Helpful Ways To Identify Manipulation and Set Positive Boundaries
Our team discusses the complexity of emotional manipulation and ways an individual and family system can both overcome these hardships with positive boundary setting.
The cause and effects of emotional manipulation in relation to addiction and treating clients who experience this hardship
Examples of how families have been honest about manipulation tactics they’ve used in the past
Shame and manipulation
How positive boundary setting can be a solution
Our Chief Clinical Officer gives his advice as a parent and a father
Boundaries are a lot of times about resilience in general. I think that resilience and being a family that comes together to communicate about problems and not necessarily trying to solve them. I think that parents in general, and this has been my experience as a child, particularly fathers, there’s this impulse to solve the problem right away. Your child says I have a problem, well what are you gonna do about it? Rather than just sitting there and saying all right you have a problem, let’s sit with the problem for a while, what does it feel like to have this problem? Actually sitting with that and getting used to being in discomfort for a moment. I think that when we try to run away from discomfort is when we get into problems. When we try to protect ourselves from it and we try to avoid it and we try to problem-solve our ways out of it I believe we’re going in the wrong direction. It’s okay for things to not be okay for a moment, and so if you can do that as a family system you’ve got a pretty significant leg up and that all of the members of the family at that point recognize that at least have the beginning tools to be able to establish clear boundaries and healthy boundaries moving forward.
alrighty welcome back to another episode of finding peaks so grateful that you continue to join us and participate in this with us i hope that we are continuing to teach educate or otherwise about this industry about this space its complexities its simplicities its beauty its frustrations everything in between all of the things all of the things um for me personally just i just love coming to do these things yeah especially with you guys yeah it is great uh i think a few times i’ve missed title giving but again jason friesma chief clinical officer peaks recovery chief operating officer clint nicholson everybody and uh chief executive officer brandon burns just in case anybody’s joining us for the first time and welcome back for everybody else so we have a blog on our website called psychological emotional manipulation and it gets a lot of people visiting that particular page and so we just kind of wanted to highlight you know what that means in relationship uh to i think two different things right there’s two ways i think to look at psychological and emotional manipulation from an addiction treatment space one those things can cause shame guilt emotional feelings that might drive us towards maybe using drugs and alcohol one day to you know cope with those experiences also for family systems out there when we’re engaged with the an individual who is suffering from an addiction we experience psychological and emotional uh manipulation abuse and so forth and so i think uh just to kick this off i think let’s start with um you know maybe the cause and effect relationship of it when we experience psychological and emotional manipulation over time can uh have us experiencing guilt shame and so forth and then we end up turning to drugs and alcohol maybe to cope with that i know we talk a lot about uh the latter part of the topic about you know clients patients themselves manipulating family systems but um you know let’s talk about it maybe through the client lens and your experiences as clinicians and what that’s like um for our patient demographic to experience those things and resulting from that you know moving towards drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism so i don’t think there’s a question in there no but yeah i’m i’m what i’m and clinton’s answering first yeah but i feel like it’s nestled in there you’re in a clinical session and you’re talking with individuals what is it that comes up often in your experiences uh in regards to that manipulation that they experience for which they are stating you know these are reasons that i’m you know participating in you know drugs now called the coping mechanism i mean the first thing that comes to my mind with that question is certainly working um with some of our younger adult population and um and sometimes there are parents out there that can be a little bit manipulative with their adult children and sometimes um sometimes that manipulation can occur with good intention like trying to get somebody to do uh the right thing and i guess you know overall i look at manipulation to me is trying to change somebody’s behavior uh without kind of overtly stating your intention and trying to maneuver situations um in ways that well are manipulative and actually i was just during our family meeting recently i was talking to the families about dishonesty and of course every family on the zoom meeting was like yeah it’s it’s awful and like it was so horrible and then i asked families in what ways have you been dishonest um with your loved one who’s here at peaks and you know the call went a little quiet for a second and then i kind of described how um even as even as loving as it may be but not not speaking the truth to your loved one and trying to change their behavior through maybe just hiding things or withholding money or or um withholding love or attention as a way to try to change somebody’s behavior um is a way to be manipulative and regardless of what the intention is it still can kind of come across and be perceived as manipulation that’s the first thing that comes to my mind
nicholson i guess the first thing that comes to my mind is the um is like you said it or we’re kind of alluding to the sort of um push of manipulation to motivate either trauma or guilt or shame and then um utilizing substances as a coping mechanism or a primary coping mechanism i think that we are surrounded by manipulation of sorts at all times right whether it’s i think that it manipulation we just assume that it’s this negative thing but we’re being manipulated by advertisement we’re being manipulated by social media or being manipulated by um peers it’s all around us you know like it and it’s this idea of trying to again change behavior or promote behavior um in a certain direction and i think there there comes a point where there is a from the addicts perspective where there is a loss of self and then a loss of control and one of the easiest ways to gain back control particularly emotionally is through substances they’re effective they’re predictable and they are
accessible unfortunately so i that’s when i think about manipulation as far as driving or motivating substance use that’s what i come back to and then once you’re in that substance of use world when you’re in the realm uh and sort of culture of substance use i think the manipulation just gets even greater there’s a there’s a whole it’s almost exponential once you’re in there because you’re in a you’re in a group of people and part of a population that is 100 in survival mode and so um and you do anything you can to survive manipulation is probably a baseline almost to a certain degree so um yeah that’s kind of where my mind goes it’s i think it’s a an excellent point because it is true that we think about it in terms of that negative approach right because there are you know certainly in appreciating and understanding phone calls that we get you know coming into you know peaks recovery from family members it’s like look if i tell them they’re not getting their cell phone when they go to treatment they’re not coming and that doesn’t matter what treatment center is involved with that they’re just not coming right and so you know at times there’s this sort of good comp bad cop thing that starts happening and if we had to couch it in terms of you know positive terms it would be a harm reduction principle right the individual’s life is out of control and i’m going to tell i’m going to manipulate in this sense to bring them into care but the value proposition will be they’ll be better off than they were to begin with but you know at the same time in a family system that’s you know maybe negotiating that even with the best of intentions um and the person’s life is smiling out of control at the same time uh we’re sort of slowly but surely if not rapidly losing trust right within the family system and that’s a delicate line and i appreciate it clings i didn’t think we were going to go in this direction of like the the positive aspect about it but now it just makes it all the more challenging it feels like from that family perspective and um because it does feel that there are times in which it has like a value proposition uh in that regard but at the same time i think in you know in relation to you know family systems and so forth um not just so we don’t get off topic about it but what is it about those those you know going back maybe to the family phone call that you had jason about those experiences you know what were families able to get honest about as examples of dishonesty um on their side of things
well i think i i find that manipulation and particularly um the use of shame as a as a motivator uh to get people to go to treatment or to try to get people to change um is the one that i i think families were able to take the most responsibility for like um and and you know as rene brown talks about like shane is a great motivator in the short term um but it doesn’t create long term and systemic change like you can you know you can call somebody a name or or uh tell them they’re worthless or whatever as a what you know you’re being worthless i need you to you know how you would find worth basically would be to get your life together and and and do this and that might provide provide a little spark to get somebody moving in in a proper direction um but it is actually damaging obviously significantly and um and then you know the other big one that i was thinking about as well as we were talking is um gas lighting like that that seems like i don’t know kind of a term that gets used a lot lately um but i but certainly you know that’s that’s where um somebody blames their own behavior on another person like you know i wouldn’t i wouldn’t yell at you if you would come home on time or i wouldn’t have all this stress or i wouldn’t have my heart problem if you would get your life together or whatever and that can like again there’s a nuance there like some of that can be real and there’s there’s a genuine way to share like hey your behavior is affecting me in this way but there’s a manipulative way around saying like i’m i’m not going to take responsibility for how i’m speaking to you um this is your fault you brought this onto yourself basically yeah manipulation is very much of one like a a single direction street right it’s a one-way street it’s it’s much more about um there isn’t like a reciprocation of ownership in the in the moment and so it’s um it becomes just blame basically yeah and once you’ve started to blame somebody for the um devastation that is your life or the chaos that’s in your life and you don’t take any ownership of it shame is the result and then once you’re in shame again i mean like jason said there’s that maybe an initial motivating factor but then the shame actually becomes the motivation to continue the cycle because you start to feel worthless you start to feel like you you don’t have any power you start to feel like i’m the reason why everything is wrong you actually start to believe and own these things and that’s again when especially if you’re doing that in the context of somebody who has substance use once you start to feel out of control you go back to what you know and again substances are really great at that like they’re very predictable and they give you a sense of control so yeah short term you may see some movement or nudge in the right direction again knowing that manipulation is really about motivating change and behavior um but in the long term what you’ve done is in those moments is actually just sort of reinforce a cycle that you’re actually trying to break yeah and thinking about um the word gaslighting in that regard in reference to uh or just creating some an additional example about it because you know i always tell i i think the solution here becomes like positive boundary setting right yeah and so we’ll we’ll slide into that you know within this as the solution but you know i hear a lot from families as well too that okay i went to hold a boundary and i went to talk to my loved one and then they turned around and said to me well if you don’t give me that hundred dollars then i can’t pay rent or i don’t get that hundred dollars and then i’m going to be on the drugs you know or on the streets and you know unfortunately at times within this industry you know potentially prostituting myself and all that sort of stuff that we know happens um you know two individuals is that kind of a gaslighting element
and that’s one that i’ve seen a lot of like i’ve certainly talked to parents who have you know gone to the heroin dealer and paid paid for the drugs themselves or or definitely pay rent every month even though all these other behaviors are going on um and then are frustrated because their boundaries of like i i my boundaries that they’ll quit using well that boundaries are something you set to protect yourself it isn’t to change another person’s behavior right and even that you know that’s kind of weaponizing boundaries if it’s like i’m going to set a boundary to get clinton to change my boundaries just that like if if this behavior of clinton’s continues um this is what i’m going to do as a result of that to make myself safe again that’s what a boundary is that other stuff is just it’s aggravation and it’s it’s disguised as a boundary it probably is its own manipulation but i don’t think that’s in the in the blog but um i mean i think you slip into the realm of manipulation right and then maybe that’s when we start to talk about the other side of that like the family as sort of maybe more of a victim or the recipient of that of those sort of manipulative behaviors and um again i think for me it’s when i when i think of manipulation from the the part of an addict i just see somebody in survival mode you know that’s all they’re doing is surviving and all they want is to feel is to gain control back and again the way they know how to do that is to continue using and i think that’s on a psychological level and on a physiological level
and again there’s you can’t there’s nothing you can really do as a family member to change that they have to make the change and so we get into the but you get into the pattern of i’m going to set these what i feel are boundaries in order to try to motivate changes in behavior but really what you’ve done is just continued again that cycle of manipulation and it becomes uh very quickly it that’s when it’s a two-way street because it’s just manipulation exchange at that point but establishing those healthy boundaries like jason was talking about that’s actually how you break the cycle and it becomes about protection right rather than survival it’s about safety you know and i think that that’s um one way to frame it for families that actually gives them a sense of power back and that’s that’s how you start to regain control and sort of mitigate the chaos right because it is the the that boundary discussion actually creates a huge barrier to relationship whereas if my boundaries i’m not giving you any money if you’re using and that’s just my boundary right and then your son or daughter calls and is like if you don’t give me a hundred bucks i’m gonna get kicked out of my place a well-established boundary gets to say that sounds really hard and scary what are you gonna do because i’m holding you know i’m not can you the money right but like you can like the boundaries already set and i’m not here to change i’m not here to now stop your addiction i’m here to say i’m emotionally here for you but i’m not financially here for you because uh the finances are just going to the dope dealer right or the response when i think a typical response would be well i’ll do it this time but you have to do this right yeah right right oh yeah yeah there’s that you quit and i’ll do it yeah right which is again just another like it’s a more cordial manipulation i guess and it feels better like you’re starting to like if i do this and and there’s this exchange then we’re starting to get control again the chaos is starting to to sort of dissipate but no it’s just a it’s just an exchange you know you’re just continuing the cycle right so there’s a there’s a there’s a delicacy to it there so how you know and you’re the uh you’re the only uh father figure at least in this room with us right now so yeah um the biggest beer and the biggest beard in this room and it’s getting cold here in colorado so this is what we do but in regards to uh you know being a father you know um it i can imagine it’s extraordinary challenging to you know hold these boundaries and fortunately you know knowing your family of course that’s not the space you’re in but you know i always share with families and i think we do that when you go to set these boundaries for your own emotional safety what you’re going to hear back well then i’m going to do this and i’m going to live on the streets or i’m going to be in the trap house and all these sort of things that immediately pulls on the motherly and fatherly heartstrings and i think it’s you know so difficult for people to conceptualize that the boundary isn’t actually severing those streams and that that emotional state still exists and you know maybe from that parental lens you know um you know i can imagine just thinking about it you know for you even with with your kids how difficult that would be to set those boundaries you know for your own emotional safety and yeah maybe just um in that intimate sort of way walk family systems through you know from that parental lens that challenge and what that might be like you know for you if you’re in the same because it’s easier sometimes easy to give advice it’s another one to like kind of internalize it as if it were going to take place in our own yeah and to your point i haven’t been in the situation where one of my kids is saying i need 100 bucks or i’m homeless um but what is clear is like um as a parent like my kids struggle sometimes with anything and the easiest thing to do would go to be to go fix it um but but that doesn’t teach anything it doesn’t build resilience and and so always my strategy is or what i’m always thinking is what’s most important is my relationship with my kids and and um and that they’re calling me or talking to me about this problem um kind of puts us on the same team and the problem is over here and how do we navigate this and this problem is not my problem like i get to have that boundary um for the most part but like i but how do we how do we want to navigate that because don’t get me wrong and you know if if um if my daughter calls from college and is having a hard time my instinct is to go rescue her or go solve the problem first instinct for sure immediately um so it feels it feels um against my instinct to just sit and talk to her and allow her to solve her own problem even if it’s hard um but then you know that grows her resilience and her ability to kind of uh um well grow and learn and and i don’t want to be rescuing her when she’s 30 so i probably should help her engage life at 18. yeah yeah um
feedback on it i never i know it’s largely directed at him but share your expertise on my expertise as a as a parent yeah i have a dog and two cats so when hank yeah hank my dog if he were to come to me yeah it’s like if you don’t get this money i can’t get bones you know i don’t know i think about the uh that when you talk about that uh the idea of severing the connection that that these boundaries feel like you’re suffering but really what severs the connection between family and between family members is actually the back and forth between manipulation that’s what it’s like you’re constantly sawing that connection every time you go back and forth with those manipulations you’re actually making it more and more tenuous and to establish these solid boundaries is the first way to heal that so i think from a visual perspective it’s one way to think about it but that’s really what will cause those that eventual sort of snap or severing of the connection between family members is the back and forth because you lose you lose being genuine and authentic with one another and you don’t everything becomes about one-upping the other person rather than just stopping and like jason said being there and listening to them you know and not trying to solve the problem but just help them understand the problem um yeah that’s kind of that’s my feedback and i’m sure there are families that are suffering and that that sounds very pollyanna-ish absolutely like very much like oh that great jason but like your kid’s not about to die and that’s true um and i want to acknowledge that um the stakes are higher uh often times when dealing with substance abuse but i don’t think um i don’t think severing the serving the relationship i think is the actual enemy in all of this absolutely um
and i do think there are times to lean into the like if you know like if you have a lot of uh cachet if you will in the emotional bank account with your kids then you can lean in and push at times i think uh and then there are other times that you have to just support from a distance and and and let your loved one know that there’s always a warm meal and and a listening ear and that’s about it yeah and we’ve talked about boundaries and because it seemingly comes back to boundaries uh a lot on this show um because they are so effective when they are understood and that the powerful thing that you know i think we’ve lightly said it in past episodes but the powerful thing about a boundary is a boundary is not a line in the sand to direct or change the course of someone’s behaviors right it is back to i am safe in this moment so you know i shared with a mom a while ago i said what is it like to get a phone call from your loved one well i think it’s the last phone call i think it’s somebody on the other line going to tell me he’s dead that he got in a car accident and killed somebody because of his drinking and so forth and i you know i said to her like that does not sound safe i can only imagine what it’s like to pick up a phone like if my loved one called and to have that energy we want to answer that phone when it’s loving it’s positive they’re sharing in their goals inspirations or maybe even sharing and negative features that are taking place in their lives that you know we can support and encourage but we can’t be in sort of that 9-1-1 call space at any given time and so you know maybe just kind of carrying this episode out again how can we um convey to individuals family systems and also as well too i think if anything right start talking to you know before your you know what what is it in america it’s uh to 22 million people suffering from mental health and addiction that’s you know 330 million americans or something like that so you know just shy of 10 percent of our population is going through this at any given time and you know we’ve seen a variety of family systems coming into peak’s recovery centers that come from all walks of life this happens to all walks of life you know at some point i think you know we can start setting emotional boundaries and safety early on before we even know there’s an addiction taking place before we get into that you know risky behavior sort of drawing the line in the sand um in that regard so you know how can we support families i guess on the you know before we head out here in regards to again just reminding what those boundaries are how to reinforce them and how to have earlier discussions about their own emotional safety before it gets to that moment where we might be gaslighting or sliding into manipulative behaviors well to the to that example you just gave um as horrific as that is and who would want to just be on edge and that every phone call might mean that this is the one um to your point that is that is a tough way to live and and honestly the first boundary i thought of is so practical and simple but it would be to you know put your phone in a different room when you go to bed and at least create eight hours of a buffer and just say if if a call comes at 2am there probably isn’t really much i can do anyway and i it and i know that that can sound so cold and callous but like boundaries you can’t live like you’re an er doc 24 7 365 like i need to be ready to jump at a moment’s not like that’s not a practical solution and the only way is probably some sort of physical boundary like that um where that that’s how that’s going to go that’s and and i know so conceptually that’s what the boundary is is saying this is i need to create this safe space for me um or i’m not going to take calls that aren’t in my contact list or i’m not going to let calls ring through that aren’t on that or whatever whatever it is that that you may need um to whatever degree feels right and and boundaries are meant to also be fluid like there might be a season you might need to take a month and just turn your phone off at night and then see where you are and reevaluate maybe that’s maybe that felt better or maybe that felt worse i don’t know but but learning that that taking care of yourself is actually an important part of of establishing your own mental health and your own ability to be stable because the fact is when that call comes if you do get the call from your loved one like you’re probably going to need some energy some emotional uh you’re you’re going to need some reserves in the bank anyway to offer that support if that call comes so
i mean i love that you had like a really pragmatic answer so i know so can you give us more of a feeler once again clinton since we’re still on this one gosh i’ll give it the old college try here okay i think it’s about boundaries are a lot of times about resilience in general right so i think that if you’re trying if you’re if we’re talking about like before this even happens like what are some of the things that we can do to help build uh to help build boundaries within a family system regardless of if there are issues going on i think that resilience and being a a family that comes together to
communicate about problems and not actually necessarily try to solve them you know i think that we parents in general and this has been my experience as a child particularly fathers yeah at least my father there’s this this impulses to solve the problem you know kid says i have a problem well what are you going to do about it right rather than just sitting there and saying all right you have a problem let’s sit with the problem for a while you know what does it feel like to have a problem and what does it feel like to resolve and just be in slowly but surely you’ll feel through i know it feels amazing way too many times yeah i’m good for the year cashed it all in yeah right i’ve just been waiting so yeah but actually sitting with that and and getting used to being in discomfort right uh i think that we when we try to run away from discomfort is when we get into problems you know when we try to protect ourselves from it and we try to avoid it and we try to problem solve our ways out of it i think we’re going in the wrong direction you know it’s okay for things to not be okay and so um and being able to sit in that space as a family i think if you can do that as a family system i think you’ve got a pretty significant leg up and i think that all of the members of the family at that point recognize that um at least have the beginning tools to be able to establish clear boundaries and healthy boundaries moving forward yeah so absolutely and i and i think in in in going out here um and i appreciate that that was excellent pragmatic feels we switched yeah yeah you’ll never see that again viewers that was that was there’s a lot of vulnerability in this room and i could feel it yeah just in its and i and i think in going out here as well you know the thing that comes to my mind about this is that your loved one is suffering there is no doubt about that and whatever they’re going through mental health primary substance use disorder they are suffering and i think the goal of a boundary is to not be suffering at the same level and to provide some space in that regard so that um you know you can still get uh as wild as it may feel or me saying a good night’s sleep while that’s happening in the background because your life matters just as much as your loved one’s life in that regard so boundaries is to take care of self um and support the individual in a loving way and so thanks again for being here on this episode uh today at finding peaks i got a special exciting guest uh coming up in a few weeks here joanna conte with vista research president founder of vista research and conquer addiction they are the nation’s uh largest outcome data collection agency that exists in the country and so um no more fluff about outcomes we’re going to talk about it specifically what she’s seeing on her end in that regard what frustrations she’s seen about treatment centers and their experiences in regards to this but she’s got a big heart she’s doing something really extraordinary in our industry it’s been wonderful to have them creating peaks recovery centers outcome data so i’m really excited to bring joanna on in the meantime send us your thoughts ideas questions finding peaks at peaksrecovery.com uh find us on the facebook the instagram uh podcast uh the gmails
spotify there’s another one for the podcast love you all thanks again and we’ll see you next time
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