Manipulation and Identity

The zoom-zoom of identity

Posted May 04, 2014

Whether the role you have now recognized is the Scapegoat, the Bully, the Superwoman (or Superman), the Superhero (also known as the Rescuer), the Peter Pan (also known as King Baby, party dude(tte) and other like names), the Bad Guy (also known as the Scapegoat Black Sheep) or the Caregiver (also known as the Scapegoat), or another identity, there was/is manipulation involved in the origination and the perpetuation of that identity.

That is not an accusation, nor is it a judgment. It is a fact.

In order for me to put on the mask and costume to which my parents assign me, I have to agree to it on some level. What is my agreement based on? My need to survive. I know that I need my family members, particularly my parents. I instinctively know that to attempt to live without them is to die. And I sense that there is utter rejection in any attempt to refuse the role they assign. Such utter rejection is death—either literal, emotional or psychological. Therefore, my agreement—be it conscious or unconscious—to please them by living the identity they design for me, is a form of manipulation. I do this so that they will allow me to survive.

Further, their efforts to assign me an identity are also manipulations. They look at me as little thems. Or, they think that they need me to be the caregiver, because they are simply not up to the task. Or, they cannot admit to wrong doing, so they project all wrongness onto me. Or, they literally teach me to bully by bullying me. Or, they teach me to bully by allowing me to bully them into giving me my way all the time. Or, they passively do nothing at all, knowing that I’ll pick up the superman/woman or superhero role and do it all for them. I could go on and on with this, but the point is that their actions and reactions are manipulative in nature, rather than genuine.

Genuineness allows no room for manipulation.

If I am a parent, I have agreed on some level or another to take on the responsibility of not only bringing a child into the world, but of nurturing that child’s authenticity. If I don’t do that—what I do instead is manipulate. I refuse on whatever level and to whatever degree to do the job of parenting I assigned to myself and I thereby leave part of it undone. Who will then do it? In some form or another the child will have to take up where I left off. And the truth is that I know this—if only subconsciously. I know that I’m not doing my job and I know that whatever is left undone or done in a poor or dysfunctional way will have to be fixed in some way by someone else. The child then feels the pressure to step in with the fix and voilà I can just relax into my default position. The child then, feeling both the pressure and the need to stay connected to the parent living it the default position, will do what seems most necessary to stay connected to that parent—based completely on the specific pressure given.

An obvious example is the oldest child raised by drug addicted parents who just stay high most of the time. That child is most likely to step in and take over the parenting of the younger siblings, and even in some extreme cases, end up paying the bills and doing all of the other adult tasks of parenting. In the mental health field we call this child parentified. This child is hoping that by doing all the parenting he will continue to have a home. Plus he probably feels very guilty about and responsible for the younger siblings—the exact degree of guilt and pressure laid upon him by the parents who are refusing to parent. While we can definitely feel great compassion for this child, that does not erase the fact that he is having to manipulate--bargain with life and his parents and siblings--to stay in this role.  While we may know that if he doesn't do this the family truly may fall apart, that also does not change the fact that he is having to manipulate to say in this identity.  Further, he will carry that identity with him into adult relationships--and that is where we will truly begin to see how manipulative this identity really is.

In the previous blog we said that if we are being manipulated by someone else, we are also manipulating. Well, that is exactly how we came to the identities we have. If I am living in an identity—one that is not my authentic self—I had to have been manipulated and I had to have manipulated in order to get that identity and keep it. That doesn’t mean I’m bad—but it does mean that I will probably have to manipulate still further to keep wearing that identity.

Next blog? How does that manipulation work?