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Dancing with the Devil: Emotional and Psychological Manipulators

By January 7, 2020No Comments
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It sounds rather dramatic, doesn’t it — to dance with the devil?

The thought instantly conjures grotesque visions and disturbing swirls in the pit of your stomach. Well, it should. I mean, the devil is a personification of everything evil and sinister. Portrayed as a dark enigmatic beast, he is seen as the manifestation of wicked — an objectification of a hostile and destructive force.

The concept of the devil is entwined throughout our history, mythology, art and literature. He is known by many names like Satan, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles and Lucifer. He has been known to possess souls and seduce humans, and has become a fascinating and popular supernatural character on our screens.

But is he real?

Pope Francis says: “The Devil is more intelligent than mere mortals and should never be argued with — he is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person.”

Total disclosure — I am not a religious person. This post isn’t about religion nor do I wish argue the complexities surrounding faith and denomination. I wasn’t raised to adhere to any religious deity, but that doesn’t make me any less aware of the deplorable acts capable by mankind.

Where there is light, so there is darkness.

Sometimes, that dark force can be found in people. It is unfortunate, but true. We have seen the effects of darkness occur throughout our history and continue to witness it today with large scale conflict and wars, inequality and corruption.

Yet, it is the vicious acts playing out between us at an intimate level that have the ability to really cut deep. Some people are extremely skilled at psychological manipulation. Moreover, they seem to gain some kind of twisted satisfaction from doing so.

Whether we refer to these people as the “devil-in-action” or sociopaths makes little difference in the scheme of things, because once you have become their target, you’d better pick up your game quick smart or you risk losing your mind.

These people have no sense of empathy or compassion; and as you will discover as we get further into this post, neither do they take responsibility for the harm they cause — enter the emotional or psychological manipulator.

“He’s more intelligent than us, and he’ll turn you upside down; he’ll make your head spin”

– Pope Francis — on the devil.

Have you ever found yourself caught in a twisted mind-game you never saw coming until it was too late?

I have. Pope Francis is right, it does leave your head spinning.

Emotional or psychological manipulators often use mind games to seize power in a relationship. The ultimate goal is to use that power to control the other person.

These people will use an array of weapons to accomplish their goal. These techniques can include sneaky, deceptive or underhanded tactics to change the thinking, behavior, or perceptions of their victim.

It is no secret that a healthy relationship is based on trust, understanding, and mutual respect. This is true of personal relationships as well as professional ones. Sometimes, people seek to exploit these elements of a relationship in order to benefit themselves in some way.

Sometimes, we find ourselves waltzing with the devil.

The signs of emotional and psychological manipulation can be subtle. They are often hard to identify, especially when it is happening to you and particularly when you are emotionally invested in someone.

We all know how it feels to be in love, but what happens when that special someone deliberately sets out to exploit your feelings?

It can feel as if you are fighting to tread water while the sea slowly sucks your soul and your heart withers.

Hollow hope — that is one sure-fire sign you’ve got an emotional or psychological manipulator on your hands. They are masters at stringing you along by the threads of your heart while offering smidgens of false hope in an underhanded manner.

In fact, they are masters at quite a few psychological tricks. In order to identify whether you have encountered or are in the process of “dancing with the devil”, it is important to familiarize yourself with the tactics these people use so you can avoid falling victim to their games.

Let’s flush out some of the tell-tale signs.

According to psychology author George K. Simon, some of the signs and techniques used by an emotional or psychological manipulator are:

Concealing aggressive intentions and behaviors while appearing affable.

Knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine which tactics are likely to be the most effective.

Having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Lying by omission: This is a subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth. This technique is also used in propaganda.

Denial: The manipulator refuses to admit that they have done something wrong or have taken part in causing the situation to evolve.

Rationalization: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behavior.

Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that their behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else is suggesting.

Shaming: The manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. They can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.

Playing the victim role: A manipulator portrays themselves as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion from another.

Projecting the blame: Manipulators will claim that the victim is the one who is at fault for believing lies that they were conned into believing, as if the victim forced the manipulator to be deceitful. It is frequently used as a means of psychological and emotional manipulation and control.

These are just some of the tactics used by emotional and psychological manipulators. The effect of their behavior can have detrimental and devastating consequences to their victims — if we allow them to hold that power.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

– Harvey Fierstein

Experiencing the manipulating behavior of someone who uses your emotions as their punching bag is like walking between night and day. Sometimes, it feels as if you are in heaven; as if the sun is shining just for you.

Other times, it feels as if you are dodging a suspended sword waiting to strike for the kill. And then it does; and the devil reveals himself and you feel as if are the most foolish person to wander the murky path existing between night and day.

Sometimes, people set out to hurt others with malicious intent.

It may take time to realize when someone is emotionally manipulating you. The signs are so subtle and underhanded in nature, and they often evolve over time. If you think you are being treated in this way, it is important to trust your instincts and believe in yourself.

You are not powerless; you can do something about it.

You can take back your personal power and know your worth. Respect, love and dignity — you are worth all of these and more. You are worth more than what your emotional manipulator will have you believe.

Apologize for your part and move on.

Often, there is a complexity of emotional entanglement existing between an emotional manipulator and their victim. Each action causes a reaction; we are fooling ourselves if we believe we don’t have an effect on people. High-level situations induce high-level reactions that may find you behaving in ways that baffle you.

Don’t try to beat them.

Two people should not play this game — the stakes are high when it comes to the heart. Instead, learn to recognize the strategies so you can properly prepare your responses.

Set boundaries.

When an emotional or psychological manipulator realizes they are losing control, their tactics may grow more desperate. They may lash out and falsely accuse you of wrongful behavior to induce a sense of shame and/or delusion, or make outrageous threats based on fabrications.

This is the time for you to make some difficult decisions.

You do not have to have this person in your life. You have a choice. You can choose to comply to the person in control or you can be proactive — you can cut them from your life.

This may be a great time to recruit support in the form of trusted friends or a therapist. Gaining insight from an individual outside of the situation can help you find clarity.

Learn your lessons.

You can heal and grow from this. Keep positive. No one deserves to have another individual treat them in this manner. Emotional and psychological manipulation may not leave physical scars, but it can have a long-lasting effect — especially when you have opened your heart to someone who abused it.

Even when somebody you love turns out to be the “devil”, it is vital to remember that love is never lost or wasted in this world. If you loved, then you didn’t lose. Sometimes, we have to dance with the devil in order to see the light shine brighter.

Originally published by The Ascent at Medium on January 2nd, 2020.

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