Manipulators knowingly and often times unknowingly provoke others to behave in ways they would not normally behave. It offers them some sense of control and satisfaction to get you to the point of acting uncharacteristically; so they aren't the bad guy. At times they might even say, "You are making me look like the bad guy"..implying that you are the problem.
If you are like me you'll try to see past their issues and love them anyway. If you don't see through their tactics or ignore them, it will inevitably take a toll on you and often times drive you to the point of questioning who you are. Constant criticism and fault finding for not meeting ridiculous demands and expectations can leave you feeling worthless and insecure, this is what manipulators thrive on, insecurity.
They criticize relentlessly and even go as far as saying others are asking what's wrong with you, or so and so said this about you too, in an effort to justify their behaviors and "needs". This can be disguised as trying to help you be liked, he/she will say or do anything to make you feel insecure. So you make an effort to understand their perception of you and your behavior towards them. You may see where you have gone wrong and admit to hurting their feelings, ignoring them or snapping at them (which is sometimes the case and likely a reaction to their manipulation) but more than likely it's projection. Whether it is true or not you may make every effort to change, to adjust to, accommodate, but it feels like it is never enough. To further complicate things, their expectations are constantly changing so you never know what to do, what's ok and what's not ok or how to handle it.
Then comes the feeling of being powerless to change anything to keep the peace and make them happy. Thoughts like "What's wrong with me?, What did I do wrong? I'm trying, I don't know what else to do. Maybe she/he is right about me" can begin to fill your mind. These unwanted feelings and thoughts can be perpetuated when you are shamed for not meeting their needs. You are the bad friend, spouse or parent because you haven't changed into what they want or aren't doing what they want when they wanted it. It can be big things or little things..not siding with them in a dispute or disagreeing with a judgment about another person. You may swim in guilt for this and may profusely apologize to no end and sometimes accused of being insincere with your apologies. It can get to the point where you feel unappreciated for your efforts, your time your love and your attention. You may start to become angry, resentful and bitter. If you have come to this place, you've been sucked into their game, you have given them control and the poison sets in. ALL ABOARD THE CRAZY TRAIN, they've got your ticket.
When the poison sets in chances are your behaviors may begin to mirror theirs, subtly at first but then it gets messy. This hopefully will force us to acknowledge what we historically and presently try to deny about ourselves; we are capable of becoming just as toxic as they are. Scary thought huh? If you are to the point where you are questioning your loyalty, your love for the person, what you did or didn't say, your sincerity. You’ve arrived at your destination. MANIPULATION STATION. This is where the person wants you and he/she has now been given the green light to define who you are. It's time to get off this train and recognize where you are and what you've been dealing with. Forgive yourself, forgive them and move on. Learn from it and stop it before it starts next time.
Have you experienced similar interactions? How did you come to terms with the realization that your loved one had been manipulative? Please feel free to comment or post your thoughts.
-Kesha Martin, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, NCC
Check out this Article on How to Spot and Stop Manipulators
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