Manipulation can be defined as an art that often emerges as a talent and, once recognized in itself, is exercised and applied primarily in social and affective relations. Defining manipulation as an art is, needless to say, a sarcastic provocation, aimed to better explain why people who have the power to charm, persuade, attract – even when they are not necessarily endowed with deep human qualities – are so successful. Indeed, this so-called art is actually one of the highest forms of deceit we can find in individuals. There are two main reasons, or, more precisely, two main drives, that induce to manipulation: the wish to have power over the other and, at the same time, to conceal one’s shallowness. Manipulating means convincing people that there is substance to hot air, influencing others into making choices that ordinarily they would never consider making, inducing them to do things that are contrary to their will or personal principles, charming with behaviors that confuse, seduce, fool people without them ever wondering whether the person responsible for such behaviours really deserves so much attention and consideration. Manipulators need to constantly influence others on account of their own shallowness, which they are perfectly aware of; they thrive on the evident power they have over others. So the sense of victory they feel, usually with a certain exaltation, fools them into believing that they are better, or indeed, the best. Actually, constantly concealing one’s mediocrity behind fleeting successes or victories often obtained to the detriment of others requires a constant effort to protect what one is hiding inside. In order to shield themselves and keep things blurred, manipulators resort to various means that allow them to exert control over others, whom they think they can use as they please. To better manipulate others, they try to discover their weaknesses, what they are missing or wishing for at a given moment, and then make grandiose promises, displaying self-confidence that verges on omnipotence, making up lies so as to keep others constantly pending, waiting for something special to happen sooner or later. Furthermore, to gain even more power, manipulators trigger guilt feelings in the person or persons they are trying to manipulate so that they may keep a firm grip on them, making them believe that all bad things that happen are their fault, denying what they might notice and mystifying what might transpire of the mediocrity that is concealed behind the façade they put on so well. Over time, all this erodes the other’s confidence and creates in him/her a sense of dependency from the person who transmits security, confounds with his or her oratory and makes him/her feel he/she is the center of the world. It does not take long for such people to become useful instruments in the hands of a manipulator, who is thus free to act without taking responsibility and heeding the consequences of his/her actions. One can be used for any ulterior motive – personal, social, relating to the couple or to work. Anyone who has fallen into the trap of manipulation without becoming a direct instrument could not possibly believe the cries for help of the people who try to reveal the true nature of the person who appears so superior in the eyes of many and instead is capable of inflicting so much pain. So it happens that women with children separate from men who have exerted psychological violence on them and many condemn them for an incomprehensible separation pursued by a mother, men leave their partner after years of devious and subtle violence and are immediately heavily criticized by those who believe that that woman is weak and submissive, betrayed and abandoned just because she is a woman, people denounce injustices at work and no-one thinks that their boss’s façade conceals envy and competitiveness, and so on … the examples are endless. Manipulation has subtle negative ends that are detrimental to others because it is determined by the will to exercise power and control by resorting to many different skills that have nothing to do with a true sense of freedom. Manipulation can be described with one sentence that sums up its entire meaning: “shallowness concealed through the ability to mystify”. If we were to judge this way of exercising power based on the success achieved we could say that it is indicative of great skills; if instead we were to define it on the basis of the value of human respect we could clearly uphold it as an emblematic example of personal failure!
Dr. Stefania Iade Trucchi