Manipulative: The “M Word”

Before studying to become a psychologist, I worked in a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents, a landing place for distressed kids coming from impossible situations. Life in the hospital relied upon a rigid schedule and a behavior point system. For some, the structure was a welcome relief from chaos, but for others it was a reminder of how little control they had in their lives. These children threw themselves time and again into a state of turmoil. They were violent toward themselves and others, oppositional, deceitful and vindictive. I can recall one patient who told me flat out that she would “go off” that evening simply because it was my night to be on call and she wanted to keep me stuck at the hospital. It felt as though she wanted to punish me, and she delivered with dramatic threats to hurt herself and her peers. We called these patients manipulative because, well, that’s what they appeared to be. Continue reading