In life we meet different people and some of these people are like seasons where they are only around for a short period of time and not for a lifetime. However, just like seasons come with tornado’s, floods and other natural disasters, these people too can cause damage in your life. After every flood or any other natural disaster, we must pick up the pieces and rebuild. So too is life when we become somewhat damaged by manipulation. In this post as part of my series of My Top 10 Emotional Time Wasters, I am going to discuss “Allowing myself to be manipulated” – some thing that certainly robbed me of many years in my life.
Before I go on, I want to mention that the reason I am blogging about this is because I want to raise awareness. Not because May is Mental Health Awareness Month (in the US and in October in South Africa) but because I truly believe that it needs more attention. We hear lots about physical abuse and I am not saying it is okay or less important, but I do believe that we need to have more conversations around Mental Health and in this post, specifically about manipulation which can be detrimental to your Mental Health when not identified and avoided.
If you had the unpleasant experience of being a victim of manipulation, you will understand what it feels like to be brutally stripped and raped (and I do not mean physically) by someone who thrives on the feeling of gaining intellectual superiority over you. I hope you read Part 1 of this series which was Worrying About Past Mistakes.
2. Allowing myself to be manipulated
My understanding of Manipulation
First things first. Here is my understanding of this word “manipulation”. I see it as a set of tactics from someone – the manipulator – who can manipulate someone to think in his or her favour. To me a manipulator finds a victim, finds his or her weakness and then uses it against the victim. This makes the manipulator feel a sense of control and power. Manipulation is used to get the victim to say or do things that he or she naturally would not. When I say tactics, I have specifically used the plural because a manipulator has more than one way to manipulate a victim. How do I know this? Well, sadly it is not because I studied it but instead have had the unfortunate experience of being manipulated more than once.
Some of the manipulation tactics includes comparison, guilt trips, lying, playing the blame game, isolating you from loved ones and other mind games, including gaslighting.
To add context to the some of the above, here are some real examples:
Oh dear, I am embarrassed to say that I experienced this more than once. Of course, when I think about it now, I understand it. Back then, I did not even know of the term as it was happening to me. I used to be suspicious when lied to in a relationship. When I questioned the blatant lie, the manipulator was so good at his game, that I often ended up feeling silly. I would question myself thereafter and wonder how I could even come up with such ridiculous insecurities. At certain times, I even ended up apologising! But it was not a figment of my imagination! I was coerced into thinking that I was being silly when in fact the person was lying.
ME: “I know that you weren’t at work when you didn’t answer your phone’
HIM: “Oh my darling, you’re so cute when you’re insecure. When is that going to stop? I was in a meeting. You know that I love you and there is no one else. If I wanted to be with someone else, I would not be here with you right now, just think about that okay, love”
ME questioning my own reality and thinking, “Oh No! I did it again, made myself look like a complete fool. My insecurities are going to push him away.”
Truth be told, it was not just insecurities, it was my gut feeling and I only later found out the truth the hard way!
Isolating you from loved ones:
ME: “I’m going to the movies with my bestie on Friday evening”
HIM: “Oh, am I not important enough for you to spend the weekend with” (This is also the guilt trip)
ME: “My family invited us over for lunch”
HIM: “But I already told my Mum we are visiting”
So, if these things happened once or twice, it would be okay. But it became a pattern for me. As time went on, I was isolated from people who were closest to me. I did not realise it then, but he was making me emotionally dependent on him and the further away he kept me from my friends and family, the more I got blinded. A narcissist has a plan and whilst he may have earmarked you as his victim to control and feel a false sense of power, he cannot risk being exposed – because friends and family will be able to see through and pull the wool from over your eyes, so he does what he does best by keeping you to himself…for his own selfish reasons which you are oblivious to.
Using your weaknesses against you:
To this very day, I do not know and have never known who my father is. I have written a post on this, click here to read it. This is something that bothered me for many years. He knew at the time that this was one of my weaknesses. When he hit me, he would say things like, “No one will ever love you. That’s why you don’t know who your father is.”
Coming from a background like I did, where I never experienced having a “family” like all my friends did, that was an emotional trigger. It is what I wanted and wished for all my life because I never had that as a child. I was raised by my grandmother in Durban from the time I was 3 months old and visited my Mother and stepfather during school holidays. No one in my childhood community had stepfathers then and to add to it, mine was white and apartheid was extremely prevalent back then.
When you come from a broken home or do not have the picture-perfect family – you yearn for that more than anything else. I guess I must have been too open and honest about these things, only to have them used against me.
You end up feeling and believing that you are not good enough and that you should feel lucky that this person is with you and no one else will love someone like you.
Foot in the door vs Door in the Face tactics
I was financially abused as well. But that is a post on its own for another day. At first, when someone already has plans to use and abuse you, they will use one of these tactics or both. The foot in the door tactic is when they ask for a “small’ amount of money to borrow with some excuse that you totally buy and lend them the money innocently. Before you know it, it becomes a habit and there’s emergency after emergency (excuse after excuse) that warrants you to loan them this money. You at some point get to the stage where you are not only lending him money, but also helping his family financially because their customers did not make payment as yet toward their family business and he did after all, promise to pay you back…hundreds of thousands.
When he uses the Door in the Face tactic, he will ask for something highly demanding, knowing you are not going to agree – but then he gets exactly what he planned to, following with the actual request after you decline the initial so-called request.
I could probably write a short story if I went on with more examples and there are many more! I honestly look back and often even shock myself how I got into such situations but more so a sense of relief that I was able to get myself out.
It was not easy. Emotional abuse is not pretty, and I will never wish it upon anyone. It can leave scars for a lifetime. For many years, I use to dwell on these things, asking myself “Why?” “Why me” “Why did I have to go through all of that and more than just once”
I used to cry myself to sleep, when I eventually could sleep but for most of the time, I would have insomnia. I was emotionally abused, and I got to a stage where the emotional abuse was so bad that I would have even opted for the physical abuse instead.
That sounds awful, I know, because neither should be accepted. The worst part of it all, was that I was someone who was seen as happy and confident. No one knew what I was going through. You see, when you are being abused, in whichever way – you end up feeling ashamed. It is very often by people you or others would least expect it from. You have so many fears about speaking out. What if people do not believe you? What if people judge you? What if the manipulator comes after you because you expose them – and in my case they did, I had to get court interdicts and feared my life. I had to move out of the place I had recently purchased at the time.
I have only shared with you an overview and not all the graphic details of this part of my life – I am very mindful about how much I share because of respect of my husband – whilst I am more of an open person, he isn’t. At the same time, I share these things always thinking of Kayden and that I want him to some day read my blog and learn more about me through my blog, when I am no longer around. I want him to read these things, as motivation and as inspiration for him to be kind and respectful and to not cause anyone the kind of hurt that I experienced in my life.
If you are or know of someone who is being abused, please get help. There is nothing wrong with reaching out. Reach out to a friend or a family member or a colleague that you trust. Try calling a support group or reach out on social media – there are many support groups. When you go through this, it feels like the end of the world. You have no hope and lose almost every desire but trust me when I say, I was there…more than once and look at me now…I did find happiness and love. (Follow me on Instagram) for shorter posts with pictures for some inspiration)
I found it when I stopped looking for it from someone else and found it within myself and when that happened, I attracted the right kind of love and happiness.
You too can find that love and happiness. My love and happiness may not be the same as yours -we are all different. Do not live up to others’ standards, set your own, in your own time and space, taking into consideration your emotional readiness.
If you suspect that you are a victim of manipulation in any form, do something about it now. Set limits. Do not allow another person to manipulate you for their own personal gain. You will end up trying and trying to make them happy and do things for them but in the end, you will realise that you were just a victim of a master of manipulation and wasted your time, money and effort on someone who was just using you for their own gain.