“When I was a small child my adoptive mother put me in a leather harness attached to a dog lease. I had to walk at the exact pace, not too fast and not too slow, never running, hopping or dancing ahead to pick a dandelion, smell a flower, or skip a rock on the surface of a pond, and especially never falling too far behind.” Judith Land
One of the greatest challenges for many adoptees is to learn how to gain control of your life when it becomes obvious that emotional manipulators are making you doubt your own self-worth and self-identity; people that pull your strings without good intent, intentionally attempting to undermine, confuse, and bring you down; often starting out with flattery before using your insecurities and vulnerabilities against you, coercing you into proving your love and devotion by doing chores and favors for them.
Emotional manipulators have no desire for authentic communication. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing that control and influence others in an unscrupulous way through fear, obligation and guilt. They are emotional bullies lacking love, empathy, guilt, remorse, or conscience that use mental and emotional abuse to serve their desires for power and control. They know your weak spots. They tell you how lucky you are, and then act as though you’re a burden, making you feel guilty and indebted. They destroy your self-esteem and question your validity. Whatever you do is wrong.
Any problems you experience are your fault. If you’re upset, your expectations are unjustified and unreasonable. They say that you are too sensitive, over-reacting, and lost your sense of humor, leaving you doubting your own behavior. Gaslighting is the oldest trick of manipulation. Giving you the silent treatment increases your anxiety, desperately waiting for a reaction from them, whereby they sow the seeds of doubt that erodes your ability to navigate daily life. They never take accountability for their own behavior. Don’t expect an apology or expect them to change their ways. If they are upset, you are responsible for their bad moods and obliged to fix them.
Breaking the cycle of manipulation requires awareness and emotional distancing. Boundaries and hard lines are important, especially when you need to sustain a relationship with family members. Buy yourself some time when you need to regroup and determine the best way forward. Establish boundaries and stick to your standards. Remember that nobody can manipulate you without your consent and cooperation. Don’t try to beat them at their own game and don’t let things drag on too long because you may be compromising your health, identity, and future.
Sometimes the best strategy is the exit door. Always aim for the best…