One of the items on the PCL-R is manipulative. But isn’t everyone manipulative? Except for severely retarded or autistic people. In the old laugh-at movie, Reefer Madness, the goody-goody main character is so honest, they say of him, he “never lies.” But real people tell lies. And we all manipulate.
What is child-rearing?
Proverbs 22:6New King James Version (NKJV)
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Isn’t it all about teaching a child to behave in ways parents want him to behave? Child-rearing is about teaching your kid to be obedient (to the parent at first). Later, the kid applies his habit of obedience to school, bosses and laws. The favored way of teaching obedience is reward and punishment.
is an organization started in the Reagan years. It is a self-help group for parents whose kids are “out of control.” In other words, these parents can’t “control” their kids. Their kids are not obedient. Tough Love
is also a book and a television movie. When you get
past the verbiage, it really boils down to one thing. How to show the kid who is boss and make him submit. They do this by making undesirable (to them) behavior have consequences. Like a wild horse, a disobedient child must be broken. It is the will which must be broken to make him submit.
But that seems so one-sided. Is the child (or good citizen) just submitting? It seems to me there is a two-way process at work. The kid wants to be rewarded instead of punished. To get what he wants, the kid applies those behaviors he was taught. It’s mutual manipulation. After all, society is a system of levers and pulleys that people learn to manipulate to get a favored outcome.
The man who made manipulation not only respectable but scientific is B.F. Skinner with his books Beyond Freedom and Dignity
and Walden Two
. Skinner poses some interesting paradoxes about freedom and democracy. His utopia isn’t democratic in the sense of people voting for candidates. One ruler or committee makes the decisions. But they do it in a way that the success of the community depends on the people being happy. So, in that sense, they “vote” for the decisions that work.
The leader of the fictitious community, Walden Two, is a man named Frazier who claims a lot of power. But Frazier’s “control” is hardly what is usually implied by that word, which would be power-over
, power wielded over people against their will
. Frazier’s only “power” comes from his ability to organize people in a way that enables them to be happy and to get what they want. It is power-with
Even in situations that are completely power-over
such as a kidnapping, the prisoner finds ways to exert some control by knowing the person who has the power over, finding his weaknesses. That is what keeps them alive and enables them to escape eventually.
In sado-masochism, it is a well-known truism that “the masochist has all the power.” That’s kind of a cliche that is only partially true. But even partial truth says a lot.
As long as people are at all affected by the behavior of other people, power will always be a matter of give and take. A lot of manipulation is based on the knowledge on the part of the manipulator (consciously or otherwise) of secret guilt, inadequacies and resentments on our part (which is usually unconscious). This form of manipulation is blackmail. The antidote to manipulation is the same as the antidote to blackmail: to tell the truth. The victim of most forms of manipulation is not as much afraid of the blackmailer telling the world as he is of becoming aware of his own secrets, carefully hidden from himself. A self-aware human being is enured to blackmail. It always costs us to face our inner demons and that is the true cost of freedom.