“They used me, I am so upset”
Many of us have experienced manipulation at one point or time in our lives. Sometimes, we were the ones who manipulated others, such as asking parents for their car when we said we had to rush to a friend whose dog was had died when instead we were hanging out with friends at the beach; other times when we told our employer that we were sick and could not come to work when in reality we wanted to have a few extra hours of sleep. Some of these examples are less harmful in nature and can be considered lies, but regardless of severity they are used to control and influence others in order for us to achieve our goals, which in this case is a form of manipulation.
According to Dr. Polson, manipulators not only disrespect and violate another person’s rights by preventing them from making informed decisions using facts and their own judgments, they also disrespect their own selves by compromising their integrity as human beings and relying on manipulation techniques in order to reach their goals. They also affect others’ world views about human nature and at the same time deprive themselves from establishing meaningful relationships with other people that is based on trust, respect, and honesty.
It is more difficult when someone is at the receiving end of the manipulation act. The victim often feels violated, hurt, and betrayed. They not only experience anger and resentment towards the manipulator but sadly towards themselves as well because they feel that they are being “fooled”, which violates their view of themselves. The damage is worse when the manipulator causes physical, financial, or significant emotional harm to the victim because now the victim not only have to deal with feelings of being used but also suffer other losses as well. Unfortunately, manipulation also shakes the victim’s fundamental belief about human nature such as how humans are essentially good at their core. When we are challenged by the fact that the person who betrayed us is someone we shared a trusting relationship with, it becomes even more difficult to not feel hurt, disappointed, sad and angry.
However, there are some ways that the victim can help themselves to overcome the experience. Here are some of the strategies that the victim can apply in order to reduce their emotional suffering.
Acknowledge your emotions
Avoiding or suppressing emotions are not helpful in situations like these. A better approach would be to identify, name, and acknowledge emotions without the need to justify, resist, or ignore them. Additionally, try sitting in with those emotions while consciously making the effort of not dwelling on them either.
Apply self-soothing and self-care skills by taking the time to attend to your basic needs and validate your experience non-judgementally. In other words, be your own best friend and allow the process of healing to begin by focusing on your daily care routines and try not to punish yourself for what has happened.
Fear and mistrust
Sometimes the victim develops fears of getting manipulated again and as result they become cynical towards other people and situations. In extreme cases, they might even avoid interacting with other people because of the fear and in the hope of protecting themselves against another harm. Try to mindfully and willingly refuse to pay such price that will affect your personal and social life you are not the wrong doer here.
Know who you are and what purpose you have in life. Identify your beliefs and stay true to those values because they often guide your behaviour throughout life, even during difficult times. For example, if you believe that human beings are inherently good at heart then you can still choose to believe so.
Allow yourself to heal from the experience by making a conscious choice of surrendering, consider that it is not you who is at fault and that you do not deserve any further suffering. Know that anyone in your situation might have gone through a similar experience; manipulators are often well equipped with their skills of manipulation.
Develop assertiveness skills
If the manipulator is still present in your life, learn effective interpersonal skills such as saying no consistently and persistently without feeling guilty about it. Be confident that you are making the right choice even when you love the person and you would like to be with them.
Make a conscious effort to refuse the experience to control or have power over you by not allowing it to dictate your day-to-day life functioning and well-being. Set aside time for different activities for yourself and be observant of falling into mind traps of self-blame and other dysfunctional thinking styles.
Set new goals
Focus on yourself and self-improvement skills and set new, small, and achievable goals in your life. Try to reach them step by step each day and reward yourself through verbal or small monetary rewards.
After all, you went through a difficult experience and you came out of it, encourage yourself to believe and trust in you and focus on your strengths and positive skills as an individual who not only survived but successfully managed (or is still managing) the current situation.
These skills are the tip of the iceberg of a long journey because it demands conscious effort and persistent attempts to work on yourself to reclaim your identity and life in general. If you are struggling with an experience like this, book your appointment with your therapist today.