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Emotional Manipulation


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What is Emotional Manipulation


Emotional manipulation is described by Shape as “the complete disregard of someone else’s feelings while strategically trying to persuade them to feel otherwise.” This occurs in all sorts of relationships, and oftentimes it will be difficult to recognize whether it’s harmless and/or unintentional or detrimental to one’s mental health. The signs of emotional manipulation can be both obvious and subtle, though many struggle to recognize and act upon it when experienced first hand. Below is a simple example that shows the difference between healthy versus unhealthy communication.


Image is courtesy of Verywell Mind.


It’s important to know how you feel when recognizing manipulative signs; if someone only negatively impacts your emotions and makes you feel doubtful about yourself, then emotional manipulation might be present.


Common Manipulation Tactics


GoodTherapy outlines many common emotional manipulation tactics. These include:

  • Using intense emotional connection to control another person’s behaviour

  • Playing on a person’s insecurities

  • Lying and denial

  • Hyperbole and generalization

  • Changing the subject

  • Moving the goalposts

  • Using fear to control another person

  • Using social inequities to control another person

  • Passive aggression

  • The silent treatment

  • Gaslighting

  • Recruiting others to help with manipulation


Causes and Effects


According to Peaks Recovery Centres, there are multiple reasons people may manipulate others, and this emotional abuse can lead to significant short and long term effects.


Why people manipulate:

  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Fear of being abandoned

  • Need for power and control over others

  • Willingness to put their feelings over the well-being of others.

  • Need to raise their individual self-esteem


Short term effects:

  • Confused and wondering why that person would do so

  • Questioning yourself

  • Anxiety and vigilance

  • Being passive

  • Hating on yourself

  • Very careful and scared around the manipulator and others around you as well


Long term effects:

  • Feeling numb about everything that happened and never recognize the negative acts again

  • Requiring approval from others because you feel like you’re not enough

  • Feeling resentful

  • Depression/anxiety


Stockholm Syndrome


In a more serious situation, Stockholm syndrome might develop due to serious and long term emotional manipulation. It is a psychological response to being held captive, and occurs when people begin to develop connections with their abuser and feel sympathy. This response is a coping mechanism to deal with the trauma and abuse, so it is important to seek for external help before emotional manipulation turns to something much more serious.



Article Author: Kacy Zhao

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Sherilyn Wen