It’s important to understand and speak about certain concepts correctly because holding erroneous perspectives on behavior, especially the behavior of disturbed characters, is one of the main reasons people get bamboozled and otherwise victimized by bad actors.

While it’s tempting to fault ourselves for being duped, the tactics covertly aggressive and other character-impaired people use are inherently powerful manipulation tools because they throw us on the defensive while simultaneously concealing obvious aggressive intent. And universally, folks familiar with my work reported that merely adopting the different perspective I offered about how to view their manipulator’s behavior was key to them putting an end to future victimization and empowering their lives.

Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, explain yourself, and question your judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in.

Covert-aggression is a particularly insidious type of fighting. That’s because victims of it can have a lot of understandable difficulty recognizing it in the first place and then defending themselves against it once they sense it. Being the victim of covert-aggression can make you feel crazy. In your gut, you think someone’s trying to get the better of you or abuse you in some way, but you can’t point to anything clear and obvious to back up your hunch. And it’s also like getting whiplash: You don’t really realize what’s happened to you until after damage has already been done.

There are people in this world whose main concern is being on top and in control. As long as they have their way, they’re content. But try to stand on equal ground with them, or resist acceding to their demands, and there’s bound to be trouble.