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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.
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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
The silent treatment
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
Anxiety and vigilance
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
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