Can You Be Manipulated with One Simple Trick?


If you want to see the poster child for manipulation, you need to look no further than a simple story involving a movie, an overbearing mom, and a kid with a wild imagination.

A Deceived Pops
If you’ve ever watched The Goldbergs, you know the reality-based antics of this 80’s family. The show is centered around Adam Goldberg, the show’s writer. It’s based around actual events or interactions from his past where he shows how his slightly dysfunctional family went through chaos to find compassion.

In one particular episode Adam is excited to see Poltergeist, a scary movie his mother has forbidden. So Adam tricks his “Pops” (grandfather) into taking him to see it anyway. The effects of the movie on Adam are obvious to the point his Pops is worried. His mother on the other hand is thrilled.

A Clingy Mother
From the moment Adam comes back from the theater he’s more affectionate towards his mother simply to feel a sense of security and safety. Beverly, a woman who craves the affection of her children, eats it up and doesn’t let in on to the fact that she knows Adam saw the movie against her wishes.

Instead she becomes almost diabolical in her madcap antics to get more attention from her son. She finds new ways to sneakily freak him out and send him running back to her for more comfort and affection, from standing outside the window with a TV remote to using walkie talkies in his footlocker. It seems her unhealthy need for affection knows few bounds. Her methods work to get her what she wants until Adam uncovers her plot and things go back to normal.

Easy to Manipulate
In the same way that Adam was easy to manipulate, we too are easy to manipulate. Beverly used the basis of a truth that applies to people the world over: when we are afraid, we are easy to control.

Politicians use this all the time. Afraid of losing your job? Afraid of terrorism? Afraid of not having enough money? They push the buttons to make us feel that they are the answer to our problems.

Just like Adam with his mother, fear is the button that activates our need for saving. We immediately look toward something or someone to save us from what we fear most. But maybe there is an antidote.

Freedom From Fear
The best way to be less prone to manipulation is to have freedom from fear. If fear is the button that makes us easy to control, removing that button makes us resistant to that type of influence.

The monsters that Adam saw were all in his mind. They were not real. He was able to be controlled simply by his imagination. Likewise, our monsters are typically in our imagination as well. We look to negative outcomes and worry about what may be, letting our fears get the best of us. The monsters in our mind take over and we end up looking for a savior that will rid us of the monsters we’ve created. This is when we are primed to be manipulated and controlled.

Instead, we must believe in ourselves and in others close to us who wish to do good. We must believe in positive outcomes and better ways of doing things. We must look toward hope and not despair. We must believe and find freedom from fear, even as we struggle with it. After all we may not be free of fear, but we can have freedom from fear if we don’t let it control us and don’t give into it.

If we want to have control over our destinies – over our futures – we must not give that control to others that promise to save us from our fears. Instead, we must face our fears and believe that we can handle whatever challenges may come our way. It’s a shield against manipulation and strength and resolve to become not who someone else wants us to be, but who we want to become.

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About the author

David is a father, speaker, blogger (obviously), and author of How to Create Amazing Presentations sharing the tools, tips, and techniques of the experts to make you an amazing presenter, 7 Steps to Better Relationships built on the stories and lessons on this blog with seven easy steps to help you maximize your interactions with the people you care about most, and The Man in the Pit to help you care for loved ones struggling with depression.

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