STOP Being Manipulated by Others
Do you have a relationship that feels one-sided? Does it seem that no matter what you do, you can’t make the other happy? Do you feel trapped in an argument or endless loop of conversation going nowhere and feeling completely worn down? You may be experiencing manipulation and not even know it!
Manipulation is subtle. It is used by people who want to control your thoughts, words, and actions. Learning to recognize when you’re being manipulated is the first step in ending someone’s passive-aggressive control over you.
Manipulation usually takes the form of one person making you feel guilty (or wrong) for the way you think or feel. Manipulators want to push the blame of a situation onto you to get control over you and make you do what they want (usually to enable their bad behavior). They do this by trying to blow holes in all of your personal boundaries. They don’t like them because when you set a boundary you are asking them to be responsible for their words and actions. Manipulators almost never take responsibility…they’d rather shove that onto you!
So they make a big deal about your need for boundaries and what that means.
“You’re being selfish. You don’t care about me. You don’t trust me. You don’t realize how much I need you. You don’t love me anymore. I knew it!” These are the words they use to make you soften your stance and let go of the boundaries you need to feel safe and cared for in a relationship. But a lack of boundaries always invites disrespect. Anyone who can walk all over you won’t respect you. Please understand that anyone who questions or belittles your boundaries is manipulating you.
You’re not alone…Both men and women are vulnerable to this sly form of emotional abuse. Once trapped in the snare of manipulation it may be difficult to realize what’s going on. That’s because manipulation is something we’ve been exposed to all our lives in ways that seemed justifiable. We’re manipulated by advertising, by hyped-up media and journalism, by friends and family, especially family!
You may have experienced manipulation by your parents early in life, which makes you more susceptible as an adult. As a young child, we can’t recognize when someone is using subtle tactics to get us to cooperate and do what they want us to do. Even when parents use bribery to elicit certain behaviors, that’s a form of manipulation.
Sometimes we grow out of our susceptibility and other times we don’t.
My mother was a master manipulator. She was an alcoholic and an anorexic. She wasn’t healthy mentally or physically and always wanted me to stay home and be her constant companion. When I was young, I did enjoy being around her, going shopping or out to lunch. But as I grew older, the pressure to remain at home increased. If I wanted to go out with friends, she’d accuse me of not caring about her, or whine about my leaving her alone. Truth is, she was lonely, but she didn’t need to make that her fifteen-year-old daughter’s responsibility. Once I saw what she was doing, I began to resist. I resented her “needs” and refused to give up my life for hers. I didn’t want to lose my mother’s love but we needed new guidelines for interacting. We had a tough time for many years as I struggled to assert my autonomy.
Consequently, as an adult, whenever I did reach for more independence, I felt guilty, so strong was the inner dialogue I’d been exposed to so many years before. It’s easy for people we love to manipulate us. If we fear being rejected, we waver easily. When we’re attacked or shamed for creating boundaries we also lose trust in ourselves.
You can read more about my experience in my memoir If I Were Good
In order to stop being a victim of manipulation, we must learn to recognize it when it’s happening. When we feel that odd mix of fear and guilt, it’s a pretty shitty feeling, but it can alert us to when we’re being manipulated. Then we can make another choice, re-establishing boundaries and sticking by them. Guilt/shame is the price we pay to manage the fear of losing someone or something and we should know that giving up part of who we are or what we need should never be a request by someone who truly loves us.
If you’re in a relationship where manipulation has been at play for some time now, I can guarantee that it will not be easy to stop the other person from trying to control you. They have learned all of your magic “buttons,” and the triggers that send you into guilt, shame and defensiveness. But you CAN and SHOULD pull yourself out of a situation where you’re being manipulated, the sooner the better!
Reconnect with Yourself
Re-orient yourself with what matters most to you. When you’re being manipulated you’ve already placed another person’s wants and needs ahead of your own. You may have even forgotten who you are and why you are here on Earth at this time. You probably aren’t living your dreams fully because you’re caught up in trying to live up to another’s expectations. Get some space from that person and spend some time listing your goals and values. Either write, record or videotape yourself talking about what matters most to you. Create some hard, tangible evidence. Answer…what would it take to get back on track? No one should ever ask you to give up or compromise something that matters to you. Not even yourself.
See our list of common personal boundaries in this FREE EMPOWERMENT CONTRACT
Honor your BIG Values
Recognize resentment as a sign that you’re placing your needs on hold to take care of someone else’s. When you don’t feel great about what you’re doing, you can’t blame someone else; it’s your choice. Ask yourself honestly, how good you feel in the relationship. Does it lift you up and make you better too. Whether it’s your boss, a friend or significant other, your answer should be above seven. Stop ignoring all the times you feel shitty! Place greater value on your future. Get out of the immediate survival mindset the manipulator wants you in. Consider instead what will make your life worthwhile down the road. Choose accordingly.
Get Off the Invisible Pedestal
Don’t confuse true appreciation with manipulation. People will tell you how much they need you in order to make you continue doing what they want. It feels good to be needed. We all feel flattered to some extent when people tell us they can’t make it without us. Manipulators will say you’re the only who “gets” them, the only one who cares, or who truly can help them. Not true! I know it makes us feel special, especially when we’re putting up with a lot of shit. I think when we’re being manipulated, this is our greatest fear, “who will I be without this person? What value will I have?” Well, your value doesn’t decline if you lose the false praise, or even if you lose him/her. Your value is non-negotiable and never changes – whether we are with someone or not. Please recognize your own immutable value!
Know What You’re Choosing
Instead of worrying about how you might be disappointing someone, consider how deeply you are disappointing yourself at the moment. Ask yourself if you’re willing to be completely responsible for the outcome of your situation – knowing you are choosing to continue being manipulated. Remember when you say YES to someone and you don’t really want to, you’re actually saying NO to your wants, needs, and values. Practice saying NO more often. It’s your right as much as it’s your right to say YES to things that make your life better.
Lean on Friends
Enlist a friend to help you stay accountable with setting and keeping personal boundaries. Give your friend permission to continually remind you and get after you when you allow others to breach your need for safety and sanity. Roleplay the most common manipulation conversations so you can hear yourself staying strong when someone crosses the line. If you’re hiding what’s going on from others, trying to “be strong about it,” Stop. You’re also hiding things from yourself, things you’ll resent later down the road.
Vent and Feel, Feel and Vent
Journal about your current experience. Talk to yourself on the page. Let all the anger out and express all of your feelings there. Give yourself permission to consider in writing all the what-ifs of your situation. Draw a map into the future. Paint a picture of what manipulation feels like now and what freedom would feel like. Use your right side brain (emotional/creative side) to show you the way. Logic, because it partners with the fearful ego, will fail you in making these difficult decisions about boundaries, safety, and love. Get creative and let your Soul remind you who you are!
You can have this Self Love Journal for FREE
Don’t Buy into Threats
This is how master manipulators manage people, they threaten to hurt themselves or you. The truth is, you’re not responsible for what another person wants to do to themselves. You couldn’t stop them if they wanted to injure themselves or even take their own life (my first husband threatened to). Have someone in your corner on this one. My brother held my hand while over the phone, I informed my husband that I wasn’t coming back and if he needed to take his life I couldn’t stop him. You must refuse to take the blame for another person’s dissatisfaction. It’s not your fault (even though they want you to believe that).
Find Another Way to Love Others
Recognize and give up your need to rescue full-grown adults. It doesn’t make you a bigger, better, more caring/loving person. it’s just kind of stupid. Manipulators are always looking for an easy way out, someone else to take the blame for the hard stuff in life. As I said before, they detest responsibility, self-control and the inevitable necessity of growing up. Stop enabling other adults. It isn’t actually loving. It’s self-destructive for both parties. Let them grow up the hard way and uplevel your love game. Choose people who love you for who you are and have the capacity to get what they want and need from life without manipulating you. Learn to love from the inside out.