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5 Noticeable Signs that Your Family is Emotionally Manipulating You

Manipulation doesn't only occur in relationships, it happens in families too. I know this might sound new or strange to you because of the general notion that the family is a safe space. But family manipulation is a thing and a lot of people do not even know that they are a victim of this abuse.

What is Family Manipulation?

Family manipulation occurs when a member of your family, be it the mother, father, brother or sister, tries to influence or control another family member usually through mental distortion or emotional exploitation.

Recognising manipulation within the family might be a little bit difficult because they are usually subtle or mistaken for acts of love towards you.

What emotional manipulation might look like

- Lying - A family member who is trying to manipulate you might threaten to lie or blatantly lie against you in certain situations. They usually refuse to take responsibility for their actions and would blame you for their own mistakes. They might also intentionally keep important information from you or keep secrets as a way to control what you know and how you react.

- Emotional Invalidation - In an attempt to control or manipulate you, a family member might disregard your feelings or make you believe that your feelings are insignificant. They might do this by; intentionally interrupting you especially when you are trying to make a point, or talking over you. They might also dismiss your concerns and dictate how you should feel. For example, you tell your parents that you do not want to be friends with someone because they use abusive words and they talk down on you, but your parent replies by saying, you are too sensitive and they are sure it isn't that deep so you should work harder on being friends with the person.

- Silent treatment - This is a very common and unhealthy manipulation tool. It is mostly used by narcissists as a way to punish you and regain control of you. They want you to feel guilty and come begging for their time and attention regardless of the fact that they are at fault. They might also withhold their affection from you just to punish you and make you feel guilty.

-Intimidation - This is when they start to threaten you or emotionally blackmail you. For example, your parents might threaten to kick you out or disown you if you do not listen or adhere to their demands. This is a very unhealthy way to relate with someone.

- Shaming - The family is meant to be a safe space with people you can talk to and confide in without being judged. But when your family members do the opposite of this, it becomes toxic and unsafe. If your family members have the habit of highlighting your insecurities and constantly comparing you to others in the presence of other people, they are manipulating you to feel bad and inadequate about yourself. They are trying to lower your self-esteem which will make it easier for them to control you.

How to Handle Manipulative Family Members

  1. Acknowledge the manipulation - It might take time before you notice that you are being manipulated by your family members. This is because the love you have for them might blur the lines, but if you've noticed this circle of abuse, then you should acknowledge the fact that you are being manipulated. You can make a mental note of the different ways your family member might be manipulating you or even make a list. This will help you prevent the idea that you are just making it up in your head and there is no manipulation.

  2. Call out the manipulation - When you find yourself in a situation where you are being manipulated again, call it out for what it is. Make them understand that you do not appreciate being lied to or that your feelings were dismissed or that they interrupted you while you were making a point. Express yourself in a calm and polite way and let them know how their actions make you feel.

  3. Create Boundaries - If you notice that even after calling out their manipulation behaviour, making them understand how this affects you, they still won't back down or change their ways. Then you should set boundaries that protect you and limits the access they have to you.

  4. Seek help - If you feel like you can't face your manipulative family member alone, you should seek help. Seeking help and support from others can be very helpful. You can talk to your partner, best friend or other relatives about your experiences. This can provide you with much-needed reassurance. Professional help in the form of therapy can also help you process years of manipulation and stress.

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