Not all types of abuse leave scars. Many are far more subtle. Emotional abuse can leave us with a bad feeling in our gut and wondering what is going on. It is as if your reality were diminishing.
When that happens, we feel uneasy. All too often, the abuser’s words do not match his actions, which leaves us confused. The more you love the emotional abuser, the more difficult it is to separate fact from fiction.
Emotional abusers hide behind passive tactics. Passivity is their weapon of choice. They may not even be aware of the level of mistreatment, but it is happening, nevertheless.
What Does A Manipulator Want?
Most of us act in ways to meet our needs. What emotional manipulators need most is to gain power and control. They maintain control by manipulating their victims. If you bring up their behavior, they will act shocked and hurt and blame you for causing problems. Most will lie without a moment’s hesitation. The two things an emotional abuser will not accept are responsibility and criticism.
The manipulator will:
- Avoid a confrontation.
- Place you on the defensive.
- Create doubt in your own mind whether you are at fault.
- Refuse to take responsibility for his action.
- Avoid changing, because that would mean accepting responsibility for his behavior.
Common Tactics Of An Emotional Manipulator
At first, an emotional manipulator may “love bomb” you. After just a meeting or two, he/she will convince you that you are fated to be together and can’t live without each other. Be wary of anyone moving at an Indy 500 speed while getting to know you.
Once the manipulator has you, one of his purposes is to lower your self-esteem to make you doubt yourself and become more emotionally pliable. Once he has achieved that goal, you are more likely to believe him (“I did no such thing!”) than your perceptions and feelings.
Manipulators are experts at making you feel guilty while undermining your own awareness (“No, he/she couldn’t have meant it that way.”), being evasive, and getting you to apologize for their passive-aggressive behavior. In the movies, they call this gaslighting. It’s a reality built on lights and shadows.
Manipulator Lie With Ease
A good manipulator will lie even with it is not necessary. A sociopath (and many manipulators are sociopaths) enjoys the boost in faux self-esteem it gives him/her as it underscores his control. Lying can include being vague about the facts or simply omitting relevant details.
Deny, Deny, And Deny Some More
A manipulator is an expert at manipulating reality. For example, if you mention that he/she forgot to bring home groceries, the manipulator will respond that he/she most certainly did not forget. He/she did remember but didn’t want to upset you by picking up the wrong item. He/she was only thinking of you. He/she will act hurt when you fail to appreciate his/her thoughtfulness. This will continue until you totally doubt yourself and end up apologizing to him. Wondering what is real and what is not is becoming an unfortunate habit.
If you do confront an emotional manipulator, the situation will be twisted into a pretzel. You will be accused of lying, nagging, being demanding. Whatever the manipulator did, you are the one who will feel the shame and guilt. An expert manipulator can even add a few soothing words, such as, “You know I love you and that it hurts me to see you act like this.” Such concern! It’s as if reality were shifting further and further away. And that is exactly what the manipulator wants.
The Blaming and Shaming Are On Purpose
When a manipulator does something wrong (which is all-too-frequently), he will blame and shame you before you realize what is happening. He/she will make you feel too guilty to even begin accusing him/her of anything. Except you have no idea what it is that you are guilty of.
An abuser will always find someone to blame. You “made” him/her lose his temper. The boss kept him/her late. You forgot to remind him/her. Notice how expertly the focus is shifted away from the abuser and onto his victim. Should you find questionable text messages on his/her phone, he/she will feign absolute outrage that you looked at his/her phone. That is the real crime; the texts do not matter.
Manipulators enjoy keeping their words vaguely. It leaves more room for doubt and different interpretations. Rarely will he/she threaten you directly. Instead, he/she will state, “Any woman can be replaced,” or “I don’t know what I’ll do if you keep pushing me,” or “No other woman ever complains about my behavior.”
The real power of the threats lies in their vagueness. He/she’s not saying he/she will leave. He/she’s not saying things will get violent. But he/she is aggressively painting a bleak picture in his victim’s mind. And the victim will become busy apologizing for his/her faults and thoughtlessness.
Manipulators as Victims
Here, the manipulator isn’t blaming. He/she is playing (manipulating) with the victim’s emotions. When the victim is showing signs of pulling back, the manipulator will pout, “You really don’t love me.” “I feel so alone sometimes.” He/she plays with guilt and shame like a child with his toys until he/she has the victim back under his/her control and acting the way he/she wants.
Why Do Manipulators Manipulate?
Manipulators suffer from a great deal of self-doubt, which they cannot face. To feel in control, they need to transfer that self-doubt onto another person. This provides them with an outlet for their negative feelings. It’s not them. It’s you. Many manipulators are sociopaths who hurt with no feelings of remorse. Their major concern is being in control of the relationship. Losing that control would mean having to face their own failings.
Emotional abusers aren’t always easy to identify. The first clue should be an uneasy feeling in your gut. Something is wrong, even if you are unable to identify it. That is why seeing a counselor can be so valuable. He or she can unearth the source of your unease and help you determine if you are dealing with an emotional abuser and what to do if you are.
If that is the case, a counselor can also help you recover your sense of identity. It will be important for you to realize that falling prey to an abuser is never your fault. The shame and guilt are not yours. They are his.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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