Covert emotional manipulation occurs when a person who wants to gain power and control over you uses deceptive and underhanded methods to change your thinking, behavior and perceptions. Emotional manipulation operates under the level of your conscious awareness. Emotional manipulation and abuse lures you in and holds you psychologically captive. Victims usually don’t realize what’s going on while it’s happening.
A skilled emotional manipulator gets you to put your sense of self-worth and emotional well-being into his hands. Once you make that grave mistake, he methodically and continually chips away at your identity and self-esteem until there’s little left.
If you feel less strong, less confident, less secure, less intelligent, less sane, or in any other way “less than” anything you were before you met him (or her), you are being covertly emotionally manipulated.
(To learn more signs, read the blog post “How to Tell if You’re Being Manipulated.” There’s no need to know any specific tactics being used; you need only recognize the signs of manipulation in yourself.)
This website is concerned with the most dangerous manipulators — psychopaths – who see themselves as superior and see others as nothing more than prey to be hunted to fulfill their needs. They have no ability to love, no empathy, no guilt or remorse, and no conscience. To the psychopath, life is a “game” of taking power and control and getting what they want, such as sex, money or influence, and attempting to destroy the victim emotionally, psychologically, spiritually or physically in the process. This is nothing more than entertainment to them. When they’re bored and filled with contempt for you (e.g. when they’ve “won the game”) they move on to the next victim.
These highly skilled covert manipulators set out from day one with a detailed plan. They are adept at reading you and quickly learn your weaknesses, your strengths, your fears, your dreams and your desires. They won’t hesitate to use all of these against you with an arsenal of effective manipulation tactics carefully chosen and personalized just for you. Manipulators hunger for power and control and they will stop at nothing to get them, even if this means harming you.
“…since psychopaths are sadists, he relishes seeing her suffer from a combination of jealousy, wounded pride and helpless love.” ~ Abuse Sanctuary
Just when you believe the magical excitement of a loving relationship has made a welcome and long-awaited appearance in your life, something very different and sinister might actually be in the works. Psychopaths are highly skilled at hiding their real personalities and their real plans. Their goal is to trick you into believing they love you – and they do everything they can to make you believe that during a non-stop phase of romantic magic. This intense bonding stage is created for one reason — to hook you and make you vulnerable to the manipulation and abuse that will follow.
The purpose of your relationship will change from loving you to demeaning, degrading and exploiting you, confusing you, and diminishing your self-respect, self-worth, and self-esteem while making you question reality. The psychopath will make just enough appearances as the wonderful, loving guy (or gal) you fell in love with to keep you hooked, to keep you blaming yourself for losing the best thing you ever had and to keep you willing to do anything to save the relationship.
You’ll accept mere crumbs if that will prove your love. You’ll stop wasting time discussing your needs, emotions and fears, which he doesn’t care about and considers unacceptable weaknesses. You’ll blame yourself for things going wrong, analyzing every word and every mood, going over every conversation, and becoming very confused about what’s really going on. Your life, your job, your relationships with others, and your physical and mental health will suffer from his emotional manipulation, which is exactly what he wants. Destroying you is nothing more than entertainment.
He keeps you around until you’re the desperate mess he manipulated you into becoming. When that happens, he will announce — with feigned or real vitriol, disdain and seething contempt — that you bore him and he’s “done with you.” You’ll be left an emotional wreck wondering how things went so terribly wrong…wondering how your soul-mate relationship went from heaven-on-earth straight into the bowels of hell.
Victims of this underhanded and deceptive manipulation struggle with feelings of confusion, powerlessness and deep hurt, and many experience more serious after-effects such as obsessive thoughts, lost self-esteem, insomnia, rage, anxiety, fear, the inability to love or trust, use of alcohol or drugs, lack of support, physical illness, and irrational and extreme behavior such as total isolation and withdrawal or even suicide.
The hard truth is that the psychopath never wanted love. You were targeted by a predator for the purpose of victimization, and the plan for your harm was there when he targeted you and found you receptive to his advances. After all is said and done and you’re lying alone in the rubble, you realize something was horribly wrong.
When someone starts a relationship pretending to love you but really wants to hurt you, you have been the victim of emotional rape, a heinous crime. You will not find help in information and support designed for getting over a normal relationship.
How did the most loving and beautiful relationship of your life turn into the worst relationship of your life? The answer is contained in three words: covert emotional manipulation.
How can you tell if you’re being manipulated? Here are some big red flags:
- You fall quickly in love with someone who seems to be the perfect man or woman for you, and even think he’s your soul-mate;
- He starts turning distant and giving you less attention while denying anything’s wrong or blaming your “character flaws”;
- Your feelings have gone from happiness and euphoria to desperation, anxiety and sadness;
- You’re obsessing about the relationship, what went wrong, and how to get it back;
- You feel off-balance;
- You hold two different and conflicting beliefs about him at the same time — one is that he loves you and the other is that he’s a predator or an abuser, and you vacillate between the two, not sure which is correct, and continue the relationship;
- If you feel less strong, less confident, less secure, less attractive, or in any other way “less than” something you were before you met him, you are being manipulated.
Covert emotional manipulation methodically wears down your sense of self-worth, self-confidence, self-concept and trust in your own perceptions. At its worse, victims lose all sense of self and their personal values.
Learn some of the underhanded tactics of covert emotional manipulation, and read the best bookon the subject, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon, PhD.
I also recommend Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and by H.B. Braiker. This book “will help you end a current destructive relationship, understand how it occurred – and prevent you from ever getting involved in a manipulative relationship again.”
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