8 Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation.. and Free Ourselves From It

Freeing Ourselves from Emotional Manipulation

By  Paul Lenda

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

We as human beings have a very strong self-centered aspect (even if it may not be truly ‘real’) of our beings called the ego, and many problems arise when this aspect of the human experience goes uncontrolled. Manipulation has always been a favored tool of the ego in order to get what it wants.

This manipulation can come in either a physical form or it can be seen to work on the emotional level in order to break the psyche into meeting the manipulator’s desires. Properly identifying the ways in which people emotionally manipulate others can save us much suffering in the future when identified early enough.

By protecting ourselves from being manipulated on the emotional level, we are able to free ourselves once and for all from the violation of our universal right of free will. Just as we can shift our consciousness from the state of fear which is often imposed on us by emotional manipulators, we can shift away from any debilitating mind state. The following will be a detailed list of signs to look for in people that are trying to emotionally manipulate others and how to defend against these sinister tactics.

Identifying Emotional Manipulation

You make a statement that is turned around to be used against you in a negative way.

The person will speak with an air of honesty that is in fact a cover for their true intentions. An example would be that   you would tell this person something like,   “I am really angry that you forgot my birthday.” Their response would be that   “it makes me feel sad that you would think I would forget your birthday, I should have told you of the great personal stress I am facing at the moment, but you see I didn’t want to trouble you. You are right I should have put all this pain (by this point, persuasive tears may begin to appear in order to give more credence to this manipulation tactic being used) aside and focused on your birthday. Sorry.”

Your intuition may sense that this elaborate apology is not genuine. However, since they said the magic words,   you are essentially left with nothing more to say or you will find yourself trying to control their fake anger. When this scenario plays out, do not accept an apology that is as real as their true intentions. If you do accept the apology, you have just been emotionally manipulated! If it does not feel genuine,   it probably is not. Do not allow yourself to me emotionally blackmailed because if you do that one time, the emotional manipulator will see that it can be used as a successful method of getting what he or she desires.

The person presents his or herself as a willing helper.

A person that acts as an emotional manipulator plays the part of someone who is willing to help out with any given task. If you ask for their help with something, he or she will be more than willing to agree. If you did not ask for their help, he or she will volunteer to help with any given task. Seeing an offer for help looks like a wonderful thing, but in the mind of an emotional manipulator, this is merely a tactical move in order to fulfill a selfish desire he or she has. If you accept their offer to help,   he or she will express their unwillingness to help by letting out several sighs that are loud enough for you to notice, or some other non-verbal signs that let you know they actually do not want to help you with whatever it was they offered to help with.

You will notice this and tell them that it does not seem as if they actually want to help, and this is when he or she begin their main manipulation efforts. He or she will show their great will to help you and that you are being unreasonable. In order to bypass this manipulation, ignore the fake sighs and subtle cues that he or she is unwilling to help. You can also confront the individual directly and deliver an ultimatum (albeit in a civil manner).

They say something but later assure you that they did not say it at all.

This is one tactic that you can see being used in many aspects of society, perhaps the political sphere being the greatest user of this. If you constantly feel like there may be something wrong with your memory recall because you remember one thing and the emotional manipulator “remembers” another, then be cautious. Those who have mastered the “art” of emotional manipulation are experts in justifying their actions, turning things around against you, and rationalizing situations.

It is as if they have graduated The University of Lying and are incredibly skilled in passing off even the most ridiculous lie without giving any hints that he or she is being deceitful. They can be expert persuaders to the point that you begin to question your own memories and sanity. To combat this technique by the emotional manipulator, keeping a log of what he or she says is a good start to having definitive proof that he or she is lying right in your face. It does not matter how you go about doing this. It can be in the form of having another person with you when the manipulator is saying whatever it is they are saying, writing it down, recording it, etc.

They put you in a guilt trip.

Emotional manipulators are experts in the craft of guilt-tripping. They have the ability to make you feel guilty either for not speaking up, for speaking up, for not showing enough emotion, for showing too much emotion, for not giving and/or caring enough, and for giving and/or caring too much. There are no lines that the emotional manipulator will not cross in order to put you in a guilt trip. This person will very rarely exhibit any real needs or desires he or she has. Instead, emotional manipulation is the game they play in order to get these needs and desires satisfied. Combined with guilt, sympathy is a very powerful tool to manipulate your emotions.

The emotional manipulator is excellent at playing the victim. They stir up your will to support, care, and nurture them. These individuals very rarely do their own dirty work, so to speak. They are able to make you do it for them and when you do (through indirect means) they will say that they never expected or wanted you to do anything at all. Do not worry, you are not losing your sanity! Make it abundantly clear to them that you are not going to do their dirty work, which can be said by saying   “I am fully confident in your ability to work this out on your own.”

They are indirect.

By taking the passive-aggressive route, emotional manipulators are able to deal with things indirectly. Actions in this category include talking behind your back, getting others to say to you what they would not say themselves, and finding subtle ways of letting you know they are unhappy. They will tell you things that you want to hear, but then do something to undermine that. An example of this would be if the manipulator says that “of course I want you to go back to school baby and you know I will always support you.” Fast forward to a night where you are either studying for an exam or perhaps finishing a project for work and your children (if you have some, that is) are throwing temper tantrums, the television’s volume is set really high, and your pets need taking care of   – all the while “honey” is sitting on the couch looking at you blankly.

If you were to call them out on this, they will likely say something like “well you can’t expect life to just stop because you have an exam or have to finish a project for work can you dear?” This is a difficult one to deal with, and if an emotional manipulator pulls this one, the choices for response are very limited…even as much that I do not have an adequate method to combat this besides getting this person out of your life.

They always seem to have it worse than you.

This tactic is pretty straight-forward. No matter what problems you may have in your life, the emotional manipulator always has problems worse than you. They shift focus from your problems to their supposed problems (which almost never exist in the way they claim they do).

If you sense that they are not being genuine and are just trying to shift the focus of the conversation on themselves in order to satisfy an egoistic desire, they will display feelings of being deeply hurt and will call you selfish. Yes, they will call you selfish, when in reality it is they who are selfish. Every day is Opposite Day for this emotional manipulator. It is difficult to combat this, because it is difficult to prove that you are not trying to be in the spotlight, so to speak. However, a clear and effective solution is to simply trust your intuition on their genuineness and walk away.

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  • http://Website Jamie

    I have a daughter like this…selfish, narcissistic. I have cut myself off from her before because of every reason above. Only recently started letting her back in my life and (within a few short months) we are back at the same point where I want her to leave me alone… She recently told me that she would not abandon me…I said, God, please, someone shoot me now! As it stands she is not allowed back at my house without her boyfriend. It’s so sad.

  • http://Website Nichole

    I have a Mother in law who expresses and uses all of the above!! Long story short we haven’t talked to her in 3 years, is that the right thing to do? Should we be trying to get her help? I mean she has already had “help”.. Our life was instantly better when we cut her out ….but should we just turn our backs like that?

    • http://Website Nicole #2 from USA

      Your comment is interesting and like my situation. I had to step back and realize I was part of the problem in order for it to get better. Communication and love is the key. If you are truly ready to cut her our or limit her being around the first thing you need to do is say so. AND more importantly WHY YOU DON’T WANT HER AROUND. Most people do “get it” until they are told what is the dysfunction. Direct communication is the key. My situation is 80% better. We stopped taking her money and gifts and we stopped using her for a last minute sitter. I have to admit she came out in all kinds of nasty weather at all times of the day and night and never said no but, she told me it made her feel used. She stopped telling me how to raise my kids, interfere with the way we do things and has stopped the use curse words in front of the kids. We talked we are trying.

  • Deuce2

    I have a sister who I think is an emotional manipulator, however she thinks I am the manipulator. I think most people display one or more of the traits you suggest are indicative of the manipulator, and frankly you would have to be pretty perfect not to. I think this subject is far more complex and can allude to mental illness. The article above is far too simplistic and suggests that emotional manipulators are in a tiny minority and should be deserted to fester in their own juices. Not easy if the EM is a loved one or a family member, and a harsh conclusion indeed to simply desert a person who has ‘issues’ which may go beyond contrived manipulative behaviour. IMHO. This article is too simplistic by half, even a little irresponsible.

    • lena

      My god, I read this article and almost had a panic attack. I scrolled down to the comments, desperate for someone to identify with, thinking, “Oh my god, this is me…I do some of this stuff…how do I stop…”

      So thank you for your comment, “Deuce2,” especially for typing: “I think most people display one or more of the traits you suggest are indicative of the manipulator, and frankly you would have to be pretty perfect not to.” and “This article is too simplistic by half, even a little irresponsible.”

      My chest still aches from my heart pounding and my hands are still sweaty, but at least I feel a little bit less like I’m irredeemably evil, and more like I’m not perfect, just human, and that I can grow, and that’s okay.

  • carlotta

    Sounds very much like “passive aggressive behaviour” – there’s much literature on this topic on the Net.
    To people who act in this way it might be helpful to get in touch with their real needs and core deficiencies .
    But chances are, that the person cannot engage in an adequate way to change these psychological structures underlying the unwillingness to engage in healthy relationships. So it might be sometimes the only option to end a relationship as you have suggested.

  • http://Website Janet

    Some of the commenters may want to look up narcissistic behavior. In my experience, emotional manipulation may be used by anyone, but the way narcissists use it is totally incorrigible, and there’s no way you’ll be able to “fix” them or relationships with them. “Gaslighting” is another term for the behavior in #3, where the manipulator deliberately makes you question your memory or worse, your sanity. These are dirty tricks I’m even tempted to call evil. Don’t try to be a savior. Just get out, and stop feeling guilty about it.

  • http://Website Brenda

    I’m on the verge of getting a divorce from a man I thought I would be with for the rest of my life. My heart is breaking …. this article helps me see I’m not going crazy or losing my mind… which is what he wants me to think. He’s so emotionally and verbally abusive, I go to a “very dark place” when he does this. It’s hard leaving, not sure I have the strength to leave.

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