What is manipulation?
Everybody manipulates, right?
I always thought “Not me!”
Then I discovered how I had been manipulating my young husband, starting my hunt to understand and stop manipulation. My latest book is focused on Ending Manipulation, sharing what I’ve learned. Here, I share excerpts. I want to hear your stories about manipulation, so write and comment. Thanks!
From the book
“Over the years, I have concluded that manipulative behaviors are really a trait of childhood, which human beings are designed to outgrow just as we do fear of the dark and bedwetting.
Manipulation is a primary cause of emotional, relational, marital, and family problems. These include infidelity, parent-teen disputes, family rifts, difficulties between colleagues, and misunderstandings of all types.
In my work, I have found the root cause of abuse and family violence is, in fact, manipulation. Issues with which we struggle as a society that have been coming to the surface in recent decades are also fueled by manipulation. These include many senseless murders, molestation of young worshipers and students by priests and teachers, and police not reporting incidents as they actually happen. Listing all these problems would take pages.
Ending Manipulation as adults, which would put an end to manipulation in our societies, can resolve many of these issues that have thus far seemed un-resolvable.
Imagine my surprise, as I sat down to write this book and did a keyword search, to find that people who search the internet for how to deal with the pain, disruption, and chaos of manipulation in their adult lives seldom seek out how to end it! My years-long, informal research with clients and students has led me to the conclusion that people are designed to relinquish manipulation by adulthood. Yet even in the year 2020, we do not have the idea that this is possible, let alone the understanding and tools we need to end manipulation. This book is written to be one of those tools. Maybe we have not talked as much as we need to about manipulation because it is not a mental illness. That’s because the term “manipulation” describes a relationship pattern, not a mental illness.
It turns out all humans are born manipulative, which we will talk more about in this book.
Our human job is to realize that we have to use manipulation in the very early part of our lives, but then we’re designed to grow out of it.
The outgrowing of manipulation starts to occur in early childhood and cannot be accomplished without help from parents and caretakers. Yet parents have not been advised of this task, and so seldom accomplish it, leaving children to grow into adulthood still practicing the manipulative patterns of their earliest days.
It is time for this period in our history to end.
Everything is vibration. We are energy. Emotions are energy. And manipulation is a relationship pattern in which rather than using their own energy to live life, a person uses the energy of others, most often without their knowledge or permission.
Part of what we seek here is to develop the understanding, knowledge, and tools for adults to really stand on their own two feet, rather than continue to drain the energy of family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers who come into their lives.”
“My family was quite controlling and dysfunctional. A few days after I matriculated to the College of William and Mary in Virginia, I met a young man. His family was dysfunctional in other ways. He and I ended up falling in love and marrying when we were 19 years old. We moved to the other side of the country, learned to backpack and snow ski, and lived together on a small houseboat. Eight years later we agreed to conceive and have a child. She was 10 months old when he came home one day and told me he had realized he wasn’t ready to be a father. He packed up his things and left us!
The anger and fury that had built up in me over the years of dysfunction in my family boiled out. I tell this story in my first book, Emotions in Motion.[i] Relevant to this part of the story was my realization that my young husband had used me; he had manipulated me! This made me even angrier (manipulation causes most people to feel angry). It also led me to figure out what manipulation was all about, to make sure I never let anyone manipulate me again. Carried forward from my early years of seeing the manipulation done by the women in my life, I had a lot of righteous anger toward this man who had manipulated me!
I had recently become a marriage and family therapist. I had people coming to my office daily who told me their stories of being manipulated and the pain it caused: Parents who rejected the people their children became as they grew up. Wives dumped by husbands, and husbands dumped by wives. People who became ill and were abandoned by family or spouse because of the illness. It was a daily occurrence to hear new ways people were being manipulated. I had a treasure trove! I knew I would be able to figure out the basis of manipulation and develop a way to stop it from happening, especially in my own life.
My examination revealed to me that everyone who spoke to me about being manipulated also manipulated others. Sometimes, in fact, it was difficult for me to tell the perpetrator from the victim in their stories. After six months, I discovered what I now call “The First Law of Manipulation.”
It takes one to know one
Horrified at what I found, I realized that if my young husband had been using and manipulating me, that meant that I was also using and manipulating him! I knew the Law, yet I still could not tell what I had been doing, how had I been manipulating?”
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