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How to Handle People Who Play Mind Games With You

by Amy Guertin

You suddenly find yourself feeling and acting in ways that aren't typical of you, and when you take a moment to think, you realize that you are being manipulated. The person whom you are talking to is so good at playing mind games that he has convinced you to do what he wants. Recognizing when someone is playing mind games with you is the first step; now you need to learn how to handle it.

Your Significant Other

One of the biggest mind games that others may play is lying, says psychologist Jeremy Nicholson in a “Psychology Today” article, “How to Defend Against Manipulative Dating Games: Part One.” Generally, this type of lying involves getting something from you now and promising you something in the future, but you never actually get it. You can deal with this issue in a simple manner. If the promise is sincere, then she should have no problem with your getting yours first. If, however, she gets mad or upset at your suggestion to watch your movie tonight and her movie tomorrow night, it may indicate that she had never intended to follow through on her promise.

Your Mother

Mothers, by their very role, are controlling. Manipulative mothers take that control even further through deception, guilt and schemes, writes psychologist Joseph Carver in an “Ask the Psychologist” article entitled: “Is My Controlling and Manipulative Mother Just Punishing Me?” You can lessen the control that your mother has over you in one of a number of ways. Control the amount of information you share with other family members; manipulative mothers will drill them for information. Remember that your self-esteem does not rely on your mother’s approval. Seek alternative female role models, and if all else fails, be prepared for the possibility of excluding your mother from your life.

Your Co-Worker

Dealing with game-playing co-workers can be tricky. You can’t respond to every mind game, but some things you just can’t let pass, advises psychologist George Simon in, “Manipulative and Character Disordered People at Work” on Dealing With Manipulative People. You need to be assertive when a co-worker’s manipulation causes problems for you. The correct way to assert yourself consists of focusing on the specific behavior, rather than on the person. For example, say, “It’s difficult for me to get my work done when you won’t talk to me,” rather than, “The silent treatment is really childish.” Don't try beating them at their own game. Acting manipulative yourself will only cause you to lose your integrity and escalate the other person’s behavior.

Your Teenager

The main reason that teens play so many mind games is because they work, writes Lisa Zamorsky in her WebMD article, “6 Ways Your Teen Is Playing You.” They wear you down; they lie; and they swear that if they don't have that $100 pair of jeans they will become social outcasts. It’s no wonder you give in. The best ways to deal with this behavior include being aware and consistent. Be aware of what is going on in your teen’s life: Where are they going and with whom? When will they be home? Above all, be consistent. If you say no today, say no tomorrow. Saying yes just one time is all the motivation your teen needs to never give up asking. Remember, your teen’s “life-ending, depression-causing” moment today will most likely be forgotten tomorrow.

About the Author

Amy Guertin has a master's degree in counseling psychology and will earn her Ph.D. in 2014. Guertin is a licensed counselor and has 15 years of experience practicing psychotherapy, primarily working with children, adolescents and their families. She is also a college psychology professor and is the happiest when she is in the classroom.

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