Living or relating to controlling and manipulative people can be an extremely sad and exhausting experience. These people can become authentic specialists in mental manipulation, at the point to blame their victim for everything and even taking away from them the right to think autonomously, dissent and make their own decisions.
In fact, one of the most dangerous manipulation strategies is to change the way we perceive ourselves, a phenomenon that the University of Massachusetts psychologist, Lisa Aronson Fontes, calls “perspecticide” referring to such a radical change of perspective that we are no longer able to be conscious of what we are and know.
What exactly does it mean perspecticide?
The term “perspecticide” is a neologism, although in reality it is not completely new because it was used for the first time in reference to the brainwashing of prisoners of war. The term has also been used to explain the psychological mechanisms that make people fall into the networks of sects. This term is the union of the words perspective and pesticide.
In practice, the perspecticide implies losing our perspective even thinking of not having the right to have our ideas, beliefs and feelings. It is something horrible because with the passage of time we come to forget our opinions, objectives and thoughts to adopt those of the dominant person. As a result, we not only renounce our dreams and goals in life, but we also lose our identity.
How is the perspecticide produced?
The perspecticide always implies an unhealthy relationship, of control and/or manipulation, so over time the dominant person changes the victim’s way of thinking and seeing. The manipulator ends up defining the world of the submitted subject. It defines what love is, how the relationship must be and also determines what the other person should think.
Of course, it is not the reciprocal influence that occurs naturally in all intimate relationships, it is a much more damaging phenomenon and one-sided in which one person dominates completely and the other loses his identity and the ability to decide of his life.
Gradually, the manipulator is narrowing the world of his victim. Not just isolating him from the others, so that they cannot warn him of the potential danger, but also begins to judge his ideas and feelings. In this way, the manipulator imposes his vision of the world.
The most common techniques are:
– Decide how the victim should invest his time. Little by little, the manipulator convinces his victim that it is worth spending time on the activities he/she likes. In this way the victim abandons many of the things he liked to satisfy the desires of the other, and ends up taking as his own.
– Obsessively checking the details of everyday life. The manipulator usually exercises an obsessive control over every detail of his victim’s life, to the point that it loses all the power of decision-making even on the most insignificant aspects of daily life, which are dictated by who has the control.
– Sets the terms of the relationship. The manipulator does not reconcile or negotiate, but imposes the terms of the relationship. He submits his victim by imposing his rules and his vision of how the relationship should be. The other person has only two options: allow himself be submitted or break the relationship.
– Change of the concept of self. The manipulator makes sure to “steal” the concept of self from his victim, replacing it with his own. In this way, the perception of the victim changes starting to see itself with the eyes of the other, which can lead him to believe, for example, that he is not able to accomplish anything or that desperately needs him/her to be happy.
People imprisoned in their own lives
Prospecticide is a situation of control and manipulation that is difficult to detect because it usually comes from the closest people, with whom we have profound emotional ties. Moreover, in many cases this control relationship is not based on violence and aggression, but rather the messages are full of “good intentions”.
The manipulator makes the victim believe that he is right and that he does everything “for his own good”. He often presents himself as “savior” or “guardian” of the “defenseless” person who presumably needs help.
His strategy is to make us feel weak, helpless, powerless and insecure to take our responsibilities. So we become prisoners of our lives almost without realizing it, because we end up using the labels that the manipulator has assigned us, assuming the identity that he has carefully prepared for us.
The manipulator will repeat to nausea several messages, with the aim that these become our truth. Often it will exaggerate the facts, to use them in its favor. Phrases like: “you are nobody without me” or “if I do not defend you, others will take advantage of you” are common and make the person feel defenseless. These sentences change the victim’s self-concept, making him doubt his abilities and generating fear. The manipulator does not authorize or allow the person next to him grow, on the contrary, he humiliates and crushes him.
It should be emphasized that these extremes are not always reached. In some cases, the victim retains a certain decision-making power, but feels definitively guilty of the decisions he makes because he knows that they do not satisfy the other person.
There are some warning signs that can indicate that you are victim of a situation of emotional and mental awe:
– Whenever you feel more insecure about your decisions or they generate a strong sense of guilt.
– Feel that you are losing points of reference, it is as if you were walking on quicksand because you start to doubt your most deeply rooted convictions, just because they do not correspond to those of the other.
– You are developing an emotional dependency on the other person, allowing him to control small details of your life.
– You feel incapable of doing great things alone, and each time you need more the opinion of the other.
– You have the feeling of not recognizing yourself anymore or having started applying negative labels that do not allow you to grow or become authoritative.
– You begin to doubt your opinions and abilities, adopting as truth the vision of the world of the other.
How to get out of this situation?
Often, when the person discovers that he has been the victim of a situation of perspecticide, his world collapses. Not only does he realize that he was manipulated and abused by someone he trusted, but he also feels confused and isolated, finding himself with the difficult task of having to rebuild his identity.
When this situation has been prolonged for years, the person loses his reference points of identity, so it is necessary to resort to psychological therapy to process these emotional traumas and regain trust and self-confidence.
In any case, the first step is to interrupt any kind of relationship with the manipulator and try to build a social support network with the help of friends and family. We must remember that when a relationship limits and suffocates one of the people, instead of supporting it and helping it grow, it is time to question it and change course before it is too late.