Identifying a pathological manipulator

5 min read
Louise halimi

Pathological manipulators are individuals with unhealthy behavior who seek to control others. They can be challenging to spot as they are often very skilled at deceiving people.

Profile of the manipulator

There's no typical profile for a manipulator, who can be male or female, of any age, social background, or profession. However, certain common characteristics can be observed in individuals who exert psychological control over others:

- They have an excessive need for power, control, dominance, and recognition.
- They exhibit feelings of superiority, arrogance, and disdain.
- They lack empathy, respect, remorse, and guilt.
- They tend to lie, cheat, deceive, and seduce.
- They have the ability to adapt, manipulate, influence, and persuade.
- They struggle with managing emotions, accepting frustration, contradiction, and criticism.
- They display emotional, relational, and sometimes professional instability.

Manipulators are often charismatic individuals with great self-confidence. They can be charming, persuasive, and often have a significant ability to convince others to do what they want. Pathological manipulators use tactics such as guilt-tripping, flattery, and threats to get what they want.

The pathologies associated with pathological manipulators are often related to personality issues. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorders often have an excessive need for attention and recognition, while those with antisocial personality disorders often show contempt for others and a lack of empathy.

Risk of psychological manipulation

Pathological manipulators can create relationships where they exert control. This happens through a process that can be broken down into four stages:

Seduction: The manipulator attracts the victim by giving compliments, gifts, promises, showing attention, charm, and generosity. They build trust and dependence with the victim, who feels loved, admired, and understood.
Confusion: The manipulator starts to change behavior, becoming more distant, colder, more authoritarian, and demanding. They begin to use tactics to control their victim, alternating between moments of kindness and cruelty, reward and punishment, presence and absence. They create an atmosphere of insecurity and doubt in the victim, who no longer knows what to expect or how to behave.
Domination: The manipulator denigrates, criticizes, belittles, blames, and makes the victim responsible for all problems. They destroy the victim's self-confidence and make them feel helpless. They deprive the victim of their bearings, resources, and self-esteem. They make the victim dependent on their opinion, approval, and affection. They isolate them from their environment, which could support or protect them.
Submission: The manipulator completely controls the victim, who has lost all self-confidence and sometimes trust in others. They are subject to the manipulator's will and needs. They may mistreat and terrorize them, leading to psychological, emotional, and physical destruction (Day and al, 2022).

Unmistakable signs

Certain behaviors reveal a pathological manipulator. They tend to want to control others, often imposing their view, constantly criticizing or devaluing. These individuals tend to minimize or ignore the needs or feelings of others while demanding a high level of attention for themselves. Their behavior is often unpredictable, alternating between excessive flattery and hostility, ranging from guilt-tripping to threats. They lie, and if it causes a problem, it's never their fault. Another telling sign is their ability to justify their actions, even when they are clearly abusive or inappropriate.

Recognizing psychological manipulation is a crucial step in protecting oneself and others. Being aware of these manipulative behaviors can help guard against toxic relationships. If you have doubts about your situation or that of someone else, don't hesitate to seek help from your social circle or mental health professionals. Breaking free from the grip of a pathological manipulator can be a challenging process, but you are not alone. Resources such as helplines, specialized associations, or support centers are there to assist you. Together, let's inform, share, and act to build a healthier environment where everyone can evolve freely and safely.