What is Emotional Manipulation and how does it work?
How many times have I felt that way and how often have I heard this sigh coming from others before I began to deal with Emotional Manipulation? Weeding out manipulative attempts from straightforward communication or rightful influence is not always an easy ride.
Cloud of negative emotions
Before I recognize my emotions, I feel my heart pounding and my breathing becomes labored. – Your reaction might be different: lump in the throat, cramp in the stomach, tension in a certain muscle group: listen to your body, and recognize what sign means manipulation danger for you!
From there, the realization follows: I am angry. I am confused. I am frustrated because I don’t want to do something, but someone pressurizes me to do it. Or I want to do something, but the manipulator doesn’t allow me to do so.
At the same time, there is something phony in the air: s/he refers some outside values, rules or morals that I don’t measure up if I don’t comply with his/her demand. Most of the time the story is wrapped in a loving, caring disguise: how could you reject such a well intentioned request?
What is Emotional Manipulation?
It is defined as when someone gets you doing something that you don’t want to by inducing guilt, shame or anxiety.
It is double base communication: on the surface it is pretentiously loving and caring, but under the veil it is designed to control your behavior with these destructive feelings.
How exactly does it work?
There are plenty of tactics that boil down to the core principle: with a story, a facial expression, tone of voice, hints or verbally by labeling, judging, overt critiquing and put downs. When they are used, the manipulator makes you feel guilty, ashamed or anxious. At the same time, they show the way how you “should” behave in order to not feel that way.
In a long term relationship, the beginning seems extraordinary and you feel like you are in ninth heaven. You receive extra attention and understanding and all of your wishes are closely watched. There is a promise of a huge gain hovering in the air.
This is the time when the manipulator assesses your needs and weaknesses. You might notice everything goes faster than a typical relationship: maybe on the third week you are about to get engaged.
Then the transition comes. You begin to feel yourself being judged, you’re not good enough anymore. It could resort to extreme expectations, dress code, and controlling your choice of friends. If you don’t behave in a certain way, you will not get what you want. The promise of gain transforms to the threat of loss.
As you were initially showed what a wonderful future is laying ahead of you, you try to fulfill the wildest expectations.
That’s the point: the manipulator has the rein in his/her hand to control your behavior.
Self reinforcing process
Look back! At the beginning, you didn’t have to do anything to be appreciated. Now you bend backwards and you’re not good enough. Don’t worry, I don’t blame you – this is the nature of the process. The truth is that your compliance reinforces the pressurizing process simply because it works.
The manipulator applies pressure on you (remember: guilt, shame anxiety). In response, you do what s/he wants to avoid those feelings. S/he learns that this is the way how s/he can get what s/he wants. The more you comply, the harder the manipulation becomes.
Entrapped, helpless, hopeless
As the manipulator controls your feelings, and through your feelings your behavior, you feel helpless, and hopeless. All of this is disguised as goodwill, you feel entrapped. No wonder.
However: if you realize what’s going on around you… if you are able to separate the superficial cover story from the covert real intention… if you can withstand a little bit of guilt, shame and anxiety for a little while… if you collect courage and resist manipulation at the core: You have the chance to change the manipulative communication to a fairer negotiation and effective cooperation. With it, you can change the relationship to a more equal and satisfactory connection!