The devils among us rarely ever have horns, are painted red, and have a forked tongue. They’re beautiful, speak eloquently, and seemingly have your best interests at heart. But, be warned, it’s easy to be seduced by a devil that looks like a trusted friend or charismatic leader.
We’re all actors. We all know how to get what we want and learn from a young age how to act the part. None of us like to be told no and have learned how to finagle our way through life looking the right way and saying the right things.
Many times we aren’t even aware of the ways we cojole and persuade others towards our causes, which, on the flip side, makes it even harder for us to see when another is trying to manipulate us. This is why it’s essential to understand who you are and what you want, or you run the very real risk of being a pawn in somebody else’s game of chess.
This happens subconsciously on the behalf of the manipulator. Most of our days are run automatically via system 1, or our subconscious. System 1 is all about keeping us safe and alive. We go through most of our days running on system 1 and since it’s mostly automated, the majority of our days are spent doing things for self. It’s because of this that we wear the proverbial mask, hiding our true intentions from those around us (sometimes even to ourselves). It’s not that we are constantly considering our manipulative ways, it’s just who we are. It’s our default operating system.
System 2 is our conscious mind. It’s used only when it’s needed, when system 1 can’t work it’s automated way through or around something, it’s system 2 that is called upon. These are the instances where logic is needed and you can’t instinct your way around something. Still, even when system 2 is deployed, and it goes against your basic instincts of survival, system 1 will make change hard because it’s different. System 1 doesn’t like change.
Understand this: we’re all narcissistic.
That includes you. That includes me. Heck, even Mother Theresa was a narcissist. We all have a certain amount of self-centeredness that motivates us. But, just like any personality trait, if taken too far, it can become pathological.
Narcissism exists on a spectrum and depending on where a person is on that spectrum, will lead them to do things and say things that align more with their self-importance than your own. This is where manipulation comes from, and many times a manipulative narcissist isn’t even aware of what they are doing. In fact, they may even feel that they are doing you a favor.
Subconsciously, it’s our brain’s desire always to put the self first (system 1). Self-preservation is a core characteristic of almost every living thing. This is why it’s so hard to see the devils for who they are because they look just like the rest of us. A lot of times the masks they wear aren’t known even to them, which makes spotting them all the more difficult.
Narcissism comes from a lack of self-love. A pathological narcissist doesn’t have self-empathy and is always looking for a way to get it from others. This causes them to be very manipulative in their everyday lives, for without the attention of others, they are left only with the emptiness they feel inside.
What’s the key takeaway here? Know thyself. Understand better what YOU want out of life. Know where you’re going. Understand why you feel the way you do and learn to love yourself for who you are. It’s easy to feel inferior because of the success of others. Work on your confidence. Live your dreams. Stop settling for halfway because the flowers smell good enough there. Never stop working towards your dreams because you blame your lack of success on a force outside of yourself. Internalize your inadequacies and fix them. Become the person who lives the life they want instead of being the person who is manipulated into helping others live the life they want.
Be wary of the devils wearing friendly masks and the dances they persuade you to make on their behalf.