Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Learning to Recognize You're Being Played

So, as I move along this journey to rediscovering myself, I realize that OCPD ex-bf, in many ways, was one of my easier relationships.  The confrontation and tantrums were usually right in my face.

But, I've had other relationships in which I also played Ms. Co-Dependent to the Max, because, after all, I'm nice.  I'm a people pleaser (and if you're thinking, she's saying that like it's a bad thing - you may be one, too.)

Being kind and flexible is wonderful.  However, we can get so wrapped up in pleasing others, in trying to make others happy, that we forget all about us; our needs, wants, and best interests. 

We need to be able to say no (or, Hell no!) if someone tries to manipulate us into doing something that crosses our boundaries.  In my life, I've been pressured/manipulated by those who wanted me to:

  • Eat something when I was already full, or which contained ingredients that I don't like
  • Join them in the practice of particular religious beliefs
  • Perform sexual acts that I'd rather not
  • Go to certain parties, or stay longer when I wanted to leave
  • Take over someone else's job duties
  • Favors

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with someone asking, "Would you like to try doing it on a trapeze, while wearing a Batman mask?"  (Okay, maybe something a lot wrong with that.) 

An open, honest question or offer contains the implied freedom to say "No thank you."   If we feel that saying no is not an option - we're probably being played.    

Cats playing piano - awesome.
People being played by manipulators - NOT so awesome.

The only way we can have real, honest, fulfilling relationships, is if we are coming from our True Selves.  And that means, kindly, gently, but firmly, refusing to be manipulated.

Or, we can channel our Inner Bitch and say, "I don't think so."

Here's some good info from Wikihow:   
Understand the characteristics of a manipulative personality.  They're not always obvious because they play a silent game of building up obligations toward them, that end up with you feeling guilty, pressured, and obliged to carry out things for their sake even though you're still wondering how things got to this point.  Some of the characteristics of a manipulative personality include:   
  • A martyr style personality. This personality type behaves as if he or she is being considerate toward others but is actually messing up considerateness with a need to be significant to you. By "martyring" themselves, they are doing things nobody has asked of them or wants them to do but in the process creates a bind when they do them. In "doing you a favor", their expectation increases that you have to return the favor. They may also complain constantly about all the things they do for you and wonder rhetorically when you're going to return this favor...    
  • Excessively needy and dependent personalities. People who feel uncomfortable in their own skin, putting forth their own opinions and ideas can often hide behind manipulative behavior so that it seems as if you are responding on your own accord even though they've set up everything to have you respond directly to their neediness.  
  • Narcissists. This is the archetypal manipulative personality and it's very hard to deal with this master manipulator.  
  • You. Seriously, at one time or other, every single one of us practices manipulative behaviors in one form or other. It is just that for most people, manipulative actions tend to be one-off or only occasional instances rather than a purposeful map for daily living and interaction with others.
Note the possible types of ways in which people try to manipulate one another. There are some key behaviors that can end up in manipulation, and it's helpful to know how to spot them before walking right into them. The behaviors are set out briefly here, with the following steps providing more details along with suggestions for healthy ways to respond:

  • The guilt trip – this manipulative behavior seeks to make you feel guilty and is aimed at sending you into the land of "should" rather than standing up for your own values.   
  • The assumption statement – this manipulative tactic seeks to turn your behavior into what the beholder perceives it as, whether or not their interpretation is accurate. Soon leads to a guilt trip because no matter what, your refutation is proof of the assumption.   
  • He said, she said – this manipulative ploy is pseudo-sociology in action. The manipulator takes it upon themselves to tell you what someone else said was the right thing to do. It's a handy way of pushing aside the responsibility from themselves while loading it all onto you.  
  • The confronting statement – this manipulative approach is about causing an argument. That way, the provoker will end up making you feel terrible over something you didn't do or say but for which you ought to feel guilty anyway and they'll get a huge chunk of sympathy with which to manipulate you all over again.  
  • Self-pity: "But I'm so unloved/sick/victimized, etc." – At times each one of us has times when we're really in need of some tender self-care but long-term manipulators can make a habit of being the victim or the one needing special attention.
Go HERE for the rest of this great article for tips on how to respond to each technique.

Boy, have I suckered in to the martyrs in my life!  They're so kind, considerate, self-sacrificing, surely I should appreciate them more.  Of course, OCPD ex b-f used this technique too.  "I've been slaving all day to grow tomatoes" or make spaghetti sauce or some other thing he'd chosen to do, martyr-style, not even stopping to have lunch, that I never asked him to do in the first place, let alone suggest he work at such a pace that he didn't take reasonable breaks.  All his own choices.  Then he'd pick a fight because I wasn't sufficiently grateful, in his opinion.  And then the next time he asked for something, I would usually give in, whether I wanted to or not, because I felt guilty about "making him feel bad."

Good grief, Charlie Brown!  <Shaking my head to clear out the cobwebs>

Photo by -just-jen- at Flickr
But, as I said, I am recognizing he wasn't the only one to pull my strings.  That with good boundaries and better connection with my authentic self, I will have healthier relationships with everyone in my life.

Frankly, I'm beyond tired of guilt trips.  They're not a lot of fun, and I already know the boring scenery by heart.

The next trip I take, I want to pack a bag and stay in a gorgeous hotel.  Maybe get a massage.  I like the massage-type of manipulation.

How about you?  Have you been played like a cheap guitar too many times?  What do you do to recognize the manipulators and take care of you?