How To Inoculate Yourself Against Manipulation
There was once a pretty interesting promotion an airline had a few years back. This was before September 11, and there were fewer restrictions. Also this was only a domestic airline, so they didn’t have to worry about any international laws. Here’s what the promotion was. You showed up at the airport and paid a pretty cheap price, I think it was fifty or a hundred dollars. And in return, you’d get two round trip tickets and two nights in a hotel somewhere.
The only rub was that you didn’t know where you were going until about thirty minutes before you flight left. Kind of a travel lottery. They did have a list of about 30 different cities that you may fly into. From New York, to some town in North Dakota, you could pretty much end up anywhere in the United States for the weekend. It seemed to be a fun thing to do for a weekend for an adventurous couple.
The other day a friend of mine and I, who both are avid fans of NLP, were talking about manipulation, and how a strongly manipulative person makes heavy use of what are called linguistic presuppositions. These are sentence patterns that kind of force the listener, through some really twisted word logic, to accept an underlying assertion by the manipulator without really being able to defend against it. What the manipulator is hoping for is that the person being manipulated will do is take the underlying assertion (usually something very strong and very childish, like you don’t love me, you donâ€™t care about me, and something they would not usually say outright) and respond to it, giving the manipulator the satisfaction of getting their needs met in a roundabout way.
My friend said a good analogy would be training animals with negative reinforcement. Whenever they screw up, you punish them, until their entire behavior is motivated by avoiding punishment. A person who is in a relationship with strong manipulator usually feels the same way.
While there are specific language patterns you can learn to dismantle manipulative statements that can be extremely tedious, and can get confrontational in a hurry if you don’t have a complete handle on your own emotions.
So my friend and I started talking about an inoculation of sorts that would completely shield someone from manipulation from others. Not that others wouldn’t try, just that their attempts wouldn’t have any effect.
We decided that the best defensive would be a good offense. When they are getting ready to say something manipulative, punch them in the face.
In order to inoculate yourself from being manipulated, you must make your emotions impervious to their underlying assertions. Meaning you cannot fear their truth. While this can be difficult to do once you are already in a relationship, it can be fairly easy to set your mindset up this way, so that any relationships you do create, with coworkers, friends, etc will be programmed from the start to be manipulation free.
How do you do this?
First of all, realize that humans come preprogrammed with a set of intentions. The are vague, but they are there. Get food, get sex, stay safe. These are programmed into us by evolution, or God, or aliens, so that we have the base programming to live long enough to make more people.
If you don’t do anything but follow the crowd your whole life, and not do one bit of thinking for yourself, you have a high probability of achieving all three.
However, without choosing specific ways with specific strategies to achieve various aspects of all three, you leave yourself open to be manipulated. Because if you don’t have specific targets to fulfill your base needs, you’ll always be a little bit worried about not achieving them. And because the thought of not achieving them can create the most horrible feelings imaginable, we do anything to avoid those thoughts.
Enter the manipulator. When we have fuzzy ways to achieve our prime directives, and a manipulator throws some covert mind poison at us, it triggers those fears of not achieving our prime directives, usually with a strong sense of impending rejection, so we do whatever we can to avoid that pain. Just like the animals that are trained by negative reinforcement, we learn to live by avoiding pain rather than finding new and interesting ways to satisfy our prime directives.
The simple way to inoculate yourself then, is to create several different specific goals, which satisfy all three of your prime directives. And for each goal, figure several different strategies for achieving them.
This collection of goals, and strategies to achieve them can act as filter through which you experience the world. You only accept those things and situations and relationships into your life that have a good chance of satisfying your particular goals.
When people drift through life with only vague ideas of what they want, they usually end up taking whatever they can get, which opens them up to be terribly afraid of losing what little they have. This can be a huge motivating factor.
By setting up your filters properly, and screening the world through them, you will create an environment rich with opportunities and relationships that are designed to fulfill your goals in many different ways, so any manipulative mind poison thrown your will have little effect.
Of course, this is easier said that done. Which is why so many of us are in relationships where we have a sinking feeling that maybe we could do better, if we tried, but since we are afraid to try, we don’t.
Simply through examining your goals and ways to get them, you’ll open up some breathing room in your mind for all the possibilities that are around you. And once you start to see them, the fear will slowly go away.