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How to Deal With Guilt and Manipulation

by Katrina Miller, studioD

If you are saying "yes" because someone made you feel guilty, you may be dealing with a manipulative person. "Webster's New World College Dictionary" defines the verb "manipulate" as "to control ... by unfair or insidious means ... to one's own advantage." Guilt is defined as feeling blameworthy for "imagined offenses." A manipulator uses a person's tendency to feel responsible for imagined offenses to extract a reward. The key to dealing with manipulators is to stop rewarding them.

Identify the reward your manipulator is trying to obtain. A manipulator who wants money is different from a manipulator who wants love and attention, notes an article in the "Journal of Personality Disorders." If your manipulator is seeking a reward that does not violate you, communication may resolve the issue. If your manipulator is rewarded by violating you, however, you may need to make your safety a priority.

Extinguish your manipulator's power to elicit guilt by recognizing the role you play. Your awareness of your role in the guilt-manipulation process gives you the power to stop it from happening. Your manipulator uses your traits to his or her advantage. If, for example, you are uncomfortable with conflict, your manipulator may provide enough drama to break you. The manipulator may disapprove of or ignore you, playing into your fears of disapproval or abandonment. You don't need to stop being you.

Refuse to accept guilt. When your manipulator blames you, refuse to play that game. Seek approval from people who are likely to give you validation, rather than depending on your manipulator. Stop feeling sorry when your manipulator assumes the role of a victim. If you have to get away to clear your head from your manipulator's voice, take a walk or go visit a friend.

Use your experience with guilt and manipulation to develop strength. The needs and fears that make you vulnerable to your manipulator are assets in other contexts. If you feel guilt easily, acknowledge that guilt has benefits. If you need approval from others, be sensitive to others' need for approval from you. Become a validating person. If you need a positive environment, learn the skills of happiness.

About the Author

Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.

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