Manipulation Tactics: A Deeper Look

Most folks who’ve been manipulated find themselves asking afterward:  “How did I let this happen?, How do they manage to do this to me time and time again?, What is it that I’m not seeing?”  I did my best to address these very questions in the earliest edition of In Sheep’s Clothing.  At the time, the perspective I was offering to explain the whole phenomenon was considered fairly radical and even erroneous by my peers, but it almost instantly resonated with those stuck in manipulative and abusive relationships. Basically what I was asserting was that we get manipulated because:  1) we don’t trust our gut instincts, and 2) commonly accepted but erroneous notions about why people do the things they do cause us to misperceive and misjudge the actions and the character of the person taking advantage of us.  I also suggested that while it’s tempting to fault ourselves for being duped, the tactics covertly aggressive and other character-impaired people use are inherently powerful manipulation tools because they throw us on the defensive while simultaneously concealing obvious aggressive intent.  And universally, folks familiar with my work reported that merely adopting the different perspective I offered about how to view their manipulator’s behavior was key to them putting an end to future victimization and empowering their lives.

Classical psychology had most us believing that many of the behaviors I label as “offensive power tactics” (the tactics that facilitate manipulation) were actually “defense mechanisms” the person unconsciously employed to deal with guilt, shame, feelings of inferiority and insecurity, etc.  So when the character disordered person in someone’s life pointed the finger elsewhere (externalized the blame) when they were confronted, it was too quickly assumed that they were defending themselves against pain or perhaps even actually felt victimized in some way as opposed to merely employing a fighting tactic to make the accuser feel bad and back off.  But how we perceive the character of an interaction makes all the difference in the world in how we’re likely to respond to a situation.  And if we think that someone is “defending” in any way as opposed to “fighting” not only us but also the reasonable standards of conduct we want them to adopt, or we see them as unconsciously protecting themselves against feelings of shame or low self-esteem as opposed to behaving in an entitled and defiant manner, we’re going to end up successfully manipulated.

I don’t think it’s possible to stress enough how important it is to correctly perceive the nature of covert fighting if you’re going to avoid being victimized by a manipulator.  And I think this best illustrated through example.  Let’s just say you’ve confronted someone about not being truthful with you and therefore damaging yet again any sense of trust you’d like to have in your relationship with them. When they respond with something like:  “What am I supposed to do when you’re always exploding whenever I level with you (using the tactic of externalizing and shifting the blame)?,” and “It was just one little thing and I misspoke, okay, it’s no big deal (using the tactic of minimization)!,” and “You always make me out some kind of monster (exaggerating) when you’re no one to talk (subtly adding some ‘guilting’ and ‘shaming’),” and you perceive this behavior as defending themselves as opposed to merely fighting for position, you’re bound to lose.  When the character-impaired person engages in these behaviors, they’re primarily doing 3 things simultaneously:

  1. Fighting you (trying to back you into a corner and get you to back-off or back-down) for a position of advantage in your relationship.
  2. Fighting to maintain an undeserved positive image.
  3. Fighting against internalizing the principle they know you’d like them to accept (i.e. that trust in relationships is based on the willingness to be honest with your partner).  And it’s this last reality that tells you unequivocally that the behavior you find troubling will definitely occur again. A person simply can’t fight against a principle and internalize it at the same time.  It’s just not possible.  Accepting the principle and making a commitment to improve would sound something like:  “You’re right, I shouldn’t have lied to you. I need to do better on that score.  And I’ll prove myself worthy of your trust by doing things differently in the future.”

These behaviors are “tactical” maneuvers, designed to play on the other person’s good nature.  And of course, when someone is engaged in these behaviors, they’re largely doing so consciously (although they might be doing them reflexively, out of habit).

Knowing all the common tactics is not the most reliable key to avoiding victimization.  Because, as I point out in Character Disturbance, folks who either place themselves above (narcissists) or are at war with (the aggressive personalities) the principles that build integrity into a person’s character, can use just about any behavior or tactic you can think of for manipulative purposes. So your greatest protection against victimization is correctly assessing the character of the person with whom you might have a relationship.  It’s admittedly no easy task to find someone with a level of character development sufficient to give a relationship a fair chance these days.  As I point out in both Character Disturbance and, more especially, The Judas Syndrome, there are too many socio-cultural factors enabling, encouraging, and even rewarding the things that impair character development, so character disturbance has become fairly widespread.  But you at least have to be able to be able to distinguish those folks who lie at the mildly to moderately impaired part of the character-impaired spectrum as opposed to those at the more extreme end if you’re to have a good shot at things. In some upcoming posts, we’ll be taking a closer look at the neurotic vs. character disturbed spectrum and discussing how to better judge where someone lies on this continuum.

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59 thoughts on “Manipulation Tactics: A Deeper Look

  1. I stumbled onto your website from the article in Huff Post. I was in an abusive relationship for 16 years, and I ended it a decade ago. I still find myself very angry and bitter. Now I have a man of character. It is a relief. I have children with the abuser, and I’m trying to provide a good “character” example for them both. Thank you so much for this website. I finally can let go of the anger, and not fight a losing battle!

    1. Lisa…….Congratulations for finding a truly loving and safe relationship. A friend of mine who almost lost her life to one of these losers, will NEVER forgive her now exhusband of over thirty years, for what he did to her mind. He was 25+ years her senior and she was young and naive when he got his hooks into her. The whole story is disgusting and the devastation is hard to shake but you have moved on to something in your life that is real and solid so you have to focus on that and be grateful. Your story at least offers hope for something better.

      1. Yes, Puddle, I do need to concentrate on what I have now. I am very lucky and he has been extremely patient with me and my kids. My kids and I have been healing, slowly and surely. They are both hardworking college students now. My daughter has no dealings with her father, and my son has very little. I do consider myself lucky. I actually was afraid to break things off with him because of the things he said, but I knew in my heart it had to be done. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. I felt so empowered! I hope my story does help many people!!

  2. I noticed this tendency with my then teenage daughter. What I am having a hard time accepting is that all the things I put in place, with Dr. S help – book, she has shown that she doesn’t want to do “this” anymore and has become a manipulative adult (young). I have hope that continuing the way I respond to her will make a difference, if only with myself. I had placed a lot of hope that if I did something she would change. But I have to accept that a person can only change themselves, and not others. It is hard to accept this at times but I know it is the truth.
    I no longer look at CD people and think their parents must not have done anything. That could be true. But also, a person gets to make choices for themselves and live with the consequences. And some people invest a lot of time and money to have their advice, help, thrown out.

    1. Hopey, I also went through this with my now 22 year old. I came from a family headed by a very CD mother, 6 of my siblings ‘orbit’ around her, 2 left years ago. I was the quiet one, the one who had to ‘take care of mother’ and I did, I excused their behaviors, their ‘funny’ stories about me, and all the invented past they’d tell others. My daughter had no respect for my at all and joined in on chat lines. I found her chat files on her hard drive when she left and believe me it was the hardest thing I ever read. I know that only she can change herself, but so much damage has been done. She has married into a family that encourages her ‘memories’ of abuse, also a therepist. She also drinks like a fish, so maybe she still has a conscience though I don’t believe it anymore. Sad to think though that this family dysfunction is continueing into another generation. The best to you, I believe you’ve done you can the rest is for them to decide.

      1. Johanna, I am sorry about your daughter especially the chats you found. My daughter, in her last tantrum, called me horrible names via texts. It hurts deeply to be betrayed and treated like that.
        I am not sure if I had not come across Dr. S’s book, advice, I would have done what was necessary in that situation – turn off my phone. Now she will either have to do it in person or via telephone/landline.
        Calling it what it is, manipulation, helps a lot as I would have curled into a ball and paralyzed with guilt. I am hurt, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t paralyze me which seems to be confusing her. She has cut off most family and from what I can see, surrounded herself with like minded people.
        She also didn’t understand why I would not go to the EEOC with her to sue her last employer when she was fired for not doing what she was supposed to. I pray that one day she does see this, learn her lesson, but am thankful that I can respond accordingly and the biggest is overcoming guilt.

      2. I can’t believe you women are talking about your daughters this way. And I can tell you one of the biggest reasons they act out toward you and don’t respect you- you are playing the victim.
        Just as their are abusers, there are people who maliciously put themselves in the role of the victim, to avoid responsibility, to give themselves excuses for not doing what they know they should, and making yourself a victim is just as abusive. You are supposed to be parents, not children, and if you cannot take that responsibilty, if you make your children out to be bad people, they will follow your lead. My mother was the same, she always taught me that I was a horrible, out of control person, and for that I hated her. I never respected her, and I had more trouble handling my life around her than in any other aspect. I didn’t forgive her until years after she was dead, and since she has been gone I have met many positive people that have helped me overcome the damage she caused me by always wanting to be someone’s victim.
        This article is about people who are out to hurt you, not about people you have trained to take the blame for all the things that haven’t gone right in your life. Stop vicitimizing your children just because you can’t handle the idea of living life without someone to blame. If you need someone to abuse you, go find another man to do it.

  3. Even though some people’s thinking tend to reflect traditional perspectives tend, there’s another thing. When a crime happens, let’s say a murder, and a perpetrator is uncaught and unknown, don’t many of us think what a monster that person must be? Still, when we know a perpetrator by face, suddenly some think like traditional perspectives. How come? I’m speculating it could be because we subconsciously think of evil as a faceless entity, but what do you folks think?

    1. Good question J! I can totally see that and I think it plays a roll in why victims stay stuck. When it’s not happening to you or you are not experiencing it yourself, it’s easy to call a spade a spade. Part of what I think influences a personal encounter and the way our brain processes it is the bonding that takes place and the chemical changes in the brain, hormones, etc. It feels good and the spath plays his game with that advantage.
      I read something a while back, we may have seen a link on this site even, about pick up tactics, getting a woman to trust you, etc……it said that the fastest way to gain a woman’s trust is touch. Another way to put that is, the fastest way to override a woman’s distrust is touch. I think I went off topic.

    2. Also, we WANT to believe that this person couldn’t possible be a monster. It flies in the face of our past EXPERIENCES with people in our lives. Basically it does not compute that someone we think we know and love could be a monster. I still have a hard time digesting and accepting it. I’m still in “yeah but” mode or “what if” mode in spite of the evidence. My heart misses the love I felt for him and it’s so terribly disturbing, not enough words to describe, that this person that my heart aches for not only doesn’t exist but the real person is an liar, deceiver, opportunist, parasite and someone who was basically raping me every time i was with him sexually because I had no clue that he was a total fake. Did I know that he had some issues? Yes! Did I know he was a complete fraud? No…..not at all.

    3. I’ve mentioned the concept of radical evil here before. I believe I read it from some material of Jung.

      Now, doesn’t that kind of concept of absolute evil also carry an implication that evil is something that takes a person over instead of something a person does or something a person tempts themselves to do?

  4. What if they are “taken over” because of the “evil” choices they have made? I remember when I was in India, the monks there believe there are two places in particular a person should NEVER go because of spirits that dwell there……establishments that serve alcohol (could this be why alcohol is called spirits? Or just a coincidence?) and butcheries, meat markets, slaughter houses, etc…..

    1. Hopefully I haven’t led the conversation in a wrong direction. Still, I think sometimes it may be hard to tell the exact psychological dynamics going on inside. Sure, people can make mistakes or misjudgments that are understandable in a way or find themselves making a wrong move they didn’t intend at all. Then again, some people just have a deep-rooted devil-may-care-attitude.

      1. Humans generally have complexes and some of those seem to be autonomous, disrupting our conscious intentions and will. Sometimes we plan to do one thing, but then an autonomous complex jumps in and messes things up.

        I think autonomous complexes could be one huge factor why traditional perspectives have persisted.

        1. Right J…….that’s the he must be neurotic way of thinking about EVERYONES behaviors. But we know that not everyone is neurotic or at least operating from that place. Some people are motivated from a very conscious “all about me”, predatory, victimizing, manipulating, deceptive place and doing it consciously.

  5. I was manipulated by a man for a year and half. I am having a hard time dealing with it. Im at the anger stage right now. I write in my Journal imstead of confrontimng him. I realized manipulators have no empathy. The more I cry and comfess the more power I give him to tell me exactly what I want to hear. He was going back and forth between his daughters mom and I. The lies were always never his fault. His excuse was “its the baby!” Find a I love you text or email..it was Oh it was for the baby. Find her long hair on him…it was Oh that was from the baby. Anyways I wasnt willing to accept their “friendship” so I would leave. He would beg and promise no more “friendship”. Didnt last long. You get the idea, so to make a long story short. His last tempt at tryimg to manipulate me was last week. Came to me with its over, no more, no more.lies..etc. She’s backing off (of course its her fault not his). He sounded convincing I take him back. 3 days go by, I see a I love you text from her. I ask him why the text. Hes plays dumb of course. I ask her and she says I love him and never letting him go. Apparently he didnt have the talk with her like he said. He says please trust me and let me handle this. Usually I fly off the handle, this time I said okay I trust you. He has to do some telework on his work computer. I go stand by him to watch him work. Surprisingly an email.from her pops up!! She says Im sorry for what your going thru this morning. I love you. Another email pops up. She says theres a 3 bedroom available, what are your thoughts? Im shocked!! I look closer and read his previous reply which was like 15 minutes earlier. This is the kicker…he replies: see you in a bit, I love you. I read it out loud and am in shock! He shuts down his computer and says I dont know how that happened!! I never said that to her. He said she may have his password. I laugh so hard and say So your telling me this woman hacked into your Department of Defense Federal computer within the last 15 minutes and manipulated your emails??? I said okay you need to leave. I had heard it all by then. So yes imagine a year and half of this. He had me question my sanity many times! So she won and got the man! It hurts and Im healing! I thank God for helping me through this. There is hope! Sorry for grammar and punctuation. 🙂

    1. MJ, she didn’t win, YOU did! Good for you. She “won” a liar who will cheat and lie without abandon. Now you can focus on healing yourself, and see the red flags that should have sent you running. No worries, there ARE good men out there who will make an effort to WIN YOU! Good luck!

    2. RE: “So she won and got the man!”

      I wouldn’t wish that “prize” on anyone. You won so many times over…you just don’t know it yet

      besides that, it’s not a matter of a “win” or “loss” it’s a matter of being free!

  6. There’s got to be a better way for people to recover from this more quickly.

    The CA in my life showed her true colors, and I cut off contact. But all the proxies they recruit, it took another two years for the proxies to back off and finally hear me out. By then it was too late to recover what I’d lost.

    It’s like a sunk cost analogy in economics.

    But the “how to fend off the proxies” there has got to be a better way.

    1. Wow. I was yp half the night, dumstruck at my ignorance to all this for ten years. I am financially, emotionally and psycologically battered if not ruined. So after leaving my husband after supporting him for so many years, I find mysekf s i tired and sick and without resources of any kind. So I have been considering ogoing back because he has now been promoted and I cannot find a job and he says he has changed.The sunk resources analogy is perfect. I am speechless

      1. He hasn’t changed. If he cares about you, it’s possible he might, but you would have to set firm conditions and boundaries. For example, pick several of the ways he has been abusive, and say that you will not tolerate any of those behaviors at all. But you will work with him if he goes into therapy (and make sure the therapist is an expert in dealing with overaggressive, abusive, manipulative men). Read Lundy Bancroft…

        Maybe telling him you’ll go back and give in another shot is if he goes into therapy and stays in it for two years. If he agrees and starts going, then he is showing he is maybe willing to change. (Don’t go back based on empty promises.)

        Best of luck!

  7. A thought came to me. Dr Simon, have you known or heard of cases, where someone has the capacity to become an actual psychopath, but ends up not developing the penchant for victimization, manipulation, exploitation and degradation?

    1. Indeed there are such cases, and for lots of different reasons. For example, there are individuals with significant empathy and other social deficits that exist for various reasons (e.g., as in the case of some kinds of developmental disorders) but who don’t have the other personality traits commonly associated with psychopathy (e.g., greatly impaired or absent conscience, the capacity for compartmentalization, predatory instinct and drive, etc.). There are also individuals who have more than one characteristic predisposing them to psychopathy but who have sufficient social awareness, maturity of judgment, and practical motivation to conform their conduct to appropriate social norms. And after having done so for years and realizing the benefits firsthand, some of these individuals can be fully well expected to remain within the bounds of normal social behavior. These are just a few examples. There are others.

  8. a question for Dr. Simon

    is it possible for a manipulator, that is at the low end of the scale to admit to what they are doing and change there behavior?

    is there anything the victim can do?

    so far i have blocked every attempt of manipulation and he has backed off. i know he will be back with apology’s what is the best thing to do…to not accept the apology’s and give him an ultimatum : change or go? is it possible that if this person does actually have some feelings at all that they may actually realize what they are doing and stop! and then be able to go to therapy? if they change is it possible to live with them or will they always still have it in them to manipulate?

    i realise that you may see me as in denial about the manipulator, i may be but i will leave if i no for sure that he will not or can not change.

    1. Laura, WHAT specifically is he DOING, not SAYING that would give you any indication that there is hope that he will change or even attempt to?
      What do you mean by “he has backed off”?
      It’s not that you are in denial Laura…….the way these losers are is so hard to wrap your head around. It’s a totally different thing than denial. Denial is not being able to accept something you know is happening because it’s too painful to take in. These situations may involve a certain degree of denial but, in my opinion, there is also another layer to it. How does a person accept something they don’t understand or even know is happening? Is that clear? If you are being lied to, deceived and manipulated COVERTLY, it makes it very difficult to sort out anything! And if it’s something you have never experienced in a relationship before…….you are at an extreme disadvantage.

    2. Not sure what value there is in getting someone to “admit” behavior they’re already aware of. Unless a person is truly clinically insane, most behavior is goal-directed and intentional. And if the behavior is harmful, all the person exhibiting it needs to know is that you won’t tolerate it. It doesn’t have to be as brutal or as final as “change or go,” although sometimes that’s what’s needed, just “this engagement with me must be on these fair and principled terms, otherwise, this engagement is over.” If the message is sent clearly and consistently enough, it should get through. Besides, it’s not a matter of awareness most of the time, just motivation and interest. And while apologies are fine, they’re no match for making the commitment and a continued effort to changing the problematic behavior pattern. Now, life-long habits are hard to break. But you can tell when someone is really working to change. If you can’t, then indeed you may be in some kind of denial.

  9. “this engagement with me must be on these fair and principled terms, otherwise, this engagement is over.”
    Such great wording Dr. Simon and in hind sight, I wish I would have had those very same words at my disposal. Of course he would have wormed his way into and out, over, under and around them,,,,,,,just like he did with my own attempt to say just what you said above. Until a person really is aware of these losers and their chicken sh*t, underhanded tactics, they will always be vulnerable to the perp’s manipulations because normally one can’t wrap their head around someone being so low as to do what they do.

  10. I see. I don’t think they are unwothy of something to say though. They might need tweaked a little but if I were to say to someone the words you said or something similar followed by…….”and I’m not seeing that as what’s going on here”, it seem like a pretty on target parting comment!

  11. thanks for your reply’s. i say at the lower end of the scale because his behavior is not physically harmful. to answer your questions puddle : what hes doing? he uses all the manipulating tactics and usually more than one at a time to get what he wants or to get me to agree with him. : he has backed off? i tried to use his own tactics against him to get him to stop and he gave in (backed off)i guess im better at it than he is, i learned them well…but i realized we were only going around in circles.

    i fully understand he knows hes doing it….the value of getting him to admit it…..was to admit it to me that the problem is in fact him(as he has not been accepting this). he admitted today that he has bad behavior, after i have consistently told him that i will not tolerate his behavior anymore and unfortunately even though it goes against my very being, i had to be hard. he has now accepted this. he made an appointment with a counselor to help him change because he does not know how. i believe this is the first step forward in a long time. now i am worried about getting the right counselor
    how will i know? should i ask them if they are familiar with your work and if not to move on to the next? i understand that the right one is just as important as him wanting to change

    1. Laura………I would like to say this because it concerns me that you don’t see that someone can be extremely dangerous and not be physically harming someone. I know for a fact that many women have been pushed to mental, emotional, financial and physical destruction by these people and never once been touched physically so please do not base your assessment of where he may fall along the continuum on the fact that he has never physically harmed you! If I could describe to you what kind of destruction my ex has brought into my life I would but it would take countless hours and I’ve done more than my fair share of talking about it here. He never raised a finger to harm me physically. He did break a door of mine and never fixed it as he said he would but he was arrested and convicted of DV in his past. I have never even come close to being this destroyed over anything in my past as what this has done to me.
      These people need to see someone who specializes in domestic abuse because even though he may not have been violent does not mean he is not abusive. There’s more ways to abuse someone than with violence and sometimes someone who has not gone as far as violence has the potential to in the future…….the underlying problem is the same in both a physical abuser, mental abuser, emotional abuser.

    2. Laura, The fact is this………there are people who manipulate, lie to, toy with, take advantage of, go along with, etc, etc, etc…..just to keep the game going. He has agreed/ accepted this?? I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard my ex do the same thing……oh yes….he was wrong, he wanted to make me happy,,,,,,,he was sorry, I could go on and on. it was all BS.
      I hope that is not the case for you Laura and time will tell. I encourage you to keep reading…..on this site and others. Do your homework and good luck.

  12. Thank you, your words are very wise….i am sorry you had to go through this.i am aware that him saying ‘sorry’ is just another tactic and unless i see actual change and continuously i will not believe it….i know i could be wasting my time but unfortunately only time can tell….. i will continue to read even if this relationship fails so i can have a chance at not getting into this situation again!!

    1. Good for you Laura. I’m sorry if my words sounded harsh. I reread and I thought they might but I wanted to stress clearly that the lack of PHYSICAL violence means nothing. I do hope the best for you and I’m glad you are taking the steps to educate yourself because ignorance and naiveté on the victims part are the most powerful cards these players hold. I can tell you I wasted a great deal of time and energy in “hope mode”, a fantasy he played a huge part in creating. He knew I was in love with “him” and that not only was I on the hook but I had swallowed it. The last thing I wanted was for it to end………why? Because even though i had suspicions that something was seriously wrong, I did n’t KNOW how wrong……I had no way of knowing because I had never encountered someone this pathetic…..not even when I was much younger! A person thinks that by the time a “man” get to be 46-47-48, they couldn’t possibly be this pathetic! It was so disorienting! The only guy I had ever dated that was even close to this guy’s low level was when I was in my late twenties and early thirties and even HE didn’t live in his mother’s basement, owned his own car, hadn’t been convicted of DV, etc! He was an in your face bad boy, yes! But not a covert manipulative liar of the lowest kind!
      Good luck Laura!

      1. One suggestion Laura………..Maybe a huge time out from the relationship is in order. Complete time away to gain some perspective, clear your head, etc……As they say, if it’s meant to be, it will be. I know that being around him as much as I was around him, and he saw to that, really acted like a drug or a trance for me. The longer I’m away, the clearer things become as the fog lifts. They have an affect on people like that. Certainly something to consider and you can just make it about you……YOU need time away to think. Uninterrupted time to yourself. If he loves you he should willingly see that.

  13. Dr Simon, I have a 27yo adult daughter. When young, we praised her due to her knowledge (I read your article “How to Inflate an Ego” – ouch!) and she has grown to be a narcissistic, covert aggressive. Her mother(my ex) is a narcissist enabler, martyr, and manipulator, her 2nd husband on his 4th marriage is a narcissist who buys expensive gifts for people. I used to be a depressed, angry yeller, whilst simultaneously being a very involved father and provider of opportunities for learning for my Gifted & Talented children. I am no longer depressed, have changed, and realised the errors of my earlier ways.
    My daughter bore the brunt of me being the firer of bullets made by my ex-wife. Ie, my wife complained, told me to take action, I did, then my wife complained how I did it. Repeatedly. Then told me, and my children, “You have ruined their lives”.
    I have given my daughter (who now works in another country)letters of apology, etc, in an attempt to allow her to find peace in her mind, and, for us to relate in a healthy way. I’m not sure she read the letters. She spoke to me just once last year, and sent me a gift for birthday/Christmas…and always appears to be nice and friendly when we have contact, but she’s always ‘busy and have to go’.
    My dilemma is, do I continue with my occasional neutral correspondence to which I never get a reply, or, stop communicating and leave it to her to initiate? The little question I asked her of this matter, she flung around to an issue from her childhoood, to blame me then for her non-communication now.
    If she was not my daughter, I would just let this relationship go. As her father, I feel partially responsible for the errors we made during her upbringing and would like her to have some peace of mind. If she won’t communicate, nor take responsibility for her concerns, I’m at a standstill, and am unsure if there is anything more I can do other then occasional neutral letters to leave the correspondence channels open.

    Have other readers a similar situation?

    1. The readers might want to make a comment or two about this, but if you’ll contact me via the “Contact Dr. Simon” feature, I’ll respond personally when I get back from out of town.

    2. Hi Rod, It sounds like you are accountable and rational and are doing what you can to “fix” things. Sometimes things are just not in our hands to fix. However, that can be something that will change as time goes by and she matures. Seems like there is hope if she is sending gifts and cards. Maybe the thing to do would be to send her a letter expressing your concerns and desires for a better relationship in the future if and when she is open to that. No pressure, knowing that it may take more time than you would ultimately like. Trust that things have a way of surprising us sometime. I am 54 and at 27, there would have been no way I could have been “reached” because I was just “gone”. Now, at 54……..my life and attitudes are VERY different and I regret a lot o,f what feels like, time lost. The person I was then is not who I am now……maybe some of it, sure…..but many changes have occurred. I do wish you luck, keep the faith and on your end do what comes from your heart to do.

      1. Great point about the age. Yes 27 is not an age I would have been too receptive either! Have written letters. I think they may not have been opened…maybe they will be opened when she approaches 54! 🙂

  14. This has been a very helpful post. As I struggle with the latest push and pull tactics of my CD now ex. He initiated a wanting to fix things between us with the tears and puppy dog eyes…no doubt to keep me confused though in discussions it’s like he is fighting for an advantage, image and fighting against any need to change. Yet he seems so convincing with his remorse and as well armed as I feel thinking about what you say about recognising real contrition I sometimes wonder…is there any genuine feeling for more than themselves?

    Can they be reasonable and truthful at times without really wanting to control you? I guess I wonder this mainly because I did not give any ground though found myself back in the fog so to speak. Doubting myself and wondering if I’d been too hard on him. It’s such an odd feeling when I know how violent he can be… I guess I still feel that there has to be good somewhere (my wishful thinking). He says all his acts were impulsive but I don’t buy that to me they seemed premeditated. As he is fond of saying he knows he shouldn’t do them but he goes ahead and does them anyway. It’s hard to fathom that they know exactly what they’re doing. Mine is now stressing that he isn’t playing games but maybe it’s just testing the waters to see if I’ll relent. Which I won’t as I know my personal safety is at risk.
    They’re like a virus that seeps into your veins taking over your being. Do we ever really break free of them? I’m hoping that in a few days time I will be in a new town and maybe then I can really start to heal but all the time in the back of my head is what’s he going to do next?

    1. Tori, That is horrible…..living and wondering what he will do next. When I split up with Spathtard, I didn’t even know I could be in danger. that is something that I have gained awareness of as the picture has become clearer and clearer and I’ve learned more about the real person behind the mask. I have no clue who he is, what he is capable of, or even what other members of his family are capable of.
      This is a link to a video that is SO disturbing, yet very educational. It is or a man who is a child molester and it shows just how conscious a person can be in their manipulations. He knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it and how it would enable him to achieve his goals.
      I will warn you and anyone else that chooses to watch this video……it is VERY disturbing and could be very triggering for some people. but I think it is important in that it demonstrates how a manipulator thinks and justifies their actions.

      http://www.lovefraud.com/2014/02/25/an-interview-with-a-psychopath/

      1. Glad so you mentioned, this, Puddle. I’ve written a few posts on the most dangerous time (i.e. deciding to leave the abuser/controller) and what possibilities can occur when it’s close to “game over” for a covert aggressor, but it’s been awhile, so I think this topic is definitely worth a re-visit. Look for another article or two on the subject in about 3-4 weeks.

      2. Incredible. There was a post I read some time back on this website that stuck with me….in using an apt expression in summing up the character deformity of the psychopath. They were referred to as an “empty shell”. Devoid of feeling anything…..apart from what they desire. This video reminded me of that expression.

  15. Puddle that video certainly was chilling and disturbing…it still leaves me gobsmacked that they think like that and look so clean cut and normal. How can we really tell when we meet one?

    1. It’s absolutely ……………I once again, just don’t have words to describe what knowing this about people like this does to me inside as a woman. Many people have told me that i’m one of the bravest women they know and I suppose i am in doe ways……this is NOT one of them. never in my life have I ever felt so unsafe and unsure as I do now with that empty shell of a Spathtard living at his mother’s (aka the Hotel Dr. Phil) just down the road WITH his sister who I now believe may have had at the very least knowledge of what his agenda was………..whatever it was. What else are they capable of??

  16. You probably hear this a lot but finally being able to put some science behind the confusion, guilt and depression i have experienced with my partner has given me some life changing realisations, thank you. I am beginning to understand how my own personality was enabling the situation which is very empowering. It will be a long road and it will require that i develop some new skills but at least now i have a direction.

    1. Just Grateful, I have only recently discovered Dr Simon’s site too. I just recently read his book ‘In Sheep’s Clothing’ which explains his insights in a clear structured way, which makes it easier to remember. It also offers excellent advice on how to develop the necessary skills to avoid being manipulated and change the ‘game’ that we unwittingly play when we are being manipulated. So many light bulbs have been going on in my head since I have read it. I’m really glad you have found that direction and had the big breakthrough. It is a long road, as you say and one that has a really worthwhile purpose.

    2. Just Grateful, Please keep in mind that your own personality does not “enable” a true manipulator but your ignorance of what they are doing does. Once you know about these types and their techniques it’s a different story but the strongest card in their hand is the FACT that most people DON’T know that they are being manipulated. That is why it’s called covert manipulation or covert aggression. It’s insidiously hidden and ultimately to the victims detriment.

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