Confessions of a Manipulator
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.