3 ways of manipulation that are important to notice in time
Do not fall for tricks and defend your boundaries.
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Do you always refuse to do what you do not want to do? Probably not. And maybe you compromise deliberately. But it happens that a person is manipulated, and he does not even know it. Psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience Terry Cole, in his book “Healthy Boundaries,” tells us what techniques are commonly used for this.
Have you ever encountered someone unable to listen and consider your preferences, thoughts, and feelings? Meet someone I call a boundary breaker. This particularly challenging personality type has no regard for your healthy boundaries, no matter how eloquently you label them.
For the boundary breaker, compromise is a swear word. He ignores the boundaries of others, consciously or subconsciously, overtly or covertly, in part because he feels as if he is above boundaries (and in some cases, formal laws). Such people believe they are entitled to your time, care, and attention, and are not concerned about reciprocation.
Border breakers are very grumpy, irascible, sensitive, and self-centered. They may be categorized as a narcissistic, antisocial, hysteroid, or borderline personality disorder. But we are not going to give a boundary breaker or anyone else a medical diagnosis. (To determine if a person suffers from any of these disorders requires a personal examination by a professional-we’re here for another.) You need to identify the typical behavior of these complex personalities and understand how you should interact with them. Since boundary breakers tend to behave like predators to ensure that you maintain the status quo, knowledge is power. And your primary concern should be your safety. This is especially important if the border breaker has been violent or dismissive of you in the past. If you fear for your safety, seek professional support and advice. You must be especially vigilant in protecting your interests and well-being, because the border breaker may not have your best interests in mind at all.
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Boundary breakers often ignore your boundaries, thinking they are entitled to your time, care and attention. They are primarily concerned with their own needs, not yours.
Trying to assert your boundaries with a boundary breaker can make you desperate and confused. Proactive boundary-setting plans, which are effective with first-time offenders and repeat offenders, are less effective with boundary breakers because the normal rules of communication do not apply. Trying to reason with him – whether he’s a relative, colleague, lover, ex-boyfriend, or friend – can only piss you off.
Why? Because boundary breakers are usually focused on themselves and their plans, too self-absorbed, and incapable of empathy and compassion for others. They matter insofar as they can be helpful. Their version of reality is the only right one.
Here are just a few examples of how boundary breakers behave:
The perpetually embroiled friend who gets into an idiotic fight the night before your important presentation at work (any time your attention is distracted by something) and then calls you selfish and throws a tantrum if you tell him you can’t discuss his problem before the presentation is over;
an overbearing mother who is constantly competing with you feels threatened by your successes, and seeks praise for your accomplishments;
a flirt-loving partner who denies that he acted inappropriately at the party, even though you saw him slip his number to another woman (according to him, you terrorize him with your “crazy fits”);
A co-worker friend who overstates the amounts on his monthly expense report and justifies himself because he is entitled to stolen money because he is underpaid and undervalued;
A supervisor who constantly ignores your request not to email you on the weekend or texts you while you’re on vacation, time off, or sick leave.
Many of my clients and students tend to rationalize the behavior of boundary breakers in their lives, which can make you lose sight of the serious discrepancy between their words and their actions. And keep in mind: the actions of boundary breakers will always be more eloquent than their words.
Border breakers are masters of manipulation. They set the rules of engagement by which everyone must live. Manipulation techniques abound; here are three of their most insidious tactics.
Boundary breakers are experts at deflecting attention away from themselves and their questionable behaviors. If you blithely state a reasonable request “I want to be home by 10 p.m. because I haven’t been feeling well lately, I need to get some sleep,” the boundary breaker may react as if you just punched him in the face: how dare you! His response is a calculated action designed to make you change your mind. Pointing out your needs, desires, and especially your limitations can only serve to inflame him.
Another maneuver is to pretend that you are the object of his concern, especially if you blame him for bad behavior. For example, when you don’t like that he stayed out late and didn’t bother to call, he objects, “I’m really worried about you. You’ve been too receptive lately. What’s going on?” These maneuvers are a ploy to make you doubt yourself and distract you from what he has done.
Another option is when he gets upset with you for asking a simple question or exaggerating what you did. If the boundary breaker is doing something suspicious behind your back, he may be putting the heat on you to make you defensive and deflect potentially negative attention away from yourself. For example, one client of mine called her new lover and said she was concerned about his unsociability (after keeping in constant contact for the first few weeks). Her honesty prompted him to go on the offensive: “I can’t believe you’re telling me this over the phone. You know, I feel like our connection is getting lost, too. You’re the one who fell asleep Wednesday night, not me!” He was doing his best to get her to start doubting herself, even though her feelings were valid. (And no one was surprised when it turned out he was a lying creep; she dumped him soon after that conversation.)
A boundary breaker can pick on trivia or completely misrepresent what you said, such as: “We didn’t agree to discuss vacation before making plans with my family. I only agreed to discuss vacation plans with you.” Or he may ask you to do him one tiny favor and then burden you with something bigger, insisting that you already agreed to it even though it never happened. He may try to devalue your feelings by responding with a higher-stakes situation (which isn’t important but may distract you and make you defensive). For example, you don’t like your partner taking phone calls in the middle of the night from an ex, already married lady, and when you tell him about it, he replies: “That’s very nice. She has cancer.” But guess what? Her cancer (if she has it) is not your side of the street. Your side is how you handle midnight phone calls from his ex.
One of the most pernicious forms of manipulation is gaslighting, when a boundary breaker tries to sow seeds of doubt in the other person to maintain control of the relationship. This is how boundary breakers use a hidden arsenal of constant denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lies to make you question your memory, perception, and sanity. If you are constantly being gassed by someone close to you, you may feel like you are losing your sanity. For example, as a child, you may have witnessed a terrible fight between your parents, with dishwashing and wild shouting, but when you asked your mother why they were fighting, she said: “Oh, we weren’t fighting, dear. You have such a wild imagination.”
Essentially, gaslighting is an attempt to delegitimize your beliefs and make you question your perception of reality. This includes constantly controlling your narrative or denying your life experience. You may be told that you are too gentle, or too fragile, or you doubt your level of receptivity: “Maybe it’s just my perception.”
The main signs that you are dealing with gaslighting are your excessive caution not to upset your partner or mother or supervisor, your tendency to hide what’s going on with you from friends and relatives, your constant apologizing, and your feeling that you’re doing everything wrong. You may feel as if your vitality is drained and you can barely drag your feet.
And why wouldn’t you be joyless when someone close to you tries to control your reality? When you are manipulated, it’s an abomination. You can only feel subtle when you are confident in yourself and have a strong connection to your inner knowing. It’s your birthright, honey. And you know who doesn’t care about that? The Gaslighter.
At first, you might be shocked: “Am I making this up? Am I going crazy?” Until the pattern settles, you may find this behavior strange, but not cause for alarm. Eventually, you will take a defensive stance, “I didn’t say that!” or “You promised I was next in line for promotion!” You’ll feel an acute need to assert yourself even in little things, like agreeing to a barbecue (and you didn’t). But an experienced boundary breaker will find a way to wear you down. He has a detailed map of all your shame buttons and knows how to push them to keep you silent and compliant.
Love bombing is another common tactic of narcissists. They flatter their target by feeding her ego and fantasy of eternal love until they are sure the victim is hooked (and yes, the drug of love bombardment is the strongest). At this point, the boundary breaker becomes very critical and hostile. Eventually, the contempt turns to total rejection, he stops noticing you. The narcissistic cycle of abuse consists of three stages:
In the first stage of this cycle, the border destroyer’s excessive attention is driven by his (conscious or subconscious) desire to gain complete power over you. Becoming the object of a love bombardment is very tempting, and you are overwhelmed with emotion. He makes grandiose romantic gestures that you could only dream of. Love bombing sometimes occurs in other contexts as well, such as in friendships, at work, and even when recruited into a cult. Victims tend to blame themselves: “If I hadn’t made that fatal mistake, I would be respected again.”
The return of flattery and attention happens when the love bomber (the ultimate boundary breaker) feels that you have reached your limit. Then he gives exactly enough for your new hope.