What is Emotional Manipulation?

8 Ways to Protect Yourself From Emotional ManipulationBY Sophie James

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains a discussion on emotional manipulation and abuse and may be distressing for victims of emotional abuse.

Disclaimer: Firstly, I would like to inform readers that I am not a professional— the research in this article comes directly from doctors and other professional mental health sources. If you or anyone you know is suffering, please consult your doctor immediately or check the bottom of the page for more contacts.

A relationship with your friend, partner or family member, is supposed to be a healthy one— meaning you share a sense of security, trust and respect. However, as honest human beings, we may fail to meet those requirements from time to time.

In some cases, we, or other people, may tell ‘little lies’ (or big ones) or use passive-aggressive tactics to get certain messages across, especially when we are angry, anxious and/or upset. Personally, I have done it myself, and it left me with nothing but a residue feeling of shock and guilt at my own actions.

The first step is to recognise this behaviour— after that, we should offer an apology, and the person on the receiving end can recognise what they did to upset us. From thereon, we may try to resolve it.

However, emotional manipulation is when a person may continuously use their passive aggressive behaviour to control you, and to keep you from saying and doing what they do not like, or think is right. In the case of emotional manipulation, the manipulator may not necessarily think they are doing something wrong, however, this is not always the case either. Emotional manipulation can be subtle— it can leave you confused or overt, and possibly even in fear of further aggression, disappointment, or even violence.

Signs of emotional manipulation:

Some of this information has been sourced from Psychology Today (N.A.) and Live Bold and Bloom, written by life coach, Barrie Davenport. If you do feel like these signs remind you of anyone, or if you feel that this may be being done to you, please seek help or advice from the appropriate sources given at the bottom of this page.

Psychology Today states that people who use emotional manipulation often use negative humour to specify a weakness you may have, and may pick at it until you feel powerless. This can also make you feel like you are not good enough— for them or for anyone else. The manipulator may mock, dismiss you or make inappropriate jokes in order to feel superior. They may often say, or insinuate, that you are lucky to be with them or have them.

The manipulator may also over-exaggerate their life or personal issues— this is especially the case if you yourself are going through a difficult time, and they may be trying to make you feel guilty about struggling. At times, they may pretend like they don’t understand what you’re talking about, or may try and control your conversations, so it’s easier for them to avoid talking to you about certain things.

The ‘silent treatment’ is another tactic they may use. Due to the power of technology, these days a person can easily repetitively avoid messages and calls, thus making you wait on their own terms. Although we’re all guilty of missing the occasional (or few) calls and texts, and leaving our friends on the dreaded ‘seen’ from time to time, repeated offences shouldn’t be completely overlooked.

Mr. Davenport indicates that manipulators often turn your own words against you, denying things they had previously said and/or done, and at times, doing so in an aggressive manor.

The points I have chosen to reference in this article are just some of the signs an aggressor may show. If you, or someone you know, would like more information on this topic, or would like advice about how to get out of an abusive situation, please contact your local general practitioner or consult the hotlines listed below. You may choose to seek further help in therapy, in which case there are individual and group therapy sessions available, or even art, journal, cognitive behavioural and somatic therapeutic techniques, suited to each individual.

Mental health contacts
Your local G.P. or other mental health expert OR…

(Free and available 24/7)
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
The Line (specifically for young people in relationships): 1800 695 463


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