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Manipulation And How To Stop It

Being manipulated is such an icky feeling. You may know that it is occurring, but allow it to happen anyway, because your emotions are involved. Maybe you have an inkling that you are being used or something isn’t quite right, or maybe you were completely oblivious to other people’s intentions at first.  You might call yourself stupid, feel completely duped, and find yourself wondering what is it about myself that leads me to be manipulated? What about me attracts manipulators? It can certainly be hard not to blame yourself, but you are in no way responsible for other people’s bad or sneaky behavior. Examining what manipulation is and how it can manifest in your life can help you to call it out for what it is and extricate yourself from the mess, confusion, and pain that manipulation can cause.

What is Manipulation? 

Manipulation can be hard to define, and it can be hard to articulate exactly what is happening to you. An uneasy feeling often accompanies being manipulated, even if you aren’t exactly sure what happened and left a conversation feeling confused or ashamed. Generally, manipulation occurs when someone is trying to control or direct your behavior or thoughts, usually through using some sort of deception or intimidation. Essentially, manipulation entails the things that people do and the games they play to get what they want. If someone has manipulated you, you may feel like a pawn, dehumanized. The manipulator likely disregarded your feelings or used your feelings against you

Manipulation can take many forms, some of which are subtle and hard to detect. This may look like a romantic partner telling you that “yes, of course it’s okay if you go out with your friends,” but then texting you frequently while you are out, expecting a response, just to make sure that you are safe or making you feel bad about going out without them when you return home. Sometimes there are more extreme cases of manipulation, like when a friend may threaten to hurt themselves if you don’t do something for them. It can be especially helpful to know some of the common ways that people manipulate others to better recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you. 

Tactics people use to manipulate others
  • Emotional manipulation (if you loved me, you’d do this for me)
  • Telling half truths
  • Using guilt
  • Pretending to be romantically interested for selfish reasons (getting free help, money, etc.)
  • Withholding attention, affection, or sex
  • Intimidation (verbal, physical, or cyber)
  • Financial manipulation (controlling money)
  • Outright lying
  • Presenting reality to you the way they want you to see it
  • Misrepresenting their intentions
  • Nagging, pestering, etc.
  • Involving other people you care about (I told your sister about this and she agrees with me) 

Click here for some more information on manipulation and what it might look like.  

Why Have I Been Manipulated? 

If you have been manipulated at some time in your life, or you are being manipulated right nowtry not to blame yourself. When it isn’t in your nature to manipulate, it can be hard to recognize and understand the tricks and tactics that are used. If you have been manipulated, it doesn’t mean that you are stupid or that you are a weak person who is destined to be taken advantage of for the rest of your life. What it does mean is that you may really want to look at your own behavior and thinking patterns to try to safeguard against being manipulated in the future. Though it is NOT your fault, there are some things that are helpful to reflect on.

Things to consider 
  • Is it hard for you to say no?
  • Do you ignore warning signs and red flags?
  • Have you decided to trust people even when there’s evidence to suggest that you shouldn’t?
  • Do you ignore your gut feeling about people because you’re lonely?
  • Have you allowed people to treat you badly?
  • Do you deep down think that you don’t deserve to be treated well?

Preventing Manipulation  

It is likely that everyone, at some point in their lives, has been or will be manipulated to some extent. This can even happen to people who are on their guard. People manipulate for all sorts of reasons, and one key to freeing yourself from a manipulation mess is to realize it likely has little to do with you and actually has everything to do with the manipulator themselves. Though manipulation can take subtle forms and be hard to detect, there are some things that can help prevent it from happening to you or stop it if it’s already happening.

Helpful techniques 
  • Set boundaries and be consistent when enforcing them
  • Call people out when you don’t like how they’re treating you
  • Ask them to clarify their intentions
  • Build your own self esteem so you can say no and mean it
  • Be skeptical in a healthy but not fearful way
  • Set healthy boundaries with those around you
  • Do not put the needs of others above your own
  • Do not please others to your own detriment
  • Pay attention to your gut reactions and emotional wellbeing

Ongoing Help

The detrimental effects of being manipulated cannot be emphasized enough. You may not trust yourself and your own judgments if you have been manipulated, and you might think about writing people off altogether. There are trustworthy people out there and working with a therapist can help you to trust your own judgment again, as well as process the hurt that manipulation can leave in its wake. Make an appointment with Angelus today to help rid yourself of the aftermath of manipulation.

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services