To answer the question "What does a manipulator do?" we have to be clear about what a manipulator is.
To manipulate can mean to move or control using the body or a machine, often with a high level of skill. It can also mean to influence deviously or to tamper with or falsify for personal gain.
In this article we will talk about a manipulative person who is managing or controlling others in a devious, hidden manner for their own personal benefit. We will consider the types of people who do this later, but first let's examine the nature of a relationship that a manipulator sets up with their targets.
If you knew that this new person in front of you, offering you exactly what you wanted in that moment, was going to take advantage of you in a major way (steal your money, your time, your creativity, your work, your energy as well as deprive you of your free will, destroy your self esteem and basically use you to make their own life more comfortable), you would do whatever is necessary to get out of there as fast as possible.
So the first thing the manipulator does is to hide their true nature. They make friends. They pretend to be kind, helpful, caring and loving. They are heavily into impression management, creating a fantastic first impression. They offer their target exactly what the target is looking for, whether this is a relationship, a job, a relationship with god, martial arts classes, or whatever. It matters not to the manipulator because they have no intention of providing that exact thing anyway!
The relationship moves fast because the manipulator wants it so. The target is made to feel special, unique, that they have met a great partner, whether it's a work partner or a partner with which to have an intimate relationship. The manipulator will often spend time messaging and calling. There are gifts, compliments, offers of help and so on.
The manipulator indicates to the target that they like the target the way they are, they both have lots in common, the target can feel safe with the manipulator and that being in some kind of relationship would be perfect, whether this is a work situation, teacher-student, etc., etc.
And so the relationship begins. The target is thrilled. They are happy to commit. They are happy to do nice things for this new person who is showing so much interest in them. They are happy to tell everyone about this wonderful new person in their lives. Already they are a victim of the manipulation. They have been lied to and they are being coerced into a reality that the manipulator has created and this reality may have little or nothing to do with the real world.
Once the manipulator has established a certain level of control over their victim, their behavior changes. This change often occurs when a person moves in with the manipulator, after the wedding, when the person actually starts the job, once the student has paid their fees, in general when the victim has made a significant commitment. Occasionally there is no major commitment, but the manipulator is sufficiently sure of their skills that they know they can begin the actual abusive part of the relationship.
All the time and attention and care showered on the victim now becomes conditional. The victim has to change their behavior, their ideas and what they say if they want the good times to continue.
An important point here... don't get lost in the loaded word 'victim'. Of course, nobody wants to think of themselves as a victim but the word does accurately describe a person who is in a manipulative relationship, "someone who is harmed or made to suffer under some circumstance or condition." And just because someone may be a victim now, does not mean that they will always be a victim. (Yes, it's possible to recover from such a relationship!) Anyway, back to the changing behavior.
The manipulator starts to do things that are annoying, rude and plain selfish. When the victim says anything, the manipulator will have a reason or justification for their behavior. The victim has been enjoying things so far, so they tend to accept the reasons and justifications. After all, it seems so out of character, the relationship is great and in good relationships there has to be some compromise. And if the manipulator does something nice to make up, then all is forgiven!
However, this behavior is then repeated. The manipulator starts pushing the victim beyond their limits. Bad behavior upsets the victim, the manipulator minimizes what happened, or even denies it, and blames the victim for being sensitive. Then things settle down for a while. Then more bad behavior, worse than the last time. The victim is upset, the manipulator talks their way out of it and so on. You can read more about this abuse cycle here.
The effect of all this is that the victim begins to change their behavior, bit by bit, unbeknownst to themselves.The victim starts to do things to keep the manipulator happy and not upset them, basically because they want the good times to continue. I know it sounds odd. People say "If someone treated me badly, I would just leave." But in a mind control environment, the opposite happens. The victim, instead of leaving, tries harder to please the manipulator. You can read more about how it works in this article about narcissistic boyfriends.
Over time, the victim develops a different way of thinking, a different way of perceiving the world and a different perception of themselves in the relationship. Their beliefs change, their behaviors change and the emotions they express change (for example, they are not allowed to get upset or annoyed with the manipulator).
All these changes add up to a personality change. The victim has a pseudopersonality, or false personality, imposed upon them. This is why friends and family members say that they don't recognize the person since they got into this relationship or joined this group. It also explains why victims often feel that they have lost themselves in the relationship. They don't even know who they are anymore.
This pseudopersonality idea is a great way to answer that question, "What does a manipulator do?" They basically change somebody's personality to be the way they want it to be. They make people subservient, they take away their free will, they make their decisions for them.
Remember people don't willing walk into something like this deliberately. They are tricked into such a relationship. All the changes are done without the knowledge or consent of the victim.
They are basically programmed to trust and believe the manipulator. They are then programmed to take care of the wants and needs of the manipulator. They are not allowed to have a say in anything significant. Their own wants and needs are put on the back burner. The manipulator makes himself or herself the center of the victim's universe. The life of the victim revolves around the manipulator, their purpose being to make the life of the manipulator easier and more comfortable. Think slave!
Now, the manipulators don't necessarily think in terms of pseudopersonalities, of course. What they do think about is building compliance. That goes beyond just influencing others. They want people to do what they want them to do. And for them, the end justifies the means.
What does that mean? For the manipulators, it means that, in order to achieve what they want, anything is fair game. They consider themselves justified in doing anything they need to in order to get what they want. This translates into being able to lie, cheat, bilk, con, defraud, damage, destroy, abuse, humiliate and generally cause havoc in someone else's life to achieve their goals, goals that are usually self serving and selfish to the nth degree. They believe that they can do whatever they like to others because they are special. They consider themselves to be superior beings and deserve to be treated as such.
They mold other people to accept these ideas as reality, too. Their victims are typically led to believe that the manipulator is more intelligent, more deserving and more important than themselves. These things are not necessarily true but the manipulators force those around them into believing and acting as if they are. (Remember I said that the manipulators force people into a reality that may not have anything to do with the real world?)
A few more important notes about the pseudopersonality thing.
As well as being programmed to trust the manipulator (did I mention the lies? There are a LOT of lies. Even if the victim is not aware of them...!) the victim is also made dependent on the manipulator. Dependency is built into the pseudopersonality.
This is very important for various reasons. Firstly, early on in the relationship, the pseudopersonality has to ask the manipulator what to do (in order to avoid upsetting the manipulator). Later, the victim needs the manipulator to know who they are and how they are doing. If the manipulator praises the victim, the victim feels good and knows they are ok. When the manipulator criticizes the victim, the victim feels defective in some way, an inferior human being.
As I mentioned, too, most people think that they would not tolerate such treatment, but in mind control situations, when the pseudopersonality is firmly in place, the opposite happens. The alternation of compliments and humiliation actually augments the dependency of the victim on their abuser.
This explains why people end up staying in such situations often for years or decades. The idea of leaving may actually be terrifying. The victim is afraid that they might not be able to manage without the manipulator. If the victim does get away, they often feel so bad that the only way to relieve the suffering is to go back to the manipulator. This is often completely incomprehensible to those watching from outside. People are scratching their head in disbelief at why the person would return to the one who was making them suffer so much. This dynamic explains many of the on and off relationships that many victims have in controlling relationships until they eventually develop the wherewithal to leave for good.
The pseudopersonality never completely destroys the real personality but it does dominate and repress it.
This means that many victims in manipulative relationships have a lot of internal conflicts. They may love the manipulator but hate the way they are treated. Mentally they know that leaving is a good idea but the thought of it causes fear, anxiety and even panic in their bodies. The victim may want to look after the manipulator but are simultaneously very angry (internally!) at the manipulator. They may be disgusted by the manipulator while, at the same time, feel sorry for them because they were apparently abused as a child.
The best way to explain these internal contradictions is as a conflict between the real personality and the pseudopersonality. The real personality wants one thing, the pseudopersonality is programmed to do something else. There is no way to resolve these conflicts while the pseudopersonality is in place. The pseudopersonality has been programmed to benefit the manipulator and the victim often ends up doing things that go against their own best interests because the pseudopersonality has been programmed to behave in a particular manner that actually works in the interests of the abuser.
There are people for whom control and domination is what drives them. Their relationships are based on coercion and exploitation. These are people with a personality disorder, more commonly known as psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.
If this is a shock to you, then you really need to understand what this is all about. If you are dealing with a psychopath or a narcissist, the rules you have to play by are very different. These types change the rules to suit themselves, as you well know.
If you suspect that you are dealing with a psychopath or a sociopath, sometimes you are sure your partner is a psychopath, other times you really doubt it, get professional help. It will save you a lot of time and suffering.
If you have more or less gotten over that doubt, and most of the time you are pretty sure you are dealing with a practiced manipulator, get professional help to get rid of the rest of that pseudopersonality. It will save you time and suffering, too!
If your relationship is similar to what I am describing, the best thing you can do is to run!
I know, that feels impossible, but the fact is that you can never have a relationship of equals with someone like this. These people do not have emotions the way normal, healthy people do. They were born without the hardware, the neural connections, to have emotions. If your computer does not have the hardware to connect to the internet, a modem, no amount of software is going to get it to connect. In the sane way, these people don't have the hardware to have emotions and no amount of software, talking, explanations or therapy, is going to change that.
This lack of emotion means that they can do anything they like and they never feel bad about it, no matter what they say. (Remember the lies part?) They can be cruel, callous and abusive and it does not bother them. They do not care about the health or well-being of others.
Therefore, getting out is the best thing you can do.
But in order to do that you may have to learn about mind control, the tactics that were used against you, how they work and so on. Understanding these things loosens the hold these people have over you (it weakens the pseudopersonality) and allows you to start making your own decisions again. It's a big job! Get professional help...
You can read more here about how to spot a sociopath, how to recognize a psychopath, manipulative behavior in a relationship, how to handle manipulative people, life after dating a psychopath, how to leave a controlling husband and recovery from narcissistic abuse.
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