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There are many things we count as rife in our society. Sadly, when we do count them, we often begin the list at the bottom. So may I say at the top, I by no means intend to turn my back to the sunny side, rather to throw a kite up into the clouds and see what finds my key.

They very idea of optimism can be a bit manipulative in itself. Often, when we find ourselves treading in the murkiest waters, those we trust the most to tell of our muck, reply with chirps like “darkest before dawn!” and “at least you have legs to tread!”

These positive reinforcements may help us through these moments of dread and despair, but largely help us to evade the point. In our hours of darkness, often that which pulls us out is ignoring what we are going through and focusing our energy on something else.

This is the same technique used by the successfully manipulative (consciously or not) in our lives. Take this example. In a meeting with your employer,you express your doubts about continuing your employ, and diplomatically reiterate the concerns you have been addressing for some months. The reply is, “I really enjoy working with you, and like what you’re doing. We’d really like to have you stay on.”

You feel good. They like what you’re doing. They think you’re a good worker. The compliments have been a long time coming. Suddenly, you’re not so sure you want to leave after all. Okay, I’ll think about it.

The next day, both of your superiors are being exceptionally kind to you. A moment of clarity. Only then do you realize, that nothing has happened to address the actual concerns, or to develop a remedy. They did nothing but compliment you. You think suddenly, “But I don’t really enjoy working with you!”

Successful evasion is powerful and dangerous. It’s hard to even notice when it is happening.

But if even our optimism is embedded with manipulation, how do we get past it. Is it just part of our social warfare and a natural element of human existence? It’s hard not to manipulate.

Many times in my relationships I have gone out of my way to make sure that the other person is doing things because they want to, not because I want them to. But this is impossible. It is clear what I want. Perhaps even that I will be unhappy if I don’t get to experience what I want. The decision to do or not to do is not this or that. Even my insistence that the other choose their own way is a manipulation. An added and unnecessary assertion.

We are people-pleasers. Or we go our own way. I’ve done both, and will likely do both again. The point is perhaps not to avoid manipulative and evasive behavior entirely, because to do so seems to suppress the personality. It is important, rather to acknowledge and be aware of what powers are motivating us, and realize when they are outside of our own consciousness.

It is our own responsibility to recognize manipulation and make our own decisions about whether to willingly submit. It is when we do not realize the cast being formed around us that we face danger.

The positive is as powerful a tool as the negative, but only when used responsibly. Ignoring the negative and focusing our energy on the positive is only half right. We must ensure that we explore the murky water around us first before we swim out. Else it may rise up again when we can not see the shore.

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