Ending Manipulation: Manipulation is Not a Mental Illness

Previously, we introduced you to manipulation, sharing how everyone is born manipulative, how my journey to understand manipulation began (me discovering my own manipulation, of which I had been totally unaware), and the discovery of The First Law of Manipulation, “It takes one to know one.”

This month, we look closer at manipulation to get clear on what it is — not a mental illness, but a pattern of interaction between people. A pattern, not a diagnosis. Known as “Psychological Manipulation,” “Co-Dependence” and “Energy Sapping,” manipulation is a pattern of interaction between people. As explained in the book.

Regardless of which of these three terms we use, we are discussing a relationship issue, entered into by (usually) two people, neither of whom have a clear personal identity, in which

  • at least one person is being taken advantage of or victimized,
  • at least one person tries to control or direct the life and experiences of the other person,
  • neither person feels satisfied,
  • only one of the parties appears to get what s/he needs, and
  • either or both may become addicted to the other and the patterns of the relationship.

What we will also see is that this pattern is very obvious in some relationships yet far less noticeable in others. Most people are not fully manipulative but have “pockets” of manipulation, — particular areas of their life where they manipulate — along with other areas that are free of manipulation. People whose relationships are primarily manipulative I call “Lifestyle Manipulators.”

Manipulation is a pattern that forms early in life and is extremely difficult to escape, primarily because leaving manipulation behind in childhood is an idea very few people have ever advanced. We do not even imagine manipulation-free living is possible! Thus, very few of us get the help we need in childhood to grow through and out of manipulation. If you are now ready to end your own manipulation, we offer you “a way out.”

There is little research on ending this pattern. In fact, most psychology experts discuss how to handle the other person — the one who is manipulating. As you will see, focusing on the other person when addressing the challenge of manipulation is the opposite of what we need to do to end manipulation in our lives.

In truth, it is impossible to change another person, so it is futile to think we can make a Lifestyle Manipulator change.”  

Manipulation occurs when one person uses the energy of another person for their own purposes, usually without the permission of the person whose energy is being used. This happens between untold numbers of people every day in almost every area of life.

Facebook is a simple example of how untold numbers of people are manipulated every day. It offers a service that users like and have come to think of as essential to their life. But without making the user aware, Facebook collects information about that user. It uses that information to sell or promote things to users. Facebook exploits its users’ need for the Facebook service to collect information that allows it to “use” its members, without their direct permission, to make money from them. This is manipulation, and the lack of protest by Facebook members illustrates how easily we consider manipulation normal.”

Part of the cost of manipulation is that we are not in charge of our own lives. All people begin life in this predicament.

When we become mature, we get to take charge of our own lives. Being mature, or fully developed, we no longer have to agree to the timetables and decisions of others.

We start life needing an agent to exchange needs-meeting energy with the world on our behalf, yet, ultimately, we are expected to become fully responsible for meeting our own needs and wants. We make our own choices and take responsibility for their consequences. We each have the capacity to grow out of the initial stage of having no say over our lives, but we must develop the ability to meet our own needs, make decisions, learn from mistakes, and take full responsibility for the life we create.

As mature people, we live on the basis of fulfilling our wants instead of our needs.

Mature people do not operate based on “need.” By adulthood, they identify what they want from and with others, but these desires are not experienced as needs they must receive through others. The mature person knows that even if another person does not help them attain what they want, they will still be okay. Mature people do not so desperately need others to provide what they believe is important to the conduct of their lives. The desperation Lifestyle Manipulators experience is no longer present.

As long as we live with the fear-based desperation that accompanies unfilled needs, we will remain vulnerable to being controlled and controllable by someone else. It is the price paid when a person continues to live manipulatively instead of growing up completely.

Human beings have an inherent drive to step out of manipulation. It is evident by the age of two when the child announces, “Me do it myself!” and resists doing things the way the parent wants him to.

Moving out of manipulation takes time. Childhood appears to be allotted this task. By the time a child reaches 18-21 years of age, manipulation is, by design, supposed to be in the rear-view mirror. For most people, this does not occur, however. And not putting manipulation behind us creates many of the problems in life known to exact such a high price for both individuals and society.

Next month, we will look at the high personal and financial costs for continuing to manipulate in our adult lives. Later, I’ll share the amazing discovery I made about how I was unconsciously manipulating my young husband, even when I disliked manipulation, and was making every effort to live manipulation free.

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