verb (used with object), manipulated, manipulating.
1. To manage or influence skilfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people's feelings.2. To handle, manage, or use, especially with skill, in some process of treatment or performance: to manipulate a large tractor.
3. To adapt or change (accounts, figures, etc.) to suit one's purpose or advantage.
4. Medicine/Medical. to examine or treat by skilful use of the hands, as in palpation, reduction of dislocations, or changing the position of a foetus.
I thought that I’d put the definition there because manipulation is something that can occur without you even knowing – or realising – it. And maybe someone will read this post and realise what is being done to them and seek the right help that they need to make it stop. And this is the point of my post – I had no idea when I was being manipulated (the Police, and mental health professionals have also referred to it as grooming which, I realise, is different but the two are linked so closely that I’d say both occurred. To me).
When I was fifteen years old, I was attacked by a man at the bottom of the street, he forced me to an alleyway and when I refused to do what he told me to, he hit me. I hit my head off the wall behind and was knocked unconscious. When I came around, my bag was open, but nothing had been taken and dazed, and confused, I went to school and told my Form Tutor who promptly sent me home with my home to speak to the Police and my GP.
After the attack, I began suffering from panic attacks and really bad anxiety. When someone offers support for you when you’re feeling – and struggling – like that… it’s not really something you say ‘no’ to. I don’t think I ever properly noticed when that support turned to something else. I don’t think I realised when his comforting touch became something else. Or when he began touching me more and more. And when it was without me even being upset. Without me needing a comforting touch. I don’t think I even realised that I was being abused.
And this is the beauty of manipulation.
It can be invisible.
Another worrying thing about manipulation is that both, it can happen to anyone, and anyone can do it. In my life, I’ve heard a lot about inpatients and Service Users ‘manipulating’ the mental health system. This is usually used about people pretending to be well in order to be discharged from inpatient care or becoming so experienced in the mental health system that they know what to say and how to act to avoid inpatient care or other mental health service interventions.
I guess that’s something I have done; lied to avoid being admitted to hospital. Or responded to questions in Mental Health Act assessments in ways that I know will result in a particular reaction from professionals e.g. telling them that I’m no longer suicidal so that they’ll let me go home from A&E.
I think that everyone can be manipulative if they really want something from someone or from a situation. It’s just that it’s painted as a bad quality and a behaviour that should be denied when accused of exhibiting. But perhaps it’s human instinct.
Worryingly, I think that it’s something anyone can give you tips on how to avoid being manipulated because it’s such a cunning behaviour that the entire aim of it, is to do it without a person realising or knowing. My one tip would probably be to try and stay aware of any feelings of being taken advantage of e.g. if a friend is always asking to borrow money. That’s one of the easiest signs of manipulation, I think.
It’d also pay to listen to other friends and family who might be able to offer a view from a different, outside, or neutral perspective on any new relationships you make.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this; drop me a tweet or DM on my Twitter, or an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.