Manipulation. Manipulated. Manipulator.

Have you ever been manipulated? Doesn’t that sound ugly? Manipulation. Manipulated. Manipulator. It’s the connotation of the word. Nothing good ever comes of manipulation, and if you’re caught manipulating someone, people’s perception of you changes. You’re suddenly dangerous. You’re a menace.

Suddenly, you’re not friendly, you’re a “user”. Your intentions are poison and your words are venom. To be completely fair, those who manipulate typically do so for personal gain. Your spoils are ill begotten and covered in the blood of others. You are suddenly a being lacking a conscience, remorse or empathy.

And that’s wrong. This isn’t to say that you should forgive your manipulator, or that everyone really may have remorse. But some of us do.

I recall I was once sitting down, studying with my best friend, and in the middle of idle conversation, the topic of an ex of his came up. From there we moved to vengeance. My friend jokingly said he was afraid of me given my vengeful streak. I’ve always known I don’t take shit, and I believe in an “eye for an eye” and then another eye for having fucked with me to begin with. Yet it never occurred to me how stringently I adhered to this self-imposed rule. He continued his joke saying, “I’m glad we’re friends. You’d be a dangerous enemy.” This joke allowed me the insight into myself to understand that, deep down, I know I manipulate people.

Why would I do this? Why would I purposely take up the tools of deceit and control? To put it simply, I didn’t even realize that I manipulate people. I taught myself to believe that I would do no wrong. I wasn’t manipulating people, I would think, I was just interacting with them – doesn’t everyone do this? It’s not that I didn’t consider the thoughts of others, or that I’d consider my own needs more important. It was innocent ignorance.

But I was not innocent. I hurt people and I made decisions and left impressions that make me a shitty human being.

A few days ago I started watching a new show on Netflix, House of Cards. The protagonist, Frank Underwood, is a politician and the definition of a man whose ends justify his means, without a shadow of a doubt. His unfettered thirst for power is fed through underhand advancement using any and all people in his life.

I was enthralled by the show. I saw myself in Frank. I sympathized with his actions, down to his dirties, and now as I write this, I find myself sick to my stomach that watching this show has only empowered me to continue my education as a Political Science major.

Maybe it’s best I lay off the television for a while. As a person whose manipulation was a result of natural ability for it, who did it for the sake of the fact that I could charm and talk my way through any person, maybe there’s hope for us. I can empathize with others. I at least have to try.

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