5 Signs You are Being Manipulated

Clarity and insights come from many different situations.

I recently ran into a problem with my tenant’s washing machine. This unit is just about 2 ½ years new and shouldn’t really have problems. Sigh…Alas this is not the case. Being the great landlord I am, I called Frigidaire to come and check it out.

I realized after talking with Frigidaire that my warranty was NOT through them but a third party service so I contacted the warranty company and scheduled an appointment to come out.

The repairman came. After pushing buttons for 3 minutes he concluded my cold water hose was clogged, even though he NEVER looked at the hoses. (Was he trying to manipulate me?) When I asked how much it would cost to remedy he told me $240 and was NOT covered by the warranty. I declined his offer of service (although I didn’t quite say it that way).

manipulationI talked to my neighbor the plumber who told me it was probably the water intake valve. I contacted Frigidaire again and during our conversation she told me it was probably the water intake valve. I knew of another very reputable repair service I’d used about 7 years before but I couldn’t remember their name to contact them.

I belong to a couple of online networking groups so I knew if I put out the request for the name and number of the appliance repair service I’d used, someone would have it. In my request I asked NOT to be cc’d to anyone as this wasn’t really a referral. There are some networking groups that thrive on (and would just about “kill” to get credit for) giving a referral to someone else in their group. I know this because several years ago I was in the specific group that does this. I got a couple of wonderful responses with the info I needed and one very interesting reply. Here it is:

“Did you know that it is normal referral/business practice to cc the other party when referring someone so they too are not blindsided by an email or call”.

What? When was last time you heard anyone say they were blindsided by a referral? Pleasantly surprised maybe but I doubt blindsided would fall into the category of referral.

As an NLP trainer and someone whose business is all about language, I noticed immediately what her reply was: a response to an objection. She used her response to try and reframe me. In therapeutic circumstances a reframe can help to provide a different context so as to diffuse the emotional charge or trigger that may already exist with relation to the issue. In specific instances a reframe can be empowering.

tasThis woman’s response was for her benefit, not mine. She was likely taught this phrase in the networking group as a way to overcome the objection someone might have to their contact info being given out to the referral.

Her response was manipulative. What she wanted to do was to narrow my choices to only her referral. If she had cc’d the company I’d then have to deal with them and it would make it harder for me to say NO without feeling guilty or bad. I wasn’t having any part of it!

Because manipulation can be sneaky or framed to look like something else, here is my short list of some of the signs.

The situation likely involves manipulation if…

  1. You notice feeling any sense of fear or intimidation or other negative emotions such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger or resentment.
  2. You “give in” in order to avoid conflict.
  3. Although it may sound like “it” benefits you, it really seeks to fulfill someone else’s agenda first,
  4. What is happening causes you to feel like you have NO choice.
  5. You feel confused, like the Tasmanian Devil whirled in, spun you around and left you thinking “what just happened here”?

Generally speaking, manipulation is learned behavior. We don’t instinctively seek to overpower or control someone unless we feel threatened or out of control in some way, then it can drive our behavior. It can be complex.

So the next time someone seeks to “help” you, notice how you feel about it? Do you feel good? Supported? Empowered? Or do you feel resentment or like you have no say or choice and you were just paid a visit the Tas?

Here’s the rub, when you are manipulated, you seek to regain your control and center and may find yourself inadvertently doing the same thing to someone else. It’s OK. The next best action is to just notice that’s it’s happening so you can make a different choice the next time.


Taming Overwhelm & Fear: Build a bridge so you can get on the right track

Last time I talked about how feeling bad can keep you from feeling good. Obvious right? But it’s also a really complex cycle. It takes some thought and action to interrupt these old patterns. A great way to start is with the acronym I’ve used below.


  • Recognize your triggers so you can begin to create and plan a different response that feels better.
  • Observe your own thoughts and behaviors. Remember, the feelings are yours, which means so are the triggers to these emotions.
  • Ask yourself: What do I want? What’s another way to get there?
  • Small, doable actions so you gain confidence.

For many people negative emotions like frustration, depression, anxiety, judgment, pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, resentment, etc. can fill your conscious and unconscious thoughts, and these drive how you act. These negative emotions are symptoms and coping mechanisms. If what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you the results you want, it’s time to do something different. This is where so many people freeze up. Have faith and read on.

Start with a bridge.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4E_QthErw2A/TsEq7uRcWqI/AAAAAAAAIqY/I_m_zVgJXII/s1600/plank%2Bbridge.jpgI like the metaphor of getting from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other by jumping across it. This is a great big DUH, of course you can’t do this but people try jumping huge personal chasms all the time like this. I like the metaphor of building a bridge across the Grand Canyon, because sometimes the challenges in life can feel that BIG! this is much scarier than the bridge you likely need to build! When I talk about building bridges and developing skills, it’s one step (plank) at time, starting with the above steps.

Your bridge is a new starting point. Once you start with small, doable and repeatable steps, you become familiar with the feeling of confidence, safety, achievement and awareness; all really good feelings. This is where the next step is so VERY critical.

Getting on a NEW train – a radical action.

Imagine this. You get up and get ready for work or appointments or whatever project is happening that day. You have the same morning routine; then you take the same route to your destination. For the sake of this metaphor let’s imagine you take a train to your destination. You go to the same train station, same platform and the same route every day to get to your destination. It’s predictable, you need predictability so you get where you need to go. This is great when the destination (the results) is what you want.

One day, you decide this destination isn’t quite what you want anymore. So you go to the train station and look for another train. Aha! There is one. It’s a different model and color, has a different name and it stops at different places along the way. It’s near the same place you were going before, but it’s still different. You get on it and ride it. You do this every day and it even feels different because you arrive one track over from the previous train you were riding. Eventually though you realize that even though it’s one track over, you are really still in the same place. Then you say, “I don’t get it, I know it was a different train.”

After my partner Chris died, my adult daughter and I became estranged at a time when I wanted so much for us to be close. I would periodically reach out to my daughter, but to no avail. I would feel triggered and my deep open wound would hurt all the more. I would retreat and continue my grieving and healing process. It wasn’t until I neared the third year anniversary of Chris’s death that I got an epiphany. After reaching out so many times and feeling rejected so many times, I decided I needed to radically change my approach.

trainI got on a completely different train. I decided to withdraw complete contact with my daughter until I could figure out how I could change things. I stopped reaching out sometime in the latter part of the year and well before the holidays. I finally surrendered and fully accepted that I might never again reunite with my only child. This total withdrawal was truly radical for me. My own sister, who is a mother and trained therapist did not understand my behavior. All I knew was that I needed to make a radical change in my course.

After several months I received divine guidance that I could approach my daughter differently. I reached out and texted her almost every day for a couple of weeks and just said things like “Hope you have a good day, love Mom” or “It’s almost Friday, enjoy the weekend.”

I kept texting my one-liners and in between we had an spirited text conversation about what the next steps would be. Still we did not find agreement. Then one morning I got a text from her saying she was in town and could we meet. I was shocked, excited, anxious, and feeling trepidation all at the same time. We finally found a mutually workable place and time and met.

While not perfect (and nothing is) it was a blessed opening. I feared this would never have taken place had I not receded inward to do my own work of processing feelings and thus taking my radical action.

What is a radical action?

Radical actions can mean many things and although I don’t recommend ceasing all contact, in my case this was what needed to happen first. It can mean imagining the most painful thing you can think of, which in my case was totally releasing my daughter. The pain was excruciating and still is at times. Radical change is drastic and major and often profound. To reach profound you have to walk into, face and walk through the pain.

I emphasize radical change because you can be tricked into thinking and even believing you are acting differently. And…maybe you are. Remember the train? There is one sure way to know. Ask yourself: Am I getting the outcome I want? Be honest with yourself. If you are not getting the outcome you want, find a new train, build a new bridge, go to that painful place and face it. You will survive it, It will pass and you will see clearer, behave differently and most of all, the outcome will be different.

When you think of wanting a loving, compassionate relationship (no matter who it is with), what is the pain you’ve been avoiding? This is the painful place you need to visit.

Love IS the Answer – Part 2

Here are the facts:

kneejerkWhen you relapse into your negative feelings without seeking self-awareness and resolution, whether by choice or denial, the trigger and response, namely your pain, anger, resentment, the blame, etc. is ALWAYS, ALWAYS still there! Just because you sweep dirt under the rug doesn’t mean the dirt is gone. It’s just hidden from view. And so are your feelings. I call this reverting to your “knee-jerk” response. It’s your brain on by-pass.

As humans we are brilliant at being in denial and invoking our knee-jerk responses. They are survival skills, but not thriving skills. It likely feels  overwhelming and scary to think about changing this. So how do you start?

Easy peasy first step.

Pay attention. Feelings and emotions are there for a reason. They are full of information. The information in and of itself is neither good nor bad unless you place a value on it (e.g., right or wrong, good or bad), otherwise it’s simply information. When you choose to remove the value and see your feelings as information, you gain some perspective that you don’t have when you are sucked in by the knee-jerk response. When you pay attention to the feelings and take custody of them you take the first step toward identifying what triggers your response. It’s important to find the trigger, so you can develop a new response to it instead of your debilitating knee-jerk response.

Paying attention is my mantra. You do this by starting to notice your feelings and acknowledging them as yours. Acknowledgment sounds something like this: “Ok, I’m really pissed off.” You are not judging it, only observing it. Once you feel comfortable acknowledging your feelings, ask yourself the following questions:

What’s underneath the _________________?

How do I feel when I’m  ______________ or how do I act?

Here’s an example:

Acknowledging feeling angry.

Q.  What’s underneath the anger?

A.  frustration.

Q. What’s underneath the frustration?

A.  Anger?

Q.   What will you have if you have anger?

A. Frustration.

Q.  What will you have if you have frustration?

A. Lack of control.

Q. How will you feel if you have lack of control?

A.  Scared.

Q.  What’s underneath the fear?

A.  I don’t know.

Think about it and keep asking. You can ask it a slightly different way, such as:

Q.  How will you feel if you are fearful?

A.  scared.

Q. What are you scared of?

A.  Being hurt, rejected, feeling wrong, uncomfortable, in pain

Ok, you named it and acknowledged it.

Q.  What baby step can you take to feel the pain, etc. and not freak out?

A. I can do my breathing exercises, I can journal, I can discuss it in therapy, I can reflect on it. I can exhibit compassion for myself.

AHA! Keep asking yourself until your cry, shift, break down or get an epiphany. Be patient and stick with it. This is likely an  uncomfortable place. Stay there. You can do it. I know you can. The first time is the hardest. It get’s easier and the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it because you’ll notice how light you feel.

What’s the benefit of taking custody of your triggered feelings when you can blame someone else for them? When you place the blame on someone else or emphatically state you have no choice, you eliminate all your possibilities for empowerment, movement, or healing. There is little room for love.

If you are like most humans you want to have choices. Isn’t this the very foundation of who we are and what we stand for? Blame, pride, resentment, anger and judgment are all stuck, stagnant, immovable feelings. When you take custody of your triggers and feelings you can then begin to change the way you look at something. Seeing things differently and choosing a new way to behave and respond means fewer and fewer knee-jerk responses. Better choices, fewer negative responses, more love and compassion.

Be patient with yourself and persevere. You can do it!


Love IS the answer – Part 1 of 2

HeartsWhen I was young I used to hear “love is the answer.” I heard this often, but didn’t fully understand how love could be the answer, especially when I didn’t feel so loved. Growing up I felt like I was an afterthought in my family. I have an older sister whom I felt my parents favored. My sister and I have talked about this and from her perspective she felt smothered.

Perception is a powerful shaping force in our lives.

As my life journey evolved and I had a child, I fully embodied that incredibly deep level of love for my child. As my journey continued I found a life partner who brought me a depth of unconditional love I’d never experienced before. I finally got “it”!

Yes, love is the answer. There is no better feeling. No more powerful place to live in and act from. It is the highest vibration in the universe and once you experience giving AND receiving unconditional love, you understand how it is the answer. For me it was a process and a lot of personal work to arrive at this perspective, especially when there have been so many major life challenges on my path.

For many people negative feelings like frustration, depression, anxiety, judgment, pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, resentment, etc. can fill conscious and unconscious thoughts. They keep you from moving forward and having what you want in your life and can cause any number of ailments, distress, conditions, addictions and problems. You may want to turn away and ignore these feelings, pretend they don’t exist or blame someone else for them.

These negative feelings are coping mechanisms. They had a purpose in the past, which is likely not appropriate any longer, however, over time you’ve been conditioned to think them and you may even get unconsciously attached to them. They have now become blocks to success, acceptance, love and joy.

Regardless of how you spin it, the feelings are yours. Even if someone “triggers” you, the response is yours, and yours alone. Your responses (how you feel and act) are a product of your past experiences, emotions, behaviors, perceptions, physicality, memories, beliefs, values, judgments and attitudes (yes, you are complex!).

The good news is since the feelings are yours, what you do with them is yours as well. It’s ALL about you!

To manage and ultimately eliminate the negative feelings and experience the love, acceptance, joy, hope and the other powerful and positive feelings we were born to experience, takes some work. There is no getting around it. I’m a big supporter of energy work and clearing. I’ve practiced several different techniques myself, and what I’ve found is that no matter how much energy work you have done, you are a human and need to also do the conscious human work.

I’m a BIG believer in small, doable, “feel-the-accomplishment” steps. I know with certainty that if the step is too big or overwhelming, you won’t take it.

This first step then is about observation, awareness and noticing.

LEARN to observe, identify and acknowledge your feelings.

If you think you don’t need to do this step or if you are already doing it, then ask yourself this question: Am I getting the results I want in all the areas of my life? If you are, then keep doing what you are doing and congratulate yourself! IF NOT, THEN GET REAL WITH YOURSELF AND DO THE WORK! Work is action, that’s why it’s called work.

Start by noticing and identifying WHAT feelings are being triggered. Often identifying them is the hardest part. They are usually layered and often buried, so sometimes you have to peel back the layers to get to the heart (think of an artichoke) and if you are willing to dig in and do the work, then go deeper and you’ll get to the heart! If you are angry, ask yourself what’s underneath the anger? Here is where you must be vulnerable and willing to look at it.

This first step is for you and you alone to ponder. You don’t have to do anything else just yet. Practice observing, noticing and being aware of your feelings. Stretch yourself and go into the uncomfortable feelings. It’s only scary the first time.

Also, remember to acknowledge your successes, no matter how small they may seem!

If you are ready for the next step, then write down what you are noticing, observing and feeling. Just make it simple. It can be one sentence or even a few words. Remember, you must take action.

JUST DO IT! If you get stuck, go back and reread this piece from the beginning.

In part 2, I’ll introduce a few additional simple steps to help you keep moving toward what you’d always intended for yourself.

WIIFM? Could it save your life?

I actually love the acronym WIIFM, which stands for “what’s in it for me”? Almost everyone needs to understand specifically why investing their money, time or energy is important, before they will invest it, regardless of what the situation is. We are programmed (whether by DNA or societal conditioning – or both) to ponder and find an answer to why, what or how (although the question why is a completely different ballgame and I’ll talk about that in my next blog). People also like to know when something will happen but often do not get an answer to that question that they like. Still we are conditioned to ask and often seek the answers externally.

Sometimes it is the questions we don’t ask that have the most importance in our lives.

Take Coco for instance.

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Prove it to me!

picIf you told someone you were a singer or a veterinarian or plumber, would they ask you to prove it?

I run into people from time to time who are skeptical that I’m the “real thing.” They expect me to read their mind. I’m psychic – not a mind reader. They are two different things, although I’ve been known to say things that sound a lot like mind-reading. I understand their skepticism; I’ve been there. I’ve had many readings in the past and some were more accurate than others. Now that I’m on the other side of the table, so to speak, I find myself curious about the question of proof.

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Out of alignment?

car-alignmentDo you know when your car is out of alignment? I’m not sure I do. If you are out of alignment with something and don’t know exactly what it is (and we often don’t), how will you know what to do to correct it?

I think as human beings we go through life intuitively seeking meaning, purpose and alignment. We find it in different things: children, spouses or S/O, work, music, art, etc. These are most often pursuits happening outside of us. In the long run though we always come back to having to find it within because all those other things change and come and go.

This time of year often has us reflecting just a bit more about what is right or wrong in our lives, the goals we’ve achieved and the ones we haven’t and where we might go from here. We don’t always know which way is best. Such was the case for a reading I did on Sunday.

As you know my business centers on women entrepreneurs and business professionals. As I was sitting in my reading room at East West Books, a man approached me whom I’ll call Sam, and asked if I was available. Yes, I said and he came in and sat down.

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Do you ever feel like running away?

Do you ever feel like running away? I do. It’s the beginning of another year and I’m soooo glad! Right at the beginning of December I fell into the pit of depression. I was approaching the two-year anniversary of Chris’s death (I still find that hard to say), it was the beginning of holiday season and I was moving my office from outside to my home; a triple whammy. It hit me and it hit hard. I retreated and spent a lot of days on the couch in between clients. There were a couple of weekends I never made it out of the house and it was OK. I sat literally waiting for the days to pass. And pass they did.

After 5 weeks of building my protective internal sanctuary of survival, I finally emerged. Just a little at first and now I’m almost fully reintegrated back into the community after this last grieving cycle. I even went to a networking meeting recently, a big leap forward for me and sign of my rebirth. It is almost Spring!

We are cyclical by nature and it is most important to honor our cycles rather than circumvent or even attempt to eliminate them. I honor my cycles of self-healing I because I love myself. That wasn’t always true.

Why did I start off my blog with a kind of “downer” story rather than a “how wonderful life is” story? First, because it’s genuine: I rediscover a new part of “me” and where it fits into my new life every time I go into the cave and then re-emerge. It’s really quite a wonder for me. I never know who is going to emerge and how I will feel. No I don’t have multiple personality disorder just recovering and reconciling through the grieving process. I bet you can relate on some level.

The second reason I told this story is to illustrate what it may mean to Take Charge of one’s life and since this is what I teach I certainly want to be a role model for others. Taking charge of your life may mean many things or just one thing at time and of course it may evolve over time. Here is what I teach as a foundation to learning how to Take Charge of your life.

Taking charge means:

  • Noticing and identifying the symptoms that are causing problems, unresourceful or even bad behavior.
  • Setting healthy and loving personal boundaries to enforce emotional, mental, physical and spiritual safety.
  • Knowing and believing that self-care and self-healing are healthy as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.
  • Honoring intuition.
  • Being with the process (or riding the waves of the storm) instead of working so hard to go around it or deny it even exists.
  • Emerging stronger on the other side.
  • Feeling ready to forge ahead.

When I do all the above work the results are loving, encouraging, empowering, engaging, hopeful, spiritual, and supportive among other positive outcomes.

When you go through tough times in your life and you feel like running away, I hope you’ll remember these thoughts and actions and that they might even sustain you as you ride out the storm.

What is Acknowledgment and why is it soooo important to use it?

Do you know how to acknowledge someone? Do you know why it’s so important to learn this valuable skill?

In simple terms acknowledgement validates who you are. That’s really BIG so I invite you to sit with that thought for a moment….Validation implies that you are a valuable part of someone’s life, family and community.

I was recently talking to a good friend of mine and during our conversation the word acknowledgement came up. She told me she had no problem acknowledging her friends or family, but struggled with acknowledging her husband. We talked a little bit about it and I explained to her that one of the reasons this may be difficult is that with spouses we come to expect so much more from them; almost too much, so they often seem lacking in our eyes. Hence the holding back of acknowledgment. The irony of course is that the more you acknowledge your partner the more they WANT to do for you. So a lack of acknowledgement simply leads to more lack – period.

Past resentments can also lead to withholding acknowledgment, consciously or unconsciously. Resentments can keep you from having what you truly want; usually a reciprocal and loving relationship. Resentments can run deep and most people don’t have the skills to get to the heart of the issue and release it. But that’s another topic.

Spousal type relationships are complicated. They are the deepest form of relationship one can have on a non-familial level. Your spouse or partner sees you in every kind of conceivably vulnerable situation; or at least that is the hope in a loving and healthy relationship. What’s more, they become a very clever and clear mirror of every part of who you are and it’s not just the standard mirror it’s the magnified version…ughh! Yes, they reflect back to you all kinds of deeply rooted behaviors as well as the superficial idiosyncratic behavior. There is a presupposition in NLP (which stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming, a form of quick behavior change technology) which in essence says: the response you get is a direct result of the communication you express. That oughta make you stop and think. Communication is CRITICAL (again other topic) and acknowledgment is part of communication. So think of acknowledgment as positive reinforcement. When you see your spouse do or say something that you may often take for granted, acknowledge it.

One of my favorite movies, takes this concept a bit deeper. In Avatar the indigenous people have a phrase; they say: “I see you.” It is the deepest form of acknowledgement possible because it acknowledges your essence at your very core. It is a heart-to-heart connection. As humans, being acknowledged is a very basic human need because remember it validates your value.

Acknowledgement can take some skill. It’s not exactly a compliment, although it can sound and feel like one. Remember you are simply reflecting back a positive and valuable observation. It is a sign of recognition. Here are a few examples:

  1. I can see that you are are doing your best and I want you to know that I noticed this.
  2. I really see the effort you are making and I truly appreciate it.
  3. I get that this was a challenge for you and I recognize the hard work you put in.
  4. I hear that you are struggling and I want you to know that I can just listen if that would be helpful.

Try them out and let me know how it goes.

Action or Stillness: Which cycle should you be in right now?

Sometimes as I go through the days, I’ll notice a particular pattern making itself known. As I pay attention to this I allow it to guide my direction for the day or week ahead. I like doing this because it gives me time to pause and be introspective; which is really what the next few weeks are for cyclically.

On July 14th planet Mercury went “retrograde” which happens 3 times per year and last about 17 days. Not that I’m terribly knowledgeable about astrology, but I do know when Mercury goes retrograde; I calendar it so I’ll be prepared. There are times I’m particularly sensitive to it and you may be too only you didn’t know why.

Mercury most notably influences our communication. If you’ve noticed your computer or printer doing odd things or your phone not working properly or vice verse, it is likely influenced by Mercury’s retrograde appearance. In simple terms retrograde means reverse or backward. So when Mercury goes retrograde it appears to be moving backward (it’s not really) but this is why communication can go wonky – feel backward. Additionally, we just had one of the biggest solar flare disruptions to our planet in many years. So, there is lots of cosmic activity.

It’s important to realize and remember that we humans transition through many different seasons or cycles just like Mother Nature. We are clear what to do during each of Earth’s quarterly seasons and yet I think we are sometimes stumped when we have to “deal” or “handle” our own cycles or are even surprised to realize we have them. Mercury retrograde is one of the cosmic reminders for us to pay attention to this quietly internal cycle.

Generally this means it is a good time to go within oneself and be introspective. Sit quietly with yourself and notice the things you’ve been avoiding and begin to work through them. I know this is easier said than done, but when I receive this message repeatedly I heed it. This is a time to work on those internal issues that you’ve been pushing to the back in favor of more prosperous pursuits.

Spend a little less time on sales, systems and logistics and a little more on relaxing and relating to nature, your animals and Mother Earth. Have more patience remembering that communication with others can feel more difficult. Our bodies play a tune we are sometimes unfamiliar with which is why learning to listen to your body’s needs is so important. We are not machines, at least not in the traditional sense. Give yourself time to be human before you rev up your engine again. It will happen all too soon. Taking charge of your life is quite often about listening to and respecting your inner cycles and wisdom.

Blessings n-joy,