Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Entry: One of the biggest lessons

Every once in a while, I'll take the time to write a serious post. It doesn't happen often anymore, but I think that the events of the last nine months has provided more than enough material. In short, I had the privilege of falling in love with a singular individual...the kind that you meet only once in a lifetime. They say that every love is different and I agree. This one was no exception to the rule. This particular encounter came with something a little extra though that I was not expecting. She had a...controlling nature about her...for lack of better words. It started out small and innocuous but grew over time in severity and boldness. Let's call her "Jennifer" .

Upon researching some of her bizarre behaviors, I came across words like "psychopathy", "sociopathy", "manipulation", and so on. There were others but they are a little too personal to Jennifer and I will respect her privacy in those regards.

I'm writing this post for several reasons.
  • I would like to make a contribution to the community of individuals who have known and loved people like Jennifer.
  • I am hoping that maybe what I write here will help someone else someday.
  • Future reference.
I'll be honest...I don't think she's a bad person. Am I making excuses for her (which is a textbook sign of a "victim")? Perhaps. Probably. Who knows. I don't think that she had one over-shadowing goal to use, abuse, and then throw me away (although she made some very convincing arguments for the contrary). According to this article ....

"You must understand that manipulative behavior is really about exercising control over the events, situations, and other people that effect that person's life. They have developed these techniques and behaviors as a sort of defense mechanism to control things that are distressing or frustrating for them. However, this supposed control comes at the cost of damaging relationships, whether with family members, friends or even a spouse."

The bolded portion of the above quote is the real take-away here. I have every right and reason to believe that her intentions were malevolent. The jury's still out on that though and probably will be for quite some time. If you kept your head down and your eyes forward, she would seem as normal as apple pie...even charming. Given that probably 95% of people would never actually notice (or call her on) her "inconsistencies", I often wonder if perhaps I simply tried to occupy a spot in her life that she believed required extra scrutiny and "oversight". Again...making excuses.

This was the article that opened it all up for me. I read this and I could have sworn that the author knew Jennifer personally. I hesitate to use it in this post given that the article implies a degree of manipulative intent that I'm not necessarily comfortable applying to Jennifer. Regardless, I'll paraphrase the 8 points listed as I think they are very important to anyone who's ever been in this kind of situation.
  • There is no use in trying to be honest with an emotional manipulator. And oh boy isn't that the truth! You can try to lead by example and fight the good fight with all the honesty, reason, and logic that you can muster, but it will not avail you. This article talks a bit about lying and how offenders are particularly good at using it as a tool with the precision of a reflex action. Although Jennifer did appear to avoid lying when at all possible, she would if cornered, and quite boldly. She would also omit important details that she wouldn't have to. In her mind, by not saying or admitting to things that she didn't want to, she wasn't, in fact, "lying" and considered herself to be honest. (No kidding...she even said so). She had told me from day one about certain issues that she had to deal with. Oddly enough, none of the pieces she ever provided for the whole picture ever seemed to fit together. On a couple of occasions, I even consulted subject-matter experts regarding things I'd heard from her and was met with very strange and unbelieving looks regarding what I'd heard. But, I was new to the whole excuse-making thing and so I figured that she had her reasons for saying the kinds of things that she did.
  • An emotional manipulator is the picture of a willing helper. And yes...she was. This was and was not to her credit. She is the first person to seemingly offer a selfless hand of support, but she could use it as a weapon on a moment's notice. This part is hard to explain. However, for anyone out there who's gone through this, you know what I'm talking about.
  • Crazy making - saying one thing and later assuring you they did not say it. The article says that ... "An emotional manipulator is an expert in turning things around, rationalizing, justifying and explaining things away. They can lie so smoothly that you can sit looking at black and they’ll call it white - and argue so persuasively that you begin to doubt your very senses." Jennifer was very good at this. It wouldn't matter what she would do or say nor how ridiculous her explanations were when she was asked on the spot...she was always going to be justified in her mind and she would make sure that I paid an emotional price for ever having thought anything that was contrary to what she wanted me to. It's a very brutal form of defensive aggression. The article also warns ... "Emotional Manipulation is VERY Dangerous! It is very disconcerting for an emotional manipulator if you begin carrying a pad of paper and a pen and making notations during conversations." My case wasn't exactly that literal, but as silly as that may seem, it was true nonetheless. I'd seen her whip out her mobile phone to look through some previous texts to justify her perception of a situation (and, in her defense, she was right in that particular situation). But on multiple occasions before and after that, my attempt at doing the same thing would send her into a rage. She saw it as my being childish (and would, of course, lay on the guilt trip).
  • Guilt. Emotional manipulators are excellent guilt mongers. Reading this point was probably what struck the hardest chord with me. I had given of myself on so many occasions to this woman in ways that she was and was not aware of. "The crazy thing is that when you do it for them (which they will never ask directly for), they may just turn around and say they certainly didn’t want or expect you to do anything!". This one is a particularly sore spot for me so I'm just going to leave that quote alone. I will say, however, that Jennifer was good at always making sure she kept me down a notch. I was always "selfish", "spoiled", or some other random word. It was "always about me" and so difficult for her to be around someone who needed to grow up. This article reinforced this by saying ... "A manipulator will play on your negative emotions in order to elicit your compliance. In other words, if you fail to comply with their request, they will then try and make you feel bad, selfish, naive, foolish, guilty or whatever emotion will cause you to capitulate to their desire in order for you to obtain relief from those negative feelings.". I swear...sometimes I just wanted the universe to swallow her up after hearing something that was so false and so patently, ridiculously, stupid to say.
  • Emotional manipulators fight dirty. (Sigh). Yes. Jennifer had an interesting way of twisting completely benign, every-day actions into things that were so "horribly betraying" and then trying to mentally stomp me into the ground by asserting that I had betrayed her trust. In one instance, she even used it to her benefit to foster a strange dual relationship with me and some other guy and ensuring that each of us thought that she had a cr@ppy opinion of the other.
  • If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! This actually goes in tandem with the guilt thing. Any little thing made me a "whiner". But, in her defense, she thought that about pretty much everyone. So, if I was having a rough day, best to keep it to myself all the while listening to her angst regarding HER rough day.
  • Emotional manipulators somehow have the ability to impact the emotional climate of those around them. No comment.
  • Emotional manipulators have no sense of accountability. Jennifer, I'm convinced, could have done anything she set her mind to. The problem was that her bad work ethic kept getting in the way. It was her Achilles heel. To her, everyone (including people I knew very well) just weren't giving her the opportunities that she should have had to get the job done. All the meanwhile, as she's sensing issues in the background, she refuses to rise and meet them because it's just "not what she does". Fair enough. To each their own. But, in the end, it was about what everyone else had done TO her and nothing about what she had failed to do herself.
The details of the relationship and the details regarding what actually happened are beyond the scope of this post. To discuss them in detail only invites bitterness on my part and I refuse to let these words be about that. The important part is the ability to step outside of the emotional context of the relationship and look at the situation through objective eyes. Jennifer, with the guilt and name-calling, was very good at making sure that my heart was always the part of me that was making the decisions and evaluations. The funny thing is that it might have even been instinctual for her...who knows. But the fact is that, when I stepped out of the emotional haze, nothing made sense and was pretty much all wrong. The problem was that the heart kept reeling me back in.

Here are some things to beware of. They are signs that you are sacrificing your own dignity in order to support the agendas of someone like Jennifer.
  • "Stop making excuses for the manipulator. If you blame the manipulative behavior on his insecurities or unhappy childhood, know that such excuses are a key part of his manipulative strategy. Be wary of anyone who regularly "plays the victim.'". [link]
  • "See whether the manipulator alternates between flattery and affection and anger depending on whether you are accommodating his requests. The display of anger may be intimidating or passive-aggressive.". [link]
  • "If you often feel stressed and resentful when dealing with someone, you may be enmeshed in a manipulative relationship.". [link]

In the end...I confronted her regarding her actions. I told her that I saw it for what it was and that I loved her regardless. She denied it, of course. Her response was to tell me that it's all BS and that I'm free to believe it if I want. She said I was selfish and being inconsiderate of her needs (as expected). Even in the end, I'd still heard the twists. "Think ill of me if it makes it easier...I can soldier on through it"..."I'm sorry I couldn't make you happy"..."All I've ever wanted was your happiness"..."I'll go away now, for your benefit", etc. And those were only SOME of what I heard.

After all was said and done, I was stuck with two possible interpretations. I'm sure there are more potentials, but these are the two big ones ...

  • She was a heartless, soulless, harpie who used me for God-knows-what reasons.
  • She was so emotionally "compromised" that there's no way it was ever going to work given normal expectations.

The hard part is that she gave me enough ammunition to to be able to support either argument as well as an infinite amount of possibilities in between. My loved ones tell me it was #1. My heart tells me it was #2. My gut tells me that it was a mixture of the two plus maybe a couple of other things I hadn't considered. Either way, I'll never know and THAT is the hard part. Her parting pot of nonsense to me was something akin to ... "I hope that one day you will understand why I did what I did". Probably not, considering she did a pretty good job of making sure that I never would. The one thing she never could/would do was actually talk. Everyting for her was always in hind-sight. "You shoulda...", "you coulda...", but never anything at the time. I was always on the hook for things that I had no awareness of at all. And, on that note, I'm starting to sound bitter, so I'll go ahead and close this out.

Remember...love isn't having to go through this or constantly having to question that special man or woman in your life. Love isn't making excuses to yourself for their behavior or being made to feel three-feet tall when you try to stand up for yourself. They may be a good person at heart and bring all kinds of joy and giggles to the rest of the world, but if what I have written here describes in any way the love that you share with someone, then something is very, very wrong. Love will always hold you up. Love will always listen. Love will always respect you. And, above all, love will always see you as an equal (at the very least). If you love them as much as I know you do (otherwise you probably wouldn't have stumbled across this post since nobody EVER reads this blog), give them one more fighting chance. Tell them what you know and show them case-and-point how their treatment of you stepped straight out of a textbook. The manner in which they respond should be all you need to know to determine their worthiness. It might turn out that they were never really worth your time to begin with.

Here is a list of good resources if you find yourself in need of some good council...
  1. Spotting Emotional Manipulation: http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/emotional_manipulation.htm
  2. A very useful blog by Dr. George Simon: http://www.manipulative-people.com/category/emotional-manipulation/
  3. How to Deal with Manipulative People: http://www.ehow.com/how_4865173_deal-manipulative-people.html
  4. How to Spot a Manipulator: http://www.ehow.com/how_2096284_spot-manipulator.html
  5. How to Deal With a Manipulator: http://www.ehow.com/how_2106098_deal-manipulator.html
  6. Psychopaths In Sheep's Clothing (authored by the guy in #2): http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopaths_in_sheeps_clothing.htm
  7. The Telltale Signs of a Manipulator: http://www.burg.com/2010/08/the-telltale-signs-of-manipulation/
  8. Warning Signs of Manipulative Behavior: 3 Types of Manipulation and How to Overcome Them: http://www.articlesbase.com/self-improvement-articles/warning-signs-of-manipulative-behavior-3-types-of-manipulation-and-how-to-overcome-them-1053045.html
  9. Emotional Manipulation Up Close and Personal: http://recognizethesigns.tripod.com/

I also read up on the concepts of Impression Management and Character Assassination. Very interesting and very relevant to my story.

Dr. Simon also has a great (and exhaustive) series of articles on manipulation tactics. Perhaps some of them look familiar to you.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Entry: The Truth About Lies

I've learned two important lessons this year regarding people who lie. I'm not talking about people who tell huge whopping lies, either. I'm talking about the ones who tell fibs when they really don't need to.

Lesson #1:
Beware those people who lie too easily. People who can look you in the eye and spin a yarn without thinking twice (even to the detriment of their own dignity) are to be either watched or avoided. They didn't get to that point without having some serious practice. And remember that, no matter who they are, if they're willing to lie for you, then they're probably willing to lie to you and not even regret it. Heaven help you when they decide to turn that gun from the world to you.

Lesson #2:
It sucks to be the person who tries to take the high moral ground. Don't get me wrong...I'm as guilty as the next in telling my little white lies here and there while I'll also say that I don't make a habit of it. I don't think there's a person on the planet who doesn't do it every once in a while. But overall, I try to do the "right" thing (whatever that means anymore) and take responsibility for my actions. Although I plan on continuing to do so, here is what I have learned. The folks who tell the little lies to get themselves out of huge situations tend to end up on better ground than the ones who just come out and fess up. Have you ever done that? Ever told yourself that if you just come clean then all will be well because that is the way it's supposed to work? Well...it rarely does. Often, it only serves to inform the other party(s) that you're willing to fess up to the failures of your human condition when other won't and weakness like that is often met with negative returns. But...all it takes is one little lie. Spin the truth just enough and you can explain everything while avoiding responsibility for the things you've done wrong. Why the people in the second group are usually the ones to come out on top is beyond me.

Carl Sagan: 1
Theologians: 0