Written by on June 14, 2012 in Conversations on the Healing Journey with 10 Comments

The aim of covert abuse is to manipulate, to control or harm another without getting caught.

Manipulation is, by definition, difficult to spot. Some ways are easier to see than others, but it does require vigilance to be aware, and a challenge to maintain balance within ourselves. The greatest danger of being a target of manipulation is not so much its direct impact, but the eventual eroding of our trust in others.

To become bitter or cynical are very real pitfalls, an after-assault, if you will, by the abuser intent on dragging their target to a sadder and darker place.

I think most of us have felt manipulated at one time or another. Sometimes, or maybe even most times, we couldn’t quite put on finger on it, didn’t quite know how to describe it to another or explain why we felt that way. Manipulation is a very toxic energy. In the words of young children, it’s “yucky”.

There is something within us that recoils when we are in the presence of manipulation, but although it’s a valuable warning sentinel, it’s not enough to feel like we’re being manipulated. It’s great when we are being told something is wrong, but if we don’t know what is wrong, then we are not likely to be able to respond to it or protect ourselves in a very effective and proficient manner.

The following posts over the coming weeks will be part of a series exploring the various tactics of manipulation and what they look like. If you don’t know what hit you, you’re not going to know where to stand, which direction to go and what defensive posture you may need to take when you get back up.

By no means a complete list, these are the tactics of manipulation we will be exploring, not necessarily in the same order:

  • Feigning states of being, i.e., emotions – both negative and positive; intelligence – its presence or absence
  • Faking relationships, friendships or alliances
  • Shamming – faking personal history and accomplishments
  • Gossiping and rumor mongering
  • Projecting
  • Lying with focus on half-truths
  • Beautiful concepts as weapons
  • Blaming
  • Hidden Curses
  • Dismissing/Trivializing
  • Gaslighting
  • Inciting
  • Staging
  • Clean slating
  • Excluding
  • Isolating
  • Distracting
  • Combining tactics

If you have any other suggestions for specific tactics, please list them in the comments section for this post, or on my facebook page, I’m learning too, so I do look forward to hearing from you!

Educating ourselves is one of the most important things we can do. In highlighting and dissecting the specific tactics of manipulation, we can better recognize and identify them in others…and in ourselves.

Because one of the best uses for any knowledge is self-knowledge.

It’s never as clear a line as we’d like to think. We have a tendency to see manipulation in the context of people — who is a manipulator and who is not. But if we look instead to the individual ways in which anyone may manipulate, we will put our knowledge of manipulation to a much more useful endeavor: to protect ourselves from others who would use it, and to empower ourselves to make better choices.

I invite you to examine these manipulations with me in these coming weeks.

With peace,
Demian Yumei

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. She's a long time traveler on the healing journey and has a lifelong love affair with the creative process. .


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  • Jayne Foster says:

    Especially with a psychopath. They are very clever at devloping trust early in the relationship and “spotlighting” what appears to be their “integrity” and “virtue”. Behind your back they are at work undermining you and everything your relationship with them represents. The internet has spawned a whole new dimesion for this covert abuse. This is why pages like this are so critical for educating people both men and women at the “slight” of hand card tricks these folks manuever the unsuspecting through in a relationship.

  • Demian Yumei says:

    Yes, they are very good at developing trust early in the relationship. They are on a reconnaissance, gathering information and intelligence. Very best foot forward.

    Love, trust, these are not things to be honored in their eyes but weaknesses to be exploited. They depend on your desire to want to see the good in them and in others to blind you to what they are up to.

    Very sad, and one of the reasons why it’s good to *go slow* in any relationship. It’s difficult to tell in the beginning. Time does reveal more, but when you’ve been “worked” it’s harder for you to see, and you have more reasons to not want to.

  • Sol Fritzdotter says:

    silence is one of an abusers/manipulators tactics… they use with called Silent treatment..

  • Covert Bullying (Abuse) says:

    Oh, yes! Thank you, I forgot that one. Silent treatment. Silent treatment with a turned back, silent treatment with slamming doors and cabinets, silent treatment with eyes that look right through you to the wall behind you…silent treatment punctuated with curt replies or, God help me, – the heavy, long-suffering sigh. Thank you for suggesting this! It’s a good one.

  • Jill Eisnaugle says:

    Five years; that’s all I have to say about your last paragraph, Demian. I’ll Amen your last paragraph, a million times.

  • Cynthia Quispe Vidusic says:

    Ditto Demian!!!:)

  • yogan says:

    But what about if your silent to them because of their continual abuse and accusations and then they turn around and accuse you of abuse because of your silent treatment????? The above list is very similar to the traits of a borderline personality disordered individual as well. I have heard it all before and still failed to see it at first, I did for a while believe it was me and was exhausted by having to defend my every move, be mindful of what I said and did in case it was seen differently by my Ex, and the stalking was a concern in the end to.

    • DemianYumei says:

       @yogan Welcome, yogan! You’re absolutely right. It’s not being silent that’s abusive in and of itself. Being silent can be a survival mechanism. You know to keep quiet because if you don’t the abuse will get worse. Then it’s not the silent “treatment”, because it’s silence that comes from intimidation by the abuser. It’s an effect of having been abused, and a survival mechanism. It can, also, come from futility, knowing that nothing you say will be heard anyway.
      Being silent is an abuse when it’s meant to punish the other. Not protect yourself from the other. But that won’t stop the abuser from using it to accuse you of abusing them! That’s projection, another favorite weapon of abusers.
      Abusers project and abusers are resourceful. They may not be able to truly empathize, but they can copycat and they can learn all the right terminologies and be able to recognize the impact of abusive behavior on others, and then use that knowledge against you.
      These traits are similar to borderline personality and any personality disorder or situation where manipulation and covert abuse occurs. Wherever manipulation is advantageous and how people perceive you more important than what or who you really are, you can find these tactics used to control, exert influence or punish. You’ll find this characteristics and tactics among those who appear totally healthy and those who are diagnosed as not.
      That’s why I focus more on specific traits rather than diagnoses or labels. Your school mate might not be personality disordered, but when she uses these methods in relational aggression, it will be just as traumatic for you and just as expedient for you to know what you’re dealing with. 

      • Yogan says:

        @DemianYumei @yogan
        Thanks for reply, yes it’s true I remained silent when what I said wasn’t being heard or the abuse escalated no matter what I said. The abuser could not understand the concept that the more abuse I received the less to nil contact I would have, they could only see it as them being punished and had no insight to what they was doing even after I would explain why I was stopping contact. The conversation would go circular pattern and no outcome only escalate, I ceased contact for both our health. The new DSM is also directing treatment towards traits rather than disorders.

        • DemianYumei says:

           @DemianYumei  @yogan Yup, sounds about right. Your abuser couldn’t understand how it could be about the impact of their behavior on you, because *everything* is about them. So if you were drawing away it had to be because you were punishing them. Not because you were protecting yourself.
          So very frustrating, and as you say very circular. I’m glad you had the wherewithal and ability to get off that not-so-merry-go-round! 

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