You were born manipulative! Everyone is.
It’s impossible for a newborn child to function independently and responsibly on his or her own. The body and brain are not developed. The newborn needs an “agent”—someone who can use their more developed body and brain to accomplish the tasks of living and who can do this for the newborn as well. Usually this “agent” is known as a parent.
If the infant is hot or cold, or wearing uncomfortably messy diapers, or needing food—the “agent” must provide. Everything the infant needs in this world, and cannot yet do for him or herself, needs to be done by “agents.” As research has shown, infants who do not have attentive agents usually die.
From the infant’s point of view, the message is this:
- “To survive, I need you to act on my behalf in the world.”
- “To be comfortable, I need you to act on my behalf in the world.”
- “To learn, I need you to act on my behalf in the world.”
Infancy and manipulation (also called co-dependence) is characterized by need of the attentions and help of others.
As an infant, I am in possession of the full energy of an adult human being; yet I am occupying a baby’s body and cannot express that energy.
Ever wonder why parents of young children get so tired? They have the full energy of an adult being—who is not yet adult and so must put that energy through them as their “agent”—pumping through them, all day long, in addition to the parent’s own energy!
My firstborn was an energy powerhouse! Even now, when she is close to 50 years old, her energy is overwhelming to most others. When she was growing up, I told her, “Your primary and most challenging job in your life will be to develop mastery over your own energy.” I realized one day that I was exhausted, because all day long I had experienced the energy of two full energy beings coursing through me. I noticed this was especially true between the ages of birth and two years, with each of my children. Only at the age of two do children begin to develop the ability to put some of their energy through themselves, rather than relying on the services of an “agent.”
Two year olds say “me do it myself!” They mean it, too. Unfortunately for them, however, they are not yet fully able to do “it” by themselves. Yet, they are clearly champing at the bit, wanting to take responsibility for themselves and their own life. Their body and brain are not quite up to the task.
To evolve out of manipulation, they must evolve out of that early need for an “agent,” and take over the running, administration and responsibility for their life. At two, the child is feeling the pull to accomplish this, even though not yet capable of a full transition to self as agent.
How We See Maturity
Ask anyone, and you will be told that mature people are not in constant need of others to act as “agent” for them. Mature people, it turns out, may want others to participate, join or take care of them, yet they will be okay if they don’t get that from other people. They want, but they don’t need. If others can’t share in their activities or requests, mature people are okay. They will either do without what they have requested, or they will find ways to give the request to them.
Mature people want; they don’t need
So the question arises: If we are born manipulative, needing an “agent” to help us be effective in the world and get the things we have to have in order to survive, and if maturity means we no longer need an agent, but have wants that leave us okay if others do not participate with us, then how do we get –fully—from need to want?
This is the question we all must answer in order to move from being manipulative and co-dependent, into full, independent, mature living.
It is the destiny of each human being—should they choose it and get help in achieving it—to be manipulation-free! We humans are designed to outgrow manipulation, just as we are designed to outgrow bed-wetting.
Manipulation is Human Behavior; Everyone Does It
Most people accept this statement: “Everybody manipulates.”
What we’re actually accepting is that in our world today, people do not outgrow their need to manipulate others (and even themselves). Instead, they drag their need of others into their “adult” life, connecting with the people in their lives through need, instead of want. Most so-called adults have never outgrown their belief that they need an outside “agent” in order to function in daily life!
Not only are we born manipulative, most of us remain manipulative for our entire lives.
In fact, we are designed to outgrow manipulation, to leave it behind as a thing of childhood. Manipulating people is childish behavior, done by people who have not yet achieved full maturity.
Some people manipulate all the time; I call them “Lifestyle Manipulators.”
Others—and this is most of us—manipulate some of the time. We have what I call “pockets of manipulation,” places in life where they regress to an immature way of behaving, drawing energy from people they make into “agents”, whom they believe will fill their needs.
Neither of these ways of living is necessary. In fact, things have been designed to allow us to step out of manipulation and into full maturity.
How Do People Stop Being Manipulative?
At the age of two, every little child cries “Me do it myself,” voicing the intention to become manipulation-free, yet still unable to achieve it.
If we need to move from the condition of needing others to help us function in life in ways that work well, so that we can develop the condition of wanting others to help or participate (yet we’ll be okay if they don’t), then how do we make the transition?
After years of observation, I’ve discovered that we are designed to make this transition—from need to want—between the ages of 3 and 4 years.
That’s when we can ask for or even get our own drink of water. We can open the door to the refrigerator. We can pull a blanket up over our own body if we feel cold. In short, we can begin to responsibly use our own energy to meet our own needs in the world, without requiring an “agent.”
But we do need help to make this change! We need people who support our efforts to take responsibility for meeting our own 3- and 4-year-old needs. Those people are the same as our “agents,” usually our parents.
Look around you. How many people can you find who no longer manipulate to get what they believe they need? When I look, there are very few manipulation-free people. Something sad has been happening. Parents—whose job it is—have not been helping their 3- and 4-year-olds to make the transition from need to want. They have not been helping children to take on the responsibility—which is ultimately each person’s to take—for guiding, living and directing their own life!
- Parents don’t know it’s their responsibility to help their 3- or 4-year-old child to take as much personal responsibility for their own life as possible.
- Parents think asking a child of the tender age of 3 or 4 to be responsible and meet their own needs is too much to ask of the child.
- The parents themselves have never received the help to move from need into want. They are still living their lives on the basis of manipulation. They believe they need their children to stay connected to them so they can continue to be okay, and thus have no interest in teaching their child to start being responsible and putting their own energy through themselves.
This third reason, it turns out, is the most common reason children don’t receive help to make the transition from need to want, from irresponsible childhood to responsible maturity.
The tragedy in this is that a majority of young people never have the opportunity to attain full maturity. Either they live as complete manipulators, or they live their adult lives with “pockets” of immaturity, of places where they are fearful they might die if others don’t meet what they perceive to be their needs.