Manipulations… This is an amazingly wide and rich topic. Many wonderful books are written about it. The abundance of opinions is staggering.
However, I will still dare to offer some musing about this subject. My opinion has changed many times over the years and might still change in the future. But this is how it stands for now. Warning: I am not taking about pathological types, like narcissists, anti-social personalities and such. Also I am not talking about manipulations used in business relationships (like sales person trying to sell us something).
First – what do manipulators try to achieve? What kind of needs do they try to fulfill? The longer I live, the more I inclined to think that the Beatles were right about “all you need it love” thing… It’s very simplistic, of course, but if we dig deeper, we might discover that at the foundation of the majority of our needs lies deep longing for unconditional love, acceptance, and meaningful human contact. Those things which we were supposed to experience at birth and during first years of our life, but very few of us have ever gotten to the full extent. And if we didn’t experience all that at the beginning of our life in human form, there will still be in us this vague yearning for something, some emptiness, anxiety, fears that take many various shapes and forms. And we start confusing Love with all those things that our parents substituted true love with in our childhood. For somebody it means the need to “always be good”, the inability to say no, to be a people pleaser. For somebody love means things and presents. Others feels loved only when they are beaten and controlled. Still others decide that they don’t need anyone; they can perfectly manage alone, by themselves. And somebody else thinks that they will gain love if they are exactly like their parents – with all their flaws and problems.
And then such deprived person grows up and lives his (her) life constantly doing everything possible and impossible trying to recreate that which he confused with love. However, he never experiences lasting fulfillment as what he is seeking is a meager surrogate. It’s not so obvious at the first glance; however, if we look closer, we can see it. At least this is how I see it. From this follows that the majority of people “plead” for friendship and love trying to fill the emptiness inside. And this is what fuels manipulation – this longing and desire to get something that they were not able to get as children. When I saw that, I started to feel compassion towards this kind of people instead of irritation and anger.
Okay then, but what people who are being manipulated are suppose to do? First, they need to understand that they always have a choice how to behave and react – depending on what they want to get in concrete situation. For example, if they want to avoid quarrels and arguments – they can evade confrontation by keeping silence. Or they can take a firm stance in order to protect their boundaries. Or… Call the manipulator on his own game. It’s important to observe one’s own reactions and try to understand which needs would be satisfied in such case. It is also possible to experiment with different variations of behavior, try different approaches and reactions. It’s possible to use situations where we are being manipulated as a playground for growth and development – as long as we pay conscious attention to what we are doing, feeling and thinking.
And… It all brings an interesting question. If we see manipulation and know that somebody is trying to manipulate us – is it still a manipulation?