Ever been duped? Ever look back over the choices you made in a relationship and wished with all of your heart that you’d been smarter, more assertive? Ever look back on 5, 10 or 20 years of a relationship and feel that you’ve wasted all of those years on someone who only wanted to manipulate and control you?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you know the frustration of your own blindness. The question is: what created that blindness.
The hard truth about manipulation is that there is never, ever only one person doing it. If someone is successfully manipulating me, I am likewise successfully manipulating them.
For example, if you, as an addict, are calling me trying to manipulate me into giving you more money, you are likely lying, crying, cajoling, or worse, getting angry and blaming me to make me feel so guilty I’ll cave. What am I doing? Well, if I’m caving, it’s because there’s something I’m going to get out of this arrangement. Maybe I’m afraid that if I don’t give you want you want you’ll just never speak to me again and what will that mean? How would that feel? Or, maybe I believe that only a bad mother, father, sister, brother would turn down a loved one in need—so my identity as a good person is hanging in the balance. Or maybe I’m afraid of you—maybe I fear you’ll hurt me if I don’t give into you. Whatever the case, if I cave to your demands it’s because I believe that caving is somehow going to benefit me too.
Now, I hate to be just that blunt about it. But it is the truth that sets us free.
We bargain to be manipulated. A bargain works like this: IF I do this, THEN you’ll do that. Or, IF you do this, THEN I’ll do that. They are often based in magical thinking. Magical thinking works like this: When you did that, it was because I did this. In other words, magical thinking is the backdrop for every bargain. We believe we actually can orchestrate another person’s choices.
But that isn’t true. People’s choices come from within them, not from outside of them. We make choices because we believe they will work for us. Period. We don’t make choices because someone said or did something to make us make that choice. But because we believe that people choices can be controlled from the outside, we seek to control others’ emotions and thoughts in order to control their choices.
Think of it this way. Have you ever tried to talk someone into something and they just wouldn’t be talked into it? That’s because they were making their own choices—based on their own needs, their own emotions, their own thoughts, their own beliefs. So, why is it that we think that when they happen to agree with us, it’s because we talked them into it? We believe that because that’s what we want to believe.
But it isn’t true.
So, next time you are wondering whether or not you are being manipulated—ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of it. You’ll know that you are being manipulated when you find that you are trying to manipulate.