Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How to get out of the game

In order for us to be able to get out of the manipulation game, we have to stop playing. In order to stop playing, we have to come to know our part in the game. In order to know our part in game, we have to first understand that it is impossible to manipulate a person who has nothing invested in the outcome of said manipulation.

For example, if my son is an addict and I am very invested in not only clearing my own guilt regarding how I treated him as a child but also in how his addict behavior impacts my image in society, then when he comes to me and asks for money I’m likely to give it to him. When he comes home blitzed out of his mind again, I’m likely to throw my typical temper tantrum. I’ll tell him everything and the kitchen sink to get him to stop using, only to turn around and give him money, which I know he will use on drugs and alcohol, the next time he asks.

It is our own agendas that make us vulnerable to the manipulations of others' agendas. On the other hand, if I realize that I am 100% responsible for my own success, failure, happiness, peace of mind, etc., and that the manipulator can do nothing to fix that for me, I’m less likely to be manipulated. Sounds a little like the manipulated is the manipulator, yes?

Well, unfortunately, that is the game. It’s: Who is Zooming Who?

When we seriously contemplate, with open, honest self-assessment, our histories, paying careful attention to those times when we were manipulated by someone else, we will find that we had some investment that the manipulator could use to get us to do what s/he wanted.

In order for us to quit the game, we must know what our own agendas are, and take personal responsibility for them. Therefore, in the above scenario, if I feel that I have not done a good job as a parent, I can own that, and take responsibility for it. I may, thereby, choose to tell my son about what I remember about having done a poor job, and apologize to him. He may try to use that against me, but if I have really taken responsibility for my own behavior--which includes forgiving myself--then I will know that his efforts to manipulate me will not make the past go away nor recreate his childhood. Nor will giving in to him make him see that I really do love him after all. Rather it will only help him kill himself with drugs and alcohol. I will know--because I have taken responsibility for myself, my behavior and my life--that the only one who can help my son is my son--who will likewise have to take responsibility for himself, his behavior and his life. I will know that how he responds to his own childhood is his job, not mine. And I will know that owning his own responses will be a huge part of his recovery.

Further, if I am ultra-concerned about my image in the world, I can also take responsibility for that by discovering how and why I developed that exaggerated need for a mask, and begin to get in touch with my own authenticity. In so doing, I will more likely find peace within myself, thus making me less vulnerable to outside manipulations meant to threaten my peace.

Want to quit the game of manipulation? The first question to ask is: What is my dog in this fight? Find that, own it, take responsibility for it and you will step out of the game.