Top 11 Take Aways from “Who’s Pulling Your Strings” by Harriet Braiker

Who is Pulling Your Strings image

11 Big Takeaways from “Who is Pulling Your Strings” by Harriet Braiker PhD


This book does a great job with spelling out what manipulation is, who the “usual suspects” are, and how manipulation makes a person feel. I hope my top 11 takeaways are helpful, and I hope that you join us for the book club discussion on this book which will be 2/22/18 at 6:30pm EST over on my YouTube channel, “Thrive After Abuse.” If you’d like to purchase this book, you can find it on Amazon by clicking here. (This is an affiliate link, and any money made goes to helping support this site.) The next book club book that we will be reading is “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier.


  1. Manipulation can happen anywhere, by anyone. Manipulation respects no relationship boundaries, and can happen anywhere—between friends, family, work, and with people of any genders, ages, religions, professions, sexual orientation, etc. Manipulation often causes feelings of confusion, anxiety, depression, and powerlessness. It’s unpleasant and demeaning. Manipulators do not care about your feelings, there manipulation is about them getting what they want—often at the expense of those around them. If you benefit from a manipulative relationship, it’s accidental. (Or, it can also be intentional—but if it’s intentional, it’s only because it is another layer of manipulation. Some manipulators can do a great job at coming across as loving, caring, and as though they are your soul mate. They may do you favors and dote on you—but keep in mind that them doing this is often because in their mind this is their way of justifying their later bad behavior. For example, the may bring you flowers or take you on a wonderful vacation, but it’s because they are cheating/stealing from you, etc., and need to justify to themselves that they really are a good person. *These times of amazing behavior are also known as the “honeymoon” phase in the cycle of abuse.)


  1. You hold more power than you realize. You can stop the manipulation. (However, this is not the same as us changing the manipulator.) The only way to stop manipulation is to see it for what it is, and to stop falling for it. In other words, we have to change our behavior. This isn’t victim blaming, although it can feel like it. Being manipulated is not your fault, and most people are unaware that this is what is going on.) When we stop dancing this crazymaking dance, the manipulator will either change tactics or find a new target. When you cease to please, stop responding to threats, you start to regain your power. (This is why many people don’t change their behavior, because they don’t want to rock the boat. They just want their partner to change—but they don’t want to risk the relationship for this to happen. Please know that if you are walking on eggshells trying to avoid upsetting the manipulative person in your life, in order to maintain a relationship with them, this means you don’t have much of a relationship to begin with. Any situation where you have to sink yourself to keep the relationship afloat isn’t worth being in.)


  1. The Difference between manipulation and influence. Manipulation is where one person seeks to control or prey upon another by artful, unfair, or insidious means. Manipulation reinforces dependency, helplessness, and victimization. With manipulation, relationships stagnate, and grow lopsided. Victim grows weaker and ever-more compliant even as resentment and hostility grows. Manipulation can be indirect, and often includes hidden agendas, threats, intimidation, and coercion to ensnare and trap the target. The relationship is often established before the manipulation begins. As the manipulative behavior is tolerated, the manipulator will grow bolder.


Some manipulators are aware of their behavior and their agenda, and some are not. Regardless of whether or not they are aware of what they are doing, and why, manipulative relationships are destructive for the target of such manipulation, and it’s up to the target to develop and hold boundaries with a manipulative person.


Examples of manipulation include: withholding sex, pouting, sulking, and silent treatment, making the target feel guilty, angry outbursts, inappropriate demands and screaming fits. The target often feels sick when they want to do something they know the abuser won’t like, and feels like the manipulator has two very different personalities. The result is that the target starts changing their life slowly. The target start to show a shift in their personality, spending less time with friends, walking on eggshells, confused and upset by their own behavior, and by changes in their relationship. They may engage in ingratiating behavior, such as buying the abuser presents, being overly considerate, and being compliant—all in an attempt to get the manipulator to treat them with dignity and respect. (The reality is that the more we give into the demands of the manipulator, the less the target will be treated with dignity and respect.)

Influence. Manipulating someone is not the same as trying to influence someone. We all attempt to influence each other for the other’s best needs. Teachers, doctors, therapists, good friends and family will often try to influence those they care about to take positive, empowering action in their lives. Influence involves open and direct communication, the purpose of the action is made clear, and the person being influenced is allowed (and encouraged) to think for themselves and to make their own decisions.

Some examples of manipulative dynamics and the results after the target was able to see the manipulation for what it is, and changed how they reacted to it:


Bob and Cindy. Bob is a doctor with a thriving practice in LA. He met Cindy, a strong, independent woman who lived in NY, at a conference.  Their chemistry was off the charts, and within six months of back and forth flights and talking every day, they decided that Cindy would move in with Bob. Within the first few months, Bob began to notice that the strong, independent woman he fell in love with was being replaced by a controlling and needy woman. Blamed him for moving her away, and soon became needy, whiny, and controlling—wanting Bob to spend his time with her, and her alone, since she didn’t know anyone in LA. At first, Bob complied, thinking that as soon as she got more settled, that maybe she’d become the independent woman she used to be—but this wasn’t so. What was so confusing is that there seemed to be times where Cindy would be independent, and that she understood how her behavior was problematic—and she’d promise to change…but she never did for long.


Result: Once Bob realized he was being manipulated by her behavior, and that he was hooked on the intermittent reinforcement (and false hope) of when she’d go back to being independent—and that things weren’t changing, he decided to end things.


Sally, Martha, and Jim. Sally’s mother, Martha, was manipulative. She used guilt, obligation, and unfair expectations to control Sally. If Sally and Jim didn’t go to her house every Friday for dinner, there was an icy hell to pay. Martha would stop calling during the week, or if they did talk an icy chill was present. Short responses, silent treatment, and guilt would be soon to follow. Jim became resentful at Martha’s manipulation, as he wanted to spend time with his family on some weekends. He would withdraw and become surly and sulking. Sally felt caught between them. Martha had a bunch of excuses as to why they needed to spend time at her house—and why they couldn’t all spend time together. Some of her concerns were that it wouldn’t be the same, Jim had a big family, that dinner at Martha’s house was their tradition. When Sally became pregnant, Martha’s control escalated, and that’s when Sally realized she needed to do something.


Result: Realized that primary loyalty needed to be to her own family first, and her secondary family second. She stood her ground and didn’t give in to her mother’s crying. When her mother called a few days later, she told her mother that the guilt wasn’t going to work, and did the broken record, that she could join them at her house for dinner with other relatives. Sally has learned to hold her ground, and has gotten rid of much of the guilt.


Arnie and Francine. Both are real estate brokers, however, Arnie was very successful and Francine was just starting out. Arnie approached Francine with the idea that they could be partners. He said that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and kids, and that if she did most of the work, he’d give her all his leads. He suggested that they have a probationary period to make sure that they were a good fit for each other before they made things final. She was thrilled by his proposition, and over the next few months, she worked her tail off.


After a handful of months passed, with no added income coming her way, she asked Arnie when the probationary period would be over–and he exploded. He apologized the next day, but still didn’t bring up when her probationary period would end. Whenever she brought up money, he would lecture her about trust, patience, and hard work. She thought this was his way of testing her work ethic.


One weekend, Francine answered the phone, and was surprised to find that it was Arnie’s wife—and that she was wondering where he was. Turns out Arnie had been lying to his wife, saying he’d been working every Saturday.  Francine confronted Arnie, and he exploded when she mentioned his wife called. It turned out that Arnie had been involved with several coworkers and clients, and had been cheating on his wife since the day he was married.


It quickly became apparent that he was using Francine to do all his work, when he never had any intention of being partners with her. What Francine found enraging was that here he was cheating on his wife and using Francine to do his work, and yet he had the nerve to lecture her about trust and loyalty. Francine ended their “partnership” and was left with no money, a damaged reputation, and feeling embarrassed.


Result: She credits this experience as a wakeup call for being naïve. She went on to join another team of brokers, and became successful, and Arnie went on to be sued for sexual harassment by another broker and his wife divorced him.


  1. Understanding the 7 different mindsets and personalities that set a person up for manipulation. Everyone is a potential target for manipulators, albeit some are more vulnerable than others. And it’s important to understand your buttons of vulnerability. Understanding “why” manipulators manipulate may be interesting, but it’s not as important as learning ways to protect yourself and break the cycle.


There are seven main areas of vulnerability. The best way to get into the safe zone is to identify these buttons. Not understanding them may set you up for continually manipulation.


  1. Disease to please. Or, people pleasing. (It may seem as though we are easy going and work well with others, but really the continual need to please others is a problem, and ingratiating ourselves and walking on eggshells does not establish an equal relationship with others.) When a person feels the compulsive need to please others, they often feel out of control in their own life. If someone needs help, it sends you into overdrive, as your self-esteem is tied up in helping others. Perhaps protecting yourself from abandonment. People pleasing causes harm—taking care of everyone else at the expense of yourself so they won’t leave. Need to be seen as nice, and that niceness keeps you stuck. Too nice to confront or criticize a manipulator. Too nice to see problematic behavior for what it is.


  1. Addicted to approval of others. There is nothing wrong with valuing the approval of others, but it becomes a problem when it feels essential to your survival. Manipulators give their targets what they crave and then threaten to take it away. They may not come directly out and say it, these threats of leaving can be implied. The target focuses on being nice instead of being real, and are willing to do nearly anything to avoid disapproval, rejection, and abandonment.


  1. This is the irrational fear of negative emotions. Anger, aggression, hostility, conflict and confrontation all cause the target to walk on eggshells and to become compliant or else there is hell to pay. Manipulators hint or show anger to control the target. Conflict avoidance is not the hallmark of a good relationship. Is a symptom of serious problems and poor communication.


  1. Lack of assertiveness and inability to say no. Saying no makes you feel guilty or selfish. After years of saying yes, others know that you are compliant.
  2. No solid sense of self. If we don’t know who we are, then odds are we also don’t know our central values—and we mold ourselves to our environment. Many targets don’t know who you really are, or what they stand for outside of what they do for others. They often feel invisible and unseen. Generally rooted in childhood, that their opinions don’t matter, that they are not smart or capable, or that they are expected to bend to the will of others.


  1. Low self-reliance. Distrust your own judgment and reactions/direction. More prone to rely on the judgment, direction, and reactions of others. Asks other people for input, advice, and direction. This may further confuse them, and lacking confidence to make a decision—leaves them feeling anxious and unsure.



  1. External locus of control (LOC). A locus of control is how and where you attribute the cause of things that happen or don’t happen to you. An external LOC is where you don’t feel in control, and everything is everyone else’s fault. Over time, an external LOC causes illness, depression, and learned helplessness. Internal LOC, means you feel that you have appropriate levels of control over your own life—that your actions matter, and because of this you have a higher self-esteem.


  1. Motives of manipulators. Often disguised. They misrepresent reasons for doing things. May even be lying to themselves about their motives. They often seek the path of least resistance. They do it because it’s easy, and will often move on to a new target. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that if they knew better they would do better. Get a better understanding as to what you are up against, and it will help you understand why you feel so violated, diminished, and demeaned.


Three main motives of manipulators:


  1. Advance their own selfish agenda—even if they say otherwise. They can disguise their motives. They may tell you that they care, or that they are being honest, that they are sorry, or that they have your interests at heart. Good lip service is all part of the manipulation. They may present themselves as unselfish and caring because it works. They may even believe that they are good, kind, genuine–and that we are bad for thinking otherwise.
  2. Strong need to get and keep power and control over others. The target’s compliance give them this power. Even though the manipulator may act grandiose, arrogant, or superior, these are ways that they compensate for low self-esteem. May have contempt for people like themselves. (This is often the case with bullies, who target those who have traits that they don’t like about themselves.) Views power as finite. Can’t let others be empowered, because it represents less power for them. No room for a win/win. If you seek to exert power over yourself or your decisions, the manipulator views it as you taking power from them, and now you’ve become the enemy. They will most likely become retaliatory to regain control.
  3. Wants and needs to feel in control. Loss of control makes them feel anxiety. They want to be seen as in control of their emotions, especially those associated with weakness such as anxiety (vulnerability—including bonding with others, and thus, love). Pathological need to control others, because they struggle with control over themselves. They need to be right, and gray areas make them nervous. (If examining their own emotions causes them anxiety, then they won’t turn inward to examine these emotions and they won’t allow themselves to connect with others in ways that makes them vulnerable. The result of this is that they have superficial emotions (how we love our iphone is the depth of love they feel for their spouse or children. In other words, a normal person’s 10% is their 100%. Their emotional buckets aren’t deep, and many narcissists take great pride in this and view this as a strength.)


Manipulators often don’t change, they just change tactics and targets.


The only way to stop the manipulation, is to stop falling into the manipulation.


In order to do this, we must stop listening to their words, and instead, look at their actions. Manipulators lie, and most feel justified and entitled to treat others however they want. They will often use guilt to make others feel crazy or bad for questioning them.



(We must also give up the fantasy of a great relationship with them, and the false hope that maybe this time they are different. Continuing to have hope based on nothing more than empty promises and fleeting actions is a form of denial. If you want your life to work, and if you want to regain your power, you MUST start seeing situations and people clearly.


Manipulators tend to see the world in black and white terms. Play or get played. Very defensive. Either the manipulator or the victim. (Cannot be vulnerable, and will not be in a relationship between equals.) Interdependency doesn’t exist. They don’t trust others. And they also don’t see themselves as trust worthy. To them, life is a zero sum game, based around power, control, and superiority. There are winners and losers, and others exist to meet their needs. And because of this, they have lowered or non-existent empathy. Their own perspective is the only perspective. Huge sense of entitlement due to past bad experiences/bad childhood/others hurt them and now the world owes them, and now their guard is up. They often believe that they are special and should get special treatment from others. Thinks others should subordinate their needs to put them first. Uses projection. Everyone else believes that others see the world in the same black and white way. Others are out to get them, and are selfish, competitive, and self-centered. Can’t act in a trusting way because they don’t trust others (because they are projecting their world view onto others). Puts the distrusting foot forward, and often makes the first strike.


  1. How to regain control, and stop the insanity. Stop rewarding their tactics. Manipulation exists because it works. You must change your own behavior and how you relate to them. You may not want to lose the relationship, but the cost may be losing yourself. Don’t lose yourself.


  1. Know what manipulation is, and how it feels. (It’s easier to notice how manipulation feels, as the mismatch between a manipulator’s words and actions, as well as the emotional investment in the person/situation contribute to cognitive dissonance and confusion.)


Manipulators control the communication. They may ignore a comment or question, stonewall, yell/argue, or give the silent treatment. This all creates mounting frustration and resentment, and these feelings become internalized contributing to the emotional harm of the target. Target often feels they can never make the manipulator happy as the volume of their unmet needs grows—and these needs become more exaggerated and pressing. The relationship only serves the needs of the manipulator. If the target connects her self-worth to the manipulator’s willingness to change or not change, erosion of self-esteem happens. They tend to feel controlled or out of control, demeaned, exploited, anxious, depressed. Prolonged frustration leads to aggression. (People tend to revolt—on a personal or social level.) *The target may be suppressing their anger and may redirect it in other ways—onto themselves, onto others by being critical, hostile, irritable, etc. (becoming like the abuser). They may feel trapped, either I do what he wants, or suffer intolerable consequences.  Turns into hopeless, despair, guilt, shame, low self-esteem. The more victimized you feel, the less you will feel able to powerful over yourself or your life. As you become more diminished, you become more vulnerable to manipulation in the future (due to the 7 buttons mentioned earlier).



Seeing Manipulation for what it is. Manipulation is a lot like a magic trick. Once you see how it works, the mystery is gone, and you will be less likely to get caught up in it.


Tactics are rarely used together. They usually change them up. Skilled manipulators are like vultures, and they can sense vulnerability.


Charm. Gifts and compliments.

Silent Treatment. I do not respond until they do it or stops it.

Coercion. I demand, yell, criticize, or threaten until they stop.

Reason. I give them reasons, I explain why I want them to stop it.

Regression. Pouting, sulking.

Debasement. I act humble, debase myself so they will start or stop.

Authority. Being told directly ordered.

Guilt. Tone of voice. Things said.


Understand the “hooks” of manipulation: Gain or reward, loss/avoidance. Promise of something of value to gain (promotion, sobriety, love, happy relationship). The carrot is dangled. (Future faking). Ask how your behavior is being controlled. Are you acting of your own free will or out of fear of losing what you have?



  1. 6 Basic ways (or “hooks”) manipulators use to control their targets:


  1. Positive reinforcement. Provide reward for good behavior. Approval, affection, gifts, facial expressions, recognition. Material and non-material.
  2. Negative reinforcement. Nagging, yelling, and threatening. (Not told how good a person is, uses threats instead.) People controlled in this way tend to become angry and resentful.
  3. Intermittent reinforcement. Target looks for the reward, walks on eggshells. Sometimes the behavior is rewarded, and sometimes it isn’t. Develops addictive and compulsive behavior. (Gambling/slot machines.) The reward is the “fix/hit” and keeps a person going.
  4. Silent treatment, consequences.
  5. Traumatic one trial learning. Hand on a hot burner. You learn once. (Grooming.) A child attacked by a pit bulls, may fear pit bulls and/or all dogs. Uses fear to groom and control the target. The target learns to never do that one thing again.
  6. The big lie. (The seduction story, aka the promise of what we want, or the carrot that is dangled in front of us.) The target gives and gives and gives, only to never get. If they do what the manipulator wants they will eventually have this amazing relationship (back to the idealize stage). *This awareness is incredibly painful, but it also brings about great freedom.



These are all basic modes of shaping behavior in all types of relationships. All people use them, but again, the difference is that people who seek to influence have a positive intent, and their self-esteem is not dependent upon the actions of the person they are seeking to influence.




  1. Know who the manipulators are in your life. Those that manipulate on a regular basis tend to have either a personality disorder or an extreme personality, and/or they are an addict/alcoholic.


There are several main categories these types of people fall into (however, I encourage you to not focus on figuring out whether the person is in fact has a personality disorder, instead, use the following terms as pointers to bring to your awareness that there are people in the world that have pervasive and persistent problematic behavior, and that the issues you are having in your relationship with them are not due to poor communication on your end, and they are not relationship issues—they are individual issues, and that certain people are driven by dominance and deceit—and that love, therapy, rehab, or religion can’t and won’t change them. This is how they see the world, and if any change were to occur, it would be with us developing strong boundaries with them and/or going no contact.)


Controls through evocation—evokes an emotion in others. Emotional manipulation involves charm, whining, silent treatment, threats of leaving, planting seeds of inadequacy in their partner (in order to grind down their self-esteem), etc. Aggressive people often evoke hostility in others, and then will spin it around and pretend to be shocked when the target finally explodes.


Machiavellian. Desired ends justify means. Other people are tools toward personal gain. Exploitative, self-serving, charming, confident, glib, arrogant, confident, cynical.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Inflated self-image. Entitled, unaware of needs of others. Expects special favors and treatment from others, without wanting to do anything in return.  One-sided and problematic. Arrogant, aloof, cold, selfish. Blinding degree of selfishness and arrogance. They may be delusional and think that they are Gods in their own world.


Borderline Personality Disorder. Constantly changing self-image. Intense and chaotic life. Tumultuous relationships. Idealize to devalue/contempt. Needy. Terrified to be abandoned. Hypersensitive to rejection. Angry and emotional tantrums. Uses emotional blackmail (oftentimes threatening suicide). Indirect or direct threat if they don’t get what they want. If you don’t do what I want, I will make you suffer. (If you have been diagnosed with BPD after an abusive relationship, please know that there is a LOT of overlap of these traits with PTSD (or C-PTSD)—and that more likely than not if your PTSD/C-PTSD is effectively treated then many of your BPD symptoms will resolve.)


Dependent personality disorder. Excessive need to be taken care of. Submissive and clingy. Helpless, needy, need approval, emotional support, can’t make their own decisions (and will not take responsibility for their behavior). Others get manipulated into making or aiding their decisions. Fail to learn age appropriate decision making. Childish, immature, will fake ineptitude, gets others to take care of them. Anxious when left alone. Reliant upon others for forward momentum in life. Won’t disagree or express anger, because they need to be taken care of and don’t want to rock the boat.


Histrionic. Dramatic and theatrical. Excessively emotional and melodramatic. Rapid shifts in emotion that seem immature and irrational. Intense craving for attention. Often dresses flamboyantly, and is sexual and seductive. Must be center of attention. Uses emotional explosions to get their way.


Passive-aggressive. Forgetfulness, dawdling, procrastination, stubbornness, intentional inefficiency. Complain to others about demands that others make of them. Whine, complain, sulk but don’t address issues directly. Resists demands through passive means. Goes to an event, but then becomes withdrawn and sullen. When it’s brought up, they act shocked. Passive resistance. Evokes frustration and hostility in others (and often within themselves. Passive-aggressive behavior is often a common tool for those who are unable to get their needs met by being assertive. Targets of abuse and spouses of addicts/alcoholics often become passive-aggressive because it is their (perceived) way to either get their needs met or to “settle the score” with the person who they feel controlled by. Example: They may agree to do something they don’t want to do, and then call in sick to get out of it. Or they may burn the alcoholic’s dinner, give silent treatment, slam doors, forget to mail important documents/Christmas gifts etc., as a way of expressing their anger or frustration at the alcoholic’s behavior.)


Type A personalities. Getting more and more done in less and less time. Highly competitive, and very goal oriented. Rigid and inflexible with their approach to themselves and others. A need to maintain control over their environment at all times.


Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopaths/Psychopaths). Irresponsible. No concern for the rights of others or for laws. Little to no guilt or remorse. No conscious. Emotionally (and usually) physically dangerous and destructive.


Addictive personalities. Lie, deny, exploit, and wreak havoc. (Their addictions may or may not be driving this behavior. A person can have a personality disorder as well as be an addict/alcoholic, and many times even after an addict or alcoholic gets clean, they are often emotionally stunted at the age that they began using substances.)



  1. Breaking free. In order to break free you will need to rely on the one person you’ve been groomed to not trust: yourself. The more you distrust yourself, the harder it can be to break free. So how do you begin to trust yourself after you’ve been so disempowered for so long? Start by thinking of yourself a warrior instead of a victim. You are fighting for your freedom, emotional health, and your integrity.


Don’t try to change the manipulator, focus on changing you. That’s all we have control over. If you change your responses, they will have to change tactics or targets.


The two types of control a target has over manipulation: resistance and/or extraction.


Resistance. Means slowing things down, setting boundaries, regaining your power by redefining the relationship. Keep in mind that the manipulator may raise the ante to get you to comply. Prepare yourself for this both emotionally and physically (especially if they have been violent or threatening before).


Extraction. The healthiest thing may be to disconnect from the relationship. If the terms of staying involve you sacrifice your dignity, self-esteem, or self-worth it is not worth staying in.


  1. 7 key steps to changing the game


  1. Playing for time. Manipulators exert pressure, through both active and passive means. Some active means are: becoming angry, name calling, door slamming. Some passive means are: sulking, pouting, crying, subtle put downs or snarky comments. Break the pattern by inserting time between their request and your response. Instead of jumping to meet their needs or complying to their demands. Examples of things we could say or do: I need to call you back, sending their call to voice mail, I can’t give you an answer right now, I’ll need to get back to you, I need to think about that, leaving the room to go to the bathroom, go to your car, get some coffee, or any other reason. Take time to breathe and calm yourself down so you can think clearly. You are informing them, you are not asking. The goal is to reset the power balance. It may seem rude to not ask permission. Get over it. You are not asking for time. You are telling them that you need time. Make sure to not raise your vocal inflection to make it seem like you are asking. Rehearse these phrases so that you aren’t knocked off balance.


  1. The broken record. Standing your ground 1. Acknowledge that you hear and understand the emotion or feeling they are expressing and 2. Repeat your play for time phrase. Do not start discussing, debating, or defending your point. The more you keep talking, the more they are sucking you into the mud so that they can wrestle around.


  1. Desensitizing fear, anxiety, and guilt. You must learn to tolerate some uncomfortable feelings. You cannot feel relaxed and anxious at the same time. Recall an experience where strong emotions where fear, guilt, or anxiety were provoked in you to where you felt compelled to react. Write down what they said or did. Describe how you felt in as much detail as possible. Lie down, get comfortable. Breathe deep, focus on relaxing your arms and legs. Feel them get heavy. Record yourself talking about the scenes. Maintain as much relaxation as you can while feeling the uncomfortable feelings. Feel the negative feelings. I may be feeling anxious or afraid or guilty, but I can tolerate this. I can counter the discomfort. Do this twice a day for a week or two. The more you practice staying relaxed and desensitized from these feelings, the better you will be able to handle them by feeling your feelings and realizing that you can tolerate these feelings. You don’t need to react.


  1. Labeling the manipulation. Once you are able to label the interaction as a manipulation you start seeing the magic trick for what it is. This is direct, clear communication with yourself. (She recommends confronting them about the manipulation, and inform them of how you feel. If their behavior continues, you know it’s intentional.)


  1. Disabling the manipulation. Letting them know that these tactics will no longer work. I understand that you want me to go with you tomorrow/(xyz), but threatening me/giving me the silent treatment/threatening suicide will not work. (If they threaten suicide, and you feel the need to take action, call the police and have them check on the person.)


  1. Setting your terms. Announce your intentions about your expectations. Teach the manipulator how you want to be treated (respect, as an adult). I will not be hurt. Establish clear boundaries and limits. No more silent treatment, no more threats of leaving. (Role play or talk to an empty chair.) You may be anxious about confronting them, but be more anxious about losing yourself. Expect them to up the ante. If a healthier relationship will happen it will be due to your strength, not your weakness. The statement of your terms becomes the litmus test for the value of the relationship. If they only want to continue if things go their way, then you are not in an equal relationship. They will continue to push limits.


  1. Compromising and negotiating. They are not looking out for you. Your needs are at the back of the relationship and become increasingly so the more dependent the target becomes on the manipulator.


  1. Cultivating resistance tactics to break free from manipulation. You can choose how far to go and with whom, and to decide when to stay and when to leave.


To start breaking free of the cognitive dissonance and to start behaving differently, make a journal entry for any person that creates an uncomfortable feeling such as anxiety, fear, obligation, confusion, sadness, anger, disappointment or any other uncomfortable feeling or whenever you feel manipulated. (Want to work towards soft target beliefs.) Connect the soft target thinking with soft target actions.


These are soft target thoughts. Hard target beliefs. Manipulators are often like opportunistic infections—they seek out the easy targets that pose the least amount of difficulty, and pass by the healthy. Healthy thinking is accurate, appropriate, and credible.


Now work towards bringing awareness to the seven main buttons that vulnerabilities that tend to drive our behavior in the presence of a manipulator:


People pleasing.  Seek to find moderation with this, and realize that you don’t need to go around pleasing other people all the time—especially if the cost is sacrificing yourself, and your wants and needs. Healthy situations are a win/win, and if there is no compromise to be reached, then it’s best that you don’t play.


Approval addiction. You won’t gain approval all the time. You don’t need the approval of others to validate you as a human being. You need to approve of your behavior. 10% will never like you, 10% will love you, 80% will fall somewhere in between.


Fear of anger, conflict, or confrontation. It is not always better to give than to receive. Giving without receiving creates for a one-way relationship. This doesn’t mean that you are a compassionate or giving person, this means you are acting like a doormat. You are not a doormat. Your needs matter, and the best relationships are a give and take. Constructive conflict aims towards a solution. Compliance, capitulation, denial are not healthy ways of coping.


Lack of assertiveness and saying no or sticking up for yourself. Being nice won’t always protect you from harmful people. It’s okay to not be nice all the time. Saying no is important, as is paying attention to what you say yes to. People will respect you more if you say yes, instead of being a doormat.


Blurry sense of identity. Not sure what values are central to you, as well as where you thoughts and feelings and someone else’s end. Ask “who am I type questions.” Use 20 nouns, adjectives, to describe yourself. How are you different from the significant people in your life (strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, interests, values)? What do you feel passionately about? What is your religious faith? What relationship define your deepest bonds with others? What goals give your life a sense of purpose?


Low self-reliance. If your sense of self is blurry, then odds are you will look to others to make decisions, and odds are that you will have “buyer’s remorse” with decisions large and small. You must learn to rely on your own counsel. You must know yourself in order to be yourself.


External locus of control. Think and act as if what you do can make a difference. You aren’t in charge of everything, but know what you do have control over, and start doing something about them.


Realize that the manipulator has no motive to change—their behavior works for them, so we must be the ones to change things.


You will need courage, your freedom depends on it. Courage doesn’t mean you feel unafraid, it means you feel anxious and maybe scared to death, but you take healthy action anyhow. It means that you aren’t driven by your fears, but by what is healthy. Change doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process. Ask yourself, if you don’t start taking an active role in your life, then when will you start?


You can do this. It takes practice and time, but you can do this. The good news is with personal growth, is that it starts to feel really, really good to regain the power over your life. And once you start getting used to feeling good, you won’t want to go back to feeling bad. <3















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I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 349 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

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