Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ugliness of Emotional Manipulation

Ever have a relationship with someone where you feel like you can't win? They always have this need to be right.

You may have a headache and they all of a sudden have a brain tumor?

I'm talking about all kinds of relationships, marriages, friendships, parental, and child relationships are all included.

For some reason this seems to be a common theme in my life in the last few months and the ugliness of it astounds me.

Most emotional manipulators start out with a grand story to "hook" you into their life and make you feel sorry for them. You may see them as caring, sensitive and vulnerable. These people are not vulnerable, there is always going to be some type of crisis or situation they have to overcome.

They also are very unaware of their own faults and have a keen sense of other people's faults. Once you've been "hooked" into their lives, how dare you not give them what they need? The idea of them providing emotional needs for themselves is foreign and when suggested often shut down by a change in the subject or a swift move to another sob story about how someone else has victimized them in their lives.

Dealing with somebody who uses the vulnerability card as these people do is a mind blowing risk. You know if you play in to it you get nowhere and if you step out of it, the anger card comes out with no responsibility being shown for their actions at all. Sometimes the anger card can be just a manipulating move within itself, like the silent treatment.

The emotional manipulator pulls everyone they know into their stories and will lie so smoothly, you almost question whether or not it is a lie. They often deny their lies and get angry when confronted about it they will lash back with statements of "People that lie make me sick. I'd never do that." Meanwhile, they continue to badger, hurt, and pound on the vulnerable and weak that will tolerate the manipulation for the excuse of "love".

People often wonder why and how people become emotional manipulators. Most of it is because of their history, the baggage they carry from their pasts, and the baggage they bring into new relationships. Poor coping skills, poor self esteem, codependency, and survival because of abusive relationships are all factors that could play into why people become emotional manipulators. It may be all they know to do.

It's been a long time sense I've been a part of this type of relationship. Once the realization came that I was in it, even as a counselor I realized there are no quick "fixes" for these people. A lot of them do not ever see who they truly are and how they hurt people. I deal with manipulators on a daily basis because of one of my roles as a substance abuse counselor. I am aware of what they "need" to do but just like with any type of behavior, all the knowledge in the world will not change a person. They must do the work themselves. It requires a lot of awareness, self searching, and behavior change on their part.

What about yourself? Do you tolerate this type of manipulation? What if it's a parent that is the emotional manipulator and the idea of cutting off the relationship is not an option? I can not change a person. I can only change how I react and respond to the emotional manipulator. For myself, that requires looking inward and asking myself "How do I get involved in this type of relationship?" "Where are the boundaries?" Usually that brings up some unresolved guilt and shame that I have along with the element of that emotional manipulators prey on the most and will throw back at you as you try to address the issue with them in a rational manner.

It's best to set the boundaries when you recognize you're in a relationship with an emotional manipulator.

Shut the person down when you know their lying.

Call them out on what they may be denying. 

Get off the phone or change the subject when you notice the manipulation starting.

Most of all take care of yourself, be true to yourself, and know that sometimes loving yourself means doing the hard things and making some changes. The uncomfortableness that may come with you taking steps to make these changes are growth and that is what we were born to do....evolve.


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