- Another thing about growing up crazy is that oftentimes people with mental illness or severe emotional problems are adept at manipulating other people in order to get their own needs met. This can happen because they’re not able or willing to try to get their needs met by doing something as straightforward as asking, and it can happen because they have very low tolerance for frustration, so they’re not willing to accept the possibility of NOT getting their needs met through other people. And, in some cases, emotionally damaged people rely unrealistically on others to meet their needs, which, combined with the unwillingness to ask directly for what they want and the inability to tolerate frustration, leads again to manipulation.
Because of my history, I am fluent in manipulese, though I don’t speak it myself (or certainly try not to). Here are the top 5 ways you know you’re being manipulated.
- The other person has just delivered an emotional throat punch and is now telling you that you’re not entitled to be hurt. Variation: Your feelings are hurt after the emotional throat punch, and you’ve saved them a step by proactively questioning whether you’re entitled to be hurt. This happens when you’ve been manipulated for a while and haven’t realized it – you internalize the manipulation and make yourself feel guilty. It’s OK to stop doing this!
- Someone who isn’t really all that funny is constantly trying to tell you that they’re “just kidding.” Their version of kidding might include ridicule of your body, abilities, food choices or livelihood. Their version of kidding almost never involves actual humor.
- You haven’t body-snatched another person and forced them to bend to your will like a puppet, but they accuse you of making them feel or behave a certain way. Example: “I’m sorry I threw my burrito at you, but you made me so mad, I had no choice.”
- The other person isn’t an actual wizard or mindreader, but claims to know exactly what your motivations are in any situation where there is conflict. You’ll know this is happening if their sentences start with some variation on “you think you can just …”
- You haven’t killed anyone, stolen anything or coveted your neighbor’s spouse, and yet you feel guilty after interacting with someone. Often, the “crime” is that you were going along in life, being yourself, making the most of the gift that is your very own life, and somehow someone wants you to feel guilty because you’re not giving your life up in service of their wants.
Bonus sign: Someone you know never tells you about what they think of you, but seem to delight in sharing what they’ve heard others think of you. And of course they’re only telling you because they’re your friend.