We continue to live on the kitchen counter, but we’re enjoying our camping and companionship and being back with our Bean. But this week I decided to get serious and digress from the typical “we did this or that” to discuss an important topic.
This week, a friendship could well have ended because of the sincere kindness of a friend who was played by the manipulation of another. Ever met a manipulator? No, not talking about Smidge. Her occasional simpering and tempering is not manipulation, just her slightly immature way of hoping to get her way and knowing it probably won’t work. She knows it only works when we allow it, which happens only occasionally and because it amuses us. Smidge knows how to pull her own weight, and we all love her strength and kindness and respect her for who she is … and we mercilessly tease her. Sorry, sweetie.
First, there is more than one way to manipulate. A true manipulator’s game is not something played by several but typically only by the manipulator who spends her/his time working to get others to do something for her/him. The more criminal manipulation happens all too often. Older lonely women fooled into giving up their life savings to someone across the world who “just wants to get to the U.S. and be with my true love and just need a few thousand to get there,” found on the internet and exposed by Dr. Phil. Other people are unwitting victims, suckered into giving up identity documents and thus funds, through phone or Internet scams. Criminal manipulators are typically people who are out for financial gain. They are swindlers, and their victims are innocents. But the harder ones to spot may be the needy and narcissistic manipulators who, like emotional vampires, suck the life out of those who fall for their stories.
These are the attention seekers who use the goodness of others to make themselves feel good. We feel sorry for those who experience undesirable circumstances – a sick child without funds to pay medical bills, death of a spouse, weather-related disasters. It’s our natural instinct to want to help, to pitch in or donate money. Manipulators play on our instincts to want to be kind and help. Yet manipulators do nothing for themselves, instead convincing others that they are pathetic, forgotten creatures with no hope: “nobody cares, I’m all alone, I have nothing, I just want to die.” This merciless “pity me” continues until the victim, not recognizing that she/he is being played but who genuinely wants to be nice, is sucked deeply into the vortex of the manipulator’s gigantic pity party. And then it’s give give give.
I suspect, to be fair, that not all emotional manipulators even know that’s what they are doing. They may lack empathy, so if anyone calls them on their manipulative tendencies, they probably would go into their typical “boohoo, woe is me, nobody cares, everyone blames me, but I’m just…,” so the cycle continues. Those are the ones who need counseling. They suffer from a disease, or at least a condition, requiring some deep, personal therapy, assuming one could convince emotional manipulators that it was not everyone else but them who needed help.
This is sad … and serious. Friendships can be lost, and this week it almost happened to two friends of mine. Fortunately for them, it was merely an “almost” moment.
So keep your eyes open, learn the signs of manipulation, get your priorities in order, and always remember that your loyalty belongs to your friend, not to the pity-seeking narcissist.
I remind us all that, to have a friend, we must truly be a friend.
Next week, we return you to our regularly scheduled program. 🙂