Most people are empathetic, unless they have a personality disorder, and they understand that emotions are sacred. To be taken seriously. Most people agree that it\’s morally unethical to toy with someone else\’s emotions.
But some people—notably narcissists and psychopaths—find emotional manipulation to be a useful tactic in gaining control or domination over others. Emotional manipulators (EM\’s) have such a distorted view of their own importance in the world that they have no qualms about playing harmful mind games with other people. In extreme cases, that\’s just what it is—a game. The perpetrator plays the game for his own amusement—just to see how much he can tinker with your brain. Often these people are so skilled, you don\’t realize they\’ve been hurting you until damage is done. That\’s why it\’s important to understand these tactics to minimize the chance of someone using emotional manipulation against you.
Identify emotional manipulators so you can protect yourself.
A skilled EM can make you feel confused, unsure of your own feelings and even cause you to lose self-esteem. For example, if an EM forgets your birthday, and your feelings are hurt, they will make YOU feel bad when you call them on it. â€œHow can you be mad at me when I\’ve had so many other things on my mind? You know the stress I\’m under, and now you\’re giving me even more stress.â€ Suddenly you\’re babysitting someone else\’s angst when you are the one who was slighted.
Another classic tactic an EM will use to confuse you is when they agree with a plan and then undermine it. If, for example, they have promised to support you going back to school, and will do more of the household chores in support of your goal, watch out. An EM will slam the dishes around noisily while you are trying to study at the kitchen table. Or vacuum under your desk while you\’re sitting there. They will heave great sighs or roll their eyes when you have to rush off to class. When you legitimately say you don\’t feel they really want you to succeed at school, they will turn things around to make it seem that you are unreasonable to suspect them. How could you say that about them?
Guilt is another potent tool in the EM\’s toolbox. Although we are all familiar with a certain amount of guilt trips created by people who are not EM\’s, emotional manipulators employ this tool often and expertly. They can make you feel guilty for just about anything—sometimes even contradictory things. You talk too much, you don\’t talk enough. They wheedle you until you do their chores, fight their fights, do their dirty work, often against your will. And then they tell you they didn\’t expect you to do anything. And you feel a little crazy.
An EM who is really good at making you doubt yourself can say one thing and later guarantee that they never said it—to the point where you question your own sanity. They can turn things around, rationalize glibly and justify the most outrageous things. And they can do it so expertly you feel your own sense of reality is altered. And maybe it is. They are so adept at lying, and without any feelings of conscience, that you wonder if you are the crazy one. When they lie about the past they can make you question your own ability to recall, which can make you more dependent upon them and their memory of events. Pretty soon their version of the truth is the prevailing view.
The consequences of succumbing to EM\’s can be devastating, so it\’s important to be able to identify them and the tricks they use to control you. I\’ll talk more about how you can protect yourself from emotional manipulation next week.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.Â If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.Â You can reach her here:Â http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.