Defense Against the Dark Arts of Manipulators
Being manipulated, especially for those who have been seriously harmed by manipulators, i.e. abused, can be extremely frustrating, damaging, and enraging. Clearly, the intellectual architecture presented here does not provide specific answers for every conceivable situation, but it does offer some of the key tools needed to learn how to deal with dishonest, self-serving manipulators. As someone with a father and extended family with massive control issues, a tendency to be dishonest, and a dysfunctional nature, this writer has been trying to develop and explain defense tactics to victims of manipulators for years.
At the age of ten, this writer consciously started developing his own defense tactics in order to strengthen his natural defense mechanisms before he could understand the intellectual architecture behind his own behavior. Where he had to reverse engineer this intellectual architecture based on his own experiences, readers have the advantage of using this modeling to develop defense tactics tailored to their own unique circumstances. Understanding the modes of manipulation and modes of motivation affords individuals of all educational levels a platform for building defense tactics against manipulators.
Although there are legitimate reasons to shape and frame facts in order to develop ideas and better communicate thoughts, the same techniques used are more often abused to manipulate others for deceitful, self-serving reasons. Those pushing political agendas, selling snake oil, and trolling for booty use a person’s own psychological failings to accomplish their goals. While someone with an advanced understanding of the psychology involved in decision-making can become a master manipulator, a basic grasp of such concepts offers potential victims a powerful defense.
All people act on their emotional, intuitive, and intellectual instincts when interacting with others. Manipulators interacting on an emotional level will tend to pray on someone’s emotional deficits. Emotional manipulators frame and shape their interactions with others in order to exploit this most fundamental element of personhood. With exception to sociopaths, all people, including trained professionals, are vulnerable to this mode of manipulation thanks to their humanity. Where individuals are emotionally disconnected from a given situation, they are protected from the emotional manipulator. Where individuals cannot emotionally disconnect, they are vulnerable to this most basic mode of manipulation.
Meanwhile, manipulators, who function on an intuitive level, will more heavily rely on the action-reaction dynamics of personal and social interactions. Because intuition is an instinct of automatic mechanisms, which allow people to rapidly respond to highly dynamic and/or novel situations, manipulators are able to use their actions to guide their victims reactions. Those using intuitive modes of manipulation will shape and frame the responses of their pray, so the manipulators' interests will be served. From an outsider's perspective, the structure of such an interaction would appear to be a broken argument of conflicting rationales lacking in logical flow that ends in an outcome desirable to the manipulator.
Finally, manipulators interacting on intellectual instincts plan and develop situations where potential victims are forced to "choose" to fulfill the interests of the manipulator, often at the expense of their own interests. More dangerous than emotional or intuitive manipulators, these highly skilled individuals will make use of forgotten facts, a lack of technical understanding, and the tendency of society to determine truth based on public opinion. This mode of manipulation works through long-term interactions and the pursuit of grand schemes that may convincingly appear to fulfill the interests of the victims. Asking proper questions, especially on what assumptions are being made, can help reveal whose interests are truly being served by the shaping and framing of facts in this manner.
Furthermore, a person's decisions are motivated by economical, i.e. the pursuit of self-interests including financial interests, social, and emotional incentives. Before an individual acts, he, or she, will evaluate a situation in terms of one or more of these three modes of motivation. A healthy individual will ideally be able to use all three modes to process information and make decisions to pursue the most advantageous outcome. Unfortunately, flawed humans often distort information. For example, decisions regarding relationships should be made to fulfill emotional needs and sustainable wants; however, society has a long history of encouraging marriage as a means of solidifying social standing while modern thinking has too often turned marriage into an economic arrangement where the contract is dissolved when economic factors no longer serve one or both individuals.
What manipulative people do is use the human tendency to improperly, or over, process information in a specific motivational mode, i.e. a person’s thinking becomes locked into an inappropriate mode(s). One major reason why this happens stems from the natural tendency to lie, i.e. avoid unpleasant truths. Not only does society encourage dishonesty by more often offering punishment for those who recognize their failings, humans are also physiologically programmed from conception to appease others for their own gain and to avoid recognizing one’s own faults. As such, people tend to avoid uncomfortable interpretations of information to their own detriment. It is often necessary to remain externally silent to protect individual’s own interests; however, internal dishonesty opens people up to negative influences, because they choose to avoid the discomfort of unwanted truths.
Clearly, manipulators will strive to use all three modes of manipulations in order to achieve their goals. Manipulators will also manipulate how others process information to force them to use their own preferred modes of motivation to further the manipulator’s goals. As such, there are a few basic steps that people need to integrate into their thinking in order to avoid being manipulated:
Recognizing someone is trying to manipulate someone by processing information in all three modes of motivation helps minimize personal bias toward more favorable interpretations of given situations and facts. By understanding the consequences of a decision in emotional, social, and economical terms, it is easier to comprehend the consequences of a potentially damaging decision. Every person an individual encounters helps influence what they do and who they are; however, it is the decisions, which harm individuals, that need to be avoided by minimizing the negative influences of others.
Even if the intentions of manipulators are benign and/or favorable to a victim, which manipulators do often offer some apparent benefit, it is important to empower victims through the ability to know when they are being manipulated and know how they are being manipulated. Knowing is the only way of ensuring a targeted individual’s needs and wants will be pursued when the interests of manipulators are no longer aligned with their own. While it is essential to recognize how people are being manipulated, it is not necessarily important to know the purpose behind a manipulation, thus victims need to concentrate on understanding the methods of manipulation.
The modes of thoughts individuals, and those influencing them, use greatly impact their choices. By better understanding how and why decisions are made, people can better defend themselves against the harmful influences of others. Consequently, people must recognize what modes of manipulation and motivation are being used to influence our decisions.
For those under the influence of an extremely manipulative person(s), especially victims of abuse, avoidance is the most fundamental defense. In other words, victims need to avoid engaging manipulative individuals. Intellectually, this means disengaging from the thinking of manipulators when a potential conclusion goes against a victims broad interests, i.e. ignore and refuse to recognize the validity of the contorted rationales used by manipulators.
Socially, it is necessary to disengage from manipulative people and others who knowingly, or unknowingly, support manipulative behavior. In other words, stay as far away from such people as possible and interact with those who are willing to recognize and confront manipulative behavior. Perhaps more importantly, it is essential to avoid the tendency of victims to focus on the negative social consequences of acting against manipulators.
Emotionally, victims need to avoid considering the emotional impact of their defense tactics on their manipulators. This can be difficult as most people have trouble learning how to disconnect from their emotional instincts, but it can be done by more often utilizing other instincts when interacting with manipulators.
4. Interact Wisely
It might be possible to reshape a manipulator's goals in order to either avoid situations that spark manipulative behavior or force these individuals to consider the interests of others in addition to their own. For example, conversations should be avoided where manipulators can use a victim’s views and opinions to reshape their thinking so they act against what they need and want, i.e. their interests.
Alternatively, someone might offer a strong enough argument that forces manipulators to recognize they have broader interests that are served by calculating and addressing the interests of others. In both cases, the ill-effects of manipulators will be neutralized. Clearly, this should only be tried if a situation is stable, the tactics of the manipulator are fully understood, and one is unable to avoid the influence of manipulative individuals.
5. Seek Help
In situations where a manipulator has full control over a person, it is important to seek outside help. Professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and political scientists, should be consulted when dealing with legal, financial, political, or other civil affairs. For personal relationships and issues, the field of psychology has allowed for the training of a wide range of professionals capable of mediating conflicts and offering escape options.