Read an article about why people manipulate last night. I’ll get the URL for you at the end of the post.
This really applies to me and my life. There is a big difference between situations where a person may try to influence someone else for positive means. It is quite another when manipulation comes because someone has selfish motivations. The first instance is not even considered true manipulation, however most people I have ever met considers it manipulation.
How does this apply to me? Well, I am guilty of it to some degree. In my case, it became a survival thing. When circumstances reach a point where I just can’t take it anymore–I break. The breaking is what I consider now (with some education) manipulation. So, basically I’ve reached the end of my rope in a very emotional way. It gets everyone’s attention and they stop treating me the way they are for awhile. But, if someone is being manipulative of me, and I am living with them, or close to them, it doesn’t take long, they forget about what happened, and how I make it perfectly clear that I can’t deal with things as they stand, and they start back up again.
My first husband comes to mind at this time. The head games I endured were nothing more than manipulations.
My father comes to mind. I made some new connections while talking to Clyde yesterday. My father would find a dirty fork or plate…some spec of something was on the utensil. (If that is even true). It was always my fault. Routinely dishes ended being thrown from cabinet to sink and believe me there was plenty of anger to go around. I was a little girl. And I was absolutely terrorized. It was not uncommon for my father to wait until we had company to do this. In fact, as far as I can remember there was always company when he did this, and most the time, it happened during a family gathering (holiday time, Thanksgiving or Christmas). My dad was about 5’9″, and maybe I was 5 foot… big maybe. Either way I ended up in tears and scared (terrorized) standing at the sink washing every dish in the house while family sat at the table and enjoyed their holiday meal (except to say, my guess is that no one was enjoying anything at that point except perhaps dad). More on why this is a manipulation in a bit.
My kids come to mind. I hate to admit it, I don’t want to see it, but it is true that four of them are pretty expert at getting their way via manipulation of some sort. They were created by environment more than anything else. They all have a sweet side that is for certain. But, they all are guilty of trying to manipulate the truth or other type actions to get what they want. And just in case any of them read this (and I am aware of two of them that do)–you don’t fool anyone when you lie to get what you want. I am very aware, and if I am not, believe me Clyde is lets me know when you guys are wrong. When he shows anger towards you, you can just about bet it’s because he’s seen you manipulating me. That is the only thing that makes him really angry with you. And a couple of you realize he gets angry with you.
My kids lie to me, they lie to their significant others, they lie to my partner– they are just liars. Most lies are to hide something they are embarrassed about, or about getting what they want (which is still the bottom line to being embarrassed about something). I understand the whys – in terms of childhood experience and I understand why in terms of what they would say to justify the behavior. The problem is there is never any justification. Lying breaks trust. Lying again only agitates that lack of trust and creates a situation where it takes even longer to trust again. Lying creates an emotional scar. Even when it ‘heals’ you can still feel and see the damage done.
Hostility magnifies the effects of manipulation. Hostility can be very blatant. My father was very blatant. My oldest child can be very blatant. Everyone else more or less use passive aggressiveness to get what they want. That would include my mother and sister. Because of the way I grew up, I have layers of virtual walls and fences to keep me ‘safe’ from perceived hostility. I learned as a child that hostility can turn very physical. People get hurt. Because it is a form of breaking a trust, the pain can be both physical and emotional. This is only one way a child in such an environment can grow up and as an adult be diagnosed with PTSD with the words no caring parent wants to hear, “most of it caused in childhood.”
So what lead to this essay? The remark by my sister that I could walk away and not feel a thing. Apparently I just don’t attach myself to people. In her mind at least. I was shocked that she actually believed what she was saying. I’m not sure when I walked away and then showed that I did not care, except maybe when I was filing for divorce or perhaps, once I decided to clean out my life and rid myself of unhealthy people. Even in those cases it’s not that I did not care, it’s that a clean break, in theory, should have made the separation easier. I’m not really sure that is true.
Confrontation, it turns out, is something I try to stay away from almost no matter what it costs me. I’ve even had a therapist notice this and point it out. Its not that I won’t confront a person or stand up for myself. It is that I must be pushed and pushed and pushed and given a choice, I’ll still walk away.
What brought on this “habit” which is nothing more than a survival skill, a defensive measure that a child can take when staring up at a 5 foot 8 inch male who had a habit of making her feel very, very small and helpless. The truth of the matter is that I was hit a lot as a kid, and threatened even more. I was taught over and over again that I had NO power to protect myself. None. So, when I see aggression, hostility, anger, or other negative things, my instinct is to run.
My dad was absolutely angry with me over something while I was growing up. I am unsure just what it is that I did wrong, but whatever it was, I was to blame. Even my mother blamed me. I was tiny when whatever it was happened. By the time I was 2 years old, I could say I loved my dad but did not like him. I grew up with what I termed in my childhood vocabulary as a “mean” dad. He was aggressive with everyone really. With four brothers, I imagine that was necessary to survive. I never had one brother, so I really can’t say. But, dad had no problem whatsoever throwing his weight around, or sending a message in what would be termed today as a very passive aggressive manner. It took me until recently as a matter of fact to realize that part of what I lived through was actually a message meant for my grandparents.
My dad would wait until a holiday, when family was present, but not his family, my mother’s family. He’d find something dirty (or make something up, I’ll never really know) and then he’d yell, and stomp across the room to the kitchen sink and throw (and yell, and yell and throw) each dish into the sink one by one. The whole rest of the family was sitting around the dinner table probably just trying to get through the situation. While this was going on the yelling was about how I failed to get the dishes clean and how I was going to do dishes while everyone else ate. My holiday meals usually consisted of a lot of tears. I was not the only person doing dishes in the home. How dad knew that I was the one that missed the supposed dirt, we will never know. But, then I’d say there was nothing rational about what he was doing.
Except. Later, much later in life, in my late 40’s my mother’s brother explained to me that everyone on that side of the family saw how dad treated me. I was treated much differently from my sister. They were concerned about me. I asked my uncle why no one spoke up. His answer was that everyone was afraid my father would not allow them to see us kids anymore.
So, that part I’ve known a few years now. But, what crossed my mind the other day was that his actions were as far as I am concerned an act of hostage taking. I do not know what happened but whatever it was dad and my uncle got into a physical altercation. They were trying to hurt each other. It was because of something dad did to me. It was so bad that my uncle could not tell me what he did to me. I know that my grandparents considered my father “uncivilized”. So, how as this hostage taking? Well, my father was using me. He was sending messages to my mother, grandparents, and uncle that he could treat me in any way he pleased. The message which I am sure they got loud and clear was not only could he do whatever he wanted, but there was really nothing they could do about it. So, this is one way a father can hold a child hostage. It’s an emotional thing — I was never chained down in the dungeon. But, on the other hand, I could not escape the wrath of my father.
Links that may help:
***NOTE: This is an incomplete article, draft mode. Which will probably turn into a pretty big article. More soon.