Self-care strategy #20: Don’t be duped by deceivers (aka manipulators). Reclaim your power!

Seeing through manipulation is the 1st step to empowerment

Dealing with covert-aggressive personalities is like getting whiplash. Often, you really don’t know what’s hit you until long after the damage is done. If you’ve been involved in some way with one of these smooth operators, you know how charming and disarming they can be. They are masters of deception and seduction. They’ll show you what you want to see and tell you what you want to hear.”
-Dr. Simon

It happens too often. You start dating someone or becoming friendly with an acquaintance you met at an event or through mutual friends or family, or maybe even in church, and then weeks, months, even years later that person’s true deceitful practices begin to manifest. I’ve seen this happen to people (personally and in my therapy practice – heck it’s happened to me) too many times. Often, these trusting individuals meet these deceivers (aka manipulators) in places you’d think would attract only those with the upmost integrity.  It’s an extremely challenging situation if you have become so entangled with a deceiver that it feels nearly impossible to get out.

Who are deceivers? Deceivers are simply people who only care about doing what they need to do to meet their own needs, often at the expense of someone else’s. They are not interested in an equal power relationship. Rather, they are seeking something from others without interest in reciprocating. They are very good at making others think they have their interest at heart. That’s why it’s easy to get duped, even if you are a highly intelligent person. Usually, deceivers are very good at lying. Perhaps they are so good at it, they’ve convinced themselves it’s true (it’s called rationalization). They come up with “good reasons” for doing what they do. Think of the blaming the victim mentality often materialized in the form of the following rationalization, “well she asked for it…did you see the way she was dressed?”

The potential for danger in relationship with a deceiver depends on the level of intimacy in the relationship and the toxicity level of the deceiver as illustrated in the following diagram:


Attachments to Toxic People are Dangerous

As shown in the above diagram, the higher the intimacy level or attachment in the relationship (this can include platonic attachments) and the higher the level of toxic behavior by the deceiver, the greater the risk of danger.

How do you know you are at the hands of a deceiver? Once you’ve identified that you’re dealing with a manipulator, how do you get out if you’re already entangled?

First, follow these 3 steps on identifying a deceiver, and then read on for strategies to get out.

1st step: Identify warning signs that you might be at the hands of a potential deceiver (aka manipulator). Usually the sooner you recognize these warning signs the better off you are.

Warning signs include:

  • Thoughts such as “this person seems too nice” or “this relationship feels too good to be true.” It probably is.
  • Past or current behavior indicators such as a history of unreliability, untreated addiction or substance abuse, history of involvement in abusive relationships (emotional, physical, sexual, verbal), history of unhealthy entanglements, flightiness, or lack of commitment and follow through.
  • They lie. Enough said.
  • Their words don’t match their behavior. Watch their behavior, not their words!
  • They talk negatively about others behind their backs. What are they saying about you behind your back?
  • They are problem makers, instead of problem solvers, and often go around creating drama or instigating fights or conflicts for no good reason.
  • They currently have or have had legal issues.
  • In the case of romantic attachments, they are not done with one relationship, and are anxious to jump into a new one. I would ask, “why?”
  • The power in the relationship is not balanced. For example, you are giving more than you are receiving (whether financially, emotionally, physically or spiritually). You may start to feel resentful. You wonder if you are repeating a past pattern of attaching to certain types of people that never seems to work out for you.

2nd step: Pay attention to these warnings. DON’T IGNORE THEM. Many people ignore their own internal compass, which is very good at detecting liars, cheaters, users and deceivers. Listen to your intuition! It’s probably right.

3rd step: Do something about it. It’s never too late, no matter how far into it you are. You can get out of an unhealthy situation before it becomes worse. Believe me, it can become worse, and then it becomes even harder to get out (and often at a higher price). Protect yourself and others from harm.

Here’s how:

  1. Reality-test your concerns by discussing them with a trusted, credible source, such as a friend or family member who has good judgment. Let them know you are interested in hearing their feedback or opinion on the matter.
  2. Listen to their feedback. Spend some time pondering it over in your mind.
  3. Consider the fact that if more than one trusted source is giving you the same type of information; perhaps you need to take it seriously.
  4. Decide if you want to continue this relationship, but consider some possible negative long-term consequences of doing so.
    1. If you decide to continue, think about why it is you’re choosing to continue even though your wise mind (and friends) might be saying otherwise.
    2. Are you trying to fill a need through this attachment?
    3. Do you really believe and trust this person? What’s your evidence to support this trust?
    4. Consider discussing the answers to these questions with a therapist or another trusted mentor.
    5. If you decide that you are ready to end this relationship, come up with a quick and safe exit plan. Decide when you will end this friendship or romantic rendezvous, or toxic long-term marriage, and how.
    6. You don’t need to do this alone*, and I don’t recommend doing so. Enlist the help of friends, family and professionals (therapist, pastor, attorney, etc.)
      1. *In the case of deceivers who might be toxic enough to cause imminent harm to you or your loves ones, it is imperative you have a safety plan in place. If this person has a history of violence enlist the help of police and other professionals who can help you put one in place. You might want to consider putting a restraining order in place.

Remember, your life is in your hands. If you have children, protect them from further harm by recognizing unhealthy attachments and getting out of them as quickly and safely as possible. You will meet healthy people who deserve your commitment. Take care of yourself first.  Don’t be duped!

Recommended reading on dealing with manipulative people:

Disclaimer: the advice on this site is not meant to be used in lieu of professional therapy or counseling. If you are in a dangerous relationship, seek the services of the police or a therapist who specializes in family therapy. They are trained to work with issues of domestic violence. In case of an emergency always call 911.

For further support or assistance if you feel unsafe in your relatioship contact the Domestic Violence Hotline (

CALL 24/7/365

1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)

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I recommend products based on my own experience with the authors, book titles and/or items listed. These are my own personal recommendations and I have no direct partnership or affiliation with the authors or companies of these products.

Thank you for your support!


Self-care strategy #19: choosing to feel grateful

Gifts abound

A wise friend once told me “people have time and money for what they want to have time and money to do.” Over the years I’ve seen how true that is. Each day we choose how we will spend our time and money and whom we’ll spend it with. No matter how much we have, it seems like there is never enough of it. If we think about it long enough, we might find that what we have is enough. In our culture, we are taught that we need more. We need more money. We need more time. We need a bigger house or a nicer car. We need a lot of friends. We need a better job or a nicer boss. We need a newer TV or kitchen appliance. We need the latest version of a gadget. We need, need, need. Perhaps it’s more like, we want, want, and then want some more.

Focusing on what we always need or want creates the belief that no matter how much we have; we’ll never have enough of it. When we identify with that belief we might start to feel anxious, needy, empty, or lonely. We then create the propensity to behave in ways that are impulsive; in order to cope with those feelings and fill the emptiness we might be experiencing, we feel an urge to acquire anything that can soothe us, even for a moment. It can create a constant seeking and searching for something to make us feel better. Often that something is unhealthy for us in the long term (think drug, alcohol or food addiction, gambling problems, compulsive shopping habits).

However, there is another way to feel fulfilled. We have choices. We can choose to focus on what we do have and feel satisfied. We can choose to notice the people in our lives who are there for us, and who genuinely care, rather than the people who are unavailable. We can appreciate the many gifts we do have by recognizing them and being grateful. We can be thankful ever day of the year, not just during Thanksgiving. This daily practice of refocusing our perspective and noticing what is, rather than what needs to be, can have a profound impact on how we feel by shifting how we view ourselves, others and the world. We can consciously be thankful for the gifts we have, and we can feel grateful. When we are grateful, we feel whole.

So starting today and every day for the next week, practice having an attitude of gratitude by following these 3 easy steps:

  1. Stop whatever it is you are doing, have a seat, and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few moments to notice what you have in your life that makes you so grateful to be alive right now. Think of who or what you have in your life that provides you with safety, comfort and joy.
    Here are some questions you can answer to help get you started: Whom do you love? Who cares for you and seeks you out to see how you are doing? What’s your most cherished possession? What do you love about it? What have you accomplished this past year that makes you feel proud of yourself? What makes it worth getting up every day? Who or what brings a huge smile to your face?
  3. Reflect on your answers. Notice how it feels in your body when you think about these answers. Know that each moment of every day you have a choice about what you focus on: what you already have that fulfills you or what’s missing from your life. When we choose the former, we can experience long lasting joy and satisfaction. It’s your choice.





Healing through therapy: an act of self care

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our trust. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals human spirit.
-e.e. cummings

We’ve all had our fair share of challenges in our lives.  I believe our strength arises from overcoming difficult times through the experience of healthy relationships. Therapy provides an opportunity to explore our inner thoughts and feelings and how we interact with others in the world. In therapy, we have a chance to form a trusting relationship that honors our inherent dignity and worth. It allows us to experience the true vulnerability we feel when we become emotionally intimate with another.

Therapy has been a tool for me since early adulthood. I have had good, bad, and mediocre therapists. My first therapist was the one who inspired and encouraged me to face my fears and go for what I love. My second good therapist came to me at a time when I really needed to work on the next level of change for myself. I was unhappy and didn’t know why. I knew I was repeating unhealthy patterns, but couldn’t figure it out. Therapy helped me see clearly what was going on and where it was coming from. I had an eye opening moment when I realized why I was repeating the same pattern over and over again all those years. I had not been ready for real change in my life until I recognized and worked on healing wounds from the past. Therapy helped me face the pain so I could work through it and heal. I was then ready for the next stage of my life, finding my life partner and having a child.

Marriage and motherhood have changed me. It’s changed the way I view my place in the world and how I perceive others. It’s forced me to examine how I interact with my community, extended family and the world at large. The experience of motherhood has helped reshape my beliefs and discover what values truly matter. When I was childless I only had to focus on myself. My only task was to do what was best for me. Since having my son I’m now looking at every experience through a different lens. When making important decisions, I automatically ask what is in the best interest of my son. I’ve learned that sometimes what is in his best interest is for me to practice self-care, which is an act of self-love. By allowing myself to take care of my needs, I’m teaching him one of life’s most important and valuable lessons: we need to know how to love and care for ourselves, before we can unconditionally love another.

The process of self-discovery to learn what’s most important to me, and prioritize my decisions has not been easy. I’ve been working closely with my current therapist for several months now. Marilyn Brine Gilmour is teaching me how to work through difficult thoughts and feelings that arise from a painful past, a stressful present and an uncertain future.  She’s teaching me to trust my inner wisdom and to use it consciously, so that I can heal, grow and live the life my heart and soul desire. In this relationship, I can be honest, speak my truth, and feel cared about.  I don’t have to hide any parts of myself and it feels so liberating!

Therapy is one of the most useful tools we can use to heal past wounds and make informed decisions in the present. We learn we don’t have power over our past, but can choose behaviors consciously and wisely now, to create a new future.

Through therapy, I am healing. Through healing, I am helping myself. Through helping myself, I am helping others.