Have you ever wondered how the emotional manipulator behaves when he/she returns home to their family? Usually the manipulation continues on some level. We are going to address the subject of the Manipulator at home. If you have a partner or family member with these behaviors, please do not take your new found knowledge and confront them. Depending on the temperament of the Manipulator, there could be consequences that will be far more radical than you would expect. If you must talk to the Manipulator about their behavior, be sure that you and any vulnerable people (i.e., children, elderly or disabled) are safe before you do so. Understand that your confrontation will not bring enlightenment to the Manipulator; he/she may take their behavior to the next level.
The website, Bully Online,org/related/family.htm, states that the serial bully (Manipulator) commits psychological violence on their family, because that type of violence leaves no physical scars or bruises and no evidence. The manipulation takes place in the following ways:
- Verbal abuse,
- Emotional abuse,
- Nit picking criticism,
- Constant fault-finding combined with a simultaneous refusal to recognize, value, acknowledge and praise,
The Manipulator’s objectives are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation and the techniques used in the process of victimization was best described by George K. Simon, in his book, “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People”.
- The manipulator’s aggression is not obvious. Our gut may tell us that they are fighting for something, struggling to overcome us, gain power, or have their way. We find ourselves unconsciously on the defensive, but because we cannot point to clear, objective evidence that they are being aggressive against us, we can’t easily validate our feelings.
- The tactics Manipulator’s use can make it seem like they are hurting, caring, defending…almost anything but fighting. These tactics are hard to recognize as merely clever ploys. They always seem to make just enough sense to make a person doubt their gut feelings that they are being taken advantage of or abused. Besides, these tactics not only make it hard for you to consciously and objectively know that a manipulator is fighting, but they also simultaneously keep you consciously or unconsciously on the defensive. It is difficult to think clearly when someone has you emotionally “on the run”.
- All of us have weaknesses and insecurities that a clever manipulator might exploit. Sometimes we are aware of these weaknesses and how someone might take advantage of them. Yet, when someone pushes that button, it is hard to think clearly about what is going on. Sometimes we are unaware of our own vulnerabilities and manipulators know us better than we know ourselves. They know what buttons to push and how hard. Our very lack of self-knowledge can set us up to be abused or manipulated.
- Our gut tells us what a manipulator is like; challenging everything we’ve been taught to believe about human nature. We’ve all been inundated with a psychology that has us seeing everyone, at least to some degree, as afraid, insecure or “hung-up.” So, while our gut tells us that we are dealing with a ruthless conniver, our head tells us that they must be wounded underneath or frightened. What’s more, most of us generally hate to think of ourselves as callous and insensitive people. We hesitate to make harsh or seemingly negative about others. We want to give them the benefit of a doubt and assume they really don’t harbor the malevolent intentions we suspect. We’re much more apt to doubt and blame ourselves for daring to believe what our gut tells us about our manipulator’s character. This is the time to learn to trust your gut feelings, because we have been given the ability to identify when we are in the presence of a predator and we have to learn to believe what we are feeling.
Control is the primary identifier of a serial bully (manipulator) at home: control of finances, control of movements, control over the choice of friends, control over the right to work, control over what to think and so forth. All of these tactics are designed to take power away from the victims.
A favorite tactic of the manipulator in the family is to set people against each other. He/She then gains the following benefits:
- Gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking arguments, quarreling and hostility. He/She then watches other engage in adversarial interactions and conflict. The approach may be as simple as, “Well, your father said that you…. (Fill in the blank). Now I’m mad at my father for making such a harsh judgment when he doesn’t know anything about this.
- Distraction and diversion: the ensuing conflict ensures that people’s attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict.
Family manipulators are masters of manipulation and are fond of controlling the victim (target) through the victim’s emotions, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. She/He sees any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation and is especially prone to exploit those who are most emotionally needy (i.e., elderly relatives, those with infirmity, those with the greatest vulnerability, or those who are or behaviorally immature). When the victim (target) lives with someone who is constantly denying what they said or did, the victim feels crazy. When the symptoms of injury to health start to become apparent, the manipulator (bully) will tell others that you have a “mental health problem.” You are in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario and you are feeling angry, powerless and inadequate ALL of the time.
When the manipulator (serial bully) is close to being outwitted or exposed, they feign victimhood and turn the focus on themselves which is another example of manipulating through emotion or guilt. Their tearful reaction seems way out in left field in light of the fumbling attempt of confrontation. They will make themselves the center of attention by claiming to be the injured party and portraying their victim (target) as the villain of the piece. Then when the victim tries to explain the game, they are immediately labeled “paranoid” and the game continues.
In my opinion, there is not much the victim (target) can do to change this situation other than distance from the manipulator (serial bully). The prognosis for the manipulator is grim and although they may be very capable of figuring out your vulnerabilities, they are often blind to their own behaviors.