The “L” word that’s used by manipulative people: Why it’s so important to them, how they trap you – and how to free yourself from their web.
While “love” is a strong word and is used quite frequently by manipulative people who don’t REALLY mean it, but who use it effusively and indiscriminately, there is another L-word that is far more subtle and twisted in it’s use and meaning: Loyalty.
Loyalty is a gift. It is earned and/or freely given through respect. Back in the days of fiefdoms and tribal rule, it was demanded – oftentimes cruelly. We still see it demanded in such “tribes” as gangs and other violence-led organizations like the mafia.
In those violent and primal organizations it’s easy to spot the demand for respect and loyalty – but what about in the case of more subtle coercion that happens quietly and insidiously over time? How can you spot that? Especially – and this is important – when the loyalty word is NEVER used…until you “break” it.
People in healthy relationships, with healthy self-esteem and clear, respectful boundaries do not demand loyalty. Why? Because they know it is a give and take, and that in a truly loving and respectful relationship where people are equal – loyalty does not even enter the equation.
In healthy relationships there is no giving with expectation, even covert expectation. In other words, the relationship is not transactional. It’s not built upon a foundation of transactions where every single interaction has a check mark in the column of owe or flow.
Manipulative people who tend to view their relationships as transactional do not always appear to do this overtly; in fact they go out of their way to make it look like they don’t need anything from you and that they are very generous. They may be generous with everyone, and seemingly not needing anything – they are often the “provider.”
What is happening in these “generous” situations is that the manipulative person is building up your “owe” column. Very often there are a lot of promises made that look extremely generous, however, there is very little follow-through on the manipulator’s part – a fact that is repeatedly brushed under the rug because as soon as you realize they will likely never follow-through, they either come up with another promise, or do just enough to make it look like they made good on their previous promises – and they’ll go around telling everyone about what they’ve done for you.
If you try to step out of the transactional dynamic they refuse – maybe overtly with “Oh no worries, that’s no big deal, I don’t need anything in return” or covertly by refusing your attempts to create clear and equitable exchange – like in a referral-fee program, for instance. They do not like that equal exchange of energy, because if there is equality in the relationship, there is no basis for loyalty (in their minds). Loyalty for these folks is a power move through and through.
Another power move they will do which builds connection, trust, and a sense of loyalty: the manipulator will run to you asking for help. The situations are rarely garden-variety helping. They are often highly dramatic and emotional. They often do this when they are in crisis with other people in their lives. They make you feel needed, which builds the bond further making you feel like the relationship is “equal” but it’s not. It’s simply triangulation and gas-lighting to keep you in the inner circle. You’ll walk away from these situations thinking “how did I get sucked into that one – again?” You may feel special that they confided in you, but honestly – and I mean this in the nicest way possible – you are disposable and have been played.
Perhaps the most crazy-making situation is when you even remotely question their “generosity.” And start to see the manipulative patterns. Others who are loyal to the manipulator may challenge you and call you an ungrateful a-hole, which further glorifies their “generosity” and keeps the lies going.
Remember, we are talking about manipulative people here, people who are not well mentally and emotionally. They look ‘normal’ on the outside, especially if they are high functioning, but behind the scenes it is a very different story. And if you happen to catch on to their game and try to get away, the loyalty card is played – swiftly and without mercy.
If you do get away from a manipulative person (on your terms or theirs), your name will very likely be dragged through the mud. Friends, family, and colleagues who have known, trusted and respected you, may do one of two things:
The ones who couldn’t believe that you would ever be in relationship with someone like the manipulator in the first place will say: “Thank God you finally woke up!” and will support you as you break ties. The gratitude and support you feel here will feel very different than the transactional dynamics of your relationship with the manipulator. Notice the difference – it will help you with discernment in the future.
Those who are still under the manipulator’s spell may be drawn further into the drama and charisma of their web of lies. This can be incredibly painful to watch. You may feel deep grief at the loss of good friends or family at the hands of the manipulator. The thing you must remember is that we all get taken in by unhealthy people, relationships, and situations at least once or twice in our lives and you can’t help someone see the truth until they are ready and willing to see it for themselves. (This is what your true friends above did – they waited until you woke up and loved you anyway). You will do this someday for your friends or family who are still under the manipulator’s spell…
Why (or how) do people get “taken in” by manipulative people? I think there are many reasons (and some of them have to do with our Human Design and the energetic dynamics between people), but here are several non design-specific ones that I had to really look at myself:
- We want to be on the ‘inside’ and the manipulative person is very good at gas-lighting and making up stories that are simply not true, but that are very enticing and juicy. They know how to hook people in, even people who don’t “do” drama and create an “us vs. them” scenario. I believe there is something else that happens, and it’s even more subtle than being drawn into the stories – it’s that by hearing how someone else is a jerk or wronged the manipulator, we can stand back and judge that person without ever having to look at ourselves and our own insecurities or shadows. (Not fun to admit – but incredibly freeing if you are willing to do this self-examination.)
- If we do get pulled into the stories something even scarier happens: We sense the danger of crossing the manipulator. We want to stay on their “good side” – and indeed, they will put you on a pedestal while simultaneously knocking someone else off the pedestal that they themselves created for that person. We can feel this intuitively and instinctually, but still our brain overrides it. This is why people stay in manipulative relationships – they unconsciously know the danger of leaving.
- Finally, the manipulator is often incredibly smooth and congruent in his/her energy. So when they lie and manipulate, people believe them. Their ‘tells’ are subtle – especially if they are really smart, funny, and charismatic.
When you do manage to get away from a manipulative person, you may suddenly look like the bad-guy or girl, and what’s really shocking is that all the things you are being accused of by the manipulator is what they themselves have done, or are currently doing to others. It’s completely twisted and can make you feel like you are crazy. You are not crazy. You are just dealing with someone who is crazy-making.
Loyalty is so important to these people because it’s their source of power. If they can make you feel as though you owe them, or need to be loyal to them, then they have power over you. It’s this power that gives them life. It feeds them. They will do just about anything to get it, and keep you just slightly in the “owe” state in order to perpetuate this dynamic.
You owe them nothing.
Whatever they did for you with this energetic signature of manipulation is null and void. It is tainted. It is based in a lie. You are not a bad person for walking away. Be grateful for your experiences and lessons learned, and above all – grateful that you have people in your life who do not manipulate you in this way.
Remember, this is not a “normal” situation. Manipulative people know how to tug at your heartstrings and your ego. We all want to look like good people, like grateful people – they are really good at making it look like you are neither and they are the victim. It’s a lie.
It’s not easy getting away from someone like this, but when you have the chance to do so, I highly recommend getting away from him or her as quickly and cleanly as possible. No contact. No phone calls, no email, no texting, no social media, no contact at all.
Don’t talk about them with lots of other people – pick a few trusted confidants who can help you sort through the details and un-hook yourself energetically from the manipulator’s web. No matter what lies and smear campaign they are running on you (because they WILL do this), don’t try to defend or do the same to them – it will just feed their stories and lies, and make you – the sane one – look insane.
If you think you may be stuck in a web of lies with the manipulator and are not sure what to do, get help. You are not alone, and you need support from people you can trust and who are not drinking the manipulator’s Kool-Aid.
If you are a healer or highly compassionate person who thinks you can “change” or “heal” the manipulator – or that “no one knows them like you do”, I can assure you that you are already well embedded in their web of lies and loyalty. They will tell you that they are changing, that they have insight into themselves and their behaviors. They will do things to make it look like they have changed or that they “finally get it.”
In reality, they are just really good at reading people, and self-help books, and know what to say to each person in their life to hook them in.
Do not be fooled. Remember, this is not your normal run-of-the-mill client who has a few issues and needs some insight and practical solutions in order to change aspects of their life and relationships. This is not a person who has a couple minor or even major transgressions or “bad choices” in their life – this is a person who has a long-standing PATTERN of lying, manipulation and deceit.
I am a person who tends to believe that people can change. However, a person has to truly want it and these folks will not change unless or until they are willing to give up their manipulations, either because they are exhausted or it finally blows up in their face.
That said, I haven’t seen anyone who is a pathological liar and manipulator be willing to give up their tactics – it’s just not as compelling as the power they get through gas-lighting and usually, they’ll just move on to a new location to find fresh people to energetically feed on. While it may seem callous or short-sighted of me to say so (and I hope I’m wrong here) I haven’t seen evidence of reformation or healing with these folks – if anything, they simply take the insights they learned through therapy and other self-help books and use it to hide their manipulations from themselves and others even more deviously.
If you think you may be under the manipulator’s spell, here are a couple suggestions:
First, start listening with your intuition, not your mind. Your intuition will never lie – but the manipulator can make your mind believe all kinds of things, and they do.
Your mind – fed by the manipulator’s stories – can, and will, override your intuitive knowing. Set the intention to see what is really going on and start to notice when you catch them in a lie or exaggeration. Trust your spidey-sense and when things don’t look, smell, sound, or feel right – trust it!
Secondly, pay attention to what his or her “tell” is.
Some “tells” I’ve seen:
- Speaking in absolutes: “I always, I never, the truth of the matter is…”
- They use the word “truth” emphatically and entirely too much. Truth – real Truth – speaks for itself and does not need to be called such over and over again.
- They say things that sound good on the paper, but they are not energetically connected to it so there is a dissociative effect – almost like they are in a trance when they speak, which can put others in a trance as well.
- They say things in public that you think to yourself “that’s not true at all” or “that’s not at all how it happened, I was there and saw for myself.”
- They tell you plausible yet dramatic, stories about others – even people you may know well – to get you to believe that the other person is untrustworthy or doing something egregious (likely it is something they themselves have done or are doing and projecting it onto others), while simultaneously pointing out how great you are and that you are the only one they can trust or the only one who understands them. You may tilt your head at these stories, thinking: “Really? That person said that or did that? Hmm.”
- They cry or otherwise show some emotion that evokes sympathy to make themselves out to be the victim when in reality they are the ones who did the behaviors that led to the situation(s) they now find themselves in.
- When you ask them a direct question and ask for the truth, they lie right to your face – even when the evidence – public evidence – does not support their story.
The manipulative person leaves clues all over the place, because while they are weaving a web of manipulation around you and others, they are also weaving it around themselves, and no one can keep all those lies straight!
Only the Truth will set you, and ultimately them – if they ever choose to come clean – free.
Yours in alignment,