Most of us think the very idea of manipulation is contrary to all our behaviours, and we would never ever manipulate. We are way too evolved and grown up for that. However, with even a minor level of honest observation we discover that manipulation is alive and prospering. We manipulate when we secretly or not so secretly use others to fulfill our needs; it is based on trying to take something and taking always lacks integrity and results in a painful life. Even when we become aware that manipulation pollutes our lives and drives people away from us, our desire to take from them is stronger. We may even believe we can get what we need before we are pushed away.
To become aware of our level of manipulation we have to also become aware and honest about our hidden neediness, because to fully understand one we need to understand the other. Our need for power, attention, significance, fame or glamour, our need for love and for inclusion – all are super powerful forces in our lives that many of us have totally repressed. Yet our needs drive so much of our interaction with the people around us. Naturally, when someone foolishly resists our manipulation we quickly resort to upset, always justifiable but nevertheless upset in its many manifestations. This then leads to the favourite tool of the manipulator, the one that for many of us is an art form: the guilt trip!
The guilt trip is effective because so many of us are still cleaning up our guilt or hopefully have started down that path, otherwise the manipulator couldn’t get us to do what they need. The process goes something like this: we start with a victim story, which is how someone has not done right by us, this leads to justifiable attack in the form of blame or other more subtle communication about how they have done it wrong. Now if we carried zero guilt, even innocence, it would not be possible for anyone to lay a guilt trip on us, as we would not have the hook they could hang it on. But as most of us hide or deny our feelings of guilt we become an easy target for the guilt tripper.
Let’s be honest about this: we are all guilty of laying guilt trips on others, sometimes just with a look, other times with that unspoken energy of disapproval. Or maybe with that outright blame or withering putdown just to let them know they have not taken care of our needs. Recently a study was conducted in China to discover which mothering was best, the tiger mum or the gentle accommodating mum. The results were actually inconclusive or even equal but the one thing consistent was that both groups used guilt trips to drive their children. In this case it is obvious that the child’s success has nothing to do with the child, it is about the feeling such success will give the parents. Us therapists know this, so thank you to all my clients that have fulfilled my need for importance!!
Seriously, we all need to look very closely at why we do what we do and be honest about our motives. Integrity is essential for us in this regard, for any taking whatsoever will only lead to pain and create dysfunction in all our relationships.
There is an unconscious dimension to this pattern of behaviour, as if we believe we can possess others’ souls. A strong aspect of African Shamanism that I grew up with was owning others’ souls, alive or dead, and how that soul could be manipulated to influence other souls. These practices lead to unseen but powerful energies that had profound effects on peoples’ lives. In the future I will write more about that and my experiences in this soul dimension, but it all comes down to the need for something which drives us all too often to betray our humanity, certainly our kindness, innocence and compassion and to deprive those around us of the very same qualities.
Taking is against the laws of God and manipulation is a great mechanism to enact our taking. We all do it until we have so purified ourselves that our lives become about true giving and then we are truly free. Our needs are important to us as a compass point in our lives, to show us the direction to go in, to learn about and to experience and transcend. But for many our needs become the vehicle for our taking, separation, grievances and upsets. Today would be a great day to change direction. It would mean no more bad guys, not even you. And it would mean that a need could become just something amazing to give and to receive.