Saturday, April 14, 2012

Understanding Con Artists, Manipulators, and Cult Leaders: An Index of Posts About Manipulation

When I started this blog, I never anticipated that I would one day surpass 700 individual posts. It seemed time to consolidate those posts to make the material more easy to navigate, especially the information about the characteristics of manipulators.

Everyone tends to think of the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing as the foremost analogy of a manipulator and deceiver, a timeless example of behavior that an agrarian culture would understand very well. We understand the many benefits gained by a predator if they can lull us into vulnerability and the devastating consequences if we allow a predator access to the intimate aspects of our lives. I've also read of the analogy of the snake who seeks entry into your home. They don't come pounding on the door, announcing who they are and what they want. A snake can challenge the perimeter of your home by looking for cracks in the foundation of the building, or they can try to find an open, insecure, or unguarded window or door through which they can pass undetected. They can lay in wait indefinitely before they will need to feed again, and by then, they know the surroundings and can take advantage of strategy that they've had ample time to plan.

The best way to deal with a dangerous predator involves identifying them so that you can deny them entry, or at least, you can deny them access to that which is precious. With manipulation and exploitation, the old adage holds true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowing how a predator behaves can be your only indicator of their identity, likely why the verses in the Bible concerning this topic focus primarily on identifying behavior, fruit, and motive. Only ten percent of the verses in the Bible dealing with false prophets, false teachers, and Pharisees taught to examine behavior. 90% of the instruction in the Bible concerns identifying them through behavior and motive.

To help people become more savvy and skilled at spotting manipulators, much of the material on this website concerns ways in which you can spot a manipulator. Knowing what motivates them and how they tend to approach their mark gives people an edge that can protect them. I love how Harriet Braiker's book on the many aspects of manipulation and manipulators states the intended goal for learning these facts:

From Braiker's Who's Pulling Your Strings? (pg 122):
Remember, at first the manipulation may be camouflaged as “benign influence,” but once the manipulation shifts to coercion and the pressure starts to build, the manipulator can hold powerful sway over you… By knowing what you really desire and/or what you most fear losing, you are gaining an edge over a would-be manipulator who tries to exploit those deeply felt desires of yours. Knowing what they are allows you to keep your antennae raised so that you are in a better position to spot manipulation when it is on you.

In short, it is important to remember that manipulators don't think like non-manipulative people. In comparison to others who are not particularly manipulative personalities, manipulative people tend to manifest certain character traits:
  • Informally charming
  • Self-centered
  • Entitlement issues
  • Trust issues (can manifest as competition)
  • Tend towards denial and/or wishful thinking as a means of coping
  • Tend to see things in absolute terms (black and white thinking; seeing all matters as win-loose situations, and they are determined to win)
  • Tend to have trouble with shared decision-making and shared power
  • Tend to moralize by making themselves seem superior, creating the illusion that others are less moral then they are, making others seem less deserving or undeserving of common respect and worth

Taken to extremes, these traits can be very exaggerated, becoming pathologic. Their exaggerated sense of entitlement and self-centeredness interferes with their ability to identify with others. They loose the ability to feel appropriate empathy for others. Their sense of narcissism and self-absorption overrides their sense of right and wrong, and this loss of perspective facilitates the use and abuse of the rights of others as they attempt to achieve personal goals. Their minds work very differently than do the minds of people who are not psychopathic/sociopathic. Good, earnest, and trusting people who fail to recognize these traits tend to anticipate what they would do in a relationship, so they fail to anticipate the danger that a psychopath/sociopath poses. It never occurs to the person of good integrity that anyone would behave without any at all, and they subsequently place themselves in harm's way because of misplaced trust or a health sense of distrust.

Here is a summary of most of the material about the characteristics of manipulators appearing on this website, though it is by no means comprehensive.


Characteristics of Manipulators
(who aren't necessarily cult leaders)

Unique Perceptions of Manipulators

Characteristics of Psychopaths/Sociopaths
(a.k.a. Con Artists and Cult Leaders)

Who becomes a spiritual abuser? Why and How


Predictable Techniques of Manipulators

Exploiting the Internet

Resistance and Recovery