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How to deal with head games and manipulators

Updated on July 20, 2012
Head games often seek to exploit your confusion in order to manipulate you.
Head games often seek to exploit your confusion in order to manipulate you.

How to deal with head games

Long before the musical group Foreigner sang “head games”, people studied how to control and manipulate others. Some of you may enjoy being told what to do and being manipulated. Being controlled by mind games often provides a sense of security. The price tag for that sense of security is the loss of individual freedom and thinking. Some masters of head games exercise skills that have spent years developing. Whether what the head game players refer to themselves as behavioral specialists, negotiators, staff consultants or psy-ops specialists, their stock and trade is ‘head games’.

There are some head game specialists who focus on interrogations with the one on one relationships involved. Others focus on gaming small groups or families. A third group focuses on controlling public opinion and negotiations. There are some that focus on your buying habits, financial habits or recreational habits. They study such behaviors so extensively that they know how to manipulate your thinking. At any given time, there are numerous head games being used on you. Many of these head games are going on without you giving your consent or even being aware of them.

These head game specialists know how to write articles and ads that get into your head. They literally want to stake out space in your brain and heart. They want to control your thinking and your loyalties. They find ways to influence your choices that are outside of your conscious awareness. They know how to shape and direct your life in ways that you never imagined.

Another type of head game player is the individual who learn their skills within their families or on the streets. Although they have not been in classroom settings or laboratories to hone their skills, they know how to play head games. They have often been the victims of such ploys. After being manipulated, they often tell themselves, “never again” and master the skills themselves.

Although head gamers vary with their training and background, there are some basic ways of dealing with these manipulations. Although you may not master the ways of avoiding being manipulated, you can take steps to lessen their impact. The head gamers or manipulators often create confusion in your thinking. They know how to exploit your confusion to their advantage. A confused mind often freezes up.

First recognize that you always have choices. One manipulation is to falsely limit the choices you have. The manipulator often works at limiting the choices you have whether actually or mentally. A similar ploy is that of sending confused or double messages. When you hear these confused or contradictory messages, you brain often freezes up. Once you are frozen up, they exploit the situation.

The use of contradictory statements literally puts the target into a semi-hypnotic state. This is also one way the head gamers keep the victim from figuring things out. When there are many contradictory messages surrounding the manipulator, it makes it hard to figure them out and keeps the victim confused. Keeping you confused is one of their goals, since a person with a confused mind is easier to control.

Another popular ploy of manipulators is the instilling of the idea that you are ‘incompetent’. They often try to pound it into your head that you are incapable of doing something or thinking something. The way to combat this is to never surrender to the claim that you are ‘incompetent’. The incompetent ploy is often used by people in positions of authority in order to keep you from questioning their position or opinion. It is often a mistake to assume an ‘expert’ is an expert. Don’t believe that they are the expert based solely on them telling you so.

Many of you may struggle with the incompetence issue, since as children your parents likely told you that you were incompetent, stupid or useless. That early programming is what the manipulators often use to their advantage. Many a school guidance counselor has used the incompetent excuse to keep students from seeking higher education or applying to schools of their choice.

Another ploy used by manipulators is that of ‘respecting the office’. Those in positions of authority often demand that you respect the office, or the person when the occupant has done little to show that they are worthy of respect. Since the idea of respecting authority is often drilled into us at home and in church, you may be vulnerable to this ploy. This is one reason why evil manipulators often pose as law enforcement officers of some other position of authority. When they are in that position, they force you to kowtow to their demands. Some parents even demand that you respect them, even when they have not done anything worthy of respect. They may not have protected you or provided for you, yet they demand that you ‘respect’ them. This demand is often used in conjunction with ‘the fear of God’ invoked in order to put power behind their demand.

I am not saying to disrespect authority. I am saying that you need to be fine with questioning your automatic respect. Authorities often forget that their position involves a two way relationship. They have a job to do in that position. If they are not doing that job, then the respect they demand is suspect. I often suspect authority figures who “demand” that I respect them, when they have not shown any reason to other than a positional difference. Manipulators often hide behind positions of power and use their power to control rather than help others.

It is important that you decide how to live with your own conscience rather than rely on others to decide what you need to do in order to please them. Maintaining an attitude of non-compliance with the manipulators is critical to your emotional and mental survival. Compliance with the demands of the manipulators only leads to more demands, not less. You may have to give yourself permission to say “no”. The more you practice saying no, the easier it becomes.

Since manipulators often attempt controlling many aspects of your environment, you will need to assume that nothing is true until you test it out and find out for yourself. Manipulators may lie about even mundane things as a way to continue controlling you. Breaking out of their control means you will need to question them and what they tell you. Just because they say it so, does not mean that it is. Professional manipulators who practice ‘brainwashing’ often attempt manipulating and controlling every aspect of your environment and information in order to keep you dependent on them and what they tell you. This set up is used to keep you trusting them without questioning anything. The way out is to begin questioning everything, even down to the time of day and where you are at.

Fear is a manipulators best friend. They often use fear in their head games with you. They often know what your fear are and use them against you. It is not surprising that television shows that have themes of fear are the ones used to sell home security. Many pharmaceutical ads revolve around fear. They play on your fear of heart attacks, pregnancy, high cholesterol, etc. Once they have you fearful enough, they have the solution. All you need to do is take their magic pill and all your fears will be taken care of. Notice how many of the ads have happy endings after the pill is administered.

Since fear is a major emotion around which head games are played, learning how to turn off the fear is critical. When threats are used like “Who would want you” or “Who is going to take you in”, or “Nobody wants you”, the manipulators are playing off of your fears. This is a close cousin of the incompetence based ploys.

Another popular manipulation is a variation of ‘bandwagon’. The manipulators make you think that everyone else is doing the desired behavior or voting in the desired direction so you should too. Peer pressure is very powerful. Social control groups often learn how to use ‘peer pressure’ to their advantage. Being willing to stand alone and speak your mind is a way to keep from falling for the bandwagon type ploys. These ploys are often used in business negotiations in order to create a false sense of urgency.

The tyranny of the urgent is another ploy used by manipulators. The manipulator often attempts pressuring you to do something according to their timetable rather than yours. By saying that the opportunity is time limited, they create a sense of urgency. Since most of us do not the pressure created by the urgency, we give in rather than question it.

These are a few ways to resist mind games. The more you understand what games are being used against you, the better prepared you will be to resist them. Dealing with mind games and neutralizing them may seem awkward at first. The more you learn how to resist, the easier it will become. In my case, after growing up under a manipulative mother I found myself making choices to please her rather than myself and doing things to ‘keep the peace’, which it never really did. For years, I believed the lies. I found myself manipulated by her and others. When I had been manipulated, I often hated it and got mad at myself for letting things happen the way they did. Learning how to undo the head games was critical to my breaking free from her manipulations and from being manipulated by others as well.


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    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for the comment. It had been a while since I put up a hub and the topic is one that a lot of people struggle with.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting topic with some very good insights.


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