Twisted Reality

Importance of understanding emotional manipulation and its effects

Teagan Lynch, Opinion Editor

You’re crazy. You’re overdramatic. You’re wrong. When you hear these phrases enough, it’s easy to believe that they’re true.

High school was a rude awakening for me, because of more than just the homework. I believe that it is largely because I am a very trusting person, almost to a fault at times– I don’t expect to be manipulated by people I’ve done nothing to.

My freshman year, I liked a boy. He seemed great, of course, but, looking back two years later, I wish I could have warned myself that it was simply a facade. 

I would have told myself that it wasn’t normal for a boyfriend to ghost his girlfriend for hours or days at a time, tell her she couldn’t be friends with other guys and constantly lie about his whereabouts or actions.

I’m not even sure I would have believed myself if I had. He would tell me I was overreacting, my feelings were wrong, and that I should be trusting him. 

I didn’t know any better.

What I’ve learned is that, while it’s important to try to see the good in people, being aware of possible manipulation and its effects is also a necessity.

Emotional manipulation is defined by Psych Central as “when someone uses your emotions to get what they want, steer your behavior, or influence your ideals”.

Tactics of emotional manipulation are often used in romantic, work, friend, and family relationships.

According to Psych Central, these tactics include but are not limited to, dishonesty, gaslighting, guilt, charm, and isolation.

The darkness of manipulation lies in its secrecy and how difficult it is to realize that it’s happening to you. This ultimately makes it harder to address and fix.

In fact, we’ve all witnessed or even been harmless manipulators– whether it’s keeping a surprise party secret from the guest of honor, or saying ‘I’m good’ when a stranger asks you how you feel on a bad day.

A true problem arises when this behavior becomes toxic or harmful. Author William Cooper studied and addressed this toxicity in his book Dark Psychology and Manipulation.

“If you choose to take everything you hear at face value, you may become disappointed when you realize that you believed someone who was deliberately trying to fool you,” Cooper said.

The after-effects of manipulation can be just as bad or even worse than the effects of when it is currently going on.

According to Good Therapy, some of these effects may include depression, anxiety, difficulty in trusting others, and the development of other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Research has shown that one is most susceptible to being manipulated by someone they have a close relationship with, as each person knows the vulnerabilities, needs, and desires of the other.

This is why it is important to know and understand the warning signs.

One piece of advice that I wish I had listened to sooner is that you should never second guess yourself or your gut feeling. If something feels wrong, it very well may be.

So, when you realize that you’re being manipulated, how do you handle it?

WebMD provides some common tips: Most important is to impose boundaries with the manipulator, stand your ground during conversations, and trust your own judgment. If there is no way to reason, do your best to disengage from the 

conversation or even the person as a whole.

However, this is easier said than done, so if you know a friend that is struggling, keep judgment to a minimum and do your best to support them with whatever they may need.

Manipulation is a sinister practice that is difficult to interpret from both the inside and the outside of the situation. 

The solution comes down to treating others with respect and kindness. No person has the right to invalidate or degrade another person or their emotions.

Check the people you’re close to, check your friends, and, perhaps most importantly, check yourself.

With the validation and support of my friends and family, I was able to fully separate myself from the boy that had been manipulating me.

Taking space and reflecting on my own experience afterward allowed me to properly process and heal from what had happened.

While this relationship caused me to suffer from difficulty and hurt, it also helped me to grow even stronger and more aware of my surroundings, ensuring that I don’t fall into another twisted reality.