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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Taking a Closer Look at Manipulation


Sometimes subjects come up - I mean those subjects that have clearly entered your life in order to teach you something - over and over again, and they come veiled in myriad disguises until you finally sit up and realize there is a pattern.

Manipulation, and allowing yourself to be manipulated, is one of the ones that deserves a closer look. It's connected to boundaries and it's connected to self-love, but it's also occasionally connected to not letting yourself see the reality of people you've allowed into your personal space who appear to be friendly, woolly sheep, but who may, at times, either due to blindness (theirs and yours), or due to outright deception and calculation, in fact be wolves in sheep's clothing.

Here are some sample situations:
  • You have a colleague who starts on the job in a slightly lower position than yours. He/she flatters you and tells you how lucky they are to be working with you because you have so much to show and teach them. They enter your space deeply as they learn all they can from you. You feel very good about it because - let's be honest - it's wonderful to have someone admire you, and it's also wonderful to teach someone something that you have such a good command of. After some time (you are already imagining the scenario) your colleague manages to get promoted over you, having used all you taught him/her to get there. Were you manipulated (the flattery, the desire to teach)? Were you being blind to the potential for this happening? What went on? Clearly, whatever went on, it's a sign for you to look at it more carefully than just to write it off with pain and disappointment at having been used, or anger and disgust that someone you had been good to could use you this way. Clearly, part of the equation has to do with you.
  • You have a friend who has always leaned on you a bit. Whether it's for information, or how to do things, or perhaps even emotionally. Eventually you have come to feel responsible for this individual who is slightly one-sided, or perhaps needs a crutch. And the more you feel responsible, the more you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you tell yourself you are being unkind. Perhaps you tell yourself you are not being compassionate. And yet, when that friend calls or comes over, or in any way participates in your life, you begin to recognize a sinking in the depth of your stomach. So what is going on? Obviously painting a scenario with words is never the whole story, and this is no exception, but based on the narrow parameters of what I have narrated here, I would suggest that at least part of what is going on is that your friend has abdicated his/her responsibility for his own life, and has gently and lovingly manipulated you into taking it on, at least in the arenas described. Again, clearly, part of the equation has to do with you.
These are only two very brief illustrations of how liking and loving are emotions that have the capacity to move us into that space where we allow another to manipulate us - and certainly - there are many instances where the other is as blind to the manipulative aspect of his/her own character as you are. Nevertheless, it's never about the other (you can't control how they behave), and it's always about you (you can control how you behave and how you react), and your responsibility to yourself. It's about recognizing how you are involved, what it may mean about resolving patterns that you have kept alive throughout your life, and especially, about how well you care for yourself, in other words, how much you love yourself.

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