A while back I posted the first of three articles on understanding the nature of manipulation tactics (see: Understanding Manipulation Tactics Part 1). That was followed by another article describing some of the more popular tactics (see: Manipulation Tactics Pt. 2 – Rationalization (Excuse-Making). But I felt it necessary to post one more article on the subject, along with a link to another excerpt from my upcoming “webinar” series because of how crucial it is to correctly perceive and respond to the kinds of habitual behaviors manipulators and other disturbed characters display. Not only is “getting it right” with respect to the true nature of these behaviors important to anyone trying to make sense of, survive, or extract themselves from an unhealthy or abusive relationship, but also it’s critically important to those who have sought help from counselors of various disciplines and persuasions, only to experience frustration and anguish over not feeling validated or understood. When it comes to understanding and dealing effectively with disturbed characters, it’s hard for helping professionals who still embrace traditional models of viewing human behavior to get things right. And, as I discuss in the video clip this article links to, when the conceptualization of a problem is wrong from the start, not only is there little likelihood of successful intervention, but also the chances are great that “therapy” will only “enable” the problem to continue or even possibly become worse. A prime example of this is when the disturbed character in a relationship engages in what most therapists have traditionally labeled “denial” (see also: Manipulators: Do They Really Believe What They’re Saying?). Sometimes a therapist will listen to a disturbed character engage in a well-crafted whitewash of their irresponsible behavior (using tactics such as feigning ignorance, feigning innocence, minimizing, rationalizing, lying by significant omission, etc.). The aggrieved spouse listens in horror as the therapist appears to be swayed. Based on the aggrieved party’s initial complaints, the therapist was expecting a monster. But the “monster” has such good impression-management skill that the therapist starts wondering about the victim. And when some clear issues do come to light and the manipulator has to acknowledge some things (typically using the tactic of giving minor assent coupled with “minimization” to candy-coat things), the therapist makes an interpretation that underneath the other disturbed character’s “defenses” must lie a mountain of shame and guilt that they’ve built a wall around – a wall that only time, compassion, understanding, and empathy can invite them to slowly break down. So the abused party – figuring that the therapist knows best – decides to be patient, bite their tongue, and accept the notion that given enough time, understanding, and unconditional positive regard, the disturbed character will overcome their denial, come to “see” the error of their ways, and the relationship will grow even stronger as the two parties deal with the pain responsible for the emotional blinders the disturbed character had been wearing for years. But here’s the problem: Lying and refusing to accept responsibility is NOT denial. It’s just lying. And it’s often an effective tactic of impression management and responsibility avoidance. Besides, when it’s not confronted and dealt with right up front, it’s a fair bet that the victim in an unhealthy relationship is merely wasting valuable time and energy in their effort to secure “help” and make things change. Hundreds of folks have written me testifying to the truth of this. Some have even made multiple attempts at counseling, and in the process forfeited much precious time, emotional energy, and money.
As I’ve said countless times, most of the time, the disturbed character already “sees” the issues that need attention and correction, but still “disagrees” with the pro-social principles that would make the relationship work. But before any problem can be dealt with, a person has to do more than see it, they have to “own” it. If they’re not willing to admit the problem, they’re not likely to be of the mind to be rid of it. And although it would be nice to think that the only reason person won’t own a problem up front is because they’re in so much internal agony over it (e.g., consumed with shame and guilt) that their unconscious mind won’t allow them to even recognize the problem consciously (i.e., they really don’t know what they’re doing and only time and compassionate guidance will help them “see”), such assumptions have time and again proven to be just another nail in the coffin of a person stuck in a relationship with a disturbed character.
For the all the aforementioned reasons, during the video clip from one of my workshops, I take some time to speak directly to the mental health professionals who are in the audience. Their lay persons attending the workshop already understand well what I’m saying, and as the therapists in the audience look around, they can see the heads of others nodding in affirmation. But I know that old notions and perspectives don’t yield easily, so I possibly belabor some points a bit. But I do so out of necessity and with great purpose and conviction. Because putting the right perspective on situations and interpreting behaviors correctly is absolutely essential to facilitating positive change.
Next week will see the launch of a brand new series of posts. These posts will contain fresh, new content and greatly expanded discussion on the topics that you, the readers, have highlighted through your comments are of the greatest concern to you. And there will even be some material that can’t be found either in my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance or even existing blog articles. So, stay tuned! And click on the following link to view the workshop clip: