Open Thread: Two Questions

I’m working out some concepts in my head, and I wanted some feedback from readers.

The keys to manipulation and emotional blackmail, in my opinion can be broken down to 5 big “buttons.”

  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Pride
  • Guilt

Manipulators, whether in the form of enemies or loved ones, have to push these buttons in order to get us to do what they want. Once you learn to recognize when these 5 emotions are getting triggered in you, your relationships change dramatically. (I think this is why the concept of mindfulness is so in vogue lately in the West, as it promises to enable practitioners to recognize what emotions are arising, while they’re arising.)

Can you guys think of any more? I’m talking about big, general buttons, not specific smaller buttons that can fit under the category of the bigger buttons, or buttons that are just alternate forms of the buttons I already named. For example, I considered adding “jealousy” as a button, but I think that jealousy and envy may be a combination of shame and pride, so I omitted it. I also considered depression, but a popular definition of depression is anger directed at oneself, so it still ends up counting as anger. I’m looking for the equivalent of primary colors (colors that can’t be broken down into smaller component colors).

Also, if anyone reading has read a book based on my recommendations, or has a book to discuss that I haven’t already mentioned no the blog, please share your feedback. I don’t care if you loved or hated the book, I want to hear from you either way. Just give specific reasons why, not just things like “it sucked because it was too common sense.” Give examples and rationales.

Posting will be slow for a few weeks as I’m planning out the direction of the next 6 months of posts and the best post order to accomplish what I want to say. Plus I’m taking a vacation to Montreal. I’ll still answer comments and you can find me on Twitter. Plus my Tumblr page will continue to be updated four times a day.

47 Responses to “Open Thread: Two Questions”

  1. What about something like greed/ambition. you might be able to convince someone to do something by convincing them that it will pay off for them. In particular I’m thinking of quick fixes that don’t take too much effort and get rich quick schemes.

    You may also want to consider looking at the seven deadly sins. they’ve always struck me as primary weaknesses of character that could make you vulnerable to manipulation.

  2. Riky

    Where can we put the “Greed” ?

  3. Kane/Izumi, greed is a great one. I can’t believe I missed it. I can’t think of a way that it could just be considered a combination of any of the other 5 buttons and I also doesn’t seem like an alternate name for one of the other five buttons. So yeah, I think that works. That puts us at 6 buttons.

  4. Empathy? I’d definitely call faking emotional pain or/and telling lies to get people to act in empathy to be a major aspect of manipulation.

  5. Lee, good one. I’ll add it.

  6. Agree with Kane, this overlaps with The seven deadly sins:

    Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride

    You have Wrath (anger) and Pride on your list. shame/guilt seem highly related you may want to consider merging them. Fear is important, I wonder why its not a deadly sin.

    You’re missing lust, sloth (laziness, a very powerful motivator that can be used to manipulate people very consistently), envy and greed. All extremely important keys to manipulation.

  7. Pity, though that may be a subset of Pride.

  8. What about primal needs like food and sex?

  9. Shame Culture vs. Guilt Culture

  10. shame/guilt seem highly related you may want to consider merging them.

    Guilt and shame are related but are actually quite different and lead to very different results. Guilt is related to what you did, shame is related to who you are, your very identity. Shame is more primitive and much worse:

    The healthy version of guilt is conscience. The healthy version of shame is humility.

    I like Greed as Kane and Izumi suggested, but I’m going to leave lust out of it because for now I think of it is a sexual form of greed. However I’m not 100% convinced on my rationale though. I need to think about it more. Do you guys think lust is just a physical form of greed (maybe mixed with shame) or does it deserve a separate entry?

    Sloth to me ties into greed and shame, as I think a key part of greed is looking for an easy fix or a shortcut, and with shame, people tend to have this all or nothing, less than human or superhuman , either-or fixation, where if they can’t be assured of being the very best, they’d often not even bother trying.

    As for pity, I would put that in with empathy, with perhaps a little bit of guilt and shame thrown in depending on the context.

  11. Ricky, I’ve put aside the books for a little while (some of the ones you value are books I’ve used to good effect since the 1970’s !!) and am cruising YouTube for worthy counselors. The remarkable new thing is the impact of neurobiology, which was just exploding in the Nineties and is now being sorted into practices. The best I’ve found so far are Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Christine Courtois, and Dr. Robert Solomon. They’re quite different from each other, but all work with abused children, including victims of incest, and the terror those people fight all the time.

    Empathy is their biggie — not the faked pitifulness noted above, but the real ability to see how others feel.

    Prairie Mary
    Mary Scriver
    Valier, Montana

  12. Okay, upon reflection instead of Greed, I’m thinking Desire. That can be an umbrella that covers lust, financial greed, desire for luxuries, desire for perceived necessities like affection or food…it would cover all desires whether healthy or unhealthy.

  13. The original reason I debated putting forms of desire on the list is because I originally thought of them as being types of fear: fear of not being loved, fear of not being given what you want, fear of having what you want taken away from you…but I’ve reconsidered that stance.

  14. This may go along the same lines as pride, but what about power and the desire for it?

  15. vanity aka pretty rasputin on July 31st, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    How about Need(s)? Being any and every and all kinds,psychological or other wise that one can’t do w/out. And thus differing from desire,ever so slightly.
    Maybe self-interest : law 13 from laws of power by robert greene.

    And a book I keep rereading because its rich and dark and captiving and perversely useful and true is the art of seduction..HANDS DOWN
    *the caps are purposely NOT unintentional*

  16. 1) looks like you got a few of the 7 deadly sins covered. ironic how the hamster using virtues instead of vice to disarm & charm before hitting any of the big buttons.

    2) Books reviews…
    Great red-pill intros:
    -Why Men Are The Way They Are (Dr. Warren Farrell)
    -The Myth of Male Power (Dr. Warren Farrell)

    Intermediate red-pill, sexual politics, heavy bias towards MGTOW:
    -The Manipulated Man (Esther Vilar) – see free pdf link
    -Anatomy of Female Power (Chinweizu) – free pdf link on your site

    Avoid at all costs:
    -The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood (Bill Bennett) – heavy undertone of shaming tactics so thick you would think a feminist wrote this book. he fails to understand and address the modern man in context of today’s feminism-induced society.
    -The Art of Manliness: good etiquette tips, but avoid “masculinity” advice. for same reasons as above as it does not consider nor understand the modern man
    -Also, in general, thumbs down on blanket dating tips from,, or mass media, for they are written by betas for betas. almost as if it was written by a woman. highlights style over substance, form over function, and norms vs. instinct. it’s as if men interviewed “what women want”, and wrote down a definitive guide. a woman speaks by her body language, not her words. never trust a woman, especially when it comes to dating advice.
    -as a general rule of thumb, the best advice comes from those out in the field, with solid experience and wisdom to impart. not from pulpit bashing social leaders or researchers with their theories. or women. only rational, experienced males.

  17. ironic how the hamster using virtues instead of vice to disarm & charm before hitting any of the big buttons.

    I don’t understand this sentence.

  18. For books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is pretty much nothing but examples of dependent/codependent relationships.

    Actually, he had always preferred the unreal to the real. Just as he felt better at demonstrations (which, as I have pointed out, are all playacting and dreams) than in a lecture hall full of students, so he was happier with Sabina as the invisible goddess than the Sabina who had accompanied him throughout the world and whose love he constantly feared losing.

    There’s no particular merit in being nice to one’s fellow man. She had to treat the other villagers decently, because otherwise she couldn’t live there. Even with Tomas, she was obliged to behave lovingly because she needed him. We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions — love, antipathy, charity, or malice — and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.
    True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power.

    It is a completely selfless love: Tereza did not want anything of Karenin [her dog]; she did not ever ask him to love her back. Nor had she ever asked herself the question that plague human couples: Does he love me? Does he love anyone more than me? Does he love me more than I love him? Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, has the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.

  19. I like this

  20. ” ‘ironic how the hamster uses virtues instead of vice to disarm & charm before hitting any of the big buttons.’

    ‘I don’t understand this sentence.’ ”

    The counterparts of the 7 vices are the 7 virtues (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility). Women are masters of indirectness. Just like a salesman, they build comfort and trust. They portray a facade of innocence, sweetness, and timidity which inclines a man to let his guard down and relinquish some sense of self-control, which leaves him susceptible to manipulation. The rationalization and projection of her displayed virtues are the path to his vulnerability. When abused, the man can be manipulated rather easily.

    If a woman were to outwardly exhibit any one of the vices, or operate with her natural bitch shields in full force, she is less likely to benefit than the flirt with beta orbiters who plays nice and coy, and enjoys the night of free attention and drinks with as little as a smile and a giggle.

  21. Isn’t shame and guilt just the fear that others will get to know about something that you want to hide?

  22. Guilt is more the fear that someone will find out something you did. Shame is more the fear of other people discovering that your whole identity is defective.

  23. Obligation. They manipulate by making you feel you owe them something for whatever they have supposedly done for you. One of Fear, Obligation, Guilt (FOG).

    Other things that spring to mind, though I can’t think of catchy names to describe them in one word are –

    Pathologising your behaviour. ie you react angrily to something and suddenly your acccused of having “anger issues”.

    Blaming and accusing in general.

    Gaslighting – denying events have occured, agreements were made or that conversations happened. Also physical gaslighting – moving stuff around and then claiming they never did, and making out you must have done it.

    Professing to “love” you – the flip side is that “love” can be withdrawn if you don’t comply.

    Adopting parent/child styles of communication – talking down to you as if your some wilful child that is in need of “correction”

  24. My 2 cents…
    Ive found the key to manipulation is to find out what they want and provide barriers to it then manufacture your ability to overcome these barriers. Which in reality is getting them to do what you want before giving them what they want, but they are never truly happy with what they get from you. Also having them become dependent on you for some reason helps keep your leverage…

  25. I think desire is not a button, but the result of pushing a button.

    A manipulator gets you to desire an action or object by pushing a button, they create a desire that was initially dormant or not there.

  26. Pardon if this is a bit off-topic, but I’d love to see something on how game bloggers (Heartiste being the most prominent, but not the only one) twisting evo psych around to fit whatever views they want to put out, even if they contradict the most reasonable arguments about human sexuality.

  27. 1) scarcity/losing her.
    2) sympathy for her feigning being hurt/to get her way
    3) see #2 again.

  28. It’s been a while. Looking forward to your next post.

  29. OT, but it is an open thread. I very much enjoy your work. A request/suggestion for a future post. Please analyze President Obama in terms of his narcissism. Maybe not right away but something for down the line. I think Obama is potentially a richer target for analysis than Michael Jackson. I came across this that scratched the surface on his narcissism:
    I think you could dive much deeper and really get into his head.

  30. Hi T.,

    I came across your site today … very interesting. Re: your ‘big buttons’ query, I wonder if you have seen the work of Dr. Panksepp? His science has teased out, over many years, the 7 primal emotions of the human brain. They are: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY. Interesting convergence with your thinking on the topic. More info here:

    Keep up the good work, and cheers from here, L.

  31. i just read a book from a german nlp-guy about just this specific topic. (i myself do not like nlp too much…)
    well, he says: sex. NOT lust. plain and simple.
    trigger sex somehow, classically in advertising, you wouldn’t even believe how they conceal it, sometimes really extremely subtle, …and voilá.
    as a not specifically sex related example: you see the arrow in the fed ex logo? no? hehe. not in logos, but in advertsing this is often done, at least regularly. the brand of course does not want you to directly connect “sex” and “brand” but for example you could implement just the word very tiny somewhere youre sure of that the brain still catches it, not directly and conscious, but catches it.
    a private scenario could be just the plain and simple deprivation of sex in a relationship. hm! what do you think?!

  32. he also mentions (i am just reading on): beliefs and values (not sure about the second, i translated from german, but i think you get it).
    they as a target themselves…but maybe this falls back to (hidden) fears (AND he is a nlp-guy 😉

  33. Those of us who are eagerly awaiting the next post at the rawness may enjoy TLP’s latest exploration of narcissism:

  34. Is this blog dead? Has Captain Ricky left the ship?

  35. Brother, so when is the next post coming?

  36. I don´t know about emotional blackmail but sticking to manipulation I would add Play, credited to Panksepp that was mentioned by HBH earlier.

  37. Ricky the more I read your site, the more I suspect you are avoiding the whole biological contribution to and influence on human behavior. I wish to recommend Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University. Just have a quick look at his Wikipedia page to check his status and reputation (you’re probably inundated with various scientifick kooks) and then dive into his free 24 lecture series, “Human Behavioral Biology.” Just google it, it’s on Youtube and several other places.

    As a quick intro to endocrinologist Sapolsky, try this chat on recent investigations into toxoplasma gondii and its effects on male and human behavior:

    (The accompanying transcript is incomplete)

  38. *sigh* You’re a fan of scientific racism blogs, aren’t you? Whenever someone comes to the conclusion that I’m somehow unaware of genetic causes for problems simply because i don’t obsess over genetics to the exclusion of all other causes, I know I’m dealing with a scientific racism fan. They seem to believe that it has to be 100% genetics or 100% environment and that anyone who pays attention to environment in any significant way it’s some sort of DNA denialist that requires proselytizing, educating, and converting.

  39. Okay, so I googled your commenter name and you comment over at Steve Sailer’s blog, the thought leader of scientific racism. Your comment makes more sense now.

  40. I suggested Sapolsky, not Sailer. I think you’ll find that Sapolsky is not on anyone’s list of Bad People. His position is very firmly that the combination of genes AND all environmental influences results in observed human behavior, and that to look exclusively at one side or the other results in a distorted picture of the truth.

    As far as I can tell, you don’t deal with ANY of the genetic side of human behavior, that is, in any real depth: What if there are heritable endocrinal phenomena associated with narcissism, or indeed with any other personality disorders? YOU will not be aware of such phenomena, because you automatically filter out of your daily reading any science news concerning neurobiological bases of behavior. You don’t read Sailerites, of course, but you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because you also ignore people like Sapolsky. I feel quite confident in guessing that there is not a single racially-controversial tenured (or even associate or whatever) academic in the Biology department of Stanford University, where Sapolsky works.

    You are thus in a rather old-fashioned and potentially harmful position. Did you know, for example, that for many years, schizophrenia was attributed to bad parenting? Countless grieving parents of schizophrenic children were told it was ALL THEIR FAULT. Now it has been conclusively demonstrated that about 1% of babies are biologically wired to develop schizophrenic brains, parenting style notwithstanding. I don’t know what the picture is nowadays regarding links between inherited traits and personality disorders, but neither do you; yet as someone who writes about it all the time, I would think that you should be making some efforts to keep up with what the scientists are doing, don’t you agree? Don’t you think it’s at least POSSIBLE that extreme pure narcissism might have a biological — even possibly genetic — component which has not yet been discovered? Sapolsky provides the right academic orientation for questions like these. In YOUR behavioral worldview, EVERYTHING is due to parenting. This is an untenable position nowadays.

    Let me give you an up-to-date (biological but non-genetic) concrete example: As I mentioned in a previous post, Sapolsky and others are looking at the parasitic organism toxoplasma gondii, which normally targets cats, but which is capable of infecting humans, which in almost all cases has few or no unpleasant symptoms and is easily treated. It is being confirmed by research that people who were infected by toxo show peculiar, identifiable behavioral TENDENCIES — meaning slight but measurable frequencies and effects –, and that these differ by sex. Men who had toxo show a (slight but measurable) tendency to become more introverted and more likely to engage in risky behaviors; women’s tendency is to become more trusting. Parenting has nothing to do with it. This is possibly only the tip of the iceberg as regards seemingly inconsequential and minor parasitic infections having long-term effects on human behavior.

    Getting back to the genes, the crucial question to ask about behavioral genetics is not: “What does this gene do?” but “What does this gene do in this particular environment?”

    With that in mind, here is another recent finding of interest: It has always been observed that there are general differences in male and female math performance: boys have always tended to score higher on math tests on average, all over the world. However, a large study showed that the greater the difference in gender equality, the greater the difference in the math scores. The biggest differences (that is, males outscoring females) were found in Turkey, Tunisia, and South Korea; whereas the Nordic countries, where females grow up with much more gender equality than anywhere else in the world, have the smallest differences. In fact, girls in Iceland now score higher in math than boys.

    The conclusion would seem to be that there probably is a slight genetic predisposition for boys to be better at math; but that a highly contrived and atypical environment — in this case, firmly entrenched gender equality, which is in terms of pure frequency an extreme anomaly in human history — can dramatically modify the behavioral expression of this gene.

    The plain fact is that more and more research is being done into the biological bases of human behavior, genetic, epigenetic, pathogen-based, and so on; and more and more findings are emerging of such influences on behavior having nothing to do with parenting style or psychology. The ‘particular environment’ of our crucial question is always present; but parenting style is only a tiny fraction of the total range of ‘environment’, which also includes such things as chance distributions of mitochondria during cell division, pre-natal conditions, stress-related hormone levels, etc. etc.

    One simply cannot ignore this decisive shift in research into the causes of human behaviors.

  41. I’m just going to dedicate a post to you OlioOx. It would be too lengthy to do as a comment

  42. Marvellous. I hope you’ll allow my response.

  43. Why on earth would I not let you respond? Have I censored or deleted anything you’ve written so far? Why would you feel the need to add that last bit?

  44. Something tells me your response, if you decide to bother with one, is going to elicit a severe tongue-lashing from me. You have already started off on the wrong foot and you don’t even seem to be aware of it, but I will say no more until I see your ‘dedicated post.’

  45. You have already started off on the wrong foot and you don’t even seem to be aware of it

    WOW. The unintentional irony here is just rich, given that it actually applies to to you more than me. I’m really just awestruck at your total lack of self-awareness here.

  46. I think we’d better just stop right here then don’t you? It’s probably not a good idea for you to spend any time on a dedicated post, it will just be a waste of your time. But I will tell you what irritated me. I came here suggesting you were leaving 50% of human behavioral science out of your considerations, and I recommended the popular lectures of Dr. Robert Sapolsky as a useful addition to your researches. Your response? You immediately accuse me of being a race kook.

    Your procedure in your responses to me constitutes a fine mixture of various “red herring” fallacies. Read about them and see if you agree with my assessment:

    Specifically, Ad Hominem/Poisoning the Well/Abusive fallacy (artfully implied); Association fallacy; Appeal to motive; perhaps you can find a few more.

  47. You’re so busy focusing on how I annoyed you that you’re oblivious to what i found annoying about YOUR first comment. So ask yourself this: how was I able to figure out just by your first comment in this thread that you were a commenter at scientific racism sites?