difference.
Again, if any of these basic needs are not sufficiently met in your life, you will feel inexplicably attracted to anyone or anything that promises to supply what is lacking. The awareness that this is happening can save you an incredible amount of trouble.
Many of Jim Jones’ devotees were drawn from a pool of disgruntled people who were not leading satisfying lives or meeting their basic needs in healthy ways. People facing uncertain times or uncertain futures, people with low self-esteem and negative self-images, and so forth. Jones held out the promise of certainty, social acceptance, community, self-respect, purpose and feelings of security inside his “temple.” And there must have been some really deep seeded beliefs instilled in these people, because eventually they followed Jones, like some new-age Pied Piper, into oblivion.
Universal Applicability and Susceptibility
It’s rather easy to see that if your needs are not being adequately met in a healthy way, and someone or something comes along that promises to supply all of your needs in one convenient package, then that can seem pretty irresistible.
If you disagree, think about this: On a more conventional level, consider how many people feeling neglected in a marriage have a careless affair with someone because it was “so nice to be listened to, flattered, romanced, etc.” The very same unconscious propulsion towards an affair like that might drive others into the arms of a cult (or even to buy a timeshare or a new wonder drug!)
Rational Justifications for Irrational Behavior
We all need some level of quality attention and strive to meet that need in various ways, but our thirst for it can blind us to the sleazy aspects of the person (or entity) that’s tempting us. Our emotional drive is so powerful that it will enlist the help of the conscious mind to invent compelling, logical arguments to support what we feel compelled to do. Jim Jones’ devotees too would certainly have developed a belief system around the cult, and they wholeheartedly believed that they had rational arguments for sticking with it.
It’s easy to say afterwards, “How could I have been so foolish?” But extreme incidents like the Jonestown massacre demonstrate just how mind-numbingly powerful the drive to meet our basic human needs is. They can completely overwhelm clear thinking – just as a person dying of thirst in a desert might desperately put an ice-cold bottle of poison to their lips, if it were offered to them.
Weapons of Influence and Manipulation
Famous social psychologist Robert Cialdini conducted a study of how and why people comply (or buy) in business situations, and identified a set of principles which he called the “weapons of influence.” Although he was looking at business related events and interactions, his principles apply equally well to unsuitable, manipulative relationships of any kind. And if you look closely, it’s not hard to see the link between Cialdini’s principles and the basic needs I outlined above.
Cialdini’s weapons of influence:
- Reciprocation – “But they’ve done so much for me!” When you feel indebted to someone, then the law of reciprocation is influencing you. Jim Jones constantly reminded his devotees of all he and “The People’s Temple” had done for them – how he had “saved them” and how they “owe” themselves to the “temple.” If someone constantly reminds you how much they are doing or have done for you, they are being manipulative. It runs all the way from free samples in product marketing/advertising to someone doing an unrequested favor for you just so they can ask you for a favor in return – the aim is to make you feel obligated to reciprocate. (Read Influence: Psychology of Persuasion.)
- Commitment and consistency – If people publicly commit verbally or in writing to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. We like to appear consistent and dependable to both ourselves and others (think of the disapproval heaped upon politicians who change their minds). To suddenly stop following orders or abandon once-deeply-held beliefs can simply feel impossible to many, even in the face of mounting evidence that disproves the belief.
- Social proof – People will do things they see other people doing. Period. “A thousand other people can’t be wrong, right?” or “If everyone else is doing it then it must be OK.” This kind of thinking is how people get swayed into being “fashion victims” as well as “cult victims.” And it’s complicated too, because this is not just thoughtless blindness on our part. Hundreds of years ago, for human beings to survive in a world of predators, we had to form tight-knit social groups and look to others for behavioral cues. This is still useful up to a point, but the manipulators of the world can easily use this to their advantage.
- Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform unjust acts. Authority figures come in many different flavors and facades (and Jim Jones was certainly naturally authoritative).
- Likability – People are more easily persuaded and manipulated by other people whom they like. But likable people might not do very likable things and that’s the problem. Cialdini demonstrated that people tend to buy from people they like, or buy things people they like buy. We also tend to like attractive people. It’s no coincidence that cult leaders tend to be charismatic, likeable and attractive. (Read How to Win Friends and Influence People.)
- Scarcity – If something seems scarce, demand for it will increase. “Limited time offer” or “while supplies last” or “only for the first 100 buyers” are all ways that the scarcity principle is used in marketing. In manipulative relationships it may be used like this: “You will never meet anyone else like me!” It’s subtle, but the implication is that I am rare, and therefore more valuable to you. Jim Jones phrased it like this: “‘The People’s Temple’ is the only place you can be saved” – all cults will have a similar manipulative slogan.
4 Smart Ways to Protect Yourself
To protect yourself from the more excessive and evil manipulations of organizations and individuals, you need to:
- Be aware that extreme “promise of gain” and “threat of loss” are basic universal tools for manipulating belief and behavior.
- Understand that if your basic emotional and physical needs are not adequately met, you become more vulnerable to being manipulated by anyone willing to exploit this gap. Just understanding this can help immunize you against becoming a victim.
- Observe how Cialdini’s “weapons of influence” operate in everyday life (often in benign ways) and how they are indirectly linked to basic human needs.
- Stay calm. Breathe. A calm mind can perceive the world much more clearly and objectively.
Most people and organizations are not actually out to exploit and manipulate others in an evil way, but as the unfortunate followers of Jim Jones discovered back in 1978, when they do, horrifying things can happen.
So… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Live by choice, not by chance. Make changes, not excuses. Be motivated, not manipulated. Work to excel, not compete. Choose to listen to your inner voice, not the jumbled opinions of everyone else.
And if you feel like you’re struggling with a manipulative relationship situation of any kind, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working things out for ourselves. Stand strong! Stay inspired! This is precisely why Angel and I wrote our book, “1,000 Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently”. It’s filled with short, concise tips on how to do just that.
The bottom line is that there are manipulative people in this world that will try to mess with your mind, but you can defend yourself. It’s about arming yourself with awareness.
The floor is yours…
In what way have people tried to manipulate you?
When and how did you realize this? What did you do about it?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Rebecca Finch
Laya M says
Such a wonderful time for me to read this article. For almost a decade I have lived with a manipulative person, and along the way made excuses for his behavior, covered up for him with our friends and family, tried to improve things even though I was being (subtly) bullied on a daily basis. He uses many of the tactics you describe here.
But no more for me – last month I finally came to the point where I realized I am in danger and must save myself. No more manipulation and bullying in my life. Moving forward slowly. Letting go and starting over. It’s so tough, but your blog, book, and some of the others you have linked to are helping me. Thank you for the extra bit of strength you give me each day.
Darryl Logan says
The manipulative person in my life is my older sister. I spent so much time reclaiming my identity after being conned and controlled by her lies for years through my childhood, as well as spending decades trying to reach an even ground with her as an adult. Alas, just when you think everything is going fine, she’ll try to pull a quick one on you. I finally had to say “enough” last September, and we have not spoken since. I am truly sorry to say – my life has been FAR BETTER without her, and I am indeed much happier now. My wife and kids have literally told me I seem like a happier guy.
Thank you SOOOO much.
The manipulation in one of my friendships was starting to affect me, and even though I sort of realized what was happening, it really didn’t click until now. I am not going to let it happen any more. I am going to print this out and keep it on me at all times so I don’t forget.
You deserve high praises for putting this together to help people like me.
Captain Kirk says
Marc and Angel…
Your articles flow with inspiration and insight.
During my lifelong journey, I have discovered that there was a lonely little boy inside that yearned for love, peace, security, safety, and a life with purpose. In my later years, I cautiously and deliberately embarked on the longest journey….THE JOURNEY WITHIN…..to recapture and champion that lost, lonely inner child!
This path of self-discovery and personal growth has improved my quality of life, and empowered me to be a an empathetic and compassionate champion for others.
Thank you for leading me back through the time tunnel to reflect on this personal victory!
I have recently left a manipulative relationship. He absolutely crushed me emotionally. I had to understand why, and so I have read a lot about the subject. There are absolutely too many people in the world who has been in close proximity with manipulators. It makes me really sad!
I have had to dig deep in my childhood to realize why I have let him physical abuse me for three years. My father is a narcissist and my mother has no worth to him or us kids, so for me the behaviour is “normal”.
Both me and my ex are doctors and colleagues. You would think I understand what was happening to me. I moved to his city for him. I was so tired and felt I had no worth in life cause he was draining me of all my energy and I was seriously thinking about suicide. All my energy was going towards making him satisfied and making him feel good about himself. Then the rage and bad comments would come more seldom, I thought. He was a great manipulator, and made me believe that all he sad was true. Even the lies he said about me. “You know that people at work don’t really like you. You talk to much. Your laugh sounds fake. You must stop lying. Your not a good kisser. You are not really happy with who you are. You don’t like your job.”
Reciprocation: I was so happy he was with me, cause I felt I nobody liked me but him. His lies.
Scarcity: I made decisions too quickly with him. He hated to wait, so I was stressed and said yes. Sometimes I didn’t even understand I had said yes.
Many leaders have the same trait as partner abuse people have. Psychopath/Narcissist have little or no empathy. They can only get to you if you allow it. So get to know yourself and your week spots, cause they will spot them fast as hell.
And if you are or have been manipulated by someone, forgive yourself and get the hell away, cause they will never change!
Thank you Marc and Angel for giving me tools to work with myself to become the best I can be!
Needed this today after a series of really manipulating texts from someone who loves me, but when things don’t go their way they try to alpha-dog me into submission. Not going to work. Keep repeating to myself – “Love you, not your behavior.”
Kristine Adams says
So much craziness and despair in our world is spawned from these roots. And here in my community, casual shunning occurs to draw illusion that an unavailable “good” is withheld, when in fact only high school clique mentality is at work. “Let’s you and me snub them,” results in closed doors, literally and figuratively.
It’s so important to recognize the telltale evidence of before stepping into traps of this kind of emotional manipulation.
John Checki says
Being manipulated is not fun. Manipulating is even worse. And guess what happens if we put up with it long enough… we think it is okay, and it is not… no kidding. Just saying, let’s put a smile on our faces, take a deep breath, pop in a piece of dark chocolate if it doesn’t hurt our health, and have a good laugh, and pause prior to responding to other people’s manipulative, negative behavior.
Thank you very much.
Shirley D. says
I found my “dream job” and jumped all in… only to leave 12 months later because I could not work with the master manipulator, the boss. A very convincing narcissist similar to the great and powerful Oz, he uses his charisma to lure people in and then turns on them when they begin to see the real man behind the curtain. I’ve noticed that everyone he’s attracted has been lost in some way and needed a sense of belonging. For me, the attraction was intense personal attention that I was not getting elsewhere. It took a long time to emotionally and completely break away. But thank goodness I did. He was a very emotionally abusive influence in my life.
Pathway To Personal Development says
Really brilliant and insightful article! I met a seemingly nice and charasmatic person. This person’s approach towards me over the following weeks was so insidious that by the time I discovered I was in trouble it was too late. I am really proud to state that I have dusted myself off and now live life on my OWN TERMS. I am able to forgive, but I will never forget. Lessons learned: follow your intution and stay strong! 🙂
Wow. Interesting analogy. I have read, enjoyed and taught Cialdini for years. I never heard the word weapon to describe these principles…not saying it isn’t in some part of his body of work though.
I think influence is not a delicate balance. It is pretty black and white….goes back to intention. Are you influencing with integrity or with intent to manipulate?
This was a blog post title for me many years ago (that never came to fruition) when I felt a prospect was lying to me as he was stealing from the company. I was using influence with integrity and that helped me see the truth which I reported to his CEO. He was found out and hired. I didn’t get the deal or a thank you. Better than that though, I have my integrity intact.
I called it mental gymnastics. It looks like this. You both agree to something (attending an event, dinner plans, membership to a gym). You proceed with the plan because there was consensus. Or so you thought! Next thing you know, YOUR choice is being ridiculed. It gets personal. “We don’t have money for that! When am I supposed to help you with (fill in the blank) when I’m working? I never agreed to that! No way. WE’RE not doing that. Sounds stupid.”
You start questioning your decision. What happened?!? How did a joint decision turn into feeling dumb for making that choice, questioning your sanity, questioning your intelligence, challenging your confidence.
Break the cycle. Recognize manipulative behavior for what it is. Pay attention to the words and behaviors. Stand strong and tall. Trust your instincts. Go alone to that event, sign up for that membership, get a sitter. Do the healthy things that you need to do.
Very nicely articulated post. So often, we get caught up in thinking there is some mystical puzzle we must all solve for happiness. Not to oversimplify, but it really does come down to meeting our basic needs and doing whatever our brain thinks is the best avenue for that – no matter how ludicrous it might seem to the conscious mind.
Thanks for the wisdom!
A much needed article for EVERYONE. This is such a surreptitious phenomenon…where we do harm to ourselves. But once we understand the origin of our thoughts, i.e our basic, unfulfilled desires as the driving force, we can understand our own brainwashing actions and then decide to save ourselves.
Meg Olhasque says
Great article as always.
My most recent, personal experience with manipulation came in the form of emotional blackmail from an individual who is technically my subordinate.
I sit on the board of a domestic violence organization in our area, rural and with a limited budget, and our Executive Director would effectively “corner” me during lunches about concerns and problems with the staff, coincidentally concerns and problems that I was in a position to rectify. It seems blatant now, but at the time I was so focused on growing the organization that I quashed the uneasy feeling in my stomach at some of her complaints.
I finally distanced myself for a bit, and the next time we met it was at an actual board meeting. When she started in, I immediately cut her off with “xxxx, if you no longer feel capable of performing the critical duties of your job, we will understand. We would, however, appreciate two-week’s notice.”
Not a peep since, and frankly, I feel renewed.
Hi- thanks for your penetrating insights. The thought that comes to my mind is the relative degree of everything- in other words when are we self-sacrificing in any situation and when are we just plain wrong-headed? Sometimes we can fail to discern the deeper motivations of our behavior- when to give and when to take for example…this requires real growth and creativity of character- wow.
Thank you so much. My family had been manipulating me into believing I was weak, sick, and dependant. I finally woke up and decided to love myself enough to divorce them. I have felt so much better since I made that decision. My life has bloomed into something beautiful and I am so happy and blessed now.
How do you survive family emotional manipulation when you have such a fear of abandonment?
You guys are terrific, thank you very much. This is a very well-researched article and completely accurate.
I have been following http://www.marcandangel.com for sometime now, articles from your site are exceedingly helpful. I have embarked on a Life journey of living by choice and not by chance. Though sometimes it is tough and sometimes it hurts, but it keeps proving to be worth the effort. Is a journey of no return. Because it is too expensive and worthless to live by chance every day of your life.
This happened to me exactly in the way you outlined in the most insidious way by my own therapist/psychiatrist. Outsiders looking in think: “how could she not see what was happening?” But I was so broken, so “childlike” in my neediness, that it was a fait accompli for him. (And I am not the only one; others have come forward.) But a charismatic, attractive, persuasive, sociapathic, narcissist who is in a *position of authority* over someone at their most weakest and vulnerable time and is very, very skilled at fooling and lying and manipulation of the heart and mind (and body)is very dangerous, and very hard to resist. Thank you, dear ones, for your articles.
Well written! Thank you for making people like us aware of those who try to lie and deceive us as they wish… and as if we don’t matter.
Jil and Brander says
Compelling article, which will help so many people.
I was duped by a Pastor – who I thought was amazing, but in fact, he was a con artist. The truly sad part is that he’s still conning others and when I explain that, the others don’t listen or believe me! Good part for me is, that this con man stole someone’s wife away from the husband – the original couple got divorced, she married the con man, and I ended up with the innocent husband, who is an amazing man!!
I appreciate this article so much. Very insightful.
I’m reminded of a manipulative grandfather I had and the way he could intimidate his wife and adult children. I always thought it was unfair of them to allow him to be so intimidating. He has since died and I don’t think anyone ever tried to correct him for his behaviour which is very sad.
Many people are weak and submissive either by nature or habit which then causes the other person in the relationship to become dominating possibly as a way of compensating for the lack of balance.
Power corrupts people and we should be very careful who we give power to. Also, giving power away willy-nilly is unfair to the other person in the relationship and we need to check if we are guilty of that before blaming the ‘manipulative’ one.
Thank you for the article,
George W says
Right now I’m in a quandary about the relatively few years I have to live. In my mind I’m being pulled in two directions as to where to live. It’s very hard to make a decision since I took the path decided by one person very important to me. Can I change that decision? Not knowing or deciding has brought on deep depression. I’ll try to find some help from you and the community.
My wife and I are really awed by some of your articles, as they touch us so personally. Today’s article is one of the best. We pray that you continue your wonderful work, giving strength to those who despair at times.
Thank you for your articles.
I think that in the same way we learn to be more compassionate (through the environment that molded us) is the same path manipulators take to become who they are. My grandmother was a very compassionate parent who never “guilted” us to do anything – and I am embarrassed to say that I have learned to be the opposite.
I have ingrained a very distasteful lesson from my mother in law who tries to control everybody and everything… I pity the way she must have grown up… in harder circumstances that I could ever imagine.
I hope to be a more accepting person who does good with no strings attached.
Abdallah salum massoud says
Hi, great and wonderful research in this post. Yes, the way people have tried to manipulate me is by being likable, but I am learning who is worth it and who is not. Maturity comes with experience, not age. Thanks.
I remember when I had some bad health problems that kept me out of work and looking for online opportunities.
Feeling desperate, at one point one of these manipulators got me on the phone and almost convinced me to hand his company what little savings I had in exchange for helping me start an online business. I know there are legit people who do things too, but all the red flags were there. (with a nice tactic: make the victim “prove” their worthiness)
Fortunately, I got ahold of my emotions at the last minute and backed out.
I feel stupid even thinking about that time. But we’re all human, right?
Hello, i just liked to say I’ve only stumbled upon your website today through one of the self-help pages I’ve liked on Facebook. I’m really loving the content and the many insights on your website.
A mate from the same high school as me tried to mentally manipulate me into complying with whatever he wanted me to do with him by making me feel like he was giving me what i wanted but really he was just giving the allusion of it. And boy! was he good! I’ll give that to him for sure. He broke down my walls without so much as rustle to warn me of his sly intentions. I always thought I could tell how foul someone is but his case was special. He was too good it’s like he knew all the right buttons to press into getting me to do what he wanted me to do for him. I’ll be honest I didn’t think anyone was capable of manipulating me. I realized after he no longer went to my school that he was just fooling with me and that what he was claiming to be giving me wasn’t what he was giving. And when I refused to give him what he wanted from me, he didn’t bother with me no more. And because i still feel like if he tried manipulating me again that i would succumb to his manipulations, I’ve cut direct interaction with him.
I grew up in a household full of manipulators. Mother: Everything I do is for you, (meaning I needed to live my life making her happy). Father: If you don’t do what I want, then you are out of the will (I was very open about not needing his money, and eventually he did cut me out). Brother: Poor me (the world owes me happiness). I thought I broke free of this, but fell into it again when I married, then after my divorce fell into it again with a long time girlfriend who is no longer in my life.
Today, I have a close friend whose intentions are good, but he has a need to control other people. Not long ago, I made it clear I did not want to follow a plan he had for my future, and he actually told me I had his permission not to go through with it. WHAT? I see red flags flying everywhere, but don’t know what to do about it yet. He really is a good person, and I don’t think he is aware of what he does.
I think my biggest problem is that although I recognize being manipulated, I continue to acquaint myself with people who do just that. I don’t know how to break the cycle or better yet, how to not let it get started in the first place!
I enjoyed reading your article. I see how Influence works in different forms, not just in marketing.
We have an innate necessity to belong to a group and we don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize our membership. However, we end up cheating ourselves along the way. This is why it is important to develop internal validation of ourselves in order to NOT seek it from the outside.
Rhode Runner says
Thank you Marc and Angel, for this great article, your wonderful website, and for the help and support you offer those who are fortunate enough to find you.
I am struggling through the darkest period of my life, where the two people I trusted most, my mother and my husband and best friend of 25+ years, are standing together, supporting each other in their betrayal of me. Why? Because I no longer loved or respected my husband, was miserable in my marriage and initiated a divorce.
From the outside I had the “perfect” life – a good guy husband who doesn’t drink, gamble, fool around or abuse me (except once), a “loving” mother next door who helped out with our children any time we needed. I couldn’t understand why I was so incredibly miserable. (Don’t get me wrong, I have my own issues that I struggle with, and I don’t blame my husband for falling out of love with me, I just wish he had been honest about it instead of playing the martyr). I got to the point where I hated myself so much that I had fantasies of suicide.
I understand now that while, yes, I have issues that need to be dealt with, that it wasn’t just me, and that my husband was a passive-aggressive, genius level manipulator and user who did his “dirty work” in the nothingness (through omission or in-action).
Everything we had in our marriage came from me, my family and my business. He brought less than nothing to our marriage (in terms of financial assets) and has held 6 jobs in the last 11 years. Everyone loves my husband except me (his wife) and his employers/bosses (he has been fired at least twice, possibly 3 times), because we are the ones that know the truth, that he just doesn’t deliver, that he is a user and a taker. He distracts and fools everyone around him because he is such a “great guy” so warm, engaging, funny and charismatic, taking as much as he can and giving back as little as possible.
He used me, knowing I would be the one in our marriage to “make things happen” while he focused on his friendship/love affair with his business partner in a business that was a joke, that not only brought no benefit to our family, but was an integral part of the destruction of our marriage.
Here’s the best part of all – my mother has rushed to my husband’s side, doing everything she can to help him because her horrible daughter left her “wonderful” husband. It is just a replay of my childhood, when my mother punished me by withdrawing her love from me if I didn’t love her father – the man who molested me – the man she worshipped and adored and continued to welcome, with a red carpet and adoration, into our home, for decades after he molested me. My mother expected me to get over it because he only molested me once. How’s that for a mother’s love? How’s that for manipulation of an innocent child?
I’m sorry, I know I sound angry and bitter, because I am. I am looking Marc and Angel, and other help and resources where I can find them, to help myself heal and become a better person and especially a better mother.
Blessings to all. Know that I am still able to feel gratitude and thankfulness for the many things that are good in my life. Thank you for listening.
Rhode Runner says
@George W: I just wanted to reach out to you and beg you to stay strong and follow your heart. If you are that depressed, please seek help.
Thank you for the post. It’s definitely very easy to get caught up in how the world thinks of us.
We have to learn how to not let other people’s opinion affect us, so that we can be who we were meant to be and, in turn, become the greatest possible version of ourselves.
One way to avoid emotional manipulation is to avoid people who are emotional vampires. They suck the good out of relationships, feeding on the positive energy or good feelings of others.
Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide
I’ve never really looked to online forums for help, let alone left a comment but a friend who saw that i had been really struggling lately suggested this site. I swear, i think you’ve saved my life. Especially right at this moment more than ever, after a few rough days with the person I’m involved with i managed to get back online (as we live in semi-isolated outback Australia) and the segment that opened was this article on manipulation. Seriously, it perfectly described the absolute screwed up situation I’m in, I’m so confused, hurt, sad, angry but strangely numb. So angry at myself for being fooled, feel so stupid for being convinced, but with your words and other peoples similar situations i hope I can find a rope to pull myself out of this mess. So, i guess i just wanted to say thank you.
One way that I was manipulated was very clever. The guy told me he could persuade me to do something, hinting that it would be about me being in a relationship with him, succumbing to his charms. I was absolutely sure that nothing on earth would persuade me to do that! But what did happen was that he manipulated me into *lending* him about £2,000 that I never saw again. And to start a relationship with someone who majorly used and abused me, who I’d already turned down. I was so busy fighting a non-existent threat, that I didn’t see the – two! – real ones.
It is important to recognize when you are catering to someone else and ignoring your intuition.
Once this awareness is cultivated if is unacceptable to not ask if you are a volunteer victim.
We are responsible for our own well being. There are less evolved people who are entitled and expect others to get more than they give …and there are plenty co-dependant people who martyr themselves to earn love and acceptance. It is a sad reality that many wolves in sheep’s clothing are veteran manipulators that view others as objects to meet their own selfish needs, and when the well is dry or the going gets tough, the carcass is picked clean …they discard . Vulnerable people want to believe what they are told ….pay more attention to what people DO. That is the true writing on the wall.
Marc Chernoff says
@Laya M: You should never feel powerless or trapped in a relationship. Way to take action! Congratulations!
@Darryl Logan: Letting go in your relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your sister; it’s simply realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself. =)
@Captain Kirk: Cheers!
@EM: Great advice and thank you for sharing your personal experience with manipulation. Happy to hear you’re in a better place.
@Shirley D: You recognized the disguise and took action. Good for you.
@T1c72: Thank you for the everyday examples many of us have experienced and can relate to.
@Chris: What is the root of your feelings of abandonment? Where is this stemming from? Start there and then ask yourself: Is this true? Would this abandonment actually happen? Would it matter in the long run? Or would you be better off? Decide today to stand up for yourself and make the choices that are right for you.
@Valentine: I love EVERYTHING about your comment! You are an inspiration. =)
@George W: It’s never too late to change your decision. Putting yourself first does not mean being “selfish.” It means being self-aware. It means never forgetting to love yourself, too.
@Ading: Thank you for the kind words and welcome to the community! It’s not until we remove ourselves or take a break from this manipulative person that we’re able to see what they’re really doing to us. Pat yourself on the back for recognizing the lack of self-control and responsibly removing yourself from the relationship.
@Stan: Go back to your basic human needs. What are you lacking that makes you feel attracted to these manipulative people?
@Rhode Runner: First off, I am sorry to hear of your challenges. You can’t change the cards you were dealt but you can choose what you do from this moment forward. If these manipulative people bring no good to your life, let them go. Take control of your decisions and do what you need to do to make sure the needs for yourself and your children are met.
@ lj: You are not alone; you can do this. Never stop stretching and improving yourself.
@All: Again, the awareness that manipulation is happening is the first step. As you can see, many of you are not alone. I welcome you to re-visit this post and reference these comments, and be inspired by others who have successfully removed themselves from manipulative situations.
@Rhode Runner – I want you to know you are not alone. 13 years ago, my highly manipulative and abusive father turned against me and supported my (passive-aggressive) manipulative and abusive husband during our divorce. He supported my ex- financially as well as emotionally and wrote to the court that I was a bad mother who did not deserve her children. Mind you, I am not abusive, I did not drink or use drugs, and my children were healthy and happy while in my care. Additionally, this was 5 months after he sent me a Mother’s Day card in which he wrote what a wonderful mother I was and how proud he was of me. The courts saw through all that and what he wrote made no impact on the divorce or custody. Thankfully, even though it took time for my good sense to surface and let me know I was right for not being “ok” with all that, I came out on top, stronger, and with more clarity and wisdom than ever before. I cut all contact with my bio-father, said a huge thank you to my stepfather who continues to be a wonderful support and inspiration in my life, and moved on. I have had no contact with my bio-father in 13 years and, though I miss the idea of my father, I do not miss the man. Soon, my youngest will turn 18 and I can cut all contact with my ex- as well.
Not only my opinion, but I made it a condition of our divorce that we ALL would go into therapy so we could learn to be better parents (for him but I made it family) and I have had 3 different trained therapists, one LCSW, one MSW, and one, a Dr of Psychology, all tell me that he is the most passive-aggressive manipulative person they have ever met. In my own defense, I was 16 and very emotionally needy from my father when we met.
Also, hopefully I can encourage you by telling you that there are good people and good men out there. When you have done the necessary work in yourself to understand and forgive YOURSELF, you will find a relationship that will nurture you and allow you to be authentic. Next month, I am marrying the best man I have ever met. He likes me! He doesn’t try to change me! He even encourages me to do things that will benefit ONLY ME versus wanting me to do things that will benefit him. When you meet that person, when your heart, your head, and your soul have had time to heal, the difference will be night and day. I cannot believe how blessed and lucky I feel. Don’t get me wrong, the man is not perfect. Difference is, he doesn’t try to pretend he is! You will find that it is difficult to trust that they are truly different but if they are an innately good person, they are worth the work and the wait.
I am still me. I still have to work on low self esteem sometimes and deal with clinical depression, but having someone who does not tear me down and is compassionate when I am going through a hard time, is the most amazing gift in the world. I am blessed.
Please hang in there. Do what is right and good for you. I am sorry you mother is abusive and more interested in appearances than in your feelings. You are better than that and you can have a bright future, one in which you can be happier than you can imagine at this point in time.
Your pointers are unfailingly perceptive and helpful, but I have to say that this is one of your most important posts. Thank you for the cautionary advice. Manipulators can be found everywhere — in parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, political leaders, bosses, colleagues, “spiritual” or religious leaders, people in fiduciary positions and yes, even children. They pile on the guilt or a sense of obligation or inadequacy to compel one to do their bidding. The real skill lies in recognising such tactics and dealing with them tactfully but firmly. Otherwise, one is in danger of losing oneself, one’s power of judgment and sense of self-esteem, and ultimately, control over the course of one’s life.
I am in a highly manipulative relationship.
My partner of 10 years has had a brain Hemorrhage in the early stages of our relationship. He is not physically disabled but has severe mood swings since then. I quite often feel I’m walking on egg shells in our relationship. At one point is was my choice to stay in the relationship. I was an independent person in my own right. Now I am financially relying on my partner (I am not working because of MS), my basic needs like accomadation and food are dependent on him and he knows that. He will tell me over and over again how things are my fault. Needless to say it caused me to sink into a depression.
Now I am at the point were I start to value myself again and am trying to learn about my basic needs. The difference between now and before is that I valued my partner more (because of the health circumstances) then myself. I realised that my time and life is precious too and that I need to practise ‘self-care’ before trying to help others.
Great Article and very helpful.
All of us at some point have encountered manipulative people. The most important thing we can learn in order to protect ourselves – we need to love and accept ourselves.
Once we can do that, alarm bells will go off when something “doesn’t feel right,” or when we perceive someone or a relationship to have the “ick factor.” Run if it doesn’t feel healthy!
Eulene Johnson says
I have been married for over 58 years to a controller and manipulator. For a long time, I tried to PLEASE HIM AND OTHERS. I have been and can still be a people pleaser. Actually, it is more like a person pleaser because my doing so has been more with him than anyone else. I am a recovering alcoholic, and when I first quit drinking I had maybe 1 self-esteem. That has risen to a much larger number, because I have been able to understand that I do matter, and I am only responsible for what I do.
Today I became free of my abusive relationship. I am free from the man who manipulated me for many years. I have blocked him from my phone so I no longer have to listen to his abusive words. However, he is now working through our grown children to get to me. I am very close to my kids and they know thier dad is a mess (drugs n alcohol are also involved) so I know they ‘get it’ but it appears that he is continuing to abuse me through them. Any advise?
Thank you! This allows me to break free of the emotional games my mother in law plays with our family.
She is who she is and won’t change. I can control how I react to her.
“If someone constantly reminds you how much they are doing or have done for you, they are being manipulative. ”
This is my mother to a T. Anytime I have tried to open a dialogue with her, even in the calmest and most rational of manners, to try and make her see how something she has done has hurt me, I get this line, along with exaggerated sobbing & crocodile tears. The best part is, she is only interested in my life when she can play the hero/savior role, because I believe it lets her feel superior to me, and allows her to throw that exact excuse around, because underneath it all she is quite narcissistic and deems herself above all reproach and reprimand. Whenever I’m doing well for myself, she will ignore me for weeks on end. She refuses to interact with me on any kind of adult level. It’s like the only way she wants to see me is as some pathetic, needy kid, and I am 46 years old.