Manipulation is getting you to do, often unreasonable, things that you really don’t want to do. It's important to know that manipulation is often built on a series of lies or misinformation intended to inspire feelings of guilt or sorrow, or worry about what could happen. Your natural eagerness to fix things fuels the manipulator to ask for more. Yet no matter how many hoops you jump through nothing is fixed for long. Manipulators rely on you to back down and give in to ever greater demands. Call it an addiction.
Manipulators use arguments, moods, emotional threats, etc. to keep you working for them no matter what the cost to you. A few examples include:
- Transportation anywhere any time for any reason
- Money for crisis after crisis
- Help finding shelter, jobs, food, travel, medical needs, law enforcement, legal
- Job covering up or fixing things
- Moral Support on the phone for hours every day
How to disengage is ridiculously easy in concept and incredibly difficult in reality because manipulators will stop at nothing to confuse you and make you think you’re both essential to them and crazy or selfish or plain mean for objecting. Steps to recovering your sanity and your life include Awareness, Thinking About Change, and Taking Action.
Step One: How Do You Know You’re Being Manipulated?
- It’s simple. You're uncomfortable.
- You never have a free day to be yourself or do what you want to do.
- You dread interaction with the manipulators in your life.
- Someone asks you to do something you know isn’t right.
- Someone tells you something you know isn’t true.
- You don’t dare tell your true feelings because it will start an argument.
- You explain your feelings endlessly, but only to yourself.
- Someone's tugging on your heartstrings so you’ll feel guilty, responsible, horrible, if you don’t fulfill requests.
- You lose sleep over the one-sided relationship and what you should be doing about it.
- You’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t do what you’re asked.
Step Two: How To Begin Thinking About Change?
It may come as a huge relief to know you can get out from under by beginning to say no. If someone asks you to dance you can say no. Or if someone offers you food and you’re not hungry you can say no. When someone makes you feel bad all the time, you have the choice to disengage.
It takes a lot of practice to say no to manipulation. With children and teens it takes a professional, so be sure to ask for help. If you feel you’re going crazy, it may not be you. Your manipulator has gotten into your head and is telling you how you should think and what you should do. You can stop his/her voice in your head by the following.
- Don't accept anyone’s lies as your reality.
- Rely on facts instead of stories about who’s to blame. Especially if the other person thinks you’re to blame. Get the facts.
- Don’t even think about arguing. There’s no way you can win in an argument with a manipulator.
- Stop listening to anger and hurt feelings. It doesn’t help the other person to vent to you, and only hurts you to listen.
- Your actions can be guided by the truth, your feelings, and what’s right for you.
Step Three: Taking Action
It’s really scary to change. What are the right actions to take? This depends on many factors including whether your manipulator is living with you, is potentially dangerous, or at risk for suicide or overdose. If you are fearful, call the hotline below.
Setting boundaries is a good first step. You may already know that your manipulator will not accept boundaries, but try it with empathy and firmness. You can always disengage further if you need to. Setting boundaries on phone calls, visits, running errands and paying for things works like this:
- Accept one phone call a day, not a dozen.
- Talk for one minute, not 40.
- Don’t be available for visits or errands that aren’t convenient for you. Really this is important. You can say no and the world won't end.
- Don’t listen to venting. Say you have to go.
- Don’t take blame for someone else’s troubles and woes. Say you have to go.
- Don’t argue. Say you have to go.
- Get help if your manipulator is living with you.
- Get support from family or friends or a therapist when you’re badgered, or feel anxious or hopeless.
Living A More Peaceful Life
Having a manipulator in your life means the storm is constantly in you. Someone is always tugging at your heartstrings. Freeing yourself means the storm will be transferred to the other person for a while. He or she won't want to let you go. But then, he or she may grow up, and start taking responsibility for himself and find happiness when you stop jumping at every command. It happens.
Or she/he may just stay mad and feel thwarted. That’s his or her choice and consequence. Your reality will be different. It will get quiet and peaceful if you let your anxieties go. Many people turn to God for love and support. Others start doing all the things they didn’t have time for when they were the serving others' needs. Our advice is to get as close to nature as you can. Nature is a good model. It is cruel, but always changing. Beauty always follows the storms. We can learn to change with nature and the seasons.
Take walks, go to the movies, bowl or play tennis or golf. Take up gardening. Learn to cook or quilt. Read a novel. No one should be dominated by another. The pain and guilt of letting go passes if you let it.
Counseling can help you break free from manipulation and addiction. Find help near you at Recovery Guidance.