by: E.B. Johnson
When it comes to our relationships, there are a lot of different elements and moving pieces that can make or break our connections. Communication, or the way in which we relate and open up to one another, is primary among these elements — but it can become both toxic and divisive when used in the wrong ways.
Sometimes, our relationships don’t go the way we want and we find ourselves looking for any means to gain control of them. For some partners that’s where micromanipulations come into play, as well as poor behavior that alienates and drives their loved ones into a wall of resentment. Manipulation (in any form) is never the right way to reconnect. Is your partner seeking sympathy over solutions? You need to take action to protect yourself.
When relationships become battle grounds.
Just as our ultimate needs and desires take time to discover, so too does it take some time to discover who our partners really are. After a time, you may find that you’ve selected the perfect partner. In other instances, however, you might find yourself dealing with someone who has a few more broken edges to them. They may bring a lot of conflict into your life, or they may even engage in a number of micromanipulations which are meant to keep you small and in-line with their wishes.
Micromanipulation is the delicate art of controlling someone through the garnering of sympathy and gross compassion. These are the partners who are forever the victim, always at the mercy of endless drama and heartbreak that leaves them desperate for a hero.
The micromanipulator is very often a narcissist who is so self-absorbed that they need every ounce of attention and sympathy they can get from their partners and loved ones. When confronted with their behavior they turn the narrative around and make everything about their own pain. They’re never at fault. Everyone around them is the enemy when it comes to getting (or not getting) what they want. We have to protect ourselves from these types of partners, but that in itself is a process which requires courage and commitment.
Common micromanipulations we don’t see.
Micromanipulation differs from standard manipulation in that it has one aim: they make the user such a victim, they can never be blamed for the troubles in their lives or relationships. We often don’t see micromanipulations because we’re not meant to. We’re meant to succumb to them as they twist our perception of reality and control the way we think, act, and react to those using them.
Really toxic self-talk
Micromanipulators work behind a guise of self-loathing, convincing everyone in the world that they are weak. One means of doing is involves a high level of negative self-talk. The micromanipulator will talk negatively about themselves, or in a self-deprecating way that is meant to garner sympathy. This toxic self-criticizing arises most often when they can benefit from making their self-worth appear low (think pity gifts or over-the-top support).
Constant need for support
Do you know anyone in your life who uses their support systems more like a service system? That is to say they lean on their friends and family more than they probably should. This constant need for support isn’t healthy and stunts the mental and emotional growth of the manipulator in the long run. Still, this constant need for support is another way in which the micromanipulator exerts control and get the attention that they so desperately crave.
Resentment and bitterness
Because they spend so much time obsessing over their own whims and needs, the micromanipulator is usually someone with a lot of resentment and bitterness. When we spend all our time focusing on our own wins and losses, it takes up necessary room in our life which disrupts our closest relationships and ability to connect. As conflict and disappointment mount, contempt starts to climb and parties on both sides of the fight come to see themselves as being sold short.
Did you know that self-destructive behavior can be a means of controlling others or getting their attention? The micromanipulator is well aware of this. Unable to gain control in any other way, they may throw themselves into risky or toxic behavior that lands them in a world of trouble. Through this chaos, they are able to pull their loved ones back in — as they ride in to save the day. With many ways to play the victim, these manipulators often choose in the behaviors that result in a need for rescuing.
Laying the blame
More often than not, micromanipulators are cleverly concealed narcissists who have chosen a covert rather than overt path to establishing the power and dominance they seek. The narcissist is unable to take blame. Instead, they lay the weight of their mistakes and missteps at the feet of everyone else. Micromanipulators don’t take responsibility for their actions. They look around the room and find others to shoulder the weight of their emotional casualties.
Manipulators flip the narrative to make themselves the victims whenever they are confronted about their behavior. This can happen as simply as mentioning an illness, or it can become as extreme as threatening to harm themselves. Micromanipulators wield their victimhood like a knife, and with that knife they can attack and punish those who threaten their desires. That attack can come in your direction, with a dramatic shift of blame, if you try to get in their way or shed a light on their controlling ways.
How to protect yourself from the manipulation.
Once you’ve identified the micromanipulator in your life, it’s important that you take steps to protect yourself. Ultimately, the only safe way to deal with them is by cutting ties entirely — but that’s not always possible. In those instances, we must learn to cut our arguments short and approach the manipulator with detachment and self-confidence.
1. Don’t attempt to argue
Manipulators love conflict, and that’s no different for the micromanipulator or emotional puppet master. Conflict plays into the hands of these individuals, because it gives them justification for their behavior. When you make the choice to engage, you give them a chance to point and say to the world, “See, I told you so…” reaffirming their victimhood.
If we are forced to engage with a micromanipulator (and we will be) it’s important to cut the arguments short and remove their fuel entirely. Don’t give them what they want. Don’t feed into their arguments and their subtle attempts to draw you into their plots.
Try to utilize techniques like the “Grey Rock Method” when you come face to face with these eternal victims. Avoid giving them any information which can be used against you, or any perspective that might give them a foot in the door on your psyche or the way they think. Become as unmoving as inanimate as a rock to them, so that they will move on and become disinterested in you.
2. Avoid approaching in superiority
Once we figure out someone else’s game, it becomes easier to spot their flaws and lower vibrational levels. It’s a bit like seeing behind the curtain. To realize that someone is playing the victim to manipulate you is to see them for who they really are. This can inspire us to approach them with an air of superiority or an, “I have this all figured out,” but this can be a tragic mistake to make if the person you’re dealing with is a narcissist.
Rather than approaching the micromanipulator in your life from a place of superiority, try to see things from their angle. We’re all human beings, and we’re all massively flawed in different ways. While this person may be toxic and corrosive, they may not know it. Beyond that, even if they do know it, they may not care.
Don’t think that you have what it takes to change who they are. You don’t. We are incapable of changing other people. We’re only capable of changing ourselves. Rather than moving toward this person with the idea that you can change or control them, practice a new art of acceptance and letting go. Realizing they have a problem doesn’t make you better than them. Avoid approaching in superiority and wish them luck instead.
3. Set better boundaries for yourself
The boundaries which we set for ourselves go a long way in determining how our relationships play out with people like micromanipulators. Boundaries are no longer a thing that’s reserved for our intimate relationship. All of our social connections need boundaries, and within those boundaries we should seek to communicate what we want and don’t want from a loved one, as well as what we expect from our time with them.
Use an iron hand and a velvet glove to protect yourself and your wellbeing. Don’t stand for their poor behavior, need for rescue, or constant drama. You have a right to be happy and at peace in your relationships. Put your physical, mental, and emotional needs before their victim mentality
Say “no” more often and with more conviction. Put walls around your energy. Figure out what you can’t tolerate in another person’s behavior and stand beside that. The stronger you make your boundaries, the less able the micromanipulator in your life will be to get to you. No matter who this person is, you have a right to defend yourself against them. A big part of that is cultivating boundary lines that you can defend with conviction.
4. Be okay playing the villain
Like it or not, standing up for yourself is going to cause major conflict and resentment in whatever world you share with the micromanipulator. If you confront them about their behavior, you’re guaranteed to put yourself on the other side of a battle line you may never come back from. At some point, though, you have to be okay with that if you want to build a life and relationships that are authentically aligned with your values and goals.
Get used to finding your peace even as you’re being cast as the villain. Accept where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you’re going. Know that telling others “no” isn’t easy — but it is necessary. If we give every bit of ourselves to someone else, there’s nothing left for ourselves.
A micromanipulator will always cast you as the villain when they aren’t getting their way with you. Instead of seeing this conflict as catastrophe, start to see it as a sign that you’re heading in the right direction. Toxic people always become more toxic when they are denied what they want. Accept this and accept that they will try to hurt you in order to protect themselves. Just because they throw it at you does not mean you have to accept it, though.
5. Detract yourself from their control
Knowing that you are not capable of changing others, you need to make plans to detract yourself from the control of the manipulator in your life. You can’t confront them. You can’t tell them how to change, or make them be better. Those are things they have to discover and want from themselves. If their toxic behavior is too much for you to bear, you need to be realistic and consider removing yourself from the equation.
Limit the time and access that your manipulator has to you. The less you exist in their aura, the harder it is for them to control you or incorporate you into their victimhood. Wean yourself away from them. Start by cutting back the time you spend with them each day, then each week. From there, you can get a better perspective on how much further you want to take things.
It’s not always easy or possible to remove yourself entirely, and that’s okay. Take your time and listen to your inner self. Do what is right and what is natural for you, but ensure that you are always keeping your own health, happiness, and wellbeing in sight. Holding on to a loved one with toxic victimhood will drag you down. Stand strong and create distance in order to safeguard the future you’re building.
Putting it all together…
When someone uses their victimhood to control us or undermine us, it’s a sign of micromanipulation. These micromanipulations add up and create divisions inside our relationships in a number of toxic ways. In order for us to protect ourselves against these manipulations, we have to get some perspective and be brutally honest about how our emotions are being used against us.
Don’t attempt to argue with the micromanipulator. Those with weaponized victimhood will only use it to justify continued bad behavior. When they start the drama, look for ways to distance yourself both physically and emotionally. If you do get drawn in, avoid approaching in superiority. You can’t change them or fix them — they have to do that for themselves. Set better boundaries for yourself and put walls up around the expectations and needs that comprise your wellbeing. This new assertiveness is sure to aggravate the micromanipulator. Accept it. Be okay being cast as the villain and do what you can to detract yourself from their control. You don’t have to remain victim to someone who always plays the victim card. Find freedom by staying true to yourself and safeguarding your happiness.