Techniques of the Manipulator: Gaslighting

gaslightingToday’s discussion on commonly used tactics and tools of the manipulative personality is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse and control where a person is made to doubt their memory and perception of reality. In order to achieve this aim gaslighters present another, untrue version of events or ideas to the person they are trying to gaslight, while continuously denying said person’s claims as false, if not delusional.

Out of all forms of emotional warfare, gaslighting is one of the most intriguing. It is subtle, cunning, and extremely malevolent, but can indicate insecurity on the part of the gaslighter — since they believe they can not counter the other person’s claims, they simply deny that they exist. Gaslighters can seem harmless, if not helpful and well-informed. Through apparent innocence, charm, and/or insistence, they can convince not only the other person, but those who are aware of or observing the situation. Gaslighters are always a generally manipulative personality –whether aware of it or not– and gaslighting is but one tool of many in their belt.

Gaslighting can take place in many ways, and in a variety of situations. A parent telling a child that what they saw they really did not, a husband insisting that the perfume his wife smells on him after work is really her own, a woman telling her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend that he never cared about her.

Gaslighting involves various angles, some popular ones being:

  • Repeated questioning and recreating of events (“Are you sure you were chosen to organize the project? Are you certain he said that?”)
  • Insisting on another version of reality (“I really don’t think that’s what happened when you talked. What really happened is he dumped and you got angry.”)
  • Claiming to be in the know (“You know, your ex-friend told me some things about what you did when you visited her house. She told me all about it.”)
  • Dropping hints and “secrets” (You think your husband goes on business meetings? Your husband goes to the local hotel. All of the neighbors are talking about it, didn’t you know?)

Gaslighters use these techniques in such a way that their assertions seem completely plausible and utterly true — they are pros at what they do. However, an individual’s mind is stronger. If a person knows and believes their own mind and can vividly recall events, they will be a great challenge to the gaslighter. When presented with the covert psychological control of gaslighting, remember that strength of mind wins out over manipulation and psychological bullying every time.

Have you ever experienced gaslighting? How did you respond?

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On Catfishing

manti-teo-catfish

Catfished.

What is a catfish and why are so many concerned about catfishing?

A catfish, as described by Urban Dictionary is someone who pretends to be someone they are not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” The term, and an MTV reality show centered around the phenomenon, are derived from a 2010 film of the same name.

However, while the term has existed for some time, it recently came into popularity when the case of college football player Manti Te’o‘s relationship hit the press. Manti Te’o apparently led a one-year long online relationship with a woman who claimed to be Lennay Kekua. After his girlfriend died of cancer, it was later discovered that she didn’t exist at all — she was merely an online persona created by a man who knew of Manti Te’o. The man in question later confessed to being in love with the football star.

Since then, there has been an explosion of interest: countless media outlets, social networks, and offline discussions have centered around catfishing and the illusions created by online relationships. Many have become more cautious about building online connections, worried that they too may be duped by someone hoping to forge a relationship or simply looking for a laugh. Relationships experts and writers have dedicated segments and articles to catfishing, how one can avoid being catfished on the Internet, and how to spot a catfish.

silhouette-computerAs always, catfishing highlights the need to be aware and vet all possible associates. If you’re seeking or have found a potential partner online, it is wise to take steps to make sure that you know who you’re dealing with and connect offline in a way that you can be sure that the way a person presents themselves is who they are in reality.

On the other hand, catfishing shows that many are still weary of online relationships. While many have been fooled and swindled offline, catfishing has been used as an example of why online relationships just don’t work. Yet catfishing is not exclusive to relations created in the online realm — anyone can be fooled by another person and stories of such existed much before the World Wide Web was created.

My thoughts on catfishing? Since I’ve previously written about the positives of online dating, it’s probably important to mentioned that is also good to keep your [virtual] feet on the ground. Things aren’t always what they seem. But don’t get too caught up in the hysteria and enjoy your online connections for what they are: another way to forge the bonds and mental stimulation most of us desire as human beings.

What is your perspective — any other thoughts on catfishing?

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What’s Wrong With PUA?

pick-up-artists

A short while ago I published a post about PUA, short for Pick-Up Artists, a male seduction community, and my personal experience with a PUA. Since then I’ve received comments and emails on a regular basis which question, or more often, disagree with, my position that PUA is not only manipulative but pathetic.

I’ve responded to most of these comments and questions, but they continue to come in. Some are confused and some simply want further explanation but all wonder the same thing — what’s wrong with PUA? So in the sake of brevity, I’ll detail here why I dislike and disagree with PUA and its methods:

1. PUA is based on manipulation

Pick-Up Artists techniques are pure manipulation: they are designed to coerce women into thinking and doing what they otherwise wouldn’t. PUA techniques are mind games which attempt to overturn the unfair advantage that PUAs believe women have in dating and turn it into an unfair advantage for men.

Some may counter that all forms of courting and dating involve manipulation. However, PUA methods are willful and conscious manipulations — power-play with clear-cut “winners” and “losers”, not simply ways to make oneself more attractive to women. Natural mating rarely involves the same level of deceit.

2. PUA is objectifying

While the male Pick-Up Artist feels more attractive and empowered by his ability to secure his “target”, the target of his manipulations is dehumanized. PUA is also known as “The Game” because PUAs treat their methods and the women they target as nothing more than a game to be won at all costs.

This can be seen in PUA lingo such as “Bait, Hook, Reel, Release” and “Compliance Threshold”, a measure of a woman’s willingness to go along with the PUA’s plans of sexual activity. PUAs don’t see women as humans like them, but pawns in their chess game of ego gratification.

3. PUA is sexist and misogynist

In case it’s not apparent at this point, any dating method founded on the belief that women are difficult to deal and confused, and must be manipulated into agreeing with what they “really” want, is sexist.

Any dating methods which are based on making a woman feel insecure and question her principles is misogynist. And any so-called seduction which refers to women as “targets”, at best, and “bitches” to be broken down, at worst, is misogynist. There is just no way around that.

4.  PUA is about ego and selfishness

Pick-Up Artists claim and try to convince themselves that their techniques are about attaining a mutually beneficial relationship. Yet it is clear by the amount of manipulation and objectification involved that the well-being of women is not a priority. And the self-esteem and satisfaction of male PUAs is a priority, if not the only one.

In other words, if PUA methods were so obviously beneficial to all involved, then why would they require so much trickery?

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Who Likes a Narcissist?

gregory-house-hugh-laurie

Hugh Laurie as Gregory House, M.D.

Did you know that people who rank high on the traits of narcissism are more popular and likeable at first meeting?

Narcissism is a strong sense of self-importance, combined with self-focus and extremely high levels of self-esteem. The basic aspects of narcissism are arrogance, low empathy, a liking for leadership and authority, self-admiration, and a tendency to exploit or manipulate others. Narcissists usually have difficulty with long-term relationships and relationships in general, since their extreme self-focus hinders them from getting along well with others.

It has long been suspected that a large number of narcissists take part in public arenas such as the performing arts or are in leadership positions like politics and business. And this theory may have support in the findings of a few studies that, initially, narcissists are seen as more agreeable, competent, and well-adjusted than non-narcissists.These traits allow them to gain the trust of others who help them to gain positions of fame and authority.

But why are narcissists so popular with other people? The reason is very simple — narcissists exhibit traits which people tend to like in others: confidence, attractiveness, warmth, and humor.

1. Confidence

Narcissists, having a strong sense of self-importance and esteem, exude confidence in their body movements and expressions. And this isn’t just for appearances. Narcissists are very assured in themselves and their abilities; they tend to believe few people are as special as they are.

2. Attractiveness

Narcissists crave positive feedback that confirms their sense of superiority. So they put much effort into their physical appearance, dressing in neat and eye-catching clothing and playing up their physical features. Their appearance gains the attention and affirmation of others.

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Tyra Banks, supermodel and TV personality

3. Warmth

Despite not being very empathic, narcissists know well how to behave friendly and sociable. They are charming and fun, realizing that these traits are attractive to others. Their strong social skills get them the admiration they want, and feel as if they deserve.

4. Humor

Everyone likes a funny person, right? Narcissists are aware of this, since they are very observant of others and their reactions. As a result they are fond of humor, using jokes and witty expressions to allure other people and, as always, gain their admiration and affection. And they do, at least for a little while.

These traits are not just appealing to others. If a person has all four of these characteristics, the likelihood of them being a narcissist is increased. So next time you meet someone who checks off all the boxes, instead of being impressed by them, you might want to be cautious. Narcissists are only likeable in the short-term — their self-involvement and lack of concern for others ultimately troubles their relationships and the people around them.

And the answer to “Who likes a narcissist?” Why, you, of course.

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The Manipulative Personality

manipulative-personalityManipulators attempt to indirectly control or influence the actions and behavior of others. Instead of being direct with their methods, the manipulator uses underhanded tactics to force their will. Because they are subtle, the manipulative personality easily goes undetected and overlooked, and the person or people being manipulated don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late. Or not at all. They may believe that they are obligated to do what the manipulator wishes, and feel guilty if they don’t. The manipulative personality may be a family member, friend, or colleague.

With experience or learning, the manipulative personality is much easier to recognize. But many people learn through hard experience what manipulative behavior looks like, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The safest way to learn about the manipulative personality is from a distance, from those who have studied these personalities.

Experts agree that there are three main types of manipulative personality:

  • The Narcissist — The Narcissist is the ultimate manipulator. They are egotistic, self-absorbed and feel entitled to nearly everything they desire. They lack empathy and consideration for others, so they will easily manipulate to their own gain. They think it is their right to have others do what they say.
  • The Needy — The Needy person is the most difficult type of manipulator to let go of. They are experts at making you feel sorry for them, and making you feel like you are the only person that can help them. Some Needy personalities don’t realize that they are manipulative. They have learned to depend on others for their needs, and simply don’t know how to get along without help. They may cry or become offended when accused of manipulation. Those that realize they are manipulative may become passive-aggressive in their attempts to regain control.
  • The Martyr — This type of personality will give you everything — but at a price. They will do you favors, give you special attention, and be overly considerate, but they expect much in return. Their giving is tied to their desire to be considered a “good person” or be considered important to another person. They “cash in” on the favors they’ve done for you to get you to comply with their wishes. Common phrases heard from the Martyr include, “After all I’ve done for you” and “I would do it for you.”

The most common methods of manipulation are flattery, guilt-tripping, repetition, assumption, confrontation, and gaslighting: a way of twisting information in such a way that the person being manipulated begins to doubt their own perceptions and memory.

The best way to deal with a manipulative personality is to acknowledge their ways outright and respond calmly, and even turn their own tactics against them. The manipulator is counting on you to be surprised, confused, and overreact to them, so don’t be. If they say “After all that I’ve done for you!” reply “I’m very grateful for all that you’ve done. Why do you think I’m not? That’s not very nice of you.”

Once the manipulator realizes that they can’t affect you in the way that they want, and can’t influence your thoughts or actions, they will move on. And even if they don’t — you’re safe. Manipulation is all about control, and once you figure out the manipulative personality, they are no longer in control.

Do you have any experience with manipulative personalities? Do you have tips for how to deal with manipulation?

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PUA is Pathetic and The Day I Was A Target

pua-objectificationPUA, also known as Pickup Artists, is a seduction community composed of men seeking to learn, teach, and discuss ways to improve social and dating success with women. PUA hit the mainstream with the 2005 book The Game by Neil Strauss.

Supporters and users of PUA methods and its community claim that PUA is helpful. It teaches men who would usually be rejected by women how to approach them successfully. And it provides a way for women who normally would have overlooked these men to see the potential of these men. PUA advocates contend that although PUA is often used by men to get women into bed, it can also result in successful relationships and even marriage and is beneficial to everyone involved.

Not.

PUA’s techniques are less about relationships, dating, or even “harmless fun” and more about manipulation, power play, and self-gratification. The “player” is usually a male who is lacking self-esteem due to being rejected or passed up by attractive women. He sees dating and his “target” (term used for the woman who is sought) as a game to be won. It is little more than vengeance — the man seeks to use manipulative psychological methods to bring the attractive woman down to his “level”.

One of the most talked about PUA techniques is the neg, or negative hit. “Negging” is a method whereby a guy attempts to lower the self-confidence of an extremely attractive woman by complimenting her and shortly thereafter insulting her, or giving her a backhanded compliment — an insult disguised as a compliment (e.g. “You lost 20 pounds? Wonderful! When are you going to lose the rest? or “Nice nails. They look so real.”) The woman, who is used to being praised by men, is thrown off-balance. The “negger” is then given an opportunity to work his “charm”.

Not too long ago I had my own close encounter with the neg when a guy at a local drugstore decided I would become his “target”. What follows is a quick, painless (or painful, if you’re the guy involved), smart way of shutting down an attempted neg.

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Frenemies

frenemies-gossiping-girls“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

But what if you don’t know who is which?

A frenemy is an enemy who appears to be a friend, or a person who acts as both an enemy and a friend at different points in time. It might seem that spotting such a person would be simple, and getting rid of them would be even more simple. But in my experience, most people who have frenemies are not aware it. Other times, people have a hard time getting rid of them because although the frenemy sabotages you in various ways, they also add value as companions. But the frenemy’s so-called friendship is ultimately a toxic relationship, and should be abandoned as soon as possible.

So how do you recognize such a person? Here are some tips on spotting the frenemy:

1. Pay attention to the tone of their words

Some frenemies will use a sarcastic or blunt tone. Their words may seem innocent, but the tone used will reveal their disdain. In particular, note the tone they use to discuss you when you’re not around (or they think you’re not around).

2. Watch their actions with others

The frenemy tends to be an unfriendly person in general. Note the way the person in question behaves with other people. Do they subtly, or worse, actively, try to tear other people down?

3. Pay attention to their words.

In some events, the frenemy will actually make negative remarks about a person, disguised as helpful comments. In one clear frenemy situation, the frenemy remarked to their so-called friend who was down about their appearance, “Of course, people like you aren’t seen as beautiful by most people. But you win some and lose some.” The comment went over the so-called friend’s head.

4. Note the things they say about others

Related to their general unfriendliness, the frenemy will often make negative remarks about other people. If a person is constantly putting others down, they are more likely to be putting you down as well.

5. Trust yourself

Do you think that the person is causing more harm than good? If you feel that the person is constantly putting you down or making you feel less than your best, trust yourself: you are probably dealing with a frenemy.

Do you have any experience with frenemies? How do you deal with them?

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