I AM Manipulative. Am I Bad??

Hey, Psych2Goers! May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s pretty awesome that we live in a world where mental health has its own recognition month. Because we live in a society where mental health is highly acknowledged, a lot of us will do self-check-ins to determine if we are mentally healthy or even if we could potentially be toxic. Today, we’re going to talk specifically about manipulation. Manipulate is defined as “control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously”. Whenever we label someone as “manipulative”, nowadays it has a negative connotation to it, but are you a bad person if you are manipulative? Let’s find out with a story! Get comfy!

Side note: This article is not made to attack anyone who may display these signs. It’s more to create a healthy discussion and bring awareness to certain topics. Parts of our article are also based on personal opinion, so please don’t take it too seriously!

Sadie and Jesse have been in a relationship for four months. When they first met, Jesse was kind, caring, attentive, and romantic. Sadie felt like the luckiest girl in the world for finding Jesse. They went out on dates every week and mini-adventures every weekend. Sadie was falling in love.

One day, Sadie was getting ready for one of their adventures and asked Jesse what he thought of her outfit. “You’re gonna wear that? You just wore that two weeks ago,” said Jesse.

“Oh, you’re right. I did. I totally forgot. I’ll go change,” Sadie sang as she ran back into her closet. As she got dressed (again), she felt a little weird about the whole situation but decided it wasn’t a big deal.

Over the next month, Jesse started making more comments like this and more frequently, too. It started with her clothes, then it moved to her hair, her makeup, how she went about her day, and who she talked to. Sadie’s head over heels feeling quickly disappeared, and she decided to break it off with him due to the controlling behavior.

After the break up, Sadie asked her two friends, Jenny and Thomas, to help her move to make sure Jesse didn’t know where she was. However, he showed up on her doorstep two days later. She didn’t tell him the new address, so how did he know where she was?

Sadie realized that only one of her friends could have told Jesse about the new address. To find out who the double spy was, Sadie told both Jenny and Thomas that she was planning on moving out of state due to a job that she just landed. She told Jenny she was moving to California, and she told Thomas she was moving to Texas. She didn’t want to lie to them, but she needed to be sure she was safe.

Later that night, Sadie’s phone started buzzing like a neon sign. When she took a look, she had 10 missed calls and 7 texts demanding she call him and stating she can’t move to Texas because he wants to work things out. Once Sadie saw where Jesse thought she was moving, she blocked his and Thomas’ number and made one final move where she couldn’t be found. The End!

Whew! I don’t know about you guys, but I was a little worried about Sadie for a minute. Let’s talk about what happened. Okay, Sadie and Jesse had a great relationship while they were in the honeymoon phase, but as the relationship progressed, he began showing his true personality. Unfortunately, Jesse seemed to have controlling and potentially abusive tendencies.

Sadie did the absolute right thing by leaving and moving somewhere else, but when Thomas told Jesse where Sadie had moved, that was an overstep. Sadie had created a boundary, but Thomas ignored it. Because of Jesse’s actions, Sadie felt so uncomfortable that she thought it was necessary to cut all ties with him and anyone associates with him.

When Sadie told Jenny and Thomas she got a job and was moving out-of-state, yes. It was a lie. Yes, it was deceptive. Yes, it was manipulative. But is she bad for doing so?

In my humble opinion, I believe the definition of “manipulate” gives us our answer. Again, to manipulate is to control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously. If we define unscrupulous, it means “having or showing no moral principles”. This means you have no concept of right or wrong and are just pulling strings like a puppet master to get what you want. Teun van Dijk did a study in 2006 about manipulation. He found that manipulation is usually used as a substitute for “mind control.” When someone manipulates, they do so with the intent of interfering others from understanding information and creating their own conclusions or making their own actions.

In our story about Sadie, she manipulated Jenny and Thomas and, in turn, manipulated Jesse. However, she did not do this with any malicious intention. She did this to ensure she is safe from a potentially abusive ex and friends who try to reconnect him with her. Sadie had good intentions when she manipulated her friends. She didn’t lie just to watch what happens or to see if Jesse got mad at Thomas; it was for her own well-being. This is also a one-time event that happened to Sadie. Unless she makes a habit of doing things like this, one time wouldn’t necessarily get her labeled as manipulative.

What do you think? Do you think Sadie is manipulative or bad for what she did? Is there another way Sadie could have handled this situation without manipulation? Do you have a situation where you manipulated someone for a good reason? Let us know in the comments below! As always, keep your eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content!

Have a wonderful day!

Are you worried you manipulate people unintentionally? Check out 5 Signs You’re Unintentionally Manipulative

The references used in and to compose this article are listed below.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Manipulate. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/manipulate

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Scrupulous. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scrupulous

van Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse and manipulation. Discourse & Society, 17(3), 359–383. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926506060250

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  1. Hello I feel like a failure al the time. The sadestic school system and home life growing up didn’t help maters –I feel like I’m damaged goods and now at this age at 58 I’m going to be alone. There isn’t any hope for me. There’s a quote in a Tennesse Williams film with the late actor Paul Newman—“They have places for the sick & dying, but to place for the failures”—I can relate too this so much