What is Psychological Manipulation?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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Psychological manipulation, also known as emotional manipulation, is a form of coercion or persuasion. It can involve brainwashing or bullying, and is usually deceptive or abusive in nature. It is usually employed in an attempt to control the behavior of others. It typically uses various forms of abuse, such as emotional blackmail, to coerce others into doing things that they may not want to do.

People who practice this behavior generally use bullying, brainwashing, or mind control tactics to get others to do things for them. Manipulative people may lack appropriate sensitivity and caring for others, or they may believe that manipulating others is the best way to get what they want. Manipulative people may be afraid to form healthy relationships, or afraid of not being accepted. Manipulative behaviors often stem from an inability to accept responsibility for one's own life, problems, and behaviors. Psychological manipulation tactics are often employed in an attempt to foist that responsibility off on others.


Most manipulators use the same mind control tactics to exercise influence over others. Emotional blackmail is considered one such tactic, in which the psychological manipulator seeks to inspire guilt or sympathy in the manipulated person. Guilt and sympathy are considered two of the strongest human emotions, and are capable of spurring most people into action. Manipulative people often take advantage of this, using guilt or sympathy to coerce others into helping or cooperating with them. They are often capable of inspiring degrees of guilt or sympathy vastly disproportionate to the situation at hand.

Another tactic used in manipulation is a form of abuse known as crazy-making. Crazy-making usually aims to foster self-doubt in the manipulated person, to the point where some victims may in fact feel as if they are going crazy. Crazy-making tactics can involve passive-aggressive behavior. A manipulative person might express approval or support verbally, while giving contradictory non-verbal cues. Those who use psychological manipulation might even actively attempt to undermine certain behaviors, all while openly claiming to support or approve of them. They may employ deception, rationalization, justification, and even outright denial of any ill intent if confronted with their behavior.

Persons who practice psychological manipulation often may not fully recognize the needs of others, and usually lose the ability to consider or meet the needs of others. They may find it difficult to form long-lasting relationships and friendships, as others may find them difficult to trust. It can be difficult for the victims to maintain an emotional connection with the manipulative person, who may often give the impression of putting his own problems, needs, and experiences before those of others.


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Post 6

Some forms of psychological manipulation are mental abuse, but some are just sales tactics. Every time a telemarketer calls me, they try to make me think that I really need what they are selling.

If I tell them I'm not interested, they proceed to tell me all the reasons why I need the product or service. They pull out all the stops to make me believe that I will be at a great loss without it.

Post 5

Manipulation in relationships can make it really hard for a person to have an identity of their own. My sister was majorly manipulated by her first husband into thinking that her sole purpose in life was to do things for him.

He made her feel completely worthless. He twisted everything she said and made her feel guilty about wanting anything for herself.

He was also a narcissist, so everything was about him. She finally got the strength to leave him after she started attending a local church without him. She had a new faith and a new support system to help her once she made the move.

I know it is hard for people in manipulative relationships

to get out if they feel they have nowhere else to go. Finding a group of supportive people can make a world of difference, and if you have a new belief system to go along with this, you can experience healing from the inside out.
Post 4

@feasting – I agree with you. Psychotic people can sometimes use manipulative psychology just to torture others. They get a thrill out of controlling someone else, and that's the only reason they do this.

These are the same people who are depraved enough to murder another human without feeling guilt. I steer clear of anyone who tries to manipulate me in any way.

Post 3

It sounds like some people make a game out of using psychological manipulation techniques. If you are going to go deep enough into this to try to make someone actually believe they are going crazy, then you have to have your methods figured out beforehand.

Anyone who tries to make another person go crazy needs psychological help themselves. However, they may actually be beyond help if they are this depraved.

Post 2

My ex is exactly like this. She is still using the whole sympathy ploy to get people to care about her, and while we were in a relationship she used to express disapproval of things of a sexual nature, but went and drew porn for her friend just to leave me confused about what she really thought. It happened with several other things too. Everything she did was meant to manipulate and scare me.

Post 1

Wow, I can relate to this. My ex was abusive and harassed me long after I left him. While we were together he would *say* he felt one thing and *do* the exact opposite, but was never aware of this, himself. It's extremely unnerving to see firsthand.

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