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Effects of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation

Effects of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation

In the case that someone is physically or sexually abused, you will most likely be able to see its effects. When it comes to emotional and mental abuse, this isn’t true. The scars are not bodily, but they can affect the abused person for the rest of their life. This is especially true for those who do not seek help from a professional. Mental manipulation can lead to problems with intimacy, trust, respect and security, just to name a few.

Short Term Effects

  • Surprise and confusion – feeling like whatever is happening can’t possibly be so, wondering why the person who has been a friend or loved one is now acting as a complete stranger.
  • Questioning self – you may find yourself wondering if you really remember things right or if something is wrong with you. This is a result of everything you do being questioned, or being told that you remember things wrong and the manipulative party is right.
  • Anxiety and vigilance – in order to avoid future manipulation, you may become hypervigilant toward yourself and others. This is a means of avoiding behaviors that might rock the boat, or looking for behavior in others that points toward an outburst.
  • Being passive – as taking action can lead to more pain in an emotionally abusive relationship, being passive can become the default. It is something that can be hard not to do when you are in a situation as stressful as one can be.
  • Shame and guilt – you may find yourself feeling guilty or blaming yourself for setting off the manipulative presence in your life. As they may blame you, it can become harder not to take that out on yourself, which leads to feeling even worse.
  • Avoiding eye contact – you may end up avoiding eye contact and becoming smaller inside of yourself in order to take up less space and feel less likely to be picked on by the manipulator.
  • Walking on eggshells – not knowing what will cause a spike in behavior from the other person can lead to thinking excessively about every little thing you do in order to ensure you don’t upset or anger the manipulator.

Long Term Effects of Emotional Manipulation

  • Isolation and numbness – you become an observer rather than someone who acts. You may feel little to nothing at all, even in situations which should make you joyful. This can make you feel hopeless and damaged, unable to ever feel emotions again.
  • Requiring approval – this manifests in ways like excessive accomplishing, being nice to everyone, being a people pleaser, and being focused on appearance. After feeling like you were not enough for a long period of time, your instinct is to make yourself seem perfect so others will appreciate you.
  • Feeling resentful – this can show as frustration, impatience, irritability, and blame. Resentment inevitably requires release, but this can be hard to seek and allow. After someone treats you badly, it can be hard to see anything but that bad behavior.
  • Excessive judging – you may find yourself watching for what others are doing and holding people, including yourself, to very high standards. This is a means of feeling in control after not being in control. This often requires time and self-compassion to move past.
  • Depressive disorder and anxiety – following manipulation or other emotional abuse, there are so many lies that have been told that you can often believe them yourself. However, the good news is that it can be healed, over time.

In addition to these signs, Stockholm syndrome is also common in these types of situations. The person who is being abused by the abuser will become accustomed to the abuse, and will even defend their painful actions.

Signs of Manipulation

There are many ways in which an emotional manipulator will seek power by treating another party badly. Some of these are extremely common and may be familiar if you have ever been in a situation such as this. Common tactics include withholding information, gaslighting, blaming the victim, pretending to be confused, shaming, minimizing feelings of others, and lying. More comprehensive explanations of common signs are listed and explained below:

Shirking Responsibility

A person who is looking to manipulate you will often avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Instead of doing so, they will take your own words and flip them to make you the “bad” or guilty person in the relationship. Rather than taking ownership of a situation and actions, the manipulator will attempt to twist the situation so something you did actually led to the problem.

Denying Past Promises

Someone who manipulates you may promise to do something or offer an affirmative when asked something, but they will never do what they said they would. However, if you bring this up, it will be turned back onto you. They will swear that you didn’t understand what they said and are being forgetful or ridiculous. This can lead to you questioning yourself and your own memories.

Guilt Tripping

A manipulator is the king or queen of being a victim. Rather than engaging in directly aggressive behavior, they may choose to use passive aggression. An example of this might be something like, “It’s fine if you go out with your friends. I’ll just stay here at home alone and clean up the house.” This makes you feel bad and puts them in the role of the sensitive victim who has to give everything up for you.

Ignoring Your Problems

Rather than empathizing with you and any issues you may be dealing with, a manipulator may use the time to talk about their own issues. For instance, if you complain about having a fight with a family member, this might turn into a diatribe about how at least you have family to fight with or how their own fights with their family members happen much more often so you should be grateful.

Not Using Their Words

Instead of speaking with you about something bothering them, a manipulator may talk behind your back or use other passive aggressive solutions. They may give you the silent treatment, pout, or otherwise show their disapproval without talking about it. They may also choose to say something supportive, while showing that support is not actually there through their actions.

Dark Clouds

Manipulators like to be the center of attention and may stop at nothing to do so. If they are upset, they want to ensure everyone knows it. They may do something to show this just to have people try to make them feel better. It can lead to a very draining and oppressive atmosphere to try to deal with, especially if this happens frequently.

Anger and Aggression

Intimidation is something many manipulative people rely on. This may be in the form of anger, veiled threats, or aggressive actions or language. This is even more true when the manipulative party knows the other person does not like confrontation. By causing you fear and discomfort, you may do whatever is needed to make the situation more comfortable, which usually means doing what they wanted in the first place.

Seeking the Trusting

Manipulators often seek out people who are insecure, sensitive, or trusting. They know these people are more vulnerable to the manipulation and less likely to put a stop to it. By being kind and thoughtful but slowly becoming more manipulative, they can begin to exploit the person, who is likely already attached to them and wants to avoid making waves.

Why People Manipulate

There are many reasons that people choose to manipulate others and these can vary based on the person. Most people engage in manipulation at times, but those who primarily interact with manipulation often share some traits among themselves.

  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.
  • Fear of being abandoned.
  • Need for power and control over others.
  • Willingness to put their feelings over the well-being of others.
  • Need to raise self-esteem.

What to Do About a Manipulator

Many people become aware they are being manipulated but are not sure how to handle the situation. The first thing to keep in mind is to always consider your safety above all else. However, there are a few suggested ways to better understand the other person and their motivations that can be tried.

  • Be direct and honest. Do not participate in situations that escalate the manipulation when you can help it.
  • Ask questions of the manipulative person and find out if they will directly tell you what it is they want.
  • Do not share how the manipulative acts make you feel, those feelings will likely be exploited later.
  • Try to avoid being guilted or shamed into doing something.
  • If the other person threatens you, ask them about it rather than avoiding the situation.

Common Characteristics of Victims

While a skilled manipulator can use emotional manipulation on nearly anyone, there are some common themes that manipulators look for.

Those who tie their self-worth to meeting the needs of others are a common victim type. Manipulators are drawn to this type of person as they are easy to manipulate, blame, and victimize. By needing to meet others’ needs to feel love, this type of person may more easily succumb to this kind of abuse.

Individuals who have a hard time saying no to others are also a common type for manipulators to prey on. If you avoid conflict, that allows the manipulator to do what they want without worrying about any repercussions.

People who have trouble expressing negative emotions will typically avoid confrontation and keep things happy no matter what. As such, manipulators sometimes seek these people out as threats may be all that is needed to get whatever it is they want.

Those who have a weak sense of self often have difficulty distinguishing themselves from the abuser. That makes it especially hard to trust your own feelings or make decisions that will make you happy. Manipulators appreciate that as it means they don’t need to try as hard to get what they are after.

Ways to Deal With Manipulation

While we have already mentioned ways to interact with a manipulative person, there are also things you can do yourself to raise your own self-esteem as well. Having a higher self-confidence will help you fight against a manipulator before they are able to damage your overall well-being. If you are currently trying to get out of a manipulative relationship or environment, follow these tips and guidelines below.

  • Understand and be aware of what is going on around you. Re-read the above material and look for things mentioned so you know how to catch them the next time around. Be aware of how manipulation works and where it leads.
  • Listen to yourself and your feelings. If you feel self-doubting or confused, be aware of that and consider why you are feeling that way. Pay attention to what the manipulative person is doing or saying and how that affects you.
  • Pay more attention to actions than words. Don’t assume that when someone says something, it’s the truth or it will be acted on. Watch for what someone does instead and base your feelings on that.
  • Understand that you are not the problem. If you have realized you are being manipulated, that is not your fault. Be aware that you did nothing wrong to cause it and the other person has their own problems. However, don’t let this lead to sympathy, just awareness.
  • Be assertive for yourself. Start by choosing to stop responding to techniques the way you did before. Say no if you want, speak up if you want. Understand that their reaction is not your responsibility.
  • Think about the relationship with the other person. Maybe you want to speak with friends about how you feel or perhaps you want to confront the person. Consider all the options and do what is comfortable for you.
  • Take your power back by confronting them. Only do this if you do not believe you are in harm’s way. However, explaining how you feel and what is bothering you is not doing something wrong. Request that the other person change their behaviors. Don’t let them continue with the same behavior. Take your power back and do what you need to do.

If you have been suffering from a mentally abusive relationship, just know you are not alone and you do not deserve that kind of treatment. For those suffering from depression and anxiety after getting out of an abusive relationship, just know that it is okay to seek treatment and recovery is all apart of the process.