Heartbreak

How Manipulators & Sociopaths Trick People Into Doing Anything They Want

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Women looks skeptical over her glasses

Perhaps you're familiar with stories about women who have helped inmates escape from prison. It happened again not long ago in Arkansas, when an inmate broke free from a prison work detail, allegedly with the help of his mother and wife. 

How does this happen? How does someone decide to compromise their morals and principles, or simply go against their own self-interest, and make bad decisions that they might not normally make?

You, too, may have been convinced to comply with outrageous demands, doing things that you knew were wrong.

But why?

The answer lies in the essence of our humanity — the power of our minds and social instincts.

RELATED: 8 Sneaky Things Emotional Manipulators Always Use Against You

How manipulative & sociopathic people trick us into complying with their demands

They exploit the nature of our humanity

There are three basic points about our humanity that you need to understand:

  • Our minds are very powerful, and what we believe is stronger than what we know.
  • Human beings are biologically programmed to be responsive to others.
  • Some people, such as sociopaths, are experts at manipulating our beliefs and responsiveness.

Our realities are strongly influenced by our minds. How we perceive the world, the possibilities we envision, and what we experience can all be created by what we believe.

One of the strongest examples of this is the placebo effect. The standard way to test the effectiveness of new drugs is the blind clinical trial, in which some patients get the new drug and others get a placebo — something that looks like the drug but contains no medicine.

The patients don't know if they are taking the real drug or the placebo. Often, patients who are taking the placebo experience the same benefits of the drug as the patients who receive the actual medication. Research suggests that positive expectations give the placebo its power.

They manipulate the power of suggestion

I saw this up close and personal. My sister, unfortunately, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was 42. For years, it was hardly noticeable, but eventually, she began exhibiting the involuntary movement typical of Parkinson’s patients, called dyskinesia.

She enrolled in a clinical trial, took the medication, and her uncontrolled movements stopped. She thought the new medication was a wonder drug. She was thrilled. Everyone was thrilled.

Then, at the end of the clinical trial, she learned that she’d been taking the placebo all along. Her uncontrolled movements returned.

Why am I telling this story? Because it shows the power of our beliefs. My sister wanted the drug to work. She believed the pills would help her. Her belief made the dyskinesia stop.

Sociopaths are charismatic

When we are targeted by sociopaths, one of their primary seduction strategies is telling us what we want to hear. Why? Because we want to believe it. And when sociopaths convince us to believe them, we are easier to manipulate.

My ex-husband told me he was a successful entrepreneur, a Hollywood scriptwriter, and a decorated war hero. These were all lies, and as I look back, I can see that his claims were preposterous and he was a con man. But at the time, I wanted to believe that this extraordinary man, this superhero, was in love with me. So I believed him and experienced pleasure, which was the beginning of the psychological bond that I felt with him.

RELATED: 9 Signs You're Falling In Love With Someone Who Thoroughly Enjoys Emotional Manipulation

They play off the strength of psychological bonds

A relationship is a psychological bond that makes us feel connected to another person. The bond is first established through pleasure. Sooner or later, however, the sociopath does something to create fear and anxiety in us. We may catch her lying, or he lashes out at us in rage, or after promising to show up, he blows us off.

We suffer fear and anxiety because we worry that we are losing the relationship. But surprisingly, fear and anxiety actually strengthen the psychological bond that we feel.

We want to go back to the pleasure we felt in the beginning. So we reach out to discuss the issue. We may apologize for something we didn’t do. Eventually, we reconcile with our partner — and this strengthens the psychological bond again.

This becomes a vicious circle — pleasure, fear and anxiety, reconciliation. And with each turn of the wheel, the psychological bond we feel gets stronger and stronger. Eventually, it can become a trauma bond.

RELATED: 10 Signs A Master Manipulator Is Trying To Control You

They utilize the allure of intimacy

Human beings are fundamentally social creatures. Our need for social connections goes very deep because it was our ability to live together in groups that enabled the human race to survive as a species. So we are biologically programmed to be responsive to other people.

One of the ways in which our biology supports our social responsiveness is through a hormone and neurotransmitter called oxytocin. Our bodies release this substance any time we experience intimacy.

Any kind of intimacy will do — hugs, conversation, and certainly sex. Oxytocin makes us feel calm, trusting, and content, and it alleviates fear and anxiety.

What happens when someone triggers a shot of oxytocin in us? We feel trusted, and we also feel the desire to reciprocate the person’s trust.

I don’t know how many sociopaths are familiar with oxytocin, but they certainly know how human nature works.

Sociopaths know that the way to get you to do what they want is to show that they trust you.

So they appear to be needy and vulnerable and say that you’re the only person who can help them. Because of our human compulsion to be responsive, it can be very difficult to say no to them. They figure out how to push our buttons, and we comply with the sociopath’s demands.

RELATED: 6 Subtle (But Scary) Signs He's Manipulating The Heck Out Of You

They understand the power of the trauma bond

If you are trauma-bonded, it can be even more difficult to resist the sociopath’s demands. A trauma bond, also called a betrayal bond, is a strong connection you feel to a person, even though you know that the person is destructive to you.

Dr. Patrick J. Carnes explains this phenomenon in his book, The Betrayal Bond. He identifies multiple signs of a trauma bond, including:

  • When everyone around you has a strong negative reaction, yet you continue covering up, defending or explaining a relationship.
  • When others are horrified by something that has happened to you, and you are not.
  • When you feel loyal to someone even though you harbor secrets that are damaging to others.

RELATED: 7 Red Flag Signs The Person You Love Is A Master Manipulator

They play upon your instinct for self-preservation

You’ve probably heard of the fight-or-flight reaction: It means that when you’re confronted by danger, you either run away or stand your ground and fight. But other reactions are also possible.

You could freeze — feeling paralyzed to do anything. Or you could friend — try to appease the abuser so he stops threatening you. Many women in abusive relationships unconsciously take this friend approach in an effort of self-preservation.

Therefore, people who comply with the sociopath's demands aren’t always complicit. They may be doing what they must do to save themselves.

Anyone who has experienced a sociopath’s manipulation knows that it isn’t easy to “just say no” to them, even when their demand is as outrageous as springing them from prison.

To summarize, our minds are very capable of believing what we want to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary. We are biologically programmed to be responsive to others — this is especially true for the empaths among us. Sociopaths are highly skilled at taking advantage of our beliefs, our natural desire to respond, or our trauma so that we comply with their demands.

I don’t know if Samuel Hartman’s wife and mother helped him escape, and if so, why. But if they did, I would expect that they were subjected to extremely powerful manipulation, which they were unable to resist.

RELATED: If Your Partner Does These 10 Things, You're Being Manipulated

Donna Andersen is author of Lovefraud.com and offers personal consultations to help you identify and escape manipulative relationships. Her new book, Senior Sociopaths — How to recognize and escape lifelong abusers, is available now.

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This article was originally published at Lovefraud. Reprinted with permission from the author.