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Confessions of a Manipulator

Photo by Sara Lando

As a child, I didn’t quite fit in the role of your average kid growing up. I guess you could say I was a typical sensitive, quiet child—a “Mama’s boy” if you will. I enjoyed music, reading, knitting, and skipping with the girls, while my older brother played pee-wee hockey, little league baseball, and collected sports memorabilia.

Evenings at our home usually meant my brother and father watching Hockey Night in Canada, while my mother and I would watch The Love Boat, Dallas, or whatever other cheesy 80′s television program was playing at the time.

Many evenings and several hockey games later, my brother and father got to use the big color TV in the living-room, while mom and I got stuck watching the little black and white in the bedroom. That hardly seemed fair. But as long as Mom and I were together, I felt safe.

One evening after yet another impressive set-record by my brother, Dad was quite clear about what he thought of my demeanor and how a “real man” should be. “Look at your brother, Matt. It’s time you learned something from him!

And from that night on, he constantly reminded me to stop crying, stuck it up and to be “more like your older brother”. That was a pretty tall order for a shy 12-year old. Besides, negative motivation hardly worked with me. Gradually, I started to avoid sharing the same space with Dad.

I remember the walks Mom and I used to go on after the spring melt. Each time, while getting ready to leave, she would riffle through the kitchen drawers, looking for a plastic bag to bring on our walks.

As the sun beat down on our faces, I would squint and stare into the icy-snow, excitedly looking for any sort of interesting thing that would emerge from last fall: Bottle caps, little toy figurines, Popsicle sticks… even pretty pieces of stone, or metal.

In reality, it was all junk. But as a 12-year old, I didn’t care. I beamed every time I picked up a little trinket and carefully place it in my plastic bag. Mom started calling them my “little treasures”. These little treasures gave me purpose and made me feel important, a feeling I would never forget.

On the other hand, as time went on, the resentment I felt towards my father seemingly worsened. “He always has to be right!” I thought. This forced me to find ways to show him that I was in fact right and had points to make as well.

When I ran out of ideas to show him that I was important, I usually just gave up. But not before I had tried really, really hard at proving myself. In no time, I had become a mirror-image of my father.

My “ego-ic” mind reasoned: “Every child wants to be accepted by their parents. If your parents don’t love you, who will?” That was my “justification” to continue my ways which would later on allow my manipulative self to thrive.

Meanwhile, my self-esteem was also slaughtered. Somewhere down the line, I started believing I was just a bad seed— not a good person.

I had already convinced myself that I didn’t care, and that my father was a mere man who was there to provide when convenient. I didn’t seem to think I had any emotional ties to him at all.

Mom at the time would ask me, “Matt, doesn’t it bother you that you aren’t close to your father? It has to bother you in some way . . .” And you know what? Finally after 22 years, I can admit that yes, in fact it did.

confessions of a manipulator
Photo by Sara Lando

Time went on and the love I had for myself ceased. It was replaced with chemical and substance abuse, along with many manipulative and self-preservation techniques.

I used drugs and alcohol to escape the pain. I minced words with the sole purpose of being right. I became cold. I lacked compassion. I withdrew from everyone and everything. My relationships failed.

Yet, hiding behind this mask felt great.

Rather than discussing my issues, I would passive-aggressively shut off and keep quiet. This form of manipulation held its ground until recently. When things went awry, I’d cut the person off and manipulate them. I’d ignore them to show that I didn’t care. But inside I was dying—I was hungry for love.

Lately, I got a chance to become more aware of this behavior.
The one relationship that taught me the most about who I am and where I am going with my life was with Mélanie.

Mélanie tried as best she could to hang in there. She tried to see me through this trialing time of self-discovery, but unfortunately my selfish and manipulative ways got the better of her. I didn’t allow her to blossom like the pretty flower she was and she had to let me go. In fact, she was the one to introduce me to Tina’s TSN blog.

Before leaving, she taught me that:

  • I didn’t have to be on guard all the time.
  • It was OK to be wrong. Right and wrong didn’t really matter. Having compassion was the key.
  • Putting my egoist mind on hold and accepting love and understanding from others went a long way.
  • Showing my emotions was a safe and healthy way to get my point(s) across and no one was going to hurt me for letting my guard down.

After Mélanie left, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized the variety of internal struggles and pain that I went through and also made others to go through.

It was an important discovery, but an extremely difficult one too. For the first time in my life, that night, after speaking with her, I lay in bed, wide-eyed, reaching to the following conclusions:

  • I could either continue to blame my past circumstances for not allowing me to love or I could act from a place of presence NOW.
  • I could continue not knowing what love was or meant or consciously choose to understand it in the NOW.
  • I could remain “hardened” and incapable of being kind or choose to pursue my true compassionate self.
  • I could spend the majority of my life living in my ego and not seeing things for what they were or I could banish the ego and start listening to the still, small voice within.
  • I could rely on others which led to disappointments or I could change the course of things and operate from love for self and for others.

Although that was harsh, it was something that I needed to hear. “That’s a lot of issues to work on.” I said to myself. “Issues? Or are they really opportunities, Matt?” someone said. I look around, dumbfounded. That still, small voice I was after had finally spoken up.

I knew I had some choices to make. And I did. Today, I am working on allowing self-love to flourish, operating from love and not fear, living in the Now and letting others to put their point across before cutting them off.

And you know what? People around me have noticed a change—just the other day someone said how I glowed. I simply smiled and said “It’s just me—the real me.

I encourage you to find your real self too. Once you do, it’s tough to go unnoticed. Life becomes a smooth flow. I won’t say that your everyday problems disappear—the bills still have to be paid.

But something changes, something moves. The air smells sweeter and people seem nicer. Like they say, “If you want to change anything, first change yourself”.

When you’re operating from fear, unconsciously, you crush other people’s spirit and leave them feeling vulnerable, like an open wound. Manipulation ensues.

This type of manipulation can convince the other party that they are wrong and that you are right.

This “game” of building and destroying can go on a long time, until the manipulated party is finally so emotionally crushed that they have a real hard time picking themselves up.

Once they see what has happened however, and how they were manipulated, they usually wind up feeling very resentful.

This is more or less what I went through as the manipulator and I realize now that it’s something I’ve done in past relationships. It is a habit that I recognize and am constantly trying to change. I am constantly growing, though it’s difficult.

I just hope through the grace of god and his light that I can overcome this and be the true person that I am, and long to be.

We are all love, we are all loving, and we are all loved.

~Matt

Update:

I am very ecstatic to announce that since writing this article, Mélanie and I have rekindled our relationship! Albeit on a much lighter level, but it’s there.

We are taking things day by day, and trying as best as we can to live in the present. I am happy that she is giving me the space I need to grow, to be loved, and become loving.

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About the author

Matt loves martial arts, bodybuilding, and leading an active lifestyle. After a series of personal mishaps, he has embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Matt spends his days working as a computer systems technician, and has dedicated his evenings to personal development, personal awareness, and spiritual growth, in addition to martial arts training. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada. He is fluent in both French and English.

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23 thoughts on Confessions of a Manipulator

  1. Shawn

    Matt’s story was almost the exact same, except I am distanced from both of my parents, and I am substance free. Aside from those, Matt’s past manipulative ways characterize what I had done, and maybe still do right now. Similarly, my past relationship had ended when my ex felt crushed by being convinced that she was wrong all the time. I used those manipulative passive aggressive methods. I am not stupid, and I know that what i do is not right, although I can’t seem to let down the mask. The mask provided me with security since middle school, now ready to go into college, I don’t know if I can allow my guards down. My ex told me all the things that Mélanie a dit à Matt.

    Does any one have suggestions to what I should do?

  2. This is a beautifull and moving article. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

  3. Mark

    Matt, as I read this article, I was hoping that it was going to have a happy ending where Mélanie would see the change in you and be willing to give things another chance. Awesome that it did. I hope you guys can fall in love and be happy together. I hope the “new you” continues on the positive journey that you’re on. Best of luck with life and thanks for sharing.

  4. Rogue

    It was really good reading this… I feel like I have been in a very similar situation and only recently (very recent) have I started to take steps to rectify this issue. I do find it hard as I have been experiencing these traits just as long as you have, however, I do know that i have and will change for the better. I think admitting that I, or you, have acted in such a way is a big step, once you accept your issues, it is easier to move on in a positive way.

    Congrats on getting you girl back, hopefully I have the same luck.

  5. Thank you very much for the feedback folks. I really appreciate it.

    @ Shawn – Can you give me any examples of what you do or have done that you think are manipulative?

    Some things to consider:

    • When did these manipulative habits begin, and was there a particular event that triggered them?
    • Have these same habits come up in each relationship?
    • Do you find yourself often in the same place with relationships?

    My progression seemed to begin with me thinking it was their “fault” and that I just seemed to have a knack at “Picking the damaged ones”.

    I then began to realize that it couldn’t be coincidence, and that “obviously” I tended to gravitate towards people that were damaged, and needed help/fixing.

    Finally, I came to the conclusion that it was in fact *I* that was in control of my life, and that I would be the one to dictate the way things went. Once I realized this “consciously”, I began to learn how to change habits, without placing blame on myself, or others.

    Try and seek out why you do these things Shawn. The mask will come down once you forgive yourself, and are secure enough to move on.

    Forgiveness is the highest form of forgetting, because it is forgetting in spite of remembering. ~ Paul Tillich

  6. Joseph Ch'ng

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for such a beautiful writing. It was full of honesty and self-love.

    I can see that it was because of your love for your self, you chose to honestly face yourself, and make the best choice of what to do in the present moment.

    I’d like to quote from Louise Hay, that true self-love is to never ever criticize yourself.

    My intention of saying this out loud is actually to serve as a reminder for myself.

    I am a different case from you, Matt. I have been one of those people who cannot let myself enjoy, if I think that I have not used my time well, or I am not worthy of it. I beat myself up, or punish myself for not having lived better.

    Since learning from Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, something in me shifted.

    I realize that behind my every behavior and choice, there are positive intentions. The fact that I punish myself, was because I want myself to live better, do better, not waste my life away.

    And by acknowledging my positive intentions, I learn that I sometimes don’t live my life as full, because I am human. I too, have the desire to have fun and relax. And it is fully alright. I deserve to enjoy my life, and appreciate all things that life has to offer.

    I’d like to share with everyone, to look at yourself with honesty, see your positive intentions, and from there, make your best choice of how to live your life better. The true point of power lies in the present moment.

  7. Well said Joseph… thank you…

  8. Rogue

    @Joseph

    Excellent points.

  9. Usually, change does not happen overnight. It is often a process. Having self-love is a good way of remaining true to yourself.

    I used to think that I have a troubled past and it had affected the way I live or haven’t lived. But since I’ve been into self-love and personal development lately (2 years now), I have constantly reminded myself that my past and past actions do not define me. It’s reassuring to know that whatever our past was, we always have a choice on what to do Now; thereby changing our future or what’s possible for us.

    Thanks for sharing your story Matt. It was lovely.

  10. Mélanie

    I am the Mélanie in the story. Just wanted to say Matt that I’m very proud of you and am very happy to be on this journey with you of spiritual and emotional growth. You’ve even become a teacher to me in helping me become a better person. It takes alot of courage to accept the bad choices we’ve made in our lives with love and forgiveness.You have that courage and for that, you should be proud of yourself, I am. And now you become a source of healing for others. Thank you :) xxx

  11. radford

    Lovely to hear your story, told so well – very moving and shows the strength inside you.
    Many lessons for all of us in what you have said

  12. What an amazing piece. Very interesting stuff!

    Monica

  13. Matt~ Beautiful, honest read.

    “Rather than discussing my issues, I would passive-aggressively shut off and keep quiet. This form of manipulation held its ground until recently. When things went awry, I’d cut the person off and manipulate them. I’d ignore them to show that I didn’t care. But inside I was dying—I was hungry for love.”

    I know this feeling well from my own life experiences where I’ve retreated inward (shutting off) and projected back outward (in an unhealthy way), rather than seek out healing for myself to mend any past wounds.

    Kudos to both you & Pooja for assisting in putting together an article that flowed well.

    Rock on, write on, love on!

    Love,

    ~Cat

  14. @Cat Thanks much lovely!

    -Pooja

  15. Loved this! Nicely done, Matt!

  16. Hi,

    I like you writing style!

  17. Dawn

    How wonderful. Now I understand so much more about my situation and why I fail.

  18. Wow I read this and felt like you were describing me to a point. I do the same self sabotaging things. I sometimes get upset at things that I perceived to be so, when in fact it didn’t truly happen or may not have happened that way. I then push the person away, because I’m mad and then have to apologize because I’ve taken it too far. My ex hated that about me and my new love is not too crazy about it either. But I made up my mind to reprogram myself to stop this cycle, before I truly end up alone with no love or friends. Thank you for being open and sharing. Good luck!!

  19. Matt,

    Thanks for sharing such an incredibly deep self examination. I found it to be quite inspiring! It goes to show that we can overcome quite a bit if we 1) recognize it, and 2) have some motivation.

    Your words will be helpful to many, myself included!

  20. n

    thanks man, I think you just saved my life

  21. M.

    I really appreciate your article. I think wonderful how you have accepted what was going on your life and changed it. I feel my husband behaves in some of the ways you have mentioned and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to help him?

  22. Chris

    Reading your article is a real eye opener for me. I have a significant other that i have been hurting for nearly 2 years. to be honest i love her, and she really is the first person that i have truly loved.

    i lead a similar life, i can trace my manipulative behavior back to my early childhood mostly from my mother, she was into drugs and she was excessively abusive. i had to manipulate everything in my life to get even my basic necessities met (foot shelter and clothing and the like).

    later on i was shoved around from foster home to foster home, never really getting any kind of mother or father type interaction from anyone. because of all of that i shut down, and locked away all of my emotions.

    even now i have so much love for my other half that i cant even begin to explain it, and its almost impossible for me to express it to her. its mostly because i don’t know how. i have also lied to her a lot, i am not proud of that, and the reason that i lied to her is because i wasn’t really ok with me or who i really am. if i could take it back i would, its to the point that she doesn’t trust me any longer, and that’s something that doesn’t feel good. so now when she questions me about anything that might be considered mundane, for example, where all of my minutes are going on my cell phone, i get very defensive, i have nothing to hide from her, but i still get defensive. i don’t know why either, its a simple answer, even if i don’t remember its still really simple to say “i don’t remember” but i cant seem to bring my self to do that.

    its gotten to a point in my life that i hate who i am, and i hate what i do to her, i want her to be happy, i want us to be happy, but i am destroying us. as of right now i was mean to her today, with out intending to be, she asked me a simple question and i got defensive, and now shes sleeping on the couch, not in bed with me, and its killing me.

    i need help, is there anyone else out there that knows about this stuff that can point me to some things to read, something that might be able to help make things right so that i can make her happy again instead of seeing her cry.

    thanks for listening.

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