Subtle Manipulation of the Heart

Manipulation of the Heart

Some character disturbed folks are skilled in manipulation of the heart. How pathological such manipulators are varies. So, the damage they can do varies. For example, there are amorous narcissists who are only mildly to moderately disordered. These folks seem like lovers. And they make you think they’re all about you. They charm convincingly. And they’ll worm their way into your heart, one way or another. But like all narcissistic folks, it’s always really about them. Their principal aim is not so much to love you but to get you to be enamored of them.

Folks skilled in manipulation of the heart know what to look for in others. Everyone has unmet wants and needs. And some folks are particularly astute at discerning those needs. So, they’ll say just the right things and do all the right things to win you over. But you generally won’t know how capable of genuine love they are until long after you give your heart away.

Maybe you grew up facing nothing but disapproval. A heart thief who senses that might well find affirmation as the surest way to your heart. Maybe you were the person in your family who chronically went unnoticed. That leaves you open to manipulation of the heart even when the person paying you so much attention isn’t doing so with ulterior motives.

The Power of Self-Awarness and Character

It always pays to know exactly where you are on your unique path toward character integrity. And that’s just one reason I wrote Essentials for the Journey. We live in times where all too many among us are severely arrested in their character development. But the stronger you are in a positive sense of self, and the more honest you are with yourself about the degree of character you’ve developed within yourself, the less likely you are to be duped. That’s not to say that there aren’t amazingly skilled con artists out there capable of fooling anyone. Still, character is, as always, your very best insurance.

Character Matters

This week’s Character Matters podcast is a recorded program, available on my YouTube Channel. I continue the discussion on commonly misused and misunderstood psychological terms, including covert-aggression.

Stay tuned for information on other platforms that will feature my podcasts in the near future.


19 thoughts on “Subtle Manipulation of the Heart

  1. I’ve been in a very confusing relationship for about 9 years. Finally it turned out she had been diagnosed with Asperger/Autism syndrome prior to our relationship. She had kept this a secret to me all those years.
    From the beginning she showed the same tactics any narcissist would use. She seemed obsessed with me. Putting me on a pedastal and an ideal she had to win over.
    She put all of her seducive powers in the battle.
    I could not resist for she was very beautifull, very sexy and had a childlike charm and innoncense about her.
    She seemed almost perfect.

    But ofcourse pretty soon the shallowness/capabilities of her real self showed up. I took this for granted thinking it was due to her frustrations suffered in her previous long-term relationship and a kind of childlike clumbsiness. I did everything to lift her up.

    How I was wrong! This covert Asperger-Autist knew exactly who to charm and to take care for her when she was in need. She chose me back then. Smart, for was I was strong and a psychiatric nurse on top. She had already figured me out many weeks before we dated the first time
    Autist are also know for getting obsessed by things or persons.
    With her this was certainly the case. I got objectivide in a extreem way the first few years. A luxury position you would argue but not comfortable at all I can tell you.
    The downfall is unevatible. You cann’t possibly cope with their fantasised imaginations about you.

    You’ll find out definately the moment you get into some kind of serious trouble yourself. They’ll be gone ASAP.

    The point I try to make here is that Asperger/Level 1 Autism is very closely related to Narcissism and Psychopathy/ASPD.

    Both are extremely self-centered states of mind without the ability to take other perspectives in to account in a ‘feeling’ way.
    Both are profound ‘feeling/moral’ disorders only acting on rational/profit considerations.

    It’s inhereted I’m sure, just the way they are wired.
    Narcissism/ASPD are actually a more sophisticated form of Level 1 Autism. Indeed it’s a spectrum.

    My Asperger-autist ex turned out to have been a complete player in those 9 years. All she told(sold) me turned out only to be lip-service to my views on life. When she finally succeeded (with a lot of help from me) to start her own practise she soon showed her real self when she got succesfull. She always told me she was very anti-materialistic…
    First degrading me as an annoiance then making a house-over for ~E20.000,- and buying a Tesla Model S for E100.000,-.

    The woman was Autistic/Narcissistic but sure wasn’t as dumb as she preferred to be seen by most people.
    Her sex and her childlike appearance did me in mostly.
    I must admitt her ‘no bounderies’ sex got me a kind of addicted.
    In hindsight I think she used it as a tool with bringing up all the ‘goodies’ I never asked for (but liked a lot..).

    I know now she was Autistic. Never capable of sensing where I was on the ‘feeling’ level. An almost completely rational being like a AI-computer. Enclosed in their own programs and worries.
    For an example;

    I had to get operated on a big tumor in my colon.
    She showed no worry at all. Hardly could be motivated to support me through the odeal. She did but with critisism on my conduct and very short visits afterwards.
    But when she had an appointment with her dentist soon after to treat an infected molar she called me in distress from the waiting-room two times.

    She was out of order clearly I knew by then. I ended the relationship soon after.
    She wasn’t a Narcissist in an overt sence. She kept fantasies of luxury, being rich I knew but claimed (to me) to be very social orientated not caring about materialism at all.

    This was all pretending and a lie ofcourse.
    This are covert Level 1 Autists.
    Quite similar to Covert/’Vunerable’ Narcissists.
    I think it’s about time to connect the two.

    The main cause of all this anti-social/self-absorbred disorders is a biological/genenatical determent brain-issue like in Autism.
    Their rational brains are not affected rather stimulised, by not being corrected by their underdeveloped emotional/moral brain parts which they lack.

    I think Autism is at the root of all this anti-social disorders.

    1. I have to chime in on this comment. Although I must first caution folks to not assume I’m making any kind of diagnosis or am even capable of making a diagnosis remotely and without firsthand knowledge. But because this comment conjectures that autism might be “the root” of “all this antisocial disorders” I feel obliged to assert some things. Firstly, women notoriously get labeled with all sorts of diagnoses for exibiting behaviors that when men exhibit ususally result in very different diagnoses. Secondly, it’s very difficult to “hide” Autism spectrum features, even when folks are on the mildest side of the spectrum. While an average person might not be able to accurately categorize, almost anyone would recognize that some behaviors are unusual and would indicate some kind of condition, and the behaviors described here are not among them. So, I’m urging caution here in many respects. I’m urging caution with respect to any readers assuming that such behaviors are the result of autism. We do know that some individuals on the autism spectrum have exhibit some features that are also common to some character pathologies, but autism is not root cause of either antisociality or other serious character pathologies (and I’m assuming here the the term antisocial is not being used inappropriately, too, as many folks confuse antisociality with the “asocial” or socially detached behaviors of some autistics). And I’m also cautioning with respect diagnostic integrity, which, sad to say, is often far too questionable. So many biases, inadequate training, etc. enter into the picture so many times. So, I’m not venturing a diagnosis, nor formally challenging any valid diagnosis given. But I am urging caution. And I hope the readers don’t make unwarranted assumptions based on this case as portrayed. I’m not challenging the commentator, who might well be making conjectures in good faith and based both on what was authoritatively told and what was personally observed.

      1. I see I might have come over a bit too strong in my comment.
        Her sister in law told me (after 9 years of relationship) she had been diagnosed with Asperger-syndrom just like her husband (her brother) many years before I met her. She told me this just in between a conversation asif I knew.
        But I didn’t. She had kept this a secret to me all those years.
        Also during all those arguments and discussions we had in where I tried to clear up the problems I had with her behaviour. I never got any clear answers. She would turn silent and witholding mostly or got angry and blaming, devaluating me when I pushed on.
        I’ve tried to be as kind as possible but it didn’t matter.
        I couldn’t get through her.

        It was only after I helped her to start her own business and got succesfull (she had been sacked on standing feet by her employer a year before for reasons I never got clear either) and I got seriously ill, her complete lack of empathy showed up full-blown.
        It was then I heard the ‘news’ from her sister in law.
        I confronted her and she admitted it was true.
        Her reaction after? She dropped me like a hot potato while still recovering from the surgery I had.
        Just dropped my house-keys in my post-box. Never responded to my calls for explanation why she had acted this way.

        I started studying Asperger-syndrom/HF Autism. And learned those people are very well capable of mimicing a ‘persona’ depending on their level of cognitive intelligence. It’s often basically their strategy to get the most out of their Autistic/self-absorbed lives I learned.
        And this makes sence ofcourse while the word ‘autistic’ is a synonime for ‘extremely self-absorbed’.
        There are other compeling features that show their relationship with other extremely self-absorbed disorders like Narcissism and ASPD. Extreme lack of empathy is only one of them.

        She might have been mis-diagnosed with Asperger-syndrom and Covert NPD would have been more appropriate. I don’t know.
        Anyway she has been very good in hiding her ‘true self’ for many years efficiently and was completly aware while she was doing this.

        Soon after our relationship ended she changed almost overnight into the contrary she always had shown to me.
        A completely different person(a).

        1. I’m well aware of the empathy deficiencies some individuals on the Autism spectrum have and are also common to psychopaths. But psychopathy is much more than merely empathy deficiency. Also, don’t forget that one DX does not preclude another. But most importantly, because all DXs in pyschiatry are strictly behavior descriptive in nature (as opposed to etiological) many diagnostic labels can apply, while still not affording anyone a good explanation of the core pathology. Fancy descriptions with labels attached are really no explanation all, when you stop to think about it. Sooo sooo much to learn yet about the human animal.

    2. Sounds more like Boarderline Personalty Disorder to me. Lying and Playing the victim are a trate of this Disorder.
      BDP can also be Highly Sexul in their behavior.

      I have direct experience of dealing with Austistic individuals. They are prone to have only one form of empathy.

      1. Hello Joey,

        She certainly had no BPD. She was always very well in control ’emotionally’.
        This was one of the main problems I had with her.
        Her lack of ‘feeling’ emotions towards me, other people, animals, music, sex, art, world-problems was often startling.
        She could not be shocked by anything if it didn’t concerned her. A visit to her dentist was a first degree drama where she demanded all support she could get in almost hysterical ways.
        The dying of a longtime friend by cancer was met with with comments about how stupid she had been to not visit the docter earlier. She only visited her once during her fatal illness.
        The lack of emotional empathy (towards others and me) showed in many ways. This was the main problem I had with her all the time.

        You mention they have almost no cognative empathy.
        I think you are wrong here. Cognative empathy is empathy you’ve learned rationally. It’s completely different from emotional empathy which is matter of the ‘heart’. Something you cann’t learn but is within your character make-up. Something you’ve been born with.

        People can sure learn to fake emotional empathy which makes it cognative empathy. A trick, a play.
        My ex mastered the play of emotional empathy to some degree. Enough though to trick me for 9 years.

        Dr. Simon’s book ‘In sheeps clothing’ and his articles have opened my eyes on this subject.

        In essence he’s quite right; it doesn’t matter where the self-absorbed, manipalitive, agressive behaviour comes from. May it be BPD/NPD/ASPD/Autism or whatever. It’s only their behaviour you have to deal with whatever the cause. It’s up to you to accept it or not in the end.

        I made the same mistake most of us made in trying to solve the (and her) problems by getting her to understand what the problems were about so she would see ‘the light’ and change her attitude.
        It never happened ofcourse. It only became worse the more I tried to point it out. Why?

        Because she knew from the start what was ‘wrong’ with her. She did everthing to conceil her true identity for as long I was usefull to her.

        I’ve also been raised and educated in the Christian manner and old-school psychiatry (where I worked for 25 years). A sitting duck for this kind of people.

        1. First I’m not a psychiatrist. I’ve worked in the psychiatric field for about 25 years as a psychiatric nurse.
          Now, as you probably know, people who show(ed) up in mental institutions are on average the most disturbed/mentally sick people.
          As a professional you mostly get supplied with their history and previous diagnoses.
          It’s kind of ‘easy’ that way in many cases to know where you are standing while dealing with them.
          Their behaviours are mostly a lot more clear right from the start. Autism is clearly Autism and ASPD is clearly ASPD (or a mix of both).

          But the people you talk about are not the people who are likely to visit a mental institution.
          They stay under the radar.

          My ex was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrom some 20 years ago I learned. She managed to seduce/rekrute people who would ‘take care’ of her (including me).
          She has been very smart in deluding me by playing the innocent, not aware, childlike girl (I liked). This must have been here learned coping-strategy in live with men at least.

          The thing that really shocked me was her complete make-over soon after our relationship ended. She changed her looks almost overnight, had her house made-over for thousends of Euro’s and bought a brand new Tesla Model S.

          This ‘autistic’ woman played lip-service to me and my not-materialistic life-style for about 9 years.
          She obviously had hidden her diagnosed disorder all those years but also her true thoughts about live.
          The moment she didn’t need me anymore and I was in distress she was gone within a week.

          Never heard from her again although I tried to get answers for several months.

          I’m mostly over it now and your source has been a great help in stop wondering about the causes of her behaviour. It’s indeed like you say. It’s their behaviour you decide to deal with or not, or at least make bounderies quite clear soon. I didn’t. Gave her far too much room to play her ‘games’ I see now.

          Being raised and educated to do so. And it’s quite hard to change this attitude if it comes natural to you to feel for people in the first place and give them benefits of doubt.

  2. Ge,

    I don’t know much about autism, high functioning or otherwise but it would seem to me that someone with autism would be consistent with their behavior. Rude, impolite comments, socially awkward statements or outbursts in public as well as private. I think that’s what Dr. Simon means when he said people with Autism features can’t ‘hide’ their condition. That everyone would notice something odd about their behaviors not just family members or partners.

    Whereas, the type of pathologies or character disorder discussed here on the website tend to be ‘covert’ hidden from everyone both publicly and privately or more overt with a person who presents a good image in public and a different more negative persona in private.

    When we’ve been hurt we search and search and search for the reason why our loved one hurt us so much. We look to diagnostic labels to understand what happened and why someone did awful things we didn’t deserve to us. We are so angry and we want to find the source and let the whole world know we have it figured out so they can figure it out too and these people can stop hurting us and others. I think we’ve all been through this stage of healing, I know I certainly have. Truthfully, a diagnosis doesn’t really make it any easier and sometimes can make things more confusing. Honestly, its better to try to focus on the behaviors without the labels because the behaviors are what has really caused us harm. Dr. Simon has done an excellent job at ‘generalizing’ labels with terms like character disordered, covert aggression, unbridled aggression, overt aggression, discussing manipulation tactics and strategies. He has focused on the behaviors more than the labels and has provided a lot of healing to a lot of people with his books and blog.

    I don’t know if your ex was psychopathic or narcissistic or autistic or something else entirely but I do know her behaviors hurt you and I’m sorry that you’re struggling and in pain. I’ve been where you are and sometimes still struggle. Letting go of the labels and focusing on the destructive behaviors will really help and this blog site is an excellent place to educate oneself and receive support from others who have been there, done that.

    1. Charlie, thanks for your kind words.
      In the end all I can do is look at myself. Why did this happen to me?
      Why didn’t I set clear statements/bounderies when I felt clearly things were ‘off’?
      What was her power over me?

      I’ve figured out some answers.
      She put me on a high pedastal for some years which felt great while inside knowing this wasn’t realistic for she never asked questions to really get to know me.
      I was just ‘all wonderfull’. You could call it an ‘Autistic obsession’ from her.

      I basked it in, for I was lonely for some years. Kind of desparate for love and attention. She offered it all for ‘free’.
      And she was beautifull, very sexy, ‘shy’, well educated as a nurse also. I couldn’t, didn’t want to resist.
      It was my overly ’emotional dependency’ that left me vunerable in one way.

      After 4 weeks she told me she loved me.. and brought some sexual objects with her as a ‘suprise’. I was kind of flabbergasted about her direct approuch but ofcourse as a ‘man’ could not resist her temptation.

      As a matter of fact I got kind of sexually addicted to her which she promoted in every way possible.
      Here was my second weak point in not breaking free from her in time, in hindsight.

      She played ‘nice’ for about 9 years but I did too by trying to keep our strings together.
      The moment I got seriously ill and lost my job, a quite different person arrived at the scene. Without any feeling empathy, devaluating, body shaming. Telling me ‘I could not live without her’, after many years of supporting her and saving her from complete downfall several times.

      Turning almost overnight into a completely different woman after the break-up.
      Changing from a silent, shy, composed woman who always told she hated the materialistic view on live, to a sunglass wearing vamp driving a brand new red Testla Model S shocked me.

      But in hindsight all the signs were there allready early on.
      I just ignored them mostly because of my own weaknesses I see now.

      1. Ge,

        Well, it’s important to not blame oneself regarding the behavior of others. Psychology likes for us to consider our soft boundaries or our emotional dependency or any number of other labels that cause us to accept the blame for another’s destructive behavior. Dr. Simon talks about the flaws of current psychology blaming the victim and creating additional trauma.

        I’m certainly familiar with much of what you describe. One of the things I noticed from my character disturbed now ex husband was his tendency to praise me for ‘not being like other girls.’ Examples would be not complaining if he came home late or missed the dinner I cooked or traveled a lot or even ignored me. He would heap praise by telling me how lucky he was that I wasn’t like that BEFORE those events happened. Of course, I wanted to complain but felt I couldn’t because I didn’t want to lower his esteem towards me so I actually worked to become how he saw me!! What you’ve labeled autistic obsession I’ve learned from Dr Simon is just a plain old manipulation tactic. He deliberately and cunningly put me in a position that made it very difficult to protest so he could get want he wanted, when he wanted it.

        Dr. Simon has taught us these covert personalities are skillful and quite aggressive about getting what they want and need. They run over boundaries often in a way that slips by our radar. Most of us had a sense something was off but couldn’t quite put our finger on what the issue was. These individuals gaslight and lie and will never allow a level playing field so they hide who they really are because if we really knew who they were even they know we wouldn’t stay.

        Dr. Simon has taught us to look at our vulnerabilities instead of accepting blame because vulnerabilities is what these disturbed characters target quite skillfully. Being lonely, kind, empathetic, compassionate, overly conscientious is just a short list of the vulnerabilities and good character traits they are drawn to for exploitation. Our job is to work on figuring out what our vulnerabilities are and what makes us attractive to them so we can avoid being drawn in by them again in the future. Dr. Simon also focuses on building good character so we can distinguish between good character traits and poor character traits in a world that is filled with moral relativism.

        Some of what you describe is love bombing a common manipulative strategy. It’s certainly hard to resist and quite a few of us have found ourselves drawn into this almost irresistible charm. Again, Dr. Simon has taught us to not trust love that comes too quickly because infatuation isn’t love.

        I know it’s a bit hard to break away from traditional psychology particularly if you’re a psychiatric nurse but one of the absolute best things Dr. Simon’s work has done for me is to let go of traditional psychological labels which only made my situation worse before and after my character disturbed ex. Instead we just focus on a down to earth approach highlighting character.

        1. Charlie,

          I’ll comment later.
          You’ve posted a text that needs more clear thought than I’m able to perform today anymore.
          The wine is sipping in in Holland for I’m having a party;)

        2. Charlie,

          To come back on you. I should not have stated ‘weaknesses’ as a major reason why this happened to me or others. They are important to consider and to know, but overall it has been a complete difference in character that played out in my case.

          She has been a master in hiding her true character (and autistic disorder) for almost 9 years. And although many red flags were allready there from the start (in hindsight) I wiped them under the carpet with the illusion I could trust her and could handle her behaviour. I also got kind of addicted to the (rather extreem) sex she offered me and her seemingly endless dedication to me. Often acting like a, not asked for, servant which I didn’t like at all and tried to repress many times.

          After all, it seems to me I’ve been an ‘Autistic obsession’ to here for many years.
          High functioning Autists (Asperger/Level 1) are well know for their highly focussed ‘obsessions’. This can be a combination of very specific interests, very specific objects or very specific ‘people’ they also consider as being very specific objects.

          The main trait connecting Autism/Narcissism/ASPD/Psycopathy is imo their inate tendency to objectify other humans as being ‘objects’ you can love asif they were your new clothes, or a new car, or a new ‘interest’.
          As long as this serves them they are ‘great’ to you but as soon wear and tear shows up, or boredom gets involved, those clothes, car, interests and people (you) are dumped pretty soon and something ‘new’ has to be found.

          Charlie, I realise I’m again explaining my views about her and ‘Autists’. While I know now it doesn’t matter that much where her behaviour came from.
          It was me who let it spiral out of control by not setting clear bounderies in time. I basked her ‘love’ attention and sex in with the illusion I could control it (her).

          I was wrong. My basic vunerabilities (weaknesses..) weren’t clear to me at the time. This only happened after trauma-therapy touching my childhood-abuse and upbringing.

          I know now, I cann’t really blame here for what she did to me. She was just acting-out her Autistic character-disorder. She was smart enough to hide her ‘self’ behind her autistic, self absorbed mask for many years. But I took it, knowing full well in my guts things were ‘off’. The ‘addiction’ to her attention and sex had become too strong.

          I ended the relationship instantly after she told me; ‘You cann’t live without me’.
          This was such a devaluation to me afer all I had done to save her from complete disaster several times in those 9 years and helping her to set up her own business which went succesfull.

          She told me this, beyond other hurtfull, devaluating comments in those final weeks, when I lost my job due to a severe illness. I needed serious operation in hospital. She reluctantly showed up expressing all kinds of critisism about my ‘sad, worrying attitude’.

          I ended the relationship a week after I left hospital.
          In hindsight I believe she’d hoped I would do this considering the ease it was accepted.
          Never heard from here again after, although I tried many times after to get some explanation. Blank silence.

          Charlie, the ways they think we will never know for sure. All that matters is to learn how they affected us and why we buy in to those con-artists/disordered characters.
          Dr. Simon spreads a new light on character-disorders which are essentially development-disorders like Autism (genetically) imo.

          He learns there’s mostly no traumatic cause to this anti-social (passive)agressive behaviour.
          It’s mainly due to inherited character traits/disorders like Autism and Psychopathy (and many other disorders).

          His views relieves us from trying to dig deeper to understand them. It doesn’t make sence anymore reading his books and articles.
          All we have to do is learn from our past expierences, educating ourselves, learn about our own vunerabilities and egocentric weaknesses, to avoid any disasters like this to happen again.

    1. I am not a doctor. I have NO MEDICAL TRAINING.
      All I need is to understand what kind of character the individual I am dealing with has.

      cognative empathy= Awareness of harm

      Reactive/Emotional/Active empathy= simpathy or campassion.

      This is All I need to KNOW. Quoting script and verse from the DSM means nothing

      OVER Intellectualization IS SOMETHING DR SIMON TEACHES US.
      In Healing those wounds. You have got to understand WHAT IS IN YOU And why you get taken in by these creachers.


      1. Joey,

        Your quite right about over intellectualization (quite a word;). I think Dr. Simon makes an effort not to do this.

        In essence (and I agree now) we don’t have to understand completely what kind of character the person had- or has we deal/dealt with. It is very helpfull as a learning lesson to avoid similar people in the future though.

        In the end we have to learn what kind of behaviour we want/are able to accept no matter the causes.

        It seems you’re still strugling about cognitive empathy. Indeed they are rationally(cognitive) aware about the harm they cause. But they lack the emotional empathy to consider your wants and feelings. In a way they are all a kind off ‘autistic’ self-absorbed.

        You are also quite right in your final sentences. How did they managed to fool you in such destructive ways?
        In many cases there’s no direct answer I’m affraid.
        Being just a decent, honest, somewhat naieve person is all it takes to get swepped of your shoes by those artist players. It happens grant scale on the media every day.

        I advice you to let go of cognitive empathy being the same as emotional empathy. It’s not.
        Cognitive empathy is paying lip-service while emotional empathy comes from the heart.

        Take care of yourself now Joey. It seems obviously your on your way to greater strenght.
        You’ll never find out completely why they acted the way they did. And in the end it doesn’t matter that much.
        All you can do is learn as much as possible about those disorders and then avoid it in the future.

        But probably more important is to learn about your own traits/character/vunerabilities that focussed them targeting you and attracted you also in the first place.

        The latter have been my biggest lessons.
        I’ve always been easily overwhelmed by physical beauty and charm/attention from women. Especially when they performed the ‘love bomb’ explosion, I had no defence at all mostly. This was mainly due to an abusive upbringing from my mother who yelled at age 6 she wished I was never born and I had the Devil in my eyes.
        Subsequently depraving me of any attention and sabotaging any progres in my younger live.
        My father commited suicide when I was 19 (because of her destructive behaviour imo). He couldn’t brake free.

        I was left (and still are in a way) with a deep urge for some woman to love me only for who I are or want to be.
        I never found her. They are mostly all naturally focused on having some babies, a nice house and a well-done husband.

        Joey I hope this contributes a bit to the process you’re in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *