Recognising Emotional Manipulation by Family Members

Emotional manipulation is how others try to influence your behavior, thoughts, and feelings through misleading actions, words, and subconcious, as well as conscious behaviors. These practices can be harmful to everyone involved, inlacing the person who is exhibiting the manipulative behavior. When working with the environment and landscape of the home, our practice incorporates naturopathic family health into our Integrative family wellness center. Naturopathic family health includes and examines the actions of the family members and how that supports the whole. 

Family members may try to use emotional manipulation to control you. Especially if you are setting a boundary that they do not like. Many times, people become accustom to you not valuing yourself, not honoring yourself, and not knowing your worth. Quite simply we teach people how to treat us. These people, regardless if they are family or not grow accustom to our lack of self love, healthy boundaries, and trauma responses. Naturopathic family health looks to establish healthy boundaries as well as healthy communication amongst family members. At our integrative family wellness center, we work to address the underlying causes of these trauma responses, loss of boundaries, and unhealthy behavior so that each family member is feels heard and honored. 

No one likes to be controlled, manipulated, abused, or gas lighted. These behaviors especially when done to children can create suppression in self esteem. For your own benefit and awareness the following are signs we teach at our integrative family wellness center so that you can be conscious and aware of manipulative behavior. As we teach our families naturopathic family health, they begin to understand how their behaviors impact the whole.

Family together

Denial of the truth. One of the most common ways an emotional manipulator can use emotional manipulation is to deny the truth. This is a key sign. Often referred to as gaslighting. This is when you hold someone accountable to some behavior and they pretend as though you are making it up, you are crazy, etc. This can create deep levels of frustration, resentment, and acting out of the person on the receiving end of this type of abuse. 

  • The person who is an emotional manipulator will often make a promise or a statement but deny it later. They will pretend that the truth doesn’t exist, and conveniently blame your bad memory for it. This is key. They will always try to turn the situation or circumstance around where you are the one deemed “at fault” for their behavior. 
  • It’s difficult to prove the truth without a recording, email, or other physical evidence. In some cases, the manipulator will try to fight the evidence by saying it’s fabricated, project it, create another scenario, or distract from the original subject matter. In our integrative wellness center, we coach couples, family members, and the like to watch out for this behavior as well as naturopathic family health strategies to avoid this type of behavior. Emotional manipulation can be difficult to spot.
  • An emotional manipulator can make attempt to make you feel as if it’s your fault, you’re not remembering the previous conversation the same way., or pretend that the conversation or situation never occurred. They can attempt to trigger feelings of guilt and shame, so you don’t pursue the subject anymore. These are common tactics to take the heat off of them and onto you. Be mindful fo these tactics.

Using guilt. Emotional manipulators frequently use guilt to control their family. This is beyond a playful “guilt trip” where it is obvious the person is not serious but rather using a sad face when you don’t do what they ask but quickly move on. This is a persistent pressure and emotional guilt trip with the intent of shifting behavior into what the desired outcome would be for them. 

  • Family members can use passive-aggressive tactics to implement emotional manipulation. This includes silent treatment, withholding love and affection, being cold, and any other behavior that they know would trigger you. They can also find your weak spots, so it’s easier to make you feel guilty. In our integrative family wellness center, we often see those in abusive relationships such as child-parent or spouse to spouse in these kinds of dynamics. These can be very emotionally hurtful for both parties. When we look at the physiological impact of naturopathic family health we become concerned with the impact of increased internalized stress can have on the body
  • Manipulators will pretend to be victims, so you’ll feel sorry for them. If you refuse to go along with the charade, they will accuse you of being insensitive and mean. They can attempt to have you feel guilty for them in order to get sympathy. This is another important sign to recognize. Many times it can happen so fast with so many emotions being throw around. Be conscious of how you feel in the moment and the reactions from those emotions.

Using others. Emotional manipulators will use your friends and other family members to hurt you. They can try to turn friends, and family against you. They are capable of bullying you into doing what they want, or trying to paint you out in a negative light. They are hoping that if others view you in a negative manner, then they will side with them, isolating you. 

  • They can use others as messengers or mediators to control you. Emotional manipulators will use these people to send you hurtful messages or to blame you for their issues. They will try to gain sympathy from others against you. By involving another person, they’re able to blame someone else for the message being misinterpreted. The other person either unwittingly or in being empathetic can side with them. It is totally okay to let these relationships go, it is not worth being stuck in the middle or having to defend yourself. Those people that love you and accept you will be with you no matter what goes on around them.

Anger and threats. Family members can use their anger and threats to manipulate you. They can also use passive aggressive tactics such as subtle micro aggressions or acts of anger. It is important not to succumb to pressure or unhealthy behaviors. Remove yourself immediately if things escalate. Sadly, these situations rarely get better they only get worse. In our integrative family wellness center we have seen,

  • An emotional manipulator using anger to frighten and coerce people. Threats and angry outbursts are used to make the other person feel uncomfortable and upset. They can react at anytime and for any reason. Borderline personalities are often like this- they can erupt at anytime which leaves the other family members to tip toe around them. It is not the job of anyone in the family to tip toe around other family members. 
  • In Naturopathic Family Health, we observe Emotional manipulators using anger to interrupt or stop a conversation they don’t like. For example, a family member who refuses to discuss his affairs may use an angry outburst and threats to end the conversation or storm out of the room. This is a diversion tactic and a way to buy the person more time to figure out a new strategy. The emotional manipulator also does not want to be held accountable or responsible for their behavior.
Mental Health

The anger can escalate to physical violence, so it’s important to pay close attention to the situation and seek help if necessary. If there is violence, it is important to reach out for help. Our integrative family wellness center is a safe place, where we can help you find resources to help. 

  • Belittling tactics. Family members may try to belittle you, so they can manipulate you easier. This is to put you down and weaken your self esteem. Subtle and not so subtle name calling, put downs, and derogatory comments about you, your demeanor, and pretty much anything that you care about is off limits. It is not acceptable for anyone to be unkind to you.
  • Emotional manipulators will criticize you and point out your flaws. The main goal of this tactic is to make you feel inferior, so you’re easier to control. This can be as simple as your extra 5 lbs, or the loss of a job. An emotional manipulator will go after whatever wounds they know hurts you so they can continue to get you to do what they want you to do for them. At the first name calling or derogorty comment regardless of how small set the boundary immediately. Naturopathic family health includes developing fair and healthy fighting rule strategies which does not include name calling.

Focusing on vulnerable targets. Manipulators seek out sensitive people because it’s easier to influence them. They deliberately look for people who are vulnerable and insecure. They can spot your insecurities and use them. These can also be people who are deeply empathetic as well. Deeply empathetic people such as healers can often attract those who are in need of healing. At our integrative family wellness center, we teach skills and tools for healers to not create relationships with people who are going to be emotionally as well as energetically draining to them.

  • In the beginning, emotional manipulators may even seem kind and concerned as they gather information about you. However, this quickly changes to control. Noticing patterns that arise is key. Also, separation from family and friends is also key. These are key indicators that this is perhaps a controlling and unhealthy relationship.
  • Sensitive people are more likely to become victims of family members who want to control them. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves or speak out against the manipulators. It’s important to spot these signs in a relationship. These can also be people who have experienced some level of trauma in their lives as these types of behaviors are familiar to them. 

You can recognize emotional manipulation and refuse to let the family member take control of you or your actions. These relationships are unhealthy and toxic. Seek professional help if you need to, but it’s important to make positive changes to the relationship or let the relationship go. We are here to help you at our integrative family wellness center to create naturopathic family health. We are just a phone call away don’t fall victim to emotional manipulation.