“Playing the Servant Role as a Manipulation Tactic” Comments, Page 1

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18 Comments (6 Discussion Threads) on “Playing the Servant Role as a Manipulation Tactic”

  1. Dr Simon

    Once again I sat here as I read your article, literally dumbstruck. Having been manipulated in this manner, with all my less than functional behaviors activated, guilt, wanting to please, etc., I finally can see how this worked. How I did ignore the discomfort and gut feelings, attributing it to my own resistance to change, achieve, whatever the other’s goal was not my own, but also often mixed with my own need or want to achieve something that was more functional or within my potential.

    1. I really appreciate your feedback, Barbara. I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  2. Hello Dr. Simon,

    I can relate a lot to this in my community. This kind of manipulation (unfortunately) tends to be very common in some cultures. For instance, in my country it is very common to see what we call the “Fellini” mothers – which has also been very well depicted on Dr. Berne’s book (Games People Play) as the “I’m only trying to help you” mind game.

    In our country, these kinds of mother are so overprotective and have so many expectations on their children that they put a lot of pressure on them, and “God Save the Kid” who does not fullfill his/her mom’s expectations.

    Not only these children have to comply with their mothers’ wishes, but also they even have to “thank” their mothers for being so “considerate” and “devote” their lives to the “upbringing” of their children.

    Fortunatelly, we usually have only one mom per lifetime (sorry that was a Latin-world joke) =)

  3. This one realy got me thinking in the role I am playing as a mother in a very similar situation. Sometimes I feel like this mother not validated in what I know are wrong ways to dicipline a child. Thanks for this great article…it is really opening my eyes.

  4. Another great article. Would you say this would be similar to the mother who is over-protective and oppressive? Never allowing her children to make age-appropriate decisions or participating in age-appropriate activities under the guise of protecting them?

    1. Hi SMMTAM,

      I was reflecting on your comment and relating the over-protecting mothers to co-dependent people. My mother was exactly that kind of mother, she wouldn’t allow anyone to grow up, and make their own decisiones, and she would think and feel for others, she was extremely over-protective (pretty obssessive) and she would always remind her children of “what a caring mother she was”.

      On the other hand, my father was exactly the kind of father Dr. Simon described here. (…he was only trying to be a good father, to be sure that he afforded the child every opportunity, and to help her achieve her full potential, etc.,) and to make matters worse he was (still is) an internationally renowned dentist.

      So, to my parents, anything less than perfect was below their expectations. Now, when you have parents who expect A plus children, 100% of the time, while on the other hand they are overprotective and will always tell you what to do, what to feel, what to think and what decisions you should make, it becomes pretty tough just trying to be yourself.

      Not surprisingly, me and my siblings all ran away from home at a very young age. I guess no one in their sane mind can bear such a constant pressure.

      Today my parents are in their 70s and me and my siblings look after them, and we are happy we realized early in life that our parents would not change in the long run. Until this day, if you confront them about their controlling issues, they will deny everything, although they still attempt to control everyone’s life, alleging they know what other people feel and/or think, etc…

      Ah, parents! :)

    2. Mariana – you could have just described my house growing up. Add in physical and verbal abuse though.

      I know my mother thought (or said that’s what she thought) that she was just “keeping us safe”. I’m wondering if that’s the same thing as our fathers thinking they were just “helping us live up to our potential”?

      Tought to be yourself under these circumstances is the under statement of a lifetime! I’m still trying to figure out who I am at age 38! :)

    3. I hear you, SMMTAM, that’s why I created the emotional abuse website and am writing a book about it (in Spanish), pouring on it my 46 years of “clinical experience”!


  5. YEs, I can see this in my relationship also…too much actually. My gut is screaming at me, and he uses all this rationalization to convince me otherwise…to win over me. Everything he does, from making the rules in my home, to buying some expensive gift, to planning the future with out me…(which I realize are just things that sound good and will probably never happen) are these subserviant tactics….he uses them so that when he does wrong in the relationship, and I get on his case, he has something to make himself look like the victim, the poor giver, who receives no appreciation for the things he does. He has done this to me many times. He has accused me of never looking at the good things he does….which is a lie, because I am so aware of his need for approval that i make conscious efforts to make light of things he does well.

    When he goes out to the bar, its because he had a hard days work, and needed some “man time” with his alcoholic buddies. He is at the bar after work at least 3 or 4 days a week and 1 or 2 times during the weekend. When i get upset, he has an excuse for his broken promise (I promise I will quit drinking, cut back drinking) and the advantage of all these good things he has made known to me…all these good intentions and endless sacrifices. I feel that he has sacrificed his bachelor freedom to be in a relationship with me. He acts as if, I make no sacrifices to be with him, and it is getting to the point that I feel, that to be with him, what I have to sacrifice is me, altogether.

    He makes known his “for the betterment of’s…” when he makes up more rules in the house. Or the goodness of all these great plans he has for us. the more I seem the more I realize he is a completely different person, than Ï thought he was.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      A reality check or a confrontation is a good way to verify that his plans are just dreams he does not intend to make true in the future. Using critical thinking skills help us unmask people like the man you described here because critical thinking bases its judgment on factual evidence.

      He “dreams” and makes plan for the future, but in reality, he does not have a plan today to follow the necessary steps to achieve his future plans. Evidence today, tells he is a con artist. And, as usual, manipulators will resort to every “rational explanation” they can get hold of to back their ideas.

      Moreover, the screaming part is another evidence of his lack of sense. His plans and dreams do not make sense, so he will likely take offense easily and scream or yell at you out of his own frustration.

      When in doubt, confront him with real facts.

  6. Thank you for your articles and books. your ‘sheep’s clothing’ is one of my favorite books. It saved my sanity after years of suffering. You have a nice and easy way of presenting too the content. Those are very helpful

  7. This reminds me of a marriage I was in for a period of time. In the end I doubted my ability to reason and to think clearly. It got to the point where I would look in the mirror and hate the person looking back at me. My (now ex) wife, at the time played the role of the servant to such a degree that she fooled a lot of people. Luckily for me this relationship ended in divorce instead my suicide.

  8. Thank you so much for validating my feelings.. throughout childhood and teen-hood, I idolised my dad.. mainly because he was so humble and hard working… my dad would do the really base cleaning, dusting, washing jobs around the house.. He would fold all my clothes, wash my sneakers, repair my bags, cover my school books.. He would always smell of sweat and coffee… my mom was never a mom to me, i had to listen to her, encourage her, advise her, wipe her tears.. i always knew my mom was narcissistic but I never realised my dad was too.. He had hinted .. created doubts in my mind that i was so lonely that i wanted him in a wrong sort of way, that i wasn’t studying hard enough, wasting time and resources.. and the most heartbreaking of all.. I’m crazy about drawing.. pretty good at it too.. but i think my parents threw my sketch books behind my back and asked me to go look for them.. i would always doubt myself, feel fuzzy.. ive been told that i was dtubborn and Id always get what i wanted out of people but as far as I know, Ive never actually had my way at all.. in clothing, hairstyles, friends(I had very few friends), activities.. even career.. I’m 31 now.. i have a loving husband and a wonderful son.. only now i am starting to spot narcissistic traits in my dad.. He comes to our house and cleans our shoe rack, cleans our yard, our car.. i am finding it very hard to draw boundaries.. sometimes, i think I’m going nuts.. but your article is so clear and wise.. Thank you so much.. !!! God bless you.

  9. Wow. I just finished In Sheep’s Clothing, and went back to these articles for some reinforcement. I work with someone who exhibits CA behaviours, and targets (bullies) specific people in extremely subtle ways. The book was so helpful in validating my feelings and recognising their tactics (and helping me to realise I’m not paranoid). In our situation, this person often gets their way or sabotages projects by misrepresenting or selectively/creatively quoting our manager, “playing the servant” by acting like the devoted employee, but really just pushing forth their own agenda. It’s so great to be able to name these tactics. Thank you!

  10. Thank you for your book. Can’t remember this passage though

    This is how my family operates. My father brought me to a therapist and she said there was nothing wrong with me and more stuff wrong with him.

    My father always pushed me and my sister and we were successful in a sport. Even tho we cried when we lost and it was not really our initiative or interest to continue. He continued to push and even bought us a robot so we could practice at home without asking us.

    He is a CEO and his aggressive tone has what have defined him as a leader I have heard. He almost yells when he speaks too which says something.

    Anyway. My father have done a lot of bad things amongst allowing bullying by my step mother he married. But he always did it under “love” and “the best for me”. He repeats that as a mantra more than a religious person cites the bible. Every time he have done something wrong and I confront him he says “But, do you think I would do this if I love you? I want the best for you. That is the most important goal in the world.” And it makes it so hard. He does it in an extremely successful rhetoric way in this CEO manner he applies at job. So you can imagine a young man fighting against that. No chance.

    Even tho I am older now he continues to do it and it is hard to manage. His disturbed character seem to develop instead of regress.

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