HomeArticleHow To Beat A Manipulator

How To Beat A Manipulator

I’ve been busy working through some of my own stuff lately, while marveling at how closely my personal journey has been mirrored in the larger world. I wrote out the following as a personal exercise while meditating on all the similarities between abusive personal relationships with manipulators and our relationship as a species with the sociopathic plutocrats who rule us. I got a lot out of writing it, and it came out relatively readable, so I figured I’d publish it as-is in case anyone else finds it useful too. Here ya go!

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Humans are hackable. Ask any conman. Our desire to think we have control over our lives often hides this from ourselves, but most of us are highly suggestible and hypnotizable. If you think you’re not, you’re in more danger of being hacked than someone who has humbled themselves enough to see how this works in them.

There’s no need to be ashamed of being conned. Realizing that you’ve been, or are being, conned will naturally bring up feelings of embarrassment, but it’s never your fault that someone’s taken you for a ride. Get clear: conning someone is the crime; being conned is being a victim of that crime. That’s how the law sees it in fraud cases. Manipulators would love you to think that it’s your fault for allowing yourself to be manipulated, but that’s just another manipulation isn’t it?

Manipulators use one of our most astounding, useful, and beautiful human characteristics when they con us — empathy. Our innately trusting nature is the reason why we’ve been able to collaborate on large scales to create and innovate in extraordinary ways unseen anywhere else in the animal kingdom. Because we learn by modeling, and we are shaped by the group we inhabit and our urge to create harmony will make life viscerally uncomfortable until we are back in alignment with our tribe. We are the peacemakers; we seek alignment, which is how we are paced by manipulators into aligning with their sick agendas. How gross is it then that our ability to empathize and relate to each other is one manipulators use to control us?

Because of the reach of mass media, every single one of us is in an abusive relationship with plutocratic manipulators. Many of us are in personal relationships with manipulators too. Conveniently, the strategies for dealing with sociopathic manipulators are the exact same, from plutocrats to your live-in partner.

1. Get Clear On Your Own Will

You are easy prey if you don’t know what you want and you leave it up to others to decide for you. If you don’t have a sense of who you are and what you stand for, anyone can come in and co-opt that for their own sick agendas. Sit down, get quiet, and make an inventory of who you are and what you need. Don’t be squeamish about adding things that you don’t have yet. That’s the point. Make a list of what you need not just to survive, but to thrive. Apply the live-and-let-live rule to every one of your wants, and if you’re confident that nothing you want will hurt or interfere in anyone else’s will, then the list is good. You can stand by it unequivocally, and you should do so with as much strength and confidence as you can muster. Grow to its size and advocate loudly for it.

2. Watch Where All The Resources Are Going

How do you really know if you’re being manipulated? Well, what manipulators understand that the rest of us don’t is that there are real life resources like sex, money, work, gold, oil, land, water, food, people, air, etc; and there are good feelings. They will always try to get you to swap real things for good feelings. If you don’t have empathy, you see the whole world in a completely different way. Most people are trying to get what they need without hurting anyone, because hurting someone hurts them too. Manipulators don’t experience that, so they just get what they need by telling their victim that they’ll hurt someone if they don’t hand it over.

Zoom out and take an inventory of who’s got all the stuff. Which way are the scales tipped? Good manipulators try to shift the ground underneath us to funnel the real wealth into their coffers, while placating us with good feelings about how blessed our hard work is and all that, and how selfish it would be to demand healthcare when there’s people in Syria who need to be bombed for their freedom. Leave all that behind and zoom out and see who’s got all the stuff. Who has all the power, all the wealth, all the real stuff that you can really use in the real world, and who is barely existing but has hope for a better tomorrow?

Same in a marriage. Who has all the wealth, power, kudos, retirement savings, and who just has a story about what a good person they are? Religion has primed us for manipulation, and that was by design. Over millennia, we have been taught to value fealty, piety, hard work, submission, and to leave judgement and reward til after we die. This creates the perfect environment for manipulators who can see very clearly what the valuable real-world things are, and what are creations woven of fairytales. Work out what’s real in the here and now, and see who is in control of what should be your stuff. Is it you? If it’s not, you’re being manipulated out of it.

3. Watch Actions,Not Their Words

Manipulators only have words. They can’t just walk up to you and say “Give me your life savings,” they have to weave a complex story that makes you feel like it’s the right thing to do. A good conman will never ask for anything if they can get away with it. Ideally, they want you to make the offer. That’s the best kind of con, the one where the victim thinks it was their idea in the first place. A great conman will have you begging him to take the thing that he wanted all along, so then he can even get your gratitude for it.

By zooming out and seeing what they’re doing, rather than listening to what they’re saying, you can get a much better idea of what’s actually happening. If, for example, they’re saying they support single-payer healthcare while voting against it, sabotaging any efforts in any direction, taking money from donors who oppose it, and generally running interference on it, then those actions tell the real story. If the offer is not what you asked for but you are so desperate, so far down the line with them, so invested, and so cut off from any alternate solutions that you’ll take anything, then the con is complete.

Think about it from their point of view. Ideally, they want to be the ones you go to for the thing they don’t want you to have. They want to be the ones you place your hope and energy with so you don’t go to someone who will actually help them, but they also need to string you along for as long as possible, doing as little as possible, while taking as much energy as they can from you without arousing suspicion. They sing the song of inertia, of incrementalism, of “Not now, but soon.” That’s how they keep you trapped. If you zoom out and watch what they’re actually doing, rather than what they’re saying, you will know when it’s time to say bye Felicia and seek out an actual solution.

4. Don’t Try To Out-Manipulate Them

Once you’ve figured out you’re being manipulated, the knee-jerk reaction is to try and manipulate them back. Dude. Don’t even. Do you know how beautiful and precious you are to even think that that’s possible? These people have had no empathy for all their lives, and without all that emotional noise clouding their decisions, they have been playing every single person in their life like a game of chess. They are masters. They are five moves ahead of you already, and you’re just learning what a rook is. They have a whole lifetime of manipulating under their belt, and you are a total noob. You will lose that game. Don’t play it.

Instead, go with your strengths. Demand what you want and stick to that, loudly and unapologetically. Keep asking for what you want in the most direct way possible. Remember, a manipulator aims to take your will from you. Take it back. Many of us have been so manipulated for so long, we don’t even know what we want anymore. Make your inventory, keep it simple, keep it to what you know you need to thrive, and then plant your feet and demand it.

Meanwhile, keep pointing out the weird things they do to try and avoid giving you what they said they would. Shout it from the rooftops when they do something sly. They’ve used your politeness and goodwill to hide their little indiscretions. Don’t let them anymore. If they’re being creepy, say it. Don’t be manipulated into tacit consent by your politeness.

Keep telling the truth to yourself at least, even when it doesn’t tally with your worldview. Remain as intellectually honest with yourself as possible about what the knowable facts are, and what is conjecture or wishful thinking. Verify everything as much as you can so you know you’re standing on solid, factual ground. Manipulators love to keep people as confused as possible. Get as many quantifiable, verified, real-world facts as you can underneath you and build your worldview on them. And when you’re sure of yourself, say it like it’s true, because you know it is. Be unequivocal with the things you know. When you’re sure, don’t let anyone get in any wriggle room. Approach your private research with curiosity, objectivity and a light hand, but once the work is done, plant your feet in its truth and don’t let them be uprooted.

And lastly, don’t play by the rules, play by what is right. Manipulators love rules because they love to strategize about how to bend them, and how to bend you with them. Think of the worst kind of lawyers and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re a deeply good person like you know you are, and you are always trying to point yourself at the highest interest, you know deep down if you’re doing the right thing. Trust your guts and forge ahead. Keep doing the right thing, even if it breaks a rule.

5. Apply The Manipulator’s Rules In Reverse

There’s someone in psychology called “projection”, and anyone who has done a good deal of inner work will tell you that it’s a handy self-enquiry tool to see if what you hate in others, you can find in yourself. In order not to deal with our guilt, we tend to project the things we don’t like on to other people to hide the shame of it from ourselves. Bringing it out into the light can often result in some healthy forgiveness of both ourselves and our perception of others.

That’s great, but what the sages neglect to tell you is that people are also projecting all the time on to you. If you’re suggestible and good-hearted enough to not want to harm anyone, you can take everyone’s projections on to you as truth without even realizing it. Unless you develop a strong, conscious, healthy sense of who you are as a person, you can be gaslit into thinking that you’re any amount of the horrible things people project on to you, and that can easily grind you to a confused and babbling halt. Again, take an inventory of who you are and what you want, and grow in size until you can stand in that truth and defend it. Find your will and take it back.

Manipulators particularly use projection as a tactic to hide what they’re doing to you in plain sight. A manipulator can have you chasing your tail by simply suggesting that you or others are doing what you are seeing them doing with your own eyes. DNC caught rigging the election? Oh no, it was actually Russia who rigged the election by catching the DNC rigging the election. See what I did there? It’s so dumb, but it works.

Here’s the key: simply reverse the pronouns. When faced with a manipulator, everything he says about you, he is saying about himself, and everything he says about himself, is what he thinks of you. If he’s telling you you’re duplicitous and you’re a liar and you’re trying to take him for all he’s got, he’s actually saying he’s duplicitous and he’s a liar and he’s trying to take you for all you’ve got. If you have good grounds to believe you are being manipulated by someone, reverse the pronouns in your mind and let them tell you who they are. It works from personal relationships right up to the grand manipulators employed by the plutocrats.

Bring as much awareness as possible to all the ways you’re being manipulated, and all the ways you’ve been inadvertently manipulating. Make it as conscious in yourself as possible so we can all add to the sum of human knowledge as to how to transcend the manipulations. Once we draw back and fill out to our own individual sovereign boundaries, we will be able to trust ourselves to stand in our truth. We will also be able to see who we can trust so much more easily, and once you know you can trust someone, you can collaborate with them. These newly-conscious and divine collaborations will create the very things we need to solve the real world problems we face as a species and take the will of the planet from the sociopaths and return it to the will of the people.

And that’s really all it will take. A tipping point of un-manipulatable and awake people collaborating to create new systems that will surpass the old is all it will take to wrest power from the manipulators who only have the old Biblical tools of fear, guilt and shame to work with. This is doable, and it only needs you.

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Latest comments

  • Brilliant! Thanks.

  • There are many more whole-hearted people on earth than there are sociopaths, and in the long run most of us figure out who cannot be trusted. I can’t put down my Trump-trusting friends because I fell for Clinton and Obama.

    The nature of politics is that it attracts a lot of sociopaths, people skilled in looking good to crowds, expert at sounding sincere. They are like Bernie Madoff collecting votes instead of investment dollars, people trust them and defend them right up to the moment of truth.

    Still, look at the progress we humans have made– does anyone believe in the divine right of kings anymore? How about Men Are Smarter than Women?

    It comforts me to remember that Evil Shoots Itself in the Foot. When trust is based on deceit, then deceivers lose all credibility once their victims finally pull aside the curtain. Yes, often it takes a long time for the truth to be revealed. But those who share their story can educate many people, and those who say, “Me too” amplify the message and turn it into a social turning point.

    People don’t like to be exploited and manipulated. One of the best methods for helping people not smoke in the first place, or quit if they have already gotten hooked, is to explain how the tobacco corporations lied to them and put profit above all. Showing school kids the black lungs of smokers isn’t nearly as powerful as showing them the profits of Big Tobacco.

    The goal of parents who educate their children for the Big Bad World of con artists is not to teach them to be hard-hearted, but to show them how to do Due Diligence in evaluating someone. Hence Mom’s advice to notice how a date interacts with the wait staff at restaurants– if your date isn’t polite (i.e. fair and courteous) to people who depend on tips for a living, then they probably aren’t fair and honest to people who commit to a relationship with them.

    Critical Thinking is often a required course in college, and probably it should be taught from K to 12 as well, in age-appropriate ways. Critical Thinking is not the merely ability to tell real from Fake News, nor even the more subtle ability to tell when stuff we told is Fake News is actually Real News. It’s also the ability to know when we’re being groomed for future abuse, and other strategies that Caitlin and commenters have described.

    It’s interesting that Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication) doesn’t operate with sociopaths, because, as Caitlin reminds us, they have no empathy. So if I’m trying to give I-messages or to be an active listener with someone and they simply won’t interact, that’s a sign they are not the caring person they want me to believe they are.

    • Lauren, my thoughts exactly – it is a keen observation when you are around friends and you can single out quite easily who cares by the way they treat service people and their children. Also, by their manner, or should I say, lack of manner, how they behave at dinner parties, how they listen and not talk over you, how they apologize, and last but not least, how they handle themselves when debating and disagreeing with your opinion. Integrity, is all about compassion, as is love – one of the reasons I became a vegetarian.

  • Caitlin, thank you for the article. Is there any book you’d recommend on this topic?
    Thank you,
    John

  • Advertising – The Fine Art Of Lying

    https://gooneatit.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/advertising-the-fine-art-of-lying/

    Also from Melbourne . . .

  • I do like the way you think — and I do like the way you write — thank you so much for all that you are — keep on keepin’ on….

  • I do like the way you think — and I do like the way you write — thank you so much for all that you are — keep on keepin’ on….

    • that should have been “Herb Kline”, not “Herb Klinw”

  • You left out the main tactic, war. That we are the good guys, they are the bad guys, and we must conquer them. Stop manipulators by becoming aware of your shadow side, and just say no when it wants to join a psychopaths war, whether very large or very small. You can’t cheat an honest man, but it takes painful and lengthy awareness work to become aware of the dishonest parts of ourselves.

  • Number 5 reminds me of something I learned from The Daily Show years ago when I still watched it. It’s amazing how much human behavior it explains. It went like this: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

  • Absolutely spot on! As an older woman who lived through almost every thing you described, I say kudos to you for learning all of this at a young age! Powerful words, my dear, you just amaze me with your wisdom! ;-))

  • Thanks for addressing the issue of how foolish we feel when we realize how badly (how deeply and how long) we’ve been taken for a ride. It’s so embarrassing. As though someone had tattooed “SUCKER” on our foreheads. But you’re right: they’re the ones who should feel terrible. If the most terrible thing anyone can ever say about you is that “she loved too much,” things could be worse.

  • Never allow people to offload their rubbish onto you! just think of your favorite music, or whatever – nod politely, and wish them a good day… Outside out personal life the main manipulators are MSM who in turn are manipulated by the Deep State, the corporate, military, and political elite – “a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power” definition via Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite)
    Caitlin, your choice of a leading culprit “Empathy” is highlighted in Utah – they say SLC is scam-central, and why is that? Empathy – you hit the nail on the head – they are all trusting of each other because they mostly belong to the same religion, Mormonism. So, another question to ask is how does one become imbued trust.
    Edward Bernay was a master of manipulation, he was the nephew of Sigmund Fraud and had access to all SF notes and writings. When he emigrated to America he hit Madison Avenue where the instruments of manipulation were brewed and disseminated. Edward Bernay also sold his wares to Goebbels, another master manipulator.
    Today, that same manipulation is advanced with propaganda; MSM is manipulated by the CIA to falsely provide misinformation, The word “Conspiracy” was first used and thought up by the CIA to discourage the truth behind much of their covert operations. MSM manipulates us into thinking their lies (conscious or unconscious) are the reality – tell them a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. We are manipulated into think that Russia and China and the Palestinians are evil and that any agreesion towards them is justified.
    So, how do we really no know what’s going on in the world and around the kitchen table? As Buddha said, don’t take what I say as truth, go out and find it for yourself. Which brings to mind a famous little story of a student wanting to know the meaning of truth, so he climbs a mountain on top of which sat a Guru and asked the Guru ‘what is the meaning of truth?’ the Guru told the student to go away and come back in five years and ask the same question – anyway to cut a long story short the student did this for many years and was always told the same thing, when at last he climbed the mountain and told the Guru that he found the meaning of truth; the Guru said remember that first day you asked this question, well, you knew the answer then.

    • The CIA did not invent the word ‘conspiracy’. That’s been around a long time…see Black’s Law Dictionary. In 1967 the CIA coined the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and hammered it into the psyche of the human experiment in order to neutralize the criticism from those who were finding the holes in the JFK hit story.

      • Quite right John, thanks for the correction…

      • Quite right John – thanks for the correct!

  • Dear Caitlin, I enjoy your writing so I was sad to read that you seem to have crossed paths with a full-on psychopath! What you wrote reminded me so much of David Gillespie’s book “Taming Toxic People”. Have you read the book or discovered the hard truths the hard way? Or both? Anyway, as someone who also had the unfortunate experience of dancing with the devil you have my sincere sympathies. But you are stronger now. Best, Michael.

  • Have covered this ground to some extent. I like the me too affirmation to others who share bravely. Someone who really gets all this and has several TED talks and books delving deeply into all the subtleties is Dr. Brene Brown. I helped one of her TED’s go from like 600,000 to over 10 million and will head back now to see it again. She researches Shame and expertly details the differences between Guilt and Shame.

    These are vitally important topics as these people and our struggles to disarm them, are largely responsible for the vast majority of suffering in the world. So thank you Caitlin for another engaging post and lots of me too moments.

  • “…. to wrest power from the manipulators who only have the old Biblical tools of fear, guilt and shame to work with.” Manipulators try to use FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) on others. I’ll add shame = FOGS to this concept and easy to remember acronym. “Out of the Fog” is a website that goes into detail on these tried and true manipulators’ tools. They have about a dozen arrows (tactics) aimed at manipulating others to meet their needs and wants for them. I couldn’t get my head around their methods for decades not because they are geniuses or anything, but because I kept letting them push my buttons (emotional sensitivities) or as Schema Therapy very helpfully explains, my Early Maladaptive Schemas. Once activated, I would become so elevated emotionally that I literally could not think straight (cognition down the toilet). I call these EEE (Emotion Elevation Episodes). If they last a few hours, EEEE (Extended Emotion Elevation Episode). Manipulators looooooove to push buttons and watch their target get upset and flustered / overwhelmed / off balance. They want to put the proverbial Bee in Your Bonnet. This is why, without empathy causing any internal conflict or distraction for them, but with laser focus, they automatically scan for emotional sensitivities, buttons and use their intel in the present moment or later against their target. Please, be aware of three things: 1) your family knows your buttons because they helped install them and your parent(s) and older sibling(s) can pass theirs down to their child(ren) unknowingly and knowingly 2) they attempt to push them intentionally at times, but sometimes they are unintentionally pushing them and 3) always be on High Alert when your manipulator(s) becomes kind, again (until you dump them forever or go no contact in the case of family members). Manipulators are, for all intents and purposes and your sanity through clarity, never going to stop. They are never going to come clean. I finally accepted the apology that I’ll never get from any of my six family members who are the worst manipulators I know personally. The best apology is changed behavior. I self-monitor for my own attempted manipulations of others. I meet my own wants and needs, as much as possible, and don’t knowingly, consciously, intentionally f**k with others. I was a victim of abusive manipulators. I’m not their victim anymore and I choose to not create victims. Beyond family, there is my society and those in it, plutocrats being at the top of the food chain who use everyone else and everything possible to get their wants and needs met. I understand them well. They seem “like family.” Familiar. To me. They have some wants that they want so badly, so intensely that they have mistaken these wants as actual needs. Their main want, that they misperceive as a need, is Power. Power for whatever reason(s). Caitlin is correct. They are more vulnerable than they know. They have blindspots. I think, not a fact, that they are losing control of the narrative. The one thing that divide and conquer, enlist one side and malign the other side and get the warring sides arguing endlessly or refusing to talk at all type manipulators count on, more than anything, in my experience, is that the sides (that they intentionally created) never, ever, never are allowed to meet and talk w/o the manipulator being present. The two sides are never supposed to be allowed to “compare stories.” The self-deluding, addicted and dysfunctional, overcompensating, controlling a**holes, aka multi-millionaire & billionaire oligarchs, bankers, executives, plutocrats, military & intelligence so-called leaders, paid off politicians, lawmakers, judges, punishment & fear based law enforcement and prison personnel, highly paid actors on oligarch owned and controlled TV who deliver their daily dose of propaganda and their counterparts in print media underestimated us, their victims, reaching out to each other on the Internet through social media. Since they have no need for Connected-ness (I:Thou) in their I:It tangible, limited dimension of this world they have this one enormous blindspot. Possibly fatal. Time will tell.

    • Thank you, Caitlyn, for articulating the “crazy by design” twofer, and thank you, Chastity, for illumination on the “microcosmic” level. In the “Bible belt” of the American South where respect for family elders, tradition, patriotism and Christianity are all but inseparable, the hell a female elder (in my case, my father’s sister) can wreak with “Christian” cover, seniority, and enough time (aka survivorship) is a bottomless pit of tragedy exploitation, lies, distorted narratives, dissension, stereotypical “step-monster” encouragement, “keeping up appearances” and all-around soul-sucking alienation. As a “junior” family member who adored my father and stayed at odds with the mother he divorced, I was increasingly conditioned to kow-tow , keep the peace, and give my father’s sister the benefit of the doubt. Thus, I did not consciously distinguish the irritating from the sadistic until my mother died and “Aunt Patience” played her inculcated “construct” http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/baptized_patriarchalism.pdf on the raw, exhausted and grieving human vulnerabilities of the rest of the family.

      It was a rude and shameful awakening to say the least. Given that 1) my father was twice-divorced at the time of my mother’s death; 2) I had a law degree and a “clean” if relatively brief professional history; 3) I had always been the family member “on the spot” (spending nights at the hospital, hosting family gatherings, being the one most likely to visit my grandparents, babysitting nieces and nephew as needed); 4) no one in my family of origin was an active church member at the time; and 5) my ex-husband was as big a partier as I was, I did not anticipate that legal niceties would crumple against the “evangelical” zeal with which my predominantly female, lesser-educated, lesser “privileged” family closed ranks with my now ex-husband immediately after my mom’s death to involuntarily commit me, subvert due process, compromise and intimidate counsel, take away my kids, evict me from my home, vilify/ disparage me to the community at large, and tell my (then young) kids “Mommy’s sick”. Nearly 13 years and a second “pass” on the state bar exam later, I am sadder but wiser, but not wise enough to will myself from the self-destructive confines of unrelenting “elder abuse” coupled with the societal double standards of the Bible belt. Thank you for familiarizing me with “schema therapy”, FOGS, the refusal to discuss “tell”, and other articulable “shorthands” to which “Matildas” can relate and google.

  • Exactly so, Team Caitlin. Beautifully explained!

  • This is a brilliant piece.

    “I’ve been busy working through some of my own stuff lately, while marveling at how closely my personal journey has been mirrored in the larger world.” Yes, me too. From reading between the lines, may I suggest you look up the term “covert narcissist”. For me, it was a major eye opener.

  • I sometimes wonder how in the world do you know what I’m dealing with! I have just read, listened to, meditated, drank…(hate to admit that) my way out of self loathing after being manipulated by not one but four different individuals in the last 6 months.

    It may seem like just part of life to some, but I have lost money, found out my friend was lying (can’t admit that I know), my ex has been up to some unscrupulous behaviour (I would literally die if my young women daughters knew), then my slumlord (new management) is being a total ass since I actually want things done.

    All this…after, that’s right after! I nursed my cancer stricken lab that was my loyal companion for 11 years who died at home, so grateful I was right there by her side. I tried so hard since surgery was not an option – she looked like a puppy again for a little while, but I’m not a miracle worker.

    Thanks Caitlin again and again for all you do, I will reread this again and again, since I was so taken aback by your words resonating right through me, I couldn’t focus at all!

    You’re the awesomest.

  • You need to value your freedom and innocence the highest. You may accept orders, and all words are in order except freedom, but you must be able to invoke your freedom at will. The Law demands compliance and makes that difficult at times. Legal “freedoms” are orders.

    The biggest blackest liars are the ruling class. But as soon as you know they lie all of the time their power to deceive evaporates.

    Use your emotions, feelings, senses and intelligence. If someone makes you in anyway uneasy or uncomfortable issue the concrete slippers and sling the off a bridge. Practice your left hook.

    Relations should be mutually supportive. Anyone tries to command your freedom and respect put the boot in. Don’t buy the romantic hogwash that “things will work out in time.” Teach them a lesson….BS doesn’t pay, sucker. Now take your broken jaw and eff off.

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