Manipulation. I don’t know if I need to get over myself but one of my core values is to NOT try to manipulate someone. Personally, I feel insulted (I have a good BS detector – I’m a Capricorn) when I spot someone trying to manipulate me. This is something I have always had very strong feelings about.
But where does personal responsibility start? We all know that companies, big and small, manipulate our thinking. An advertising campaign is exactly that. You are targeted on your preferences to buy something you may not ordinarily have bought. Supermarkets do – most of us are aware how aisles are specifically placed and flowed to make us buy more than we intend to.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” ― Edward Bernays, Propaganda
What about on a personal level? Babies do – we are born, for example, with eyeballs that never change size. So when we’re born, our eyes are big and appealing, and we make just the right kind of noises and our parents come to our aid. We need that to survive.
In a relationship – there is sometimes good reason to manipulate each other. For example, if a partner is given to spending too much time online, we kinda “guide” them away from that with distractions, etc. Rather that than a full on discussion or worse, confrontation. Most of us are all about keeping the peace so you do what you need to, right?
What about white lies – aren’t they also manipulation? Would you tell someone that they look terrible, or avoid that by saying something else or coming out with a straight faced white lie?
I have been manipulated and NOT in a good way – a very long marriage where I even got to a point where I completely questioned my own validity and my sanity. Started suffering from depression. Found out years later that has a name: Gaslighting. I was in a relationship where I was manipulated on a daily basis because he was in another, live-in relationship. THAT is the kind of manipulation I am talking about. The kind of manipulation that causes rifts in families. The kind of manipulation that leaves you feeling – if not entirely aware of what it going on – a little uneasy. Or a lot.
My feeling is that at some point we have to take responsibility for manipulating others. It can be a grey area – difficult to pin down. I’m kinda thinking that if we start getting people to do stuff for us just for the sake of getting them to, or if we risk hurting someone in the process, or if we catch ourselves in the habit of relating to people in a manipulating way overall – it is time to CHECK IN! If you do what you do at someone else’s expense and to gain from it selfishly, that’s manipulation.
The closest I can find: “Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.” ― Madeline L’Engle
And finally: “I’ve been doing this a long time- manipulating people to get my way. That’s why you think you love me. Because I’ve broken you down and built you back up to believe it. It wasn’t an accident. Once you leave this behind….. you’ll see that. -Caleb” ― CJ Roberts, Seduced in the Dark