The Manipulator’s Strategy (How The Game Works)

Here, I’ll outline as clearly as I can the strategy used by manipulative, narcissist personalities and Devouring Mothers. It’s how they achieve and maintain power and control over others.

There are, as you might guess, two participants in the game: A Manipulator (a narcissist Devouring Mother), and their Target (you and I).

Imagine these like steps in a video game. If you make a mistake and lose, you go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Let’s begin…

1) First, the Manipulator creates a problem where previously there was harmony.

All was peaceful and well. Then, from nothing, drama is fabricated by the Manipulator. This problem could be anything, from a misinterpreted comment, a misunderstanding, or a completely fictional hallucination. Or worse, they may fabricate drama between siblings.

Regardless, it’s always a “mountain out of a molehill” type of situation—something minor or even non-existent is expanded into something massive, all-encompassing, and urgent.

2) Next, the Manipulator blames the problem that they’ve created on their Target.

The initial reaction from the Target is often disbelief, along the lines of, “Oh c’mon, really?!” But the Manipulator presses, underscoring that the problem really is a big deal, and that it really is the Target’s fault.

This leaves the Target confused, but also wanting to do the right thing, and return things to a peaceful state. It’s the Target’s conscience that the Manipulator leverages.

3) Then, the Manipulator demands that immediate action be taken by the Target so that harmony may be restored.

The Manipulator’s solution (demand) involves mental gymnastics to comprehend (because it is rooted in non-reason), and requires the Target’s sole compliance (no compromise on anyone else’s part is required).

The Manipulator’s pry bar is placed firmly under the Target’s sense of goodness and wanting to do what’s right. Leverage is then applied…

“Family’s so important to us…”

“Please try to understand where they’re coming from…”

“If you loved me you would…”


The Target’s point of view, feelings, and values are of no consideration. They are simply of no interest. After all, the pigs are all equal, but some pigs are more equal than others.

The Manipulator’s solution (demand) ignores the actual problem (the one that the Manipulator initially manifested from nothing), and instead puts the focus entirely on the Target complying with the demand.

The stage is now set and the pieces are now in place for the Manipulator to exert their power and control over their Target. A no-win situation has been established, trapping the Target. They can either comply with the Manipulator’s demands and lose long term (by continually devaluing themselves) or refuse to submit and lose short term (with swift, immediate punishment).

Door Number One: Spike pit. Door Number Two: Shark tank.

“If you loved me, you would…”

4a) The Target complies, and gives in to the demands of the Manipulator.

You lose. The game is reset and you return back to Step 1, just a little bit more worthless and controllable than you were before.

This is what I did from age 0-40. I lost over and over and over…

…and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…

Every single one of those overs, I’d return to the beginning of the game second guessing myself more and more, thinking I was a bad person more and more, wondering if I really was as worthless as they all implied…

Or maybe the shark tank behind Door Number Two was a better choice…

4b) The Target refuses to submit.

With this choice, the Target also loses (recall, a no-win situation was constructed by the Manipulator).

Here, the Manipulator drops the hammer of punishment for refusal to comply. And it’s done with a seemingly sadistic delight. They’ll use any tool of emotional coercion they can wield, including but not limited to guilt, shame, attacking the target’s character and morals, using the target’s children as leverage, their self-esteem…anything is fair game. Anything.

The Manipulator will stop at nothing until full compliance is achieved.

And of course, any collateral damage caused by the Manipulator (throughout the rest of the family, for instance) is easily placed back on the Target. After all, according to the Manipulator, it’s the Target’s fault for causing such havoc in the first place.

The Manipulator’s strategy is to play the victim and blame the Target for causing the initial problem, and then making it even worse by refusing to comply. In psychology, this is called covert aggression. There’s also some projection in there as well. The Manipulator resorts to character assassination (calling the target “self-righteous ” “cruel,” “mean,” “a bully,” etc.) and loads on more guilt and shame in an effort to motivate the Target to comply with the Manipulator’s demands.

As a side note, as soon as the Manipulator degrades to personal attacks, it indicates that they cannot beat you on ideas—yours are superior and more reasonable. Personal attacks indicate that you’re winning the psychological struggle.

The right thing to do is to hold your footing and keep pressing, as experience and constant failure has taught me. The wrong thing to do is to cave in when you have a temporary upper hand. If you do, you lose and are taken back to Step 4a, and consequently back to Step 1, where the game is again reset.

So, this was the pattern that repeated over and over in my life—as I say from age 0-40. And it was played on me not just from my own Devouring Mother, but also from other family membersĀ  who displayed narcissistic traits as well.

That is, until I resolved to find out just what the hell was going on. Until then, I didn’t even really understanding what was happening. I knew something very wrong was afoot, but I couldn’t drag it out of the shadows. And what I did know was hard for me to articulate…and even harder for others to understand.

As I’m sure is the case with you, all of this came at great personal expense. All it brought me was pain and suffering—putting my own needs (and the needs of my family, once I had one of my own) aside for what I thought was the greater good—compromising what I thought was right, and degrading my own sense of self-worth in the process.

But slowly, over decades, the pieces started fitting. For instance, how come I was the only one compromising?

How come things are always my fault?

How come no one else can do wrong, while I can never seem to do right?

So I made a new choice…

5) I held the Manipulator accountable for their bad behaviour.

…And of course, continued to refuse to comply.

Something interesting happens here. The Manipulator’s head explodes. That’s neat to watch. And then they go away for a while.

My theory is that their brain short-circuits—they literally do not possess strategies for handling someone who refuses to be controlled. So they run away.

You, the Target, speak the truth about their bad behaviour and hold them accountable, and they don’t know how to handle that. Speaking the truth is a direct threat to their authority. So they run away and hide.

Maybe they aren’t such a monster after all.

I can count more than ten times that I’ve experienced this with various Devouring Mother personalities in a variety of situations, where they’ve demanded my compliance. So it’s possible that it’s more than just a theory.

How long do they go away for? In my experience, many, many months.

What happens next is interesting. The Manipulator allows time to pass before making their next move (maybe they expect you’ve forgotten…but deep psychological wounds don’t go away—just another example of how the Target’s emotions are of no concern).

Regardless, they then reach out to the Target with an innocent-sounding message, pretending the original problem never occurred or isn’t important anymore.

“We’d love to come see the kids…”

“I’m planning a surprise party for your father…”

“We’re having your brothers over, c’mon down…”

The Manipulator slyly (insultingly) attempts to sweep the problem (and their bad behaviour) under the rug, hoping you won’t notice. Do they ever not attempt to distort reality?

Were you not here for the last episode? Do you not remember what happened? Oh I see, you’re pretending it never happened.

And if you take that bait, you lose again and you’re back to Step 1 once more.

I’ve been there, over and over and over. Understand, all of this is just a game to the Manipulator. On some level it’s fun for them. It’s a game of deception and domination. They simply don’t know any other way to exist.

And this next part might be hard to hear…but the truth never is. And I hate to be the one to say it. But you’ve gotta know the truth if you’re to heal and put yourself together again. The truth hurts, but no matter how painful, it must be known. It’s the first step in moving forward.

The truth is, your Devouring Mother doesn’t love you.

They can’t. They’re incapable of loving you in the way that you so badly want—the way that you love your children, perhaps. Instead, they love power and control. THAT is their defect. That is their illness. It’s just how it is.

I’m sorry…

…God, that’s…that’s a hard thing to come to terms with. To admit. I still struggle with that…I want so badly to not believe it. But I know it’s true.

The Devouring Mother has a sickness, and it has nothing to do with you or me. By chance, you and I were born when and where we were, to whom we were. We really had no say in the matter.

All I know is that I showed up here. Nobody consulted me on the matter. The other thing I know is that every relationship I’m in other than my relationship with my Devouring Mother is positive and mutual and enjoyable. Close friends, co-workers, social groups, my wife’s family…my own wife for that matter—nobody else thinks any of those nasty, negative things that my Devouring Mother says about me. In fact, they say the opposite.

So…it’s not you. It’s not me. It’s just what we’ve been dealt. That’s just the way the cookie crumbled for us.

So, well…what did I do?

Well as you can imagine, I couldn’t keep going like this, around and around, getting punched in the guts over and over and being continually shamed and guilted. “Stop being so selfish, you naughty boy! Now hold still as I take more of my unresolved childhood trauma out on you!” I just couldn’t keep going like that…especially now that I could articulate the game and all it’s steps. But at the same time I cannot even reason with the Devouring Mother and get her to control her behaviour. She’s unrelenting in obtaining power and wild with revenge.

So what am I going to do? How am I going to handle this? I spent forty years in this cycle; I’m not staying here for another day.

Well, so…here’s what I did…

I set a trap of my own. And I caught my Devouring Mother in it. It was easy once I knew what to do.

And then I cut her head off…

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