Monday, November 28, 2011

In Sheep's Clothing - Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

By George Simon, Jr, Ph.D

Does a cat prey on a mouse because the cat has some unresolved issues from the past, or is a victim of abuse, or the mouse has antagonized it and it’s responding in self-defence? If the mouse is the victim, imagine if help and support is given to the cat while the mouse is told to look at the cat’s virtues. Sounds preposterous? Well, such predators lurk in families, workplaces and yes, churches and they are experts at pulling the wool over the eyes of those around them and taking them in. While it is much easier to recognize aggressive behaviour when it's 'open, direct and physical', it's much harder to put a finger on the tactics of covert-aggression.

This book makes a distinction between assertive and aggressive behaviour, and between victim and victimizer where conventional thinking tends to focus only on overt behaviour and overlook under-handed manipulation that hoodwinks victims and people around.

If you feel that you are always defending the goodness of someone’s actions and intentions while feeling helpless and oppressed inside, or if you’re always second-guessing yourself to uphold the integrity of another person in your life - read this book.

There are some professions and places that attract covertly manipulative people including counselling and church work because they can hide behind the mask of nobility of the organisation’s mission.

This book addresses covert-aggression which the author believes is ‘at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation.’ He describes the covert-aggressive individual as one who is conscious of ‘concealing overt displays of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into backing-off, backing-down, or giving-in. These covert-aggressive personalities can have their way with you and look good in the process. They vary in their degree of ruthlessness and character pathology.’

The victim feels stifled and choked but can’t put a finger on anything to identify the crime. The end result is a feeling of worthlessness and helplessness. To me, it's not much different from what victims of abuse go through both with the abuser and with those who try to help. The author’s argument for a new psychological perspective on this personality dysfunction stems from the failure of mental health professionals and lay persons to recognize the aggressive agendas and actions for what they really are. According to him, this is largely attributed to the belief that 'people only exhibit problem behaviours when they’re “troubled” inside or anxious about something ...that people aggress only when they’re attacked in some way. So, even when our gut tells us that somebody is attacking us and for no good reason, or merely trying to overpower us, we don’t readily accept the notions. We try to analyze the situation to death instead of simply responding to the attack.’ As a result, the victim leaves and nobody really knows the real reason.

Where you can get it: S$28.15 Kinokuniya
Level of impact: A must-read for all.
Timing of book: Impeccable