Toxic relationships and psychological manipulation: here are the tactics of the manipulator and the profile of the victim
If you feel that someone is pushing you to do something you know you shouldn’t do, or has persuaded you to believe something incredible, you are likely to be the victim of psychological manipulation and be in a toxic relationship.
Psychological manipulation and emotional abuse
Psychological manipulation is an insidious form of emotional abuse: it is difficult to recognize and even harder to get rid of. because it plays with one of the worst fears, that of abandonment and many of the deepest needs: that of being understood, appreciated, and loved (Stern, 2011).
Toxic relationships are marked by a strong addictive aspect and lead to the psychological and physical discomfort of the person involved becoming a source of continued suffering.
These relationships can occur both in the family context and in the couple.
Toxic relationships in the family
The family, even before the intimate relationship, is one of the typical scenarios in which the drama of toxic relationships is born and grows. The family is “imposed” and as a result you need to adapt to rules that can make you feel suffocated, justifying even the most controlling and manipulative parent, by virtue of the role you cover.. For example, does your mother criticize you for everything: clothes, work, friends and couples? Instead of reacting, you argue that you are often right, making yourself unconscious victims of its manipulation.
Toxic relationships in the couple
In the context of toxic relationships Emotional manipulation involves both partners who have complementary characteristics: the manipulator who needs to maintain control, the positive perception of oneself and always be right, and the manipulated victim who has a strong need for approval.. In this way it happens that the manipulator manages to redefine the reality of the victim who in turn idealizes it and always seeks its approval. All this can lead the person who is in this position of dependence to gradually lose his decision-making power and autonomy, to a condition of genuine psychological and physical exploitation.
The charisma of the manipulator
Apparentlythe manipulator is shown to be a charismatic person, respectable, precise at work and supportive. Everything that at first seemed wonderful, but in the long run will turn into a real nightmare. There are many factors on which the manipulator can take advantage to gain advantages through manipulative techniques (September, 2015):
gas lighting: deny that certain events have occurred to the point of creating ambiguous situations that confuse the victim. For example: does your husband exaggerate flirting with another woman and, when you confront him, tells you to stop being so suspicious? After a long discussion, you apologize for accusing him;
silence: use silence to punish the unresponsive victim, being cold and distant, until the other person can no longer bear it and ends up apologizing for something he has not done;
covert intimidation: Conversations with the manipulator are fraught with indirect and extremely implicit threats. In this way he makes his victim understand what the consequences of his actions may be by pointing out that the responsibility is solely his. You may use phrases like, “If you keep going out with your friends, I think our relationship will suffer a lot”;
victimism: take advantage of the victim’s feelings of guilt and strong empathy in order to induce him to perform certain actions. Some typical phrases of this type of emotional manipulation are, “With everything I’ve done for you, is that how you thank me?” or “when you go out I feel terrible, I don’t like how your friends treat you, I care about you!”.
The psychological profile of the victim
Those that tend to be Victims of emotional manipulation are usually people who possess many or all of the following characteristics (Barbier, 2017; Stern, 2011):
they have a marked sensitivity;
they are very close and attentive to the needs of others;
they are emotionally fragile and insecure;
they are endowed with a high capacity for empathy;
they fear loneliness;
they are afraid to stay;
they idealize the other with ease;
they seek the approval and protection of others
they are afraid to disappoint others
they must always give a positive image of themselves.
The psychological profile of the manipulator
Manipulators, on the other hand, have the following characteristics:
aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviors;
need to impose their own worldview;
tendency to control;
more or less violent temperament.
The power and control of the victim
In toxic relationships nothing is done for the good of the other: everything is aimed at satisfying the need for power and control. Therefore, one must learn to defend oneself from emotional manipulation in order to regain the reins of one’s own existence (Girardi, 2022).
How to deal with a manipulator
Here are some helpful tips:
Stay alert: understanding that you are being manipulated is the main step to take;
not having feelings of guilt: you have the right not to meet the needs of others;
increase self-esteem: having greater self-awareness is essential;
be assertive: determination helps to formulate the message to be conveyed to the manipulator in order to establish effective verbal communication;
set boundaries: they must be placed clearly and firmly. Respecting them allows the manipulator to realize that he is wasting time on something from which he will not derive any benefit.
An accurate understanding of the dynamics between the manipulator and the victim can, in a short time, favor the development of targeted psychotherapeutic treatments and support the victims in the process of releasing and recovering a dysfunctional relationship.