Psychological manipulation is often a way to make you feel inadequate, having someone control the way you think and behave. This can affect your views of yourself, your relationships, and the world around you in general.
Some manipulation tactics can be so subtle that you may have to constantly check your own behavior rather than that of others. This can push you to the very edge of being vulnerable. Learning to identify the signs to avoid psychological manipulation can help you protect yourself and make the right decisions.
You try to ignore your intuition
The first sign may be your intuition signaling that something is wrong or that you are stubbornly doing things you don’t want to do. However, you tend to ignore this feeling and try to convince yourself that everything is fine.
For example, you are sad because your lover is always playing on the phone during dates. You tell the person how you feel, but what you get in return is anger and the statement: “You are too sensitive”.
The conversation then turns to you seeming to have ruined the special date by causing an argument. So you forget what you wanted to say and try to appease the other person. Meanwhile, your lover continues to focus his attention on his phone.
“What just happened?” you ask yourself. However, you continue to dismiss that thought because you do not want to create more friction.
You ask yourself: Is it you?
If you begin to doubt yourself and your own desires, you may be falling into a state of psychological manipulation.
You used to be confident in your ability to handle a particular situation, but now you’re starting to question your abilities. You may even wonder if you’re the “problem” in the relationship.
For example, try talking back to your lover about how you feel when they are always playing with their phones during dates that are meant for two lovers to confide. But they say that you are too and that you are always trying to find reasons to argue.
Even if you don’t consider that to be the case, after hearing this argument for the third time, you wonder if the problem is that you can’t overlook the little things. Maybe you should “relax” and enjoy the date yourself.
You feel guilty
A common sign that someone may be emotionally manipulating you is that you begin to feel guilt or shame about an action.
For example, you work 2 jobs and barely have time for yourself. Then it’s the first day off in months, and you decide to spend it at home and watch TV because it’s the best way to recharge.
When you say this to your friends, you notice that they seem annoyed. When you ask what’s wrong, they say they can’t believe you don’t go out to hang out with your friends on your day off. You suddenly feel so guilty that you end up spending the day hanging out even though you don’t really enjoy it.
While this situation can turn out this way for a variety of reasons, it’s a red flag if you’re constantly feeling guilty for not saying or doing what you wanted.
The “manipulator” is expressing displeasure about something you say or do, especially when you’re trying to set boundaries. Then you’ll make concessions to make the other person happy and lessen the guilt.
The sense of self becomes blurred
When you start to lose a sense of who you are after following direct or indirect requests from others to give up your opinions and preferences.
For example, in some romantic couples, one person may adopt the other’s lifestyle and interests to avoid conflict. If you want to spend time with them, you seem to have to do what they want.
In family relationships, you may not feel like you can express yourself and your life choices and you might act differently around them.
You are very careful about your words or actions
Perhaps you think of fear as an intense emotion or response to a threat. However, fear can also manifest as a reluctance to act or say certain things to avoid conflict or friction.
You may not even be aware of how you’re feeling – you’re just automatically avoiding certain topics or actions that might cause controversy. Some people may use anger as a psychological manipulation tactic. Their outbursts can cause others to step back or change their own behavior.
You can see this move when parents warn their kids not to do something, or they might get mad. As an adult, you may also experience signs of anxiety with no apparent cause. You can think of every decision in terms of “What will the other person do?”.
For example, you might want to go to a friend’s birthday party, but you know your partner doesn’t like them. The last time you spent time with your friend, your lover didn’t talk to you for hours. This time, you think twice before accepting the offer, anticipating that you might face your partner’s displeasure if you do.
You start to question your mental health
Psychological manipulation can not only cause stress and anxiety, but it can also make you feel confused and insecure about your behavior and emotions. You may start to wonder if your reaction is a symptom of a mental health condition.
When someone is constantly teasing you, you start to question your memory and health to the point where you’re not sure if certain things have happened. “It’s so weird,” that only seems to happen around this person.