In prior posts, I’ve written about some of the major differences between neurotic personalities and disordered characters (they differ on such major issues as anxiety, shame, guilt, and conscience). You can read more of these comparisons as part of a series I’m doing for another blog. That series began with a post that pointed out the failure of traditional psychology to provide an accurate framework for understanding the phenomenon of character disturbance, as well as a post that clarifies the distinction betwen personality traits, personality disorders, and disorders of character. This post begins a discussion of the various manipulation tactics, first outlined in my book, In Sheep’s Clothing.
Manipulators are often quite skilled in the various ways to decieve, con, and otherwise lie. One of the most subtle but yet effective ways to lie is lying by omission. A very skilled manipulator might even recite a litany of very true facts but then (possibly unbeknownst to you) deliberately leave out a key detail that would shed an entirely new light on the reality of a situation. All of this is done for the purposes of impression management and outcome manipulation.
An incarcerated female criminal offender put in an “emergency” request to see the consulting physician. She told him that she had been treated for “anxiety” and “depression” in the free world but that no anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication had been prescribed for her since arriving at the prison (true fact). She rattled off the names of several persons she knew who had been prescribed medicine, whereas she had not (again, true facts). She stated that was being discriminated against because she had filed an official grievance (it was factual that she had filed a grievance). She painted a picture of a hurting, unfairly treated person with a serious condition who only wanted help but was denied. She was the victim, the “corrupt system” was the victimizer (playing the victim role is an effective tactic in itself). The consulting physician was unfamiliar with treating individuals with severe disturbances of character. When the physician consulted with the rest of the staff, she was leaning toward prescribing medication to this inmate. He then learned what the inmate “left out” of the story. She had been to many clinics (i.e. “doctor-shopping”) in the free world and along the way managed to score many different diagnoses and abusable drugs until the medical community in and around her town became aware of her game. She didn’t say that she had been given two independent and complete psychiatric evaluations, with both psychiatrists deeming she had no true mental illness (unusually, she even had no chemical addiction issues of her own – her criminal “business” was dealing in abusable prescription drugs) but was merely trying to secure drugs she could sell even in prison. In fact, she had been caught selling drugs she entered the prison with and that was one of the many reasons she was screened so carefully with regard to any possible real need for them. It was also no accident that this inmate put in her “emergency” request on a day that she found out that a consulting physician who had never consulted to the prison before would be on duty.
This particualar case illustrates not only how subtle and crafty lying can be, especially when the main technique is omission, but also how convincing and unnerved a liar can be while exercising his or her craft. A good “con” can get the better of anyone. They paint the picture they want you to see. If you look no further, you’re likely to be duped.
In future posts, I’ll be talking about other various tactics of manipulation and why they’re often effective.