Manipulators Can Make You Feel Crazy

I’ve recently received several emails from different places across the globe, all addressing the same topic.  One woman from Belgium said that the manipulator in her life had caused her to question herself so much that she wondered if she really had a grip on reality.  But a friend recommended In Sheep’s Clothing and reading its validating words helped her restore a sense of sanity.  And a man from Hungary wrote to say that just having a mental health professional attest in writing to the the issues he knew in his gut to be true but couldn’t prove with regard to the actions of some of his co-workers was enough to save him from feeling crazy.  It always gratifies me to get these kinds of comments.

Skilled manipulators are good at what they do.  They can appear so charming and benign on the surface.  They’re adept at the art of what some psychologists call “impression management.”  That means they know how to make others think well of them, even when they’re not behaving in a kind or respectable way.  Sometimes, just knowing that there are people who really are as power-oriented and as calculating as you suspect they are but who conceal or disguise that fact well enough to make you doubt your judgment can be enough restore your sanity.  In your gut, you know it’s them, but somehow they make it seem like it’s you.  That’s enough to make anyone feel a little crazy.  And that’s exactly why I wrote a book about it.  I also believe the reason it’s endured as a bestseller for nearly 17 years is primarily because the principles I advance in it resonate with people’s experience and gives them the validation necessary to not feel crazy anymore.

In Sheep’s Clothing has already been published in 6 foreign languages.  A Spanish language version is in the works and a Japanese edition is also under discussion.  Covert-aggression is a big problem, and it’s everywhere.  So is the problem of Character Disturbance in general.   And many folks have had an intuitive sense about these issues since long before I decided to write about them.  That’s why I want everyone who’s been on the receiving end of someone’s covert-aggression, to take heart.  It’s important for them to realize they’re not crazy.  And, hopefully, they’ll find in my books and other writings, as well as the comments on this blog, the resources and tools necessary to feel both validated and empowered.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing several stories and discussing in greater depth the reasons why people sometimes doubt their intuitive judgment and then get hoodwinked by manipulators.  I’ll also share some anecdotes from folks who regained their confidence and sense of validation and in so doing opened up for themselves a more empowered life.

32 thoughts on “Manipulators Can Make You Feel Crazy

  1. Thank You, Dr. Simon! Recently, I have had a brush with the covert-aggressive personality type you describe. Thankfully, I caught on in a relatively short period of time something was “off” with this person. However, I must admit that for a couple of months I was deeply confused about feeling manipulated because this person seemed so sweet. I kept thinking something was wrong with me. Then he did a few things that were so blatantly manipulative and obvious to the underlying aggressive intent of his actions that I was forced to recognize them as such and felt compelled to get this person out of my life.

    Honestly, I hadn’t heard of the covert-aggressive personality until just the past few days when I began searching for information on manipulators (I had correctly surmised this person was a big time sneaky, underhanded manipulator.) I came across information about your book and also stumbled upon your website. I haven’t read your books yet but believe me, I will. By the way, from what I’ve read so far of your described “offense” mechanism covert-aggressive personalities employ, this person uses all of them with exception of lying rather effectively. In review I can attest that this person used “lying by omission” often throughout the first few months of our courtship. He called me other day in the course conversion used guilt-tripping, minimization, rationalization, vilifying the victim, playing the victim and evasion. I intend to completely cut this person out of my life.

    I look forward to reading both of your books and I wish there’s was a way to spot these people on the first or second date! Maybe asking questions that would indicate an underdeveloped conscience would do the trick? Again, thank you, it is empowering to know I did detect those red flags even if I questioned them and myself for a period of time. From now on I’m trusting my intuition.

    1. Thank you, Christine! And do keep trusting your intuition. Another helpful guide to first encounters: Don’t just listen to what someone’s saying, listen for the kinds of things they say. If you hear the tactics of impression management and manipulation, be on your guard!

      1. Thanks! After writing my comment I remembered that early on this person did in fact lie in very weird, subtle way. I do believe it was impression management. I guess I didn’t want to attribute the big, ugly label of liar to him so quickly but now it’s clear he is in fact a liar.

        I sure wish I had read your book and had this information months before my run in with this disturbed character. But good riddance to him. Thanks so much for what you do, I have been busy telling all my friends about your books and the enlightening information contained within. And thanks for the additional info about “listening” for the signs of impression management and manipulation. You should write a dating guide book: “How to Spot a Stinker on the First Date!” : )

  2. there is this girl i know she always shouts in my face and everytime i ask her stop it she keeps on shouting.
    and when you ask her why her excues is that she has a headaec
    so Dr. george tell me what i should do about it

  3. Hello, I don’t know what it is about me, but I seem to attract alot of manipulative people over the course of my life. They have been on my job, as well as in my personal life. I’m not a pushover by any means. I do consider myself to be a decent person who is respectable of others. However, with so many incidents of people trying to manipulate me over the years…I have come to the conclusion that I MUST be sending out some type signal to these people. My LATEST manipulator is my second cousin. She is fifty years old, has two grown daughters, eight grand children,and three siblings. It all started when she asked me to pay for the drinks for her wedding (her 4th marriage). She said she didn’t have the money. I agreed to pay for the drinks for her wedding. Well, soon after that…it has been one thing after the other. Her husband left her a month after their wedding, and she moved in with her parents. She has asked me to buy her a smart phone as a belated birthday present(her birthday was 4 months earlier). I refused. She called me and left an urgent message for me to call her, when I did..she wanted to tell me that she found my mother’s grave at the cemetary where my mother is buried. That was the first time she had been to the cemetary. Why that was an emergency, I’ll never know. She has been asking my husband and I to come pick her up so that she can “visit” us. She doesn’t have a car, and we live about 2 hours apart. When I told her to take the bus to come visit, she told me that the bus was too uncomfortable for her (this was via e-mail). I didn’t respond back. This was 2 months ago. Well, a couple of days ago, I get a call from her, when I answer my cell phone, she’s crying. I ask her what’s wrong, and the first thing she says is “come get me”! She says that her step father choked her, and that she “can’t do this any more”. Once again, she was trying to get me to pick her up to stay at my home. This woman does not work, she doesn’t even talk about looking for a job. It was so obvious to me what she was trying to do. I beginning to resent her. All this started with me buying the drinks for wedding. No good truly goes UNPUNISHED!

  4. Wow! I willl 50 years old next month, And I am shamed to say
    That I have “LET” people manipulate me most of my life, and
    I have been drained by these vampires And could not understand
    The tactics that they used so well, most of these people I love.
    And for all th

  5. Wow! I will be 50 years old next month and I am ashamed to say that I have “LET” people manipulate me most of my life. I have been drained by these vampires and could not understand the tactics they used so well. Most of these people I love..

    There is truly no limit they will go to to gain advantage over you. Thank you Dr. Simon.
    I have read both In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance and I’m glad to have the knowledge that has brought me back to reality. I have a long road to recover, but thank you very much for the beginning of a knew way of thinking. I never knew but always suspected why the truth was so hard for people to accept.

    Steve (minor grammatical edits by gs)

  6. I have a sister ,tells me im sick,and very controlling,she hads me thinking that Im sick,she tells strangers im sick,I don’t say nothing and to make it worse she takes over like I don’t have a voice.This has been going on since I let her in my life what can or what to do?she make people think theres something wrong with me?Can any one help me.Thank you Doris

    1. Doris, I’m sorry you have to deal with such a person and when it’s family it makes it even harder sometimes. I think the thing we all need to remember is that we do not HAVE to associate with anyone who is harmful to us. I was recommended a book called, “Your Perfect Right, Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships”. I have not read it yet but i did order it. The description sounded really good.

  7. Thank you so much!! I haven’t read your book yet, but I can already tell this is something that will greatly benefit me. 🙂

  8. I have exp/d mobbing and harassment at work, the end they made me feel crazy. it went into my neighbor complex, community and jobs(pt also) they stole valuable things, now I am at the end of this craziness and it wasw to waste my time and stop me from moving on to my dreams, I am older 40’s my neighbor was listening and getting info to make me crazy, they had ppl follow to take jobs. I am now broke, no car, no health ins and so beyond. I AM PISSED AND NEED HELP, don’t tell me to go to a therapist, she tld me Bullies are real and they ruin lives. Now my life is ruined and they used all things to get to me, and now are using it to say- are you alright.. I cant move and I have no job and I am still not near my dreams. I could be at a better place over 3yrs ago if I didn’t have this around me. they got everyone to mess with me and now ppl say, prove it. like I am crazy. please help.

  9. they allreadyy made you or whoever nuts.. like in
    schizophrenic .
    if your not sure of some people just avoid them and don’t try to
    figure him or them out….. you are just not sure.
    leave it that way and close the door but don’t lock it till your sure.
    if you cant be sure for some time forget them and there dribble.
    stay with trusted friends and family.

  10. what do you do when someone trys to make you crazy and spreads it into your community, jobs and you move and it follows you… it has neg effected my jobs…. need help

    1. Seingdd,

      A good start is Contact Dr Simon -feature down below.

      Also it’s recommendable you find some alternate support that isn’t contaminated by character assassination of you.

  11. This most absolutely sounds like a must read for many. My unfortunate experience was having manipulative family and friends. It even rubbed off on me for a bit in my mid – teens until someone called me out on it. At that time, I vehemently denied it and (if memory serves correctly) tried to get them to think they were imagining things. Later, after some introspection, I realized that I was being manipulative and that totally goes against loving your neighbor as yourself; so, I stopped.
    However, somehow I staid on the receiving end. I realized that at a young age I lost some confidence and self – esteem (it varies). This is an attractant to those who seek to boost their own self – esteem as well as improve their image to others, like dingoes eating another injured dingo (Quigley Down Under) or a crocodile eating her young.
    Then, when they are confronted, they will say that you are mentally ill or mentally unstable. Unfortunately, if they have better social skills and networking, they can convince others that you are mentally unstable or mentally ill. Heck, I almost, almost began to believe it myself; but, I had over a handful of instances of words and behaviors to back up my case and thought there was no way I made all that up. I even waited from the first onset (probably a bad idea to not address/confront it early) to see if a pattern of words and behavior developed. After there was pattern, I then calmly, coolly (I thought losing my temper would only help them make me look nuts) confronted them. From there, it went to them in denial, then saying I was the one mentally unstable, then cussing me and saying they were going to cut me off. This person has played the victim before so ignored their attempt at that and I did stop talking with them because I didn’t want to fall for the cold shoulder manipulation technique.
    This was a brief on my own experience. I look forward to learning more from this book written by someone more knowledgeable than me on the matter. It is actually a small relief to see others might sympathize or even empathize. I hope to learn a little more and maybe even pass this knowledge on so that others can lead a more validate and rewarding life and so that those who are doing wrong might see it and repent for not loving their neighbor rightly.

  12. thank you so much Dr.Simon for this wonderfull messages the it’s really helping on us as a victims of those people who are trying to disturb my life who trying to Manipulators me to be out of my mined i was rememeber that day happens it was a young lady at the age of 16 in the time and now she was 17 years old now she was sharing about she and her friends of using a drugs so as a older friend of them i do advise them but she was telling a lied the her friend teaching her how to use and be one of the drugs user.but she is the one who asking to use a drugs never her friend ask…so there it’s start i hear her voice counting on me that she will make me crazy and it’s start the Manipulators on me as well and together with my family and friends and relatives and all people knowning me as well they thinking the i am stupid talking by myself and to my nieghbors and fighting with them but i believing in our Lord God the father i still on my mined and never been damages at all so to who those people who want’s to hurting and love to hurt’s of people please stop it…coz’s it’s all comes backs into your life too that you never expected so stoped right now and be a normally new man being

  13. 18 years with a covert sociopath, and I never figured him out until about two years ago. The unfortunate demise of our marriage is still in the works (it’s complicated) but I can say that, for at least two years, I sat around scratching my forehead and wondering what I had done wrong. I was convinced that I was crazy (he even told me that I was, but always in private conversation…) and was making some very drastic plans when a colleague of mine asked me if I’d ever heard of the term ”gas lighting”. My life story changed. My son and I are still picking up the pieces, make no mistake, but at least I know that I’m not mentally disturbed.

    1. KitKat, isn’t it the best feeling to know you are not crazy!! Two years without him and Iike you I know I am not mentally disturbed! It’s like finding a whole new you but really it’s finding yourself. Best wishes to you in your new life with your son.

    2. And if they really believed us to be crazy, would they tell us that? Doubt it.

      I’ve known so many slippery people in my life, who are constantly saying “I didn’t say so, I said [blank]”. I’ve started to see that for what it is. Or perhaps I always did. With manipulative people there’s that diffference, that gut feeling.

  14. Thank you so much for your words they are so helpful!! My sister is so evil, for lack of a better word. For years she has lied and manipulated me and most especially what people think of me. She is such a bully and when I confront the abuse she begins crazy making behavior and denies her actions and tells everyone I am mental and that in itself is so emotionally disturbing. If it weren’t for people like you writing on topics like this we would all be doubting our own sanity.

    1. my sister a gemini. is same way.evil.lies wants family like her not me.she wants family all to herself.she play one against other.get people fired.cause so much drama.wants people thinks im crazy when she is.

  15. There was a term that I came across relating to Manipulation where things are set up to make the victim think they are going nuts. Belongings are taken and placed elsewhere etc…It’s called cancel lighting or lamp lighting, something like that…anyone familiar with this? I was a victim of this behavior for a while.

  16. Perhaps you should stop advising people that it is other people that make them feel ‘crazy’. Peoples outbursts and erratic behavior make them feel ‘crazy’ and instead of listening to or conversely, demonizing a manipulater, these individuals should reflect on their actions and take appropriate, calm measures to rectify the problems.

  17. Huh… i believe i may be the kind of person your describing here… i know what i do and i use it for good (or at leadt what i see as good, thats all anyone can do right? 🙂 ) well what i use it for is in conversation i can lead where it goes and plant ideas and slowly water them but how i use it is for things like i have a verry unstable freind group and im the only reason they’re still holding together and ive changed their moods from about to rip someone’s arm off to laughing and joking in literally seconds. Ive spent years amateurly studying the people around me experimenting with tones body language i even changed the mood of 10 people simply withmy posture and breathing. Im held in high esteem wherever i go nd i can charm just about anyone weather i like them or not by mimicking body language and their personality tones and gestures. Im not the type to torment however i prefer to avoid drama i just like a good grip on things so that if things or people get hurt i can fix it (or them) ive even talked 3 people out of suicide and one from probably shooting up my high school. So were not all bad i look at it as sort of i dont know protection or insurance and i certainly dont look out for just me i look for the best place for everyone not to sound self riotous or anything 🙂 i also avoid lies if you get caught there you loose foot holds and merit and the best way to hold to those around you is not to put them down but make them feel good 🙂
    I hope this helps!

  18. there people been with me.are crazy,but it makes look im crazy.not me its them.i tell somebody about it look at me weird.i had relative set me up with men take their money she didnt want support her kids.then had ex that is psychopaths.i had ex neighbors were game players.i got a friend play one against other.and another friend that has behavior has caused me yrs of avoid all crazys.

  19. since this has happen to had cause me so much drama.for yrs..i had to fight with all these crazys. they wouldnt move gave me bad dont want to be with another person that are cause me outburst.and ruin my yrs.

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