We here it everyone these days: manipulator! It’s as if these people who have such ease with manipulating others have newly come into existence.
That’s not the case. Manipulation is nothing new and neither are those who use it. It has always existed although it does seem to be more and more prevalent in today’s society.
How can you avoid falling into the manipulator’s traps? To start with, you would need to know what psychological manipulation is and how to recognise it.
Psychological manipulation is a way of making a person do something he or she does not want to do or would not usually do, without his or her realising that he or she is being made to do it. Manipulation can be voluntary or involuntary on the behalf of the person who is using it.
It is important to note that we are all capable of manipulation and we all do it from time to time. What differentiates between “normal” manipulation and the unhealthy manipulation used by malignant narcissists and psychopaths is the intention behind the manipulation as well as the frequency of it.
Malignant narcissists and psychopaths use manipulation in a habitual way. It is part of their everyday repertoire in their interactions with others. They use it in a conscious way and with the objective of harming the intended victim. This is the perverted side of their manipulation: the fact that they take pleasure in harming other. And harm they do!
When faced with such high stakes, it’s best to be prepared if ever you find yourself in an encounter with an emotional manipulator.
What then are the signs of emotional and psychological manipulation? The list is long, but just to cite a few, the emotional manipulator:
- is egocentric
- he denies his responsibilty or accuses you of being at fault, it's never his fault
- interrupts your speaking and/or doesn’t allow you to express yourself
- turns his back to you and/or leaves when you criticise him
- changes the topic of conversation very suddenly or in the middle of the conversation
- denies or deforms reality (gaslighting)
- accuses you of having misunderstood (also gaslighting)
- flies into a rage when his is criticised or accused of things he has done
- suddenly becomes very attentive and caring, especially to impress others, to create a sense of confusion, or when he feels his victim could "escape"
- gives vague answers even to simple questions
- answers with another question in order to avoid answering or to change the subject
- avoids asking but expects others to understand his demand implicitly
- says one thing but does another
- criticises others and makes them believe in his superiority
- avoids direct communication and uses others to pass his messages on
- knows how to play the victim and does so in order to make others feel sorry for him and take care of him
- creates strike among others, divides and conquers
- lives off others
- ignores others’ needs, desires, wants,
- changes plans at the last-minute forcing others to decide without thinking
- is jealous even of his children and/or spouse
- live in a competitive world and not a world of co-creation
- creates a feeling of malaise
- creates a chaotic environment
This list is by no means definitive but it gives a good idea of many of the habitual techniques used by manipulators. Each manipulator has his preferences and may not use all those techniques listed above. This doesn’t mean he’s not a manipulator and a toxic personality.
If you believe you are in a relationship with a malignant narcissist, psychopath, or other toxic personality, the best solution is to distance yourself from that person as much as possible.
I will write about the effects of emotional and psychological manipulation as well as how to get out of a toxic relationship in future articles.
If you wish to discuss this with me, please don’t hesitate to contact me or set up an appointment in Wasquehal or Paris.
You only just met him and he’s charming, attentive, thoughtful. He asks you questions, listens with a patience you’ve never known. You have so much in common. You love long walks along the beach? He does too! You dream of working for yourself? He just quit his (very good) job to do the same. You need to find a new apartment? He’ll help you do it or knows someone who will. Your first date goes so well that you definitely want to see him again.
And so you will. And he’ll phone you. Several times a day. He’ll send you messages all throughout the day to tell you how much he misses you, how he’s thinking of you. He’ll bring you to your favourite restaurant where he’s reserved a special table just for the two of you. You love flowers? He’ll send you a bunch. At your workplace. So everyone can see how much you mean to him.
Everything is perfect. He is blown away by your beauty, finds you magnificent, intelligent, funny. He knows how to read you, see your vulnerabilities, your wounds, and how to take care of them. He shares his with you. He finally feels understood and so incredibly happy to at last be able to open up and be vulnerable with a woman. You are the woman he’s been looking for his entire life, the one he could never find. It was because the universe was preparing you for this, this meeting of souls. You are made for each other.
Little by little, you get used to his little gestures: his phone calls, his daily messages, his capacity to listen to you. His compliments make you feel special.
On top of it, you were in a difficult place when you met. Maybe you’d just come out of a relationship and were hurting or you just left a job or lost a person close to you. The manipulator senses it and comes to your rescue. It feels so amazing to be loved and admired. It’s a breath of fresh air that becomes your drug.
It’s not only that you want to be with him. You need to be with him. He’s become indispensable.
You’re in a whirlwind of love and emotions. You’re losing your footing. And soon, too soon, your heart.
But as we say, if it seems too good to be true…
In reality, you are the latest victim of “love bombing” but you don’t yet know it.
What is love bombing? Simply put, it’s a manipulation technique used by emotional vampires, such as malignant narcissists and psychopaths, to lure their intended victims and create an emotional and even physical dependence on them. Love bombing makes victims easy to manipulate so that the manipulator can play with them and achieve his goals.
During the love bombing period, the victim doesn’t realise that the words and behaviour of the manipulator are not sincere. She takes them in as truth and as any person falling in love would do. And she returns the favour with compliments and attentiveness to her future torturer. In doing so, she gives him his required dose of recognition and positive reinforcement that he needs in order to maintain his fragile ego.
Love bombing is intrinsic in the manipulators first phase of destruction, the stages being Idealisation, Devaluation, Discard. This stage can last as long as necessary for the manipulator. Often, it lasts until he feels that the victim has fallen into his lair and is in love with him or that she is “acquired” in one way or another. And it’s at this moment that things change suddenly and abruptly.
What are the signs that a victim is “acquired” and what happens after this? I’ll write more in a future article.
When is a victim considered as acquired by a manipulator?
There isn’t one single moment or one single sign. Each manipulator has his own way of operating and each relationship is different. For some, it’s when he feels the other has fallen in love with him. Sometimes it’s when the couple moves in together, gets engaged, gets married, has a child together, opens a company together (because not all abusive relationships involve romantic relationships). Any action or deed that creates a tie that is permanent or not easily undone can be the moment when everything in the relationship changes.
Whereas up until that point, everything seemed perfect - the future persecutor had been charming, attentive, “as he should be” – suddenly cracks start to show in his behaviour. He criticises you for little things, becomes angry over situations that he accepted graciously before, demeans you in front of others, makes snide comments about you or things relating to you…
You are shocked! Where is this behaviour coming from? He must be tired, you think. He’s had a long week at work. He’s stressed. Or maybe he’s right, you misunderstood what he meant, or you’re too sensitive, or he only wanted to be helpful by pointing out your error or weakness.
You forget about it and the relationship goes on. We all have bad moments from time to time after all. We can all have a bad day. Usually he’s so kind and loving. No relationship is perfect and you can’t just run away from a relationship at the first signs of trouble. Imperfection is part of life. And leaving now isn’t so easy. You’ve invested a lot in this relationship : your time, your money, your heart…
And so you stay. What you don’t know yet is that this time it’s different. You just went through your first test and you passed with flying colours. Unfortunately for you. He knows you’re acquired and his game can continue.
Bit by bit, he will test your limits to see just how far he can go and just how much you will accept. Each time he will go a bit farther.
Bit by bit, the mask will fall. The manipulator will reveal his true self.
What happens once the victim is acquired ?
Often it’s the next step, devaluation, that sets in. Whereas before he put you on a pedestal, bit by bit, he chips away at that to not only bring you back down to earth, but even lower.
“You’re going to wear that dress tonight? Are you sure? Oh, okay, if you want…”
You feel the disapproval but at the same time, he didn’t say anything truly unkind. It’s the beginning. The next time it might be a comment about how you raise your children. Or perhaps you didn’t really deserve that promotion at work, you got it by chance.
He won’t stop at disobliging remarks. He’ll questions your feelings (“You’ve always been too sensitive.”), your values (“Why do you worry so much about people you don’t even know? It’s a waste of time.”), even facts (“I never said that. You must have misunderstood.”). Or perhaps he’ll just say nothing or simply walk away when you need to talk. He has many tricks in his book.
Whatever method he chooses, and often he’ll use quite a few, the goal is the same: with every comment, every hostile look, every reaction, he’s chipping away at you. He makes you doubt your qualities, the very ones he so admired, your abilities, even your reality.
He’s working hard at destroying your confidence, your strength, you yourself.
You realise you’re no longer the same person you used to be not so very long ago. You don’t understand what’s going on. You question yourself all the time. You’ve lost your joy, your love of live, maybe even your will to live. And that was the plan all along.
The last phase in a relationship with a manipulator is rejection. We’ve already seen how once the manipulator has spent the necessary time seducing in order to acquire you, he will then go into devaluation phase, his goal being to destroy you morally, psychologically, and even physically.
Once these phases are completed, rejection is next on the list.
He will reject you quite simply because, in one way or another, you no long give him what he needs. Maybe you’ve lost your joy of life (which is pretty much inevitable given all the insults and abuse he has been throwing onto you). Or perhaps you’ve started to figure him out and are no longer a willing participant in his games. Or it could simply be that he’s lost interest in the relationship and has decided to move on in order to satisfy his impulsiveness.
The rejection can be brutal: he suddenly stops calling, no longer responds to your messages, cuts off your relationship from one day to the next, seemingly without remorse. You struggle to understand how he can do this so quickly. Even when a relationship is on the rocks, there is usually a grieving period when it ends. Not for the manipulator. Since he was never genuinely attached to you (remember, he doesn’t know how), because you were only ever an object he used to satisfy his needs, he knows how to move on and never look back. And he will move on. He’ll find his new target and will start the cycle all over again.
If, on top of it, the manipulator knows that rejecting you causes you pain, if he knows that you’re still pining over him, looking for news from him directly or indirectly, his narcissistic supply is satisfied in knowing that you are still thinking of him and therefore he still “exists” for you. The more he abandons you, the more he exists for you.
But the rejection isn’t always so abrupt or definitive.
It can also be more discreet and/ or temporary. Depending on the situation, he can physically remain in the relationship but disengage in a extreme way, preferring to put his energies elsewhere in order to find a new narcissistic source. Disengaging emotionally while staying physically gives him a certain comfort and also allows him to make you suffer that much more.
The manipulator can also leave and then come back. Sometimes months or even years after. Whenever he needs a narcissistic boost to support his fragile ego, he can reappear in your life. But rest assured, he will leave again.
The relationship with a manipulator is never easy going, never without drama. He will never be able to give you what you want or need. He isn’t capable and doesn’t want to. The best thing you can do for yourself is count your blessing that he’s liberated you and take the time to heal yourself from the trauma you’ve just lived through.
Despite what one may think, the manipulator is in fact someone who is very dependent on others. If he hasn’t made the decision to leave you, he will not want you to leave him. He still needs you. On top of it, if you were to leave him, he’s the one who is left, abandoned and that’s not very good for his image!
If he believes you are going to leave him before he has decided to leave you, be careful! He can quickly change roles and become that amazing person you met at the beginning again. So charming and kind. His goal, of course, is to make you doubt your decision and convince you to stay. Rest assured, you’re not mistaken. This seemingly kind and gentle man still does not exist. He never really did. He’s simply put the mask back on, for the necessary duration, in order to convince you not to leave.
Another technique: play the victim. Don’t forget that manipulators excel at playing the victim so that they may play on your empathy. He may suddenly develop all different manners of weaknesses and illnesses. Some that he’s never had before and that are difficult to diagnose. Emotionally he can act like the lost little boy at the end of his rope. You’ll feel guilty about leaving. And you’ll seriously think about staying.
The threat of abandonment, because he will feel this as abandonment, is also one of the rare occasions that could push him into therapy. But again, it’s only a game of smoke and mirrors: his therapy isn’t truly so that he can change (after all, in his world, he doesn’t have a problem, everyone else does). Therapy is to look good and sometimes even to learn the lingo in order to use it against you in the future. He’ll learn to talk the talk, but he won’t walk the walk.
If you’re in a relationship with a manipulator and the stakes are higher than just dating, you need to prepare yourself ahead of time, and quietly, before leaving if you want to save your skin. If you have shared assets that need to be divided, protect yourself because he’s very attached to his objects and of course it’s always all about winning and hurting you. If you have children together, there are even more reasons to seek professional advice and be well informed before acting. The manipulator is capable of using everything and everyone to achieve his goals.
It’s not an easy situation, but it is possible to get out of it and even to come out of it well.