What is Emotional or Psychological Manipulation?
To manipulate is:
- "to negotiate, control or influence something or someone cleverly, skillfully or deviously."
- "to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner."
Who Are the Emotional Manipulators?Ross A. Rosenberg provides a strong foundation by defining an "emotional manipulator" as one with pathological narcissism, including these three personality disorders:
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
- Or, someone suffering from a chemical or behavioral addiction, such as sex addiction or gambling, is also considered an emotional manipulator because their addiction drives them to pathological narcissistic behaviors.
Why Emotional Manipulation?
When someone operates out of emotion rather than reason they are more easily manipulated. This is an important distinction because abusive narcissistic mothers prey on empathetic people, including their own children. My narcissistic mother specialized in manipulating with guilt and pity. When these powerful emotions are triggered within us it can short circuit our logic and reasoning
We Are Not All the Same
One of the very first things we have to understand is we are not all the same. For example, empathy allows us to be compassionate human beings, but you can quickly find yourself in a fog of confusion if you attempt to understand a narcissist by putting yourself in her shoes and assuming she thinks and feels what you believe you would think or feel in her situation.
The lack of empathy is one hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder. While the narcissist lacks empathy, she is exceedingly aware of your empathetic, compassionate nature that may be manipulated with pleas for pity. Think about when you pity someone. You immediately let down your defenses and become cooperative or helpful.
Another example is a narcissist may have little or no functioning conscience, but is again exceedingly aware of your sensitive conscience. Thus, she will try to use your own good conscience against you by intentionally inducing guilt trips. This can leave you feeling bad about yourself as well as easily manipulated in an effort to relieve the discomfort. However, it does not work the other way around. Guilt trips are ineffective with narcissists even when she is guilty or there is a mountain of true guilt.
Our emotions are a gift never intended to be used against us, which is what narcissists often do. The goal is not to get rid of our positive characteristics but to prevent and protect ourselves from having them abusively manipulated and used against us.
Narcissists play by vastly different rules than most of the rest of us. They fight when we may not even realize we are in a fight. They are sneaky, petty and deceitful. They do not fight fair, nor do they have any remorse about. In my experience, I did not recognize her behavior because I was giving her way more credit than she deserved. There may be a 40, 60 or 80 chronologically aged woman in front of you, but ignore that exterior. Consider what a rotten, self-centered six year old would do and you will often be in the ballpark.
Do Narcissists Know What They're Doing?
It never ceases to amaze me how many people claim narcissists do not know what they are doing. My mother knew exactly what she was doing.
- Many of her schemes were premeditated, intricate and systematically carried out.
- She was very much able to control her rages in public and around most people, reserving them only for certain people and only at times when there were no witnesses. Thus, she not only knew what she was doing, she could control her behavior but chose not to at times.
- Hence, she was not doing the best she could. While it may sound all nice and fluffy, everyone does not always do the best they can do.
- A closely related idea I once held is that everyone wants to be the best they can be -- healthy, whole, etc. While it may seem difficult to grasp, this is just not the case. Some people enjoy their misery. Some enjoy your misery. Some enjoy their evil ways simply because they choose to.
- Everyone does not want you to be the best you can be.
- My mother could instantaneously switch from raging monster to sweet talking angel upon the unexpected arrival of a flying monkey.*
- If you watched closely you might notice the glimmer in her eye or the slight smirk she could barely contain at times.
- My mother could have been considered psychotic in the common use of the word. By witnessing her behavior, someone might consider her loony, bonkers or kooky, or wrathful, infuriated or enraged. However, she was not psychotic in the psychiatric or medical sense of the word, as in suffering from a state of psychosis. She was not out of touch with the reality of what was going on around her.
Dr. George Simon is spot on in my opinion and sums it up succinctly:
When the emotional manipulator is engaging in the manipulative behavior, he is not defending anything. The emotional manipulator is primarily fighting. Who are they fighting? He is fighting the person he is trying to manipulate, you.
She knows what she is doing. You are in a fight. If she is covert like my mother was, you may not even realize this fact. My narcissistic personality disordered mother was fighting me for years before I even realized I was in the fight of my life. This is a huge realization, because if you do not know you are in a fight you will always give the benefit of the doubt and you will not protect yourself. My narcissistic mother was viciously and deceitfully fighting me, whether I realized it or not.
*Flying monkey is a term taken from The Wizard of Oz, in which the Wicked Witch sent her flying monkeys after Dorothy.