Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-15-2022

Red flags? Abuse? Manipulation? What does it all really mean? And how can we distinguish between mistakes and cruel intentions? Here’s one of the more important things to pay attention to: Themes and patterns. A fact of life is that we will all accidentally hurt people, and we will also get hurt by others sometimes. The key to knowing if something is intentionally manipulative or harmful is to pay attention to the patterns. Are they consistently hurting and abusing the people around them? Do they have a history of harming others? Do they continue to act as if they can or will change, but the pattern continues? Also, are most encounters with them highly stressful/ harmful? Not all abuse and manipulation are the same, there are different degrees. In today’s blog, I want to break down different forms of manipulation and what to look out for. This is yet, another topic that should be taught in primary education and/ or in our family households, but it often gets missed. (These tactics can be used in intimate relationships, family relationships, work relationships and/ or friendships)

Love Bombs- Love bombs should be the first topic, as this is the first thing some abusive people may do so that they can reel you in. Love bombing coaxes the ego, love bombing makes a person feel like they are on top of the world. When someone is extra loving toward us in what feels like ‘an unrealistic way’. Such as, they pretend you are ‘perfect’, void of flaws, and seem to put you on a pedestal, this can be alarming. All logic may go out the window because it might be like a ‘high’ you have never felt before. Sadly, this is when you need logic more than ever. A love bomb will never last. If it’s fake, then you must be concerned about who this person will become when the love bomb phase is over. It isn’t the real them, and it takes patience and time to get to know someone. Someone showing short term fake love bombs will not give you a hint to who the person is. Wait for the explosion to clear and the dust to settle….

Guilt Tripping- If you have an ‘extra guilty conscious’ then you will be extra susceptible to manipulation by guilt trips. How does one understand this about themselves? Were you raised with a lot of obligation? Were you the peacemaker of your household? Or, were you the scapegoat of the household? Do you find yourself with extreme compulsions when someone needs rescuing? Guilt tripping is a very easy tactic to use when you use it on someone that already has a guilty conscious. They will likely cave. Have you ever noticed anyone with a pattern of pushing responsibilities onto you? Somehow you are ‘responsible’ for their life, and they keep throwing more guilt and responsibilities your way? Do you find yourself now somehow responsible for someone’s livlihood, happiness and more? Are they ever satisfied? Watch out for this pattern. You may be a victim of guilt tripping.

Triangulating- Some people are set on putting others against each other. It could be jealousy; it could be a deeper ulterior motive. When you notice someone consistently trying to meddle in between other people’s relationships, this is an indicator of manipulation. Whether it be gossip, lies, trying to salvage, or destroy further, other relationships, this is NOT a happy person. Triangulators want to destroy your impression before you get the chance to make it. This can sabotage your future ties/ relationships.

Stonewalling (The Silent Treatment)- When people go quiet, it could be that they grew up in a silent household that forced them to cope inward. But, if you notice that a person tends to go conveniently quiet when they are caught doing something wrong, they may be using it as their last-minute tactic to relieve themselves of accountability. How does this work? If silence is more painful for you than it is to live life not getting your truth, you may then cave to the silence and forgive them. Silence can trigger those with abandonment and neglect traumas especially. So be on the lookout if that applies to you. If this has become a norm/ pattern for you in your relationship(s), you are likely being stonewalled.  

Ghost Teleporter- Ghosting is a new sad reality of life. Especially for those that online date. But ghosting can offer a simpler explanation vs a ‘ghost teleporter’ as I call it. Ghosting means you never hear from a person again, ever. There’s your answer. It really does hurt, but it is closure. Ghost teleporting means they poof & vanish, and then weeks to months later, poof! They are back! Miraculously! Sometimes they talk to you as if they never left… extra strange. Or some ghost teleporters will have some extravagant excuses/ lies: They were ‘jailed again’, they were injured or sick. They ‘lost their phone’, and oddly enough, all other means of access in this Tele-Saturated world.  Shady and sketch. The Ghost teleporter didn’t want you, at all. But after weeks to months of failing with all other dating prospects they had, they decided to cycle back around to their ‘second fiddles’. Don’t take the bait! If they are extra hot, just remind yourself of this simple fact: ‘They are, very obviously; a liar.’

Gaslighting- Despite popular mainstream belief, just because someone does not agree with you, does NOT make them a gas lighter. Gaslighting is a very specific manipulation tactic in which an abuser makes their victim ‘question their own reality and sanity’. They make them feel ‘crazy’. How? They will literally manipulate the truth or deny it completely. For example, when my ex-fiancé had shoved me to the ground, and afterward denied it and said, “I just touched you, and you fell over”, that’s gaslighting. Or even after the fact, when I mentioned he did it right in front of his son to highlight how alarming his behavior was, he then stated: “He wasn’t there, he didn’t see it”. Also, if you suspect they may be cheating, all the way down to naming the ‘other person’ that you suspect, and they say “No, you are crazy”, (Sadly this happened to me twice) but you find out later you were correct all along… yup. They Gas lit the hell out of you!

Deflection- To deflect means to let all accusations, punishments, or opportunities for accountability to bounce off you or roll past your head completely. Deflection is an invisible suit of rubber bands. You will know someone is an expert deflector when it appears they are ‘never wrong’. They do no wrong, they account for no wrong, the moment you make them feel wrong they relieve themselves of it, period. A deflector does not know how to say they are sorry. A deflector refuses to accept the adult responsibility of self-reflection and change.  

Moving Goal Posts- Have you ever worked so hard to meet someone’s ‘impossible standards’, only to meet it 100 percent, and suddenly, they change what they want? You cook their perfect meal for them, suddenly, they are now ‘Keto’, or Intermittent fasting. You get to the ‘sexy weight’ they wanted you to be at, suddenly, your body isn’t ideal for whatever else reason. What’s going on?? Why are your efforts in vain? Well, because they are grooming you. They are grooming you to consistently meet impossible standards. Why? They are selfish. They want you to exhaust yourselves for them, while they live in a delusional reality that they have no goal posts to meet. It’s only ‘you’ that needs to work on you, for them. Sometimes this manipulation tactic is disguised with phrases of: “I just want you to be the best version of you”. Rest assured, if you are exhausted and feeling worthless, you are not being ‘the best version of you’. You are sacrificing your physical and mental health for an abuser.

Puppy dogging- I have known people who are guilty of this tactic, I have also had many friends fall victim to it. And I am not talking about the simple urban dictionary definition in which a male is ‘Simping’ over a girl and doing what she wants. Puppy dogging knows no gender. I’ll just go ahead and break this down into metaphor. If someone seems to be holding you on a leash, but keeping you at bay, they may be puppy dogging you. Every now and then they call you back over to them to feed you treats and inflate your ego, but then they push you away again. You are ‘NOT allowed to go away from them all together, you are leashed’! But you cannot be too close to them, unless you are ‘summoned’. This pattern is what I call puppy dogging. It’s a way for your manipulative partner/ or ‘friend’ to gain what they want to gain from you, without the extra responsibility of taking care of your needs. It’s a ‘one sided’ relationship.

Playing the Victim 24/7- No one is a victim, always. Some people may often feel like a victim if 1- They are right now or 2- they have been a victim, and now they have PTSD, and everything around them is triggering intrusive trauma reminders. But again, no one, not even trauma survivors, are victims always; 24/7. We all hold, at least in adulthood, some level of power or right to decision making. If you happen to come across someone that likes to use the line “All my exes are crazy”, they are playing the victim. Likely, they are ignoring what they did to contribute to their ex ‘going crazy’ and running away from their personal accountability. 24/7 victims will often be seen blaming others for all their life stressors. They may use extreme lines like: “I NEVER get lucky”, “That will never happen for me”, “A gray cloud follows me” etc etc. Now, how does this tactic work? It works best on those that have savior complexes. People that feel a compulsion to rescue victims. People that feel they need to help the less fortunate. If you happen to have a friend or intimate partner who is ‘always a victim’, they are misleading you. Do not enable anyone, if anything, empower them and/ or leave them alone.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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