Manipulation is a dangerous ploy, and when used by parents, can significantly disrupt a child’s mental health and stability as they get older. If you grew up with a manipulative parent, you’ve likely struggled with a variety of mental and social issues. Psychological Today states that when it comes to parenting, manipulation can take many shapes whether you’re a child or adult:
- Insisting on meeting you and interacting with you in a physical space where they can exercise more dominance and control over you; this could be at their home, their office, etc.
- Allowing you to speak first so they can establish a baseline for your thinking to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
- Lying, making excuses, saying something other than the truth to people without you knowing, blaming you for your own “victimization”, strategic disclosure or withholding of valuable information from you, etc.
- Intellectual bullying – using data and statistics to give them knowledge leverage over you
- Raising their voice and displaying negative emotions to control you
- Using silence as a leverage and ignoring you
- Negatively surprising you by throwing you off-balance with saying or doing something to which you have no time to think about your response
There are many other ways that a parent can be manipulative, but the effects on the child are long-lasting. Researchers at the University of Virginia followed 184 people from the time they were 13, 18, and 21, exploring the amount of “psychological control” participants reported their parents exert over them. Psychological control was identified as using guilt, withdrawing love, fostering anxiety, and more.
Participants who had manipulative parents reported struggling with forming relationships without losing their independence later. The study also showed that these challenges continued to present themselves as the participants entered adulthood, showing that the damaging effects of parental manipulation are lingering.
On top of relationship struggles, many people who have dealt with parental manipulation experience low self-esteem, resentment and anger, self-doubt, shame or guilt, and a deep/painful sense of having been betrayed. Some people may cope with this by cutting these toxic people out of their lives, yet others will attempt to maintain the relationship while pursuing unhealthy forms of coping such as excessive drinking or drug use.
As adults, it can be hard to move forward from childhood and even ongoing parental manipulation. What’s most important is that we work on developing a good sense of self-esteem and self-identity, and that we ask for what we need and say no to things we don’t want to do. These are a few ways to avoid being further manipulated by parents who love to make us feel bad.
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