Manipulative Me

Here’s what I do when someone tries to criticize me: 

I instantly go into debate mode and start analyzing each logical deduction scanning for fallacies.  Then when I find truth in a criticism said, I kick it into high gear.  I focus on another statement they made that I believe I can disprove through arguments.  Now, I don’t pick something that is too easy to disprove because that would give away my deflection.  I pick something that they wouldn’t have ever realized wasn’t sound thinking, focus on it, and carry it to its most destructive conclusion.  Mind you, they never would have carried the thought to conclusion, but in the moment, I can make them feel like they might have.  In the process of outlining the fallibility, I start saying things that sound brilliant, and get the person on their heels as they realize that I’m saying things they have never thought of before.  This puts a deep insecurity in them towards me.  Before long, we are duking it out over the thing that wasn’t even the point.  Why?  Because now they are desperately trying to prove they aren’t as off-base and ridiculous as I am beginning to show them they are.  I do this with language that points to the specific topic at hand but just slightly broad enough to be applied to their entire mindset…in life.  Now, they are on the defensive.  It doesn’t really matter to me what happens from here.  I could even wind up losing the argument in the end.  Doesn’t matter.  I got them to feel so insecure towards me that they will never have the courage to storm the massive gates that I’ve since erected around the part of me they were going to touch, and would have easily been able to do so, had I never deflected their attention.

For example, last night Tori (my fiancée) told me she was concerned that I was using this blog to focus on theology and philosophy to divert my attention from the deep and personal pain I was feeling inside.  She thought I was escaping.  Before I even realized it, I had determined that she was right.  Therefore, my evasive manuevers program kicked in.  This is all by instinct.  Because she going after a particularly sensitive area, I chose one of my more subtle and sinister tactics.  Instead of directly attacking Tori’s argument, I agreed that she had a point and I, in fact, I had already thought of it.  This causes an insecurity in Tori on two levels: 1)It proves I don’t need her to see things in me because I see them for myself and 2) she feels insecure that I saw it first because she is competitive and gets down on herself for not being as good as others (classic achiever mindset!).  Then I begin outlining the various thought processes I had when I realized that my blog might be an escape; further proving that I don’t really need her, and making her more of a spectator to my self-improvement mechanisms at that point.  I keep her from speaking anything that might get into me, by saying everything she could say for her.  “When I realized that I might be doing that,” I explained, “I also thought that escaping from the pain and turmoil I am going through right now could be a good way to help me keep going.  I realize that could be dangerous, but I do not intend to let it become a constant thing.  Just a very small way to find some joy and happiness when I’m otherwise feeling so down.”  I continue on for about five minutes juxtaposing the agony of my heart against the joy of getting to blog until I am sure that she will feel bad being critical of my one and only reprieve in life.  She begins to wonder: maybe God gave Adam this blog to help with his sorrow?  Who am I to tell him he can’t find some happiness?  At that point, I have her questioning her own argument.  By agreeing with her enough to admit her point has some basis in reality, she lets down her defenses enough to hear my sideways way of showing her the point was narrow and heartless.  I accomplish this while never even having to disagree with her at all.  Instead of meeting this “enemy” on the battlefield, I preemptively convinced her that there wasn’t a battle at all.

I am a sick and manipulative person.  Now, if someone called me manipulative I would deny it; probably with the process I just described, but also because I am very rarely aware of my manipulations.  This might make it sound better, but I think it might actually make me worse.  I am so manipulative that it’s second nature to me.  Doesn’t that make me a pathological manipulator?  Possibly not, because I don’t think I started out knowing that I was manipulating people.  Instead, I think it happened when I started trying to get what I wanted and realized certain patterns accomplished that end.  I started manipulating people because I didn’t care to wonder if I was.  I’d like to think if I knew I was manipulative I would quit.  I suppose now marks  the beginning of that test.  Today I realize my own manipulation.  Today, I must begin trying to identify it while it’s happening, or before it begins.  Then, I must choose to end it.

I must admit the irony of ironing this discovery out on my blog.  Tori showed me that this blog has been an escape from my problems, and as I am now admitting to her (and everyone else reading) that it is, I am still typing it on my blog.  But hopefully, this is the best way for me to break this blog’s power to distract me from my pain: by putting my brokenness on it.  By doing this, I hope that this blog will be what I said (and Tori reminded me I said) was the point of this blog: to be real and vulnerable.  When I click on the word “Publish” I will be creating an association between the parts of me that are hiding and my public blog.  This is me inside out.  Even the darkness within is being made visible for all to see.  I hope God is watching too.

Tori, I am sorry.  The worst part of this is not that I am evil.  The worst part is that I have used this evil to keep you at bay.  You, my future wife.  I want to be close to you, but I must admit that you terrify me.  God, I am more sorry to you.  If I do this to people when they see through me, how much more do I use my vices and self-deception to keep you from showing me what I don’t want to see.  But you, unlike others, have the power to heal these wounds that scare me so much to see.  You, unlike others, carried my wounds along with your own.  “Healer, stretch out and touch me.”  I admit it: I need you now more than ever.

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About Adam

I am a old Christian seeking to become new. I want to know and follow Jesus: the "New Adam" who made the way back to Paradise. I graduated from North Central University with a degree in Business and a Bible Minor. I married my wife Tori in June of 2011 in Colorado. Our ceremony could be best described as pseudo-Quaker. Our reception was a farm-to-table communion meal. Our wedding dance: essentially a music festival. It was a full picture of our ministry as a couple. I grew up in the Dakotas. It's not my favorite location in the world. I have a dad, a mom, and a sister. My parents have been together for about 30 years. We love each other, but it's a bit dysfunctional. I am now a free lance gardener. I promote gardening, community, and preferably a combination thereof.
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3 Responses to Manipulative Me

  1. Darci Haugeberg says:

    I have never seen you or thought of you as manipulative. I thank you for including me on your blog. I will pray for you as God begins to work out the things you feel He needs to work on in you. That is what makes you so special-you are always changing to become more like Christ and you want to be the best hubby and spiritual leader to Tori! I believe you will be because of the place you give King Jesus in your life! You are always a work in progress striving on to be more like Jesus, until all we see is Jesus and not even Adam so much anymore. I love you!

  2. Ben Erlichman says:

    I love this post. Manipulation is something I struggle with as well. The process you described is fairly commonplace for me as well, and the scary thing is, like you, I’m really good at it. My intentions aren’t usually to deflect criticism, but, as an “achiever-type” person, I use my skills to get what I want, when I want it. I know the right things to say, the right things to do, etc. For me it’s all about realpolitik: the ends justify the means.

    On the bright side, this “manipulation” can also be used for God’s Kingdom, only then it isn’t manipulation, it’s you using your skills for God’s purposes, not your own. I’m not sure yet exactly how this can work in your favor (or in God’s) as I’m still trying to come to grips with it myself, but I know that God can use everything we have. He turns our bad around for good. Thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks Ben, I really appreciate your honesty! I do agree that the same skills we use to manipulate can be used for good, but I too do not know how this will really look. I do think though that the same maneuvers cannot be applied or we may be in danger of finding a different name for the same thing. Instead, I think we must allow God to break the whole thing down to its basic elements and form something new. For instance, to manipulate someone you must be able to read people, you need to be able to think on your feet, and you must be aware of what makes a person tick. You must find the insecurities, hopes, fears, and pains that drive them. Maybe, a good manipulator would make a really good listener. Ironically, I’ve come to find that listening is one of the most powerful tools to help a person get on track. The beauty in it is the listener, unlike the manipulator, has little or no control of the outcome. And that’s probably the chief sin of manipulation: control. In order to stop manipulation, we must let go of our control. So, let’s listen I guess.

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