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Chapter 11 Eliminating Manipulation

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What is manipulation?
Manipulation is a set of behaviors whose goal is to:
  • Get you what you want from others even when the others are not willing initially to give it to you.
  • Make it seem to others that they have come up with an idea or offer of help on their own when in reality you have worked on them to promote this idea or need for help for your own benefit.
  • Dishonestly get people to do or act in a way which they might not have freely chosen on their own.
  • Con people to believe what you want them to believe as true.
  • Get your way in almost every interaction you have with people, places, or things.
  • Present reality the way you want others to see it rather than the way it really is.
  • Hide behind a mask and let people see you in an acceptable way when in reality you are actually feeling or acting in an unacceptable way for these people.
  • Maintain control and power over others even though they think they have the control and power.
  • Make other people feel sorry for you even though it would be better for them to make you accept your personal responsibility for your own actions.
  • Get away with not having to do the things necessary to meet your obligations, responsibilities, and duties in life.
  • Involve everyone in your life's problems so that you do not have to face the problems alone.
  • Keep everything the same so that the status quo is not affected or changed.
  • Make others feel guilty or responsible for actions or thoughts which are yours alone.
  • Get others to feel like they are responsible for your welfare so that you do not have to make a decision or take responsibility for anything that goes wrong in your life.


What are the negative effects of manipulation?
The negative effects of continued use of manipulation to control others are that:
  • People will wake up to your con job on them and be no longer willing to support, assist, or help out when you need them.
  • You will become more likely to believe your own con stories and fantasies and slip into a pre-psychotic state with the inability to tell the difference between the reality and fantasy in your stories and lies.
  • You will get caught up in the need to continue to manipulate and con because it is the only way people will respond to you since they won't be able to relate to you as a real or authentic person because that side of you is rarely shown.
  • People will find it difficult to fully trust you in the future and they will intentionally distance themselves from you for their own self-protection.
  • You run the risk of loss of a healthy conscience and you will not be able to see the wrongness of your lying, conniving and storytelling.
  • People will be hurt by your behaviors because they will have opened themselves up to you by believing your con job and then will be hit in the face by the reality of your scam on them.
  • You run the risk of being the recipient of others' anger, resentment, revenge seeking, hatred, or rage when they wake up to how they have been manipulated, used and abused.
  • You will use up enormous amounts of emotional energy in continuing your con of others and have little left to care for yourself.
  • You will experience a greater degree of stress and anxiety as time goes on and your con story line becomes more complex and people begin to pick apart the falsehood and dishonesty in your story.
  • You will experience depression and an emptiness as you realize that all of your success up to a point has been built like a house of cards.
  • Your low self-esteem will be exacerbated because of the lack of ability to take pride in your hard honest work to become everything you were capable of becoming.
How is manipulation a control issue?
Manipulation is a control issue because:
  • As you get away with shifting your responsibility for yourself off on others, you will become more helpless so will seek out fixers, caretakers, and rescuers to take care of you.
  • You might be an unchangeable and uncontrollable factor in someone else's life and yet keep that person hooked into trying to be there for you when it becomes unhealthy or toxic for that person to continue to do so.
  • It involves dishonesty, deceit, use of masks, lack of clarity of messages sent, and pretense in order to get people to be the way you want them to be.
  • It is a subtle use of control over others since you get them to do for you what they might not have freely chosen to do on their own will.
  • It is a form of mind control or brainwashing to control the thinking of others in a way which may not be consistent with their previous pattern of behavior, feeling or thinking.
  • Any use of subversive means to get others to puppet what you lead them to do is use of power and control which is problematic and dangerous for those manipulated.
  • It can be a politically savvy tool to handle over-controlling, intimidating, and autocratic people, places, or things, by giving the impression that the others have the power when in reality you are freely doing what you need to do in order to politically survive and thus retain the locus of control in your own hands.
  • The goal of manipulation is to control and overpower other people to do what you want them to do for you.
  • It is the unhealthy use of power tactics to get something for yourself even if it robs others of their freedom of choice, reason, and rationality.
  • It uses control behaviors to achieve the end result you are wanting to get out of people, places and things which might not freely do what it is which you want done.
  • It places the manipulator in a power position in control of the emotions and reasoning of those being manipulated.
  • It may be a survival technique which allows you to retain control of your life to ensure you that no one takes advantage of you.
  • In any struggle for power and control it is a tool which is used to catch the other side off guard in order to win the contest.
  • it involves behaviors such as suicidal gestures to blackmail people to do and be for you the way you want them to be.


What irrational thinking leads to the use of manipulation?
Some irrational thinking that can encourage you to continue to use manipulation in relationships are:

  • If you do not keep others hooked on being involved with you, you will end up being ignored, unaccepted, or unwanted.
  • Use of manipulation was the only way you have ever gotten what you needed in life so why should you learn new ways of achieving the same end.
  • Use any means you need to win since winning is all that counts in life.
  • Don't ever let others think they have the upper hand on you so that they never can take advantage of you.
  • It is always better to show the perfect you to people than to let them see the real you.
  • There is a sucker born every minute so if you work hard enough you can sucker someone into taking care of all of your needs.
  • You can fool all of the people all of the time in order to get what you want out of them.
  • You must get others deeply involved in your life's problems in order for you to feel important, the center of attention, cared for, approved of, and accepted.
  • You are most successful when you are able to delegate to others what you need to be doing for yourself.
  • If it works use it; worry about the consequences later.

What is the way to cease use of manipulation in your relationships with others?

In order to cease using manipulation in your relationships with others, follow these steps.


Step 1: Identify what behaviors you are using in your relationships with others in order to manipulate them into doing what you want them to do for you.


Step 2: Identify what issues in your life you are not wanting to accept personal responsibility for and which lead you to manipulate others to ignore or take care of for you.


Step 3: Identify your feelings about the issues in your life that you manipulate others to address or ignore.


Step 4: Identify what irrational beliefs underlie your need to manipulate others to take over the responsibility for the issues in your life.


Step 5: Identify what new beliefs about these issues would make you more personally responsible and a more authentic or real person.


Step 6: Identify what fears block your taking personal responsibility for these issues in your life and thus lead you to manipulate others to ignore or take care of them for you.


Step 7: Identify new feelings about these issues which would help you to be more realistic and more responsible as you face these issues.


Step 8: Identify new healthy, more productive coping behaviors which you can put into practice which will help you to become more personally responsible and less manipulative.


Step 9: Inform those people you have been manipulating to take care of you that you are now going to take the full responsibility for these issues on your own.


Step 10: Seek support from people in your life to assist you not to fall back into manipulating others to ignore or to take care of these issues for you.


Step 11: Give permission to the people in your life to call you on it when you are falling back into the manipulative behaviors by which you try to control them to take responsibility for the issues in your life.


Step 12: When you find yourself falling back into use of manipulation, return to Step 1 and start over again.

What are the steps to eliminating manipulation in your life?

Step 1:   In order to eliminate the use of manipulation in your life, you first need to identify the behaviors you use to manipulate others to ignore or take over responsibility for your care and your problem life issues. To identify your manipulative behaviors, use the following inventory:


Manipulative Behavior Inventory
If you currently use any of the following behaviors in your relationships with people in your life, write them down in your journal.


  1. Play the victim
  2. Play the martyr
  3. Act helpless
  4. Play stupid
  5. Act incompetent
  6. Act angry
  7. Throw temper tantrums
  8. Say anything you want when you don't mean it
  9. Act compliant when you don't want to
  10. Lie about how you feel
  11. Act lost
  12. Act suicidal
  13. Act hopeless and pathetic
  14. Act depressed
  15. Act befuddled or confused
  16. Tell stories or fabrications
  17. Use hyperbole or exaggeration to build up problems
  18. Be a wedge between people dividing them: one against the other
  19. Act judgmental or shame people
  20. Use guilt trips
  21. Use ridicule
  22. Cry wolf
  23. Looking good for the other
  24. People pleasing
  25. Passive aggressiveness
  26. Act hurt or wounded
  27. Act ignored or forgotten
  28. Act unloved or uncared for
  29. Blame others for your problems
  30. Kiss up
  31. Act overly solicitous
  32. Ingratiate yourself with others
  33. Exaggerated sincerity
  34. Overly charming
  35. Act out of it
  36. Act sorry for your bad behaviors
  37. Insincere promising of change or reformation of behaviors
  38. Act as if you don't have value or worth
  39. Keep everybody upset to keep focus off you
  40. Keep people around you in competitive relationships


Step 2: Once you've identified the manipulative behaviors you use to get people to do things for you to ignore your problems or to keep them off guard, you then need to identify who are the people you manipulate. In your journal, identify the people you manipulate.


Step 3: Why do you manipulate others? Identify in your journal the issues present in your life which you manipulate others to address or ignore. Answer the following questions about these issues.

  • How do you feel about each of these issues?
  • Why do you feel a need to manipulate others concerning these issues?
  • Which issues do you want others to ignore or overlook?
  • Which issues do you want others to fix or change for you?
  • Which issues do you want others to feel responsible for?
  • Which issues overwhelm you? Which issues overwhelm others?
  • Which issues depress you? Anger you?
  • Which issues do you want to run away from?
  • Which issues do you feel helpless to deal with? Hopeless to cope with?


Step 4: In your journal now identify:

  • What irrational beliefs keep you from successfully coping with each issue identified in Step 3?
  • What new, healthy, more rational beliefs do you need in order to cope with and handle these issues?
  • What thinking keeps you from accepting personal responsibility for your problems and issues?
  • What new thinking do you need in order to accept personal responsibility for your own problems and issues?


Step 5: In your journal now identify what new, healthier, more productive behaviors you need to develop to address your problems and issues.


Step 6: Implement these new behaviors.


Step 7: Inform people of your old manipulative behaviors and give them permission to call you on it if you fall back into old manipulative ways.


Step 8: If you find yourself relapsing back into manipulative behaviors to get people to ignore or take care of you, then return to Step 1 and begin over again.