Responding Vs. Manipulating

Whenever people are together, their actions or inactions will affect each other, and in this sense control always exists in a relationship. Nevertheless, there is a great difference between two people RESPONDING to each other and two people MANIPULATING each other – it is the difference between a dance and a struggle.


I am in contact with you and letting myself flow and happen without thinking.

The only way out of this destructive struggle for control is through awareness. I can become aware of all the details of the struggle itself, and my part in this control-madness.



  1. What I want from you
  2. How I am more concerned with my fantasies about your future obedience than with your present actuality.
  3. How I am tensing and holding back by paying close attention to my awareness of my physical responding. Physical discomfort is often a symptom of dishonesty – a signal that I am not expressing myself fully. By paying attention to my discomfort, I can discover how I manipulate and distort myself in order to control you.

I can best pay attention to myself if I pause to contact my experiencing, stay with it awhile to discover more about it, and then express it as my experience and not as an accusation or some other veiled demand. For instance, I might discover that I am tensing my shoulders and arms and clenching my jaw, and as I focus on this, realise that I am feeling anger. If I say “you are a bastard”, I accuse and blame you and demand that you change to make me feel better. I can take responsibility for my feeling if I simply express it as my experiencing “I am angry about what you did”. If I stay with this feeling of anger, I can discover more details about it. I may discover that my anger in this moment has a solid, strong, unyielding quality to it, as if expressing “I don’t accept your doing that.” Or I may discover that my anger in this moment has a helpless wailing quality to it as if asking, “Please help me, please don’t do that again.” If I continue to stay with my experiencing, I may notice that my shoulders are raised as if to ward off a blow, and realise that I am afraid of your retaliation. Or I may get a strong image of a previous situation in my life and realise that at least some of my anger is a response to this previous unfinished situation rather than the present situation.

By staying with my awareness of what I am experiencing I can gradually become clearer and clearer about what is actually happening now in the situation.



I am thinking about the future and straining to plan and control my actions in order to bring about the response I want from you. So in order to control you I have to control myself. I am the first victim in my struggle to control you. Whenever I hold myself back, I am interfering with my own functioning: manipulating myself in order to manipulate you. The more I do this the more I disturb and distort my natural functioning.

When I try to control you, I also become controlled in another way: as soon as I want to control you, you can use this to control me. You can try to get what you want from me by withholding what I want from you, and you can disappoint me, frustrate me, and punish me if I don’t give it to you. I get thoroughly caught and controlled through my struggle with you.

Four basic types of manipulative role, each with countless variations and combinations:


Pacifying, smoothing over differences; being nice; being protective, defending others gently; covering up. e.g.”Oh, it’s not so bad really”; “We agree basically.”


Being quiet; pretending not to understand; changing the subject; playing weak, playing helpless. E.g. “I can’t help it”; “I didn’t hear you.”


Judging, bullying; comparing; complaining. E.g. “It’s always your fault”; “You never…” Why don’t you…”


Lecturing, using outside authority; saying “You should…” or “You must…”; proving that you are right by explaining, calculating, using logic, e.g. “Dr. Spock says…”, “What you’re actually doing is…”.