Dealing with the Maniupulators in our Lives

I recently presented to a community support group for people who are in a relationship or have a family member who is a manipulator. The manipulator in this case is someone who may have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, a narcissist, or someone who has Bipolar Disorder for example. The diagnosis is not as important as much as how a person feels when they know they are being manipulated.

Manipulators want us to feel like we are the ones who are bad, stupid, guilty and generally responsible for whatever is wrong. All of this negativity is a projection from the manipulator. It is the manipulator who is feeling those negative things about themselves.  The manipulator is the one who feels the low self-esteem, low self-worth, self-loathing and one of their greatest fears is being alone or abandoned. It is one of those cases of “I hate you, Don’t’ leave me”. To an outsider, it doesn’t make any logical sense why a person who is so afraid of being alone would project such hatred, but one of the reasons could be that the manipulator wants us to feel as miserable as they do. A misery loves company sort of thing. In reality, the manipulator is saying those mean and harsh things to themselves each day and then projects them onto others.  Often the manipulator has deep emotional wounding from either childhood traumas or an extremely dysfunctional family dynamic which is often the reason why they feel this way towards themselves. This helps to explain why a person may be feeling this way, but it doesn’t excuse bad behavior or their choices.

Here are some characteristics of the manipulator; The manipulator likes to play the role of the victim and create drama because it is distracting and exciting to them. They like to revise the facts and history to justify their feelings which then confuses the situation and others. You may find that if the manipulator starts to feel vulnerable they will overreact with anger or physical aggressiveness so they don’t get hurt emotionally. And, after all of this, they freak out or feel abandoned or lonely and try to manipulate their way back into our lives. Talk about confusing and very frustrating for everyone – except for the manipulator. The manipulator doesn’t see themselves as manipulative – they just see themselves trying to get their needs met.

I’ve heard a good phrase to remember when you are with a manipulator is: I didn’t cause it, can’t control it and can’t cure it. So often we adopt a distorted belief especially as codependents that we need to fix, cure, rescue or caretake the manipulator. But as we all know, we can only control ourselves, we can’t change someone else, so here are some tips on how to survive a relationship with a manipulator.

Stay grounded in what you know about yourself. As I said before, the manipulator will try to get you off base and get you doubting of yourself. This is all designed so the manipulator can have a sense of control and power over you. I have my clients create a list of grounding statements about themselves which may include things such as: I am a good listener, I love my family, I am a good cook, I am good with my hands. Etc. This list then goes with them in their car, wallet or purse and every time they get to doubting themselves, I have them pull this list out and read it. This list is not magical, but reading it reinforces who you are versus who the manipulator is trying to get you to believe who you are.

This list will help you create a boundary where you can maintain your sense of self. So, take a moment and create a list of who you are so the next time a manipulative person in your life tries to tell you that you are wrong, ignorant, stupid or worthless, you will know that is not true – the truth is You are Magnificent.

Robert Jackman, LCPC    you may contact me at:


Helpful Resources:

Stop Walking on Eggshells – Mason and Kreger

The object of my Affection in in my Reflection: Coping with Narcissists – Lerner

The Human Magnet Syndrome – Rosenberg

The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists – Eleanor Payson


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