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Psychological manipulation thrives in intimacy. It’s a close, familiar way of using others that requires vulnerability to work well. Because intimate relationships all come with a level of vulnerability, they are the perfect breeding ground for this form of manipulation.
Many psychological manipulators are family members, close friends, or romantic partners—these relationships give them an opportunity to build trust and later use that trust as a stepping stone to abuse.
Psychological manipulators rarely, if ever, take responsibility for their actions to their victims—to do so would damage their credibility and cause doubt in the abusive relationship. Most manipulators will adopt a self-righteous attitude with their victims, often centered on how they have been “wronged” by that person in some way, and they will typically excuse their behaviors as retribution for how they have been treated. Their golden rule is simple: If you don’t give me what I want, I am entitled to treat you any way I choose.
Psychological manipulators despise boundaries. Their ultimate goal is power and control, and firm boundaries interfere greatly with that goal. To that end, they become skilled at testing and violating others’ boundaries—usually starting with small limits and working their way up as they become more accomplished.
Manipulators ensure that this is a slow-burn process. By subtly testing what works and what does not, they will learn how to cross others’ boundaries without being stopped.
Psychological manipulators are masters at getting others to question their own reality. This often occurs in the form of telling blatant lies that border on unbelievable or countering a victim’s memory of events. When paired with the abuser’s refusal to accept responsibility for their actions, this technique can be destructive.
Gaslighting can be difficult to pinpoint because it’s a gradual process that undermines the sanity of its victims. Many individuals who use this tactic work very hard to convince their victims they are too sensitive or are making a big deal out of nothing.
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