Manipulation can be very subtle. We often talk about how manipulative addicts are. And in particular we talk about how sex addicts manipulate others in order to avoid discovery, throw their partner off the scent and “gaslight” their partners. In gaslighting, a term taken from the 1944 movie Gaslight, a person controls another person by finding ways to make them think that they are imagining things or that they are actually delusional.
Manipulation as a weapon of the weak
By definition manipulation is indirect and devious. It is neither aggressive nor passive-aggressive, although it is a cousin to both. It is a way of getting what you want without directly asking for it.
Manipulation does not involve overtly aggressive behaviors like threats or bullying although manipulative people may do these things at times. It is also different from mere passive-aggressive behaviors such as being late for something we don’t want to do or “forgetting” something we were supposed to do.
Someone who resorts to manipulation is doing so as a way to stay safe. Often the manipulator is in a low-power position in a relationship or unconsciously adopts that position. A manipulator is acting out of fear, fear of being direct, fear of being honest, and above all fear of being assertive and vulnerable.
Signs of manipulation
There are some subtle types of communication that suggest you may be dealing with a manipulator. All of them are designed to ultimately control what you think or do in ways that have plausible deniability. The manipulator is hiding their real selfish motive.
- Arguing you out of what you want
- Non-stop talking
- Derisive joking and sarcasm
- Reframing your reality
But when a person attempts to change your reality out of their own self interest it’s a different matter. This is the person who may want you to do something that you think is wrong and argues “life is short” or “if you are really my friend…” etc.
Manipulation in recovering addicts
If you have ever lived with a sex addict, or maybe any untreated addict, you may be saying that this is old stuff to you. You may have experiences so much manipulation that you had it wired.
In recovering sex addicts there is a lot of emphasis on living in integrity and not trying to be devious or controlling toward other people. But even in addicts with long term recovery it may be the case that the habitual ways of relating during the addiction will linger.
Arguably the recovering addict’s most difficult challenge is learning to function in intimate relationships. Intimacy requires trust and openness, and the recovering addict will be working toward becoming more direct and transparent even when the addictive behavior is long gone.
** If you or someone you know is struggling in a manipulative relationship, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule an Initial Assessment.