We all claim to not like contolling or manipulative behavior and yet many of us have no idea really all that entails. Most people are actively involved in such behavior on a regular basis but have no idea that is what they are doing or the consequences the behaviors entail.
As a simple example, if we think that we can avoid hurting Aunt Bessie's feelings by not telling her the birthday gift she gave us is ugly that is erroneous thinking at best.
In the first place, we are not responsible for Aunt Bessie's feelings, Aunt Bessie is. If we are honest and tell her the gift doesn't fit or doesn't suit our tastes she has choices about how she will react.
If she truly cares about us and wants our gifts from her to be special, she will be interested in knowing when she is off base about our tastes and/or needs so she can get it right in the future.
If she's giving us a gift because she feels that she must, it probably doesn't matter to her if we really like it or not. What matters is that she look good by doing what she feels she has to(which is manipulative behavior in itself. The gift isn't given out of love but to control how others feel). That means in her mind we should be grateful for whatever it is she got for us so she can look like a star.
Now I know that this will sound foreign to many, many people. I heard "white lies" discussed on the radio this morning as totally acceptable. The justification for those "white lies" was dear old Aunt Bessie. But this behavior is manipulative and destructive.
The problem is that teaching a five year old it's ok to lie to Aunt Bessie but it's not ok to lie to mom and dad is not within the child's realm of understanding. Right from the start we are teaching that child that she/he is responsible for Aunt Bessie's feelings when the truth is no one can make Aunt Bessie happy, only she can control that.
We are also teaching that child it is ok to lie to make someone feel good. (So why isn't it ok for that child to lie to keep themselves out of trouble. That would feel good!) Anytime we teach a child that she/he is responsible for the feelings of anyone other than themselves we are setting that child up for a life of distress. Despite the common belief that such behavior will make the child happy, the fact is such behavior is just the tip of the iceberg in manipulation.
Another common form of manipulative behavior is withholding information because we think we are protecting someone. There is no way keeping things from people you supposedly care about or those who are there to help you, will do anything but cause problems. Because we tend to judge how others react towards us as a measure of how they care, leaving important things out makes it next to impossible for those concerned to "figure out" what we need.
When we expect them to be there when we need them, but don't really give them the information they need to know how much we need their support, we are really setting them up to disappoint us. Some people withhold information from their friends, spouses, significant others or therapists when they really need help. The person withholding the information feels unloved and uncared for when she/he needs help and no one is there. Yet the reason the help is lacking is no one knows there is trouble in the first place.
The result is a downward spiral for the person needing help. Caught in a trap of negative self talk derived from feelings of rejection that all stem from manipulative behavior in the first place. It's not only unfair to judge those we expect to help us based on their response to our manipulations, it's downright destructive. There is now way we can get our needs met in a healthy manner that way.
to be continued.......
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