Are you afraid of conflict with your significant other or friend? Do you make bad decisions to accommodate him? Do you tell little white lies to avoid problems? Do you blame yourself for his dissatisfaction? Do you rush to pamper him when he becomes irritated? Do you sacrifice and give, give, give—and still feel sad and lonely?

Perhaps you are under the thumb of an expert at emotional manipulation.

An emotional manipulator (EM) subtly and sometimes subconsciously controls and manipulates the vulnerabilities of others—regardless of their needs—for his own gain. He wants to get power and control over you. He uses underhanded methods to change your perceptions, often without you knowing it. Really skilled emotional manipulators get you to surrender your emotional self-esteem. Once you put your own well being into an EM\’s hands, he methodically chips away until there\’s very little left of the original you.

How can this happen to you and what kind of person becomes an emotional manipulator?

Many EM\’s are narcissistic, and feel a sense of entitlement because of their upbringing or genetics or a combination. As children, their parents may have subjected them to similar emotional abuse. Or, strangely, these children may have been over-indulged or neglected. Extremes of either may push a child into narcissism in later life.

A narcissist\’s entitlement makes them feel they should have what they want without earning it. There is no need for them to take responsibility for themselves or their behavior. They don\’t have to be honest or even treat others fairly. It\’s all about them and what the world has done to them.

So how is it that a nice person like you can fall under the spell of an emotional manipulator?

It could be you are co-dependent and drawn to an emotional manipulator. Neither of you likes to be alone. If you are co-dependent, you need to be needed. You need to help people. Take care of someone. And the emotional manipulator needs someone to take care of him.

It\’s so easy to fall for the EM who establishes intimacy with you right away. He shares deep emotions with you and you perceive him as delightfully sensitive, open, and perhaps a bit vulnerable. You want to help him. And you get involved.

After that, you are hooked and you don\’t even notice you are being emotionally manipulated. Next week I\’ll talk more about how to identify the behavior of an EM and how to extricate yourself from his grip on you.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: