ACoAs MANIPULATING Self & Others (Part 4a)


PREVIOUS: Manipulation #3c

SITE: Response Options to a Controlling/Manipulative Person

for abbrev.


RE-CAP – Manipulation (M) is the resort of :
a. the legitimately powerless (consider Children, Women, Poor & homeless, the Chronically ill, Minorities….), usually in small ways

b. anyone who internally believes themselves to have no options (the Learned Helplessness of ACoAs, addicts, victims….) BUT who actually do have the capacity to empower themselves – with the right help & persistent work in Recovery

c. AND, ironically, high achievers who’ve clawed their way into positions allowing them to be high-level manipulators, usually on a large-scale. By definition, such people shouldn’t need to manipulate – their whole life is about getting exactly what they want, at any cost. Yet these externally powerful bosses, politicians, parents, church leaders, salespeople…. base much of their interactions on being one-up, using every dirty psychological trick in the book.

This tells us that they too grew up in very damaging circumstancsuperiorityes, leaving them with a great need to compensate. Hidden under many layers of intelligence, determination & deviousness, they do not feel OK ‘just as they are’, with both strengths & limitations, so they rarely let their vulnerability show, even to themselves.

They’ve suppressed the awareness of their basic needs (safety, unconditional love & acceptance, mirroring, help….. AND having emotions!), which they consciously consider as weaknesses. Instead they settle for being feared, having power of others, looking good on the outside, & accumulating as much money & ‘stuff’ as they can manage.
So like the rest of us, whatever childhood needs were punished or neglected – will become the focus of their life’s activities, & how those are expressed will depend on their individual native personality, combined with the social environment of their upbringing.

In order to change this dysfunctional pattern it’s important the start identifying our specific way of ‘getting over’, looking at the harm Manipulation does, & the long-term effects on ourselves & others.

However, that’s only the beginning. Instead of only speaking of Manipulation as an evil thing (motivation ideasbad, arrogant, narcissistic), we need to also understand it as a defensive maneuver. It is used to ‘protect’ the WIC from feeling all the pain we’ve stored up from our past. We began using it to survive our abusive childhoods, & we’ve continued it as adults, fed by toxic family messages & examples.

On the surface this character defect is made up of conscious or unconscious BEHAVIORS, but to get anywhere we need to focus on MOTIVATION*, rather than on the visible actions.

*Motivation is goal-oriented energy which moves us to action, using mental focus & physical exertion to reach specific outcomes.

Ways to categorize Motivation
1. PRIMARY / basic = unlearned & common to both animals and humans (food & shelter, sex, fear & aggression, avoidance of pain….)
or SECONDARY / learned = which can differ from person to person (need for achievement, need for power….)type of motives

2. EXTRINSIC M.= when somebody else tries to make you do something
or INTRINSIC M. = when you want to do something

3. PULLING M. = external goals that influence how we act in order to achieve them
or PUSHING M. = internal changes (emotions, beliefs, hunger, illness….) that trigger a specific desire to act

4. POSITIVE M. = having the desire and the willingness to get or achieve something good
or NEGATIVE M. = to avoid undesirable or threatening situations

As for all human being, our primary motivation is survival – in any way possible. And for ACoAs – the over-riding component of survival is the NEED for SAFETY – the main aspects being avoidance of abandonment & avoidance of punishment (which often feel like the same thing!)

SAFETY, BELONGING & MATTERING are essential to good brainbelonging functioning, which gives us the ability to live well:
• the greater the feeling of safety, both emotional & physical, the more easily we can take appropriate risks
• the greater the feeling of connection with others, the more we can feel that we’re in this together, & that we belong
• the greater the feeling that we personally matter, that we can make a difference, & are contributing to the greater good, the greater the success in all aspects of our life (home, work, play…..) (MORE…..expanded)

SO, since our upbringing did not provide us with a sense of Safety, Connectedness & Mattering – manipulation is the only way we think we’ll feel safe.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work!

Motivation: The Why’s of Behavior(7 different theories)
Study of Motivation: Physiological, psychological, and philosophical approaches”(Scroll down)

NEXT: Manipulation #4b


10 thoughts on “ACoAs MANIPULATING Self & Others (Part 4a)

  1. These have been excellent posts and so true. Safety and security have been my driving need. The positive side of this is that I usually want to create safety and security for others. The negative side of this is that I can push it too far and it becomes a problem because I have gone along to get along and chosen safety over taking risks and expressing how I feel.
    I think it would be so easy for me to be bogged down with despair over the way things have been and feel a hatred towards myself because I have often acted against my own best interests and the best interests of others. However, I am learning that despair can be a gift, for it can motivate one to walk in a new direction. In my case, I realised I needed to meditate each morning and evening. Change has been happening little by little. Risks are being taken. Facing oneself and one’s reality can also be a gift if it is done with self compassion, for one can also feel compassion for others who are also trapped in fear.


  2. It’s sad that we blame ourselves for our dysfunctional patterns – which is a way of denying our early training.
    My respect to you for persevering with healthier perspectives & actions.


  3. Thank-you for this. I did not realise that blaming ourselves is a way of denial. This could be applied to other situations. It frees one up.
    I have felt immense guilt at times about how I brought up my sons. I can see how it has affected their lives. When I am blaming myself in this situation, I guess I am denying the fact that I was ‘unconscious’ in many ways and did not have the skills at that time or easy circumstances in which to do anything differently. I am becoming increasingly thankful for the relationship I do have with my sons despite everything.


  4. Wonderful insight Donna. I’m grateful 2 have a roof over my head since March. Working on ways to meet kind and fair people whom don’t want to squeeze me after them saying they want to assist with rides then surprisingly wiggle me to buy them chinese food. It would have been better for me to say I dont have the funds after not being appreciated when I bought the food. I’m tired of bullies. Working on thoughts of how to teach my sister a lesson after stealing inheritence. Going on a TV show may work. Happy New Year Dear One.


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