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Understanding Triangulation: A Deeper Look into a Damaging Coercive Control Tactic

I. Introduction

Triangulation can be a difficult concept to understand, yet it is a crucial one for individuals who have experienced or are currently enduring high control relationships. This blog aims to shed light on what triangulation is, why it is such a damaging coercive control tactic, and the profound impact it can have on your psyche.

II. Understanding Triangulation

Triangulation is a psychological manipulation tactic where one person uses a third person to communicate, control, or create conflict between themselves and a second person. The term originated from the field of psychology and was introduced by Murray Bowen, a family therapist, who described it as a common pattern of interaction within families.

To understand why it's effective, consider this: in a high tension situation, bringing in an unsuspecting third party diverts the attention and pressure away from the manipulator. This allows them to maintain control while causing confusion and conflict among the other parties involved.

III. Impact of Triangulation on the Psyche

The effects of triangulation on the psyche can be immediate and long-lasting. Initially, it causes confusion, stress and insecurity as you struggle to understand the dynamics at play. Over time, these effects can evolve into chronic anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression.

Several case studies and expert insights corroborate these findings. For example, Dr. Karyl McBride's research on narcissistic parents showed that children exposed to triangulation often develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), emphasizing the severe long-term impact of this tactic.

IV. Navigating Triangulation in High-Control Domestic Relationships

Triangulation is a manipulative tactic often used in high-control domestic relationships. Manipulators can use this strategy to gain power and control by involving a third party in their relationship dynamics. Often, it can lead to feelings of jealousy, confusion, and distress. It's crucial to identify and understand these tactics to effectively navigate and mitigate their harmful impact.


Negative Communication with Friends and Family

Manipulators may speak poorly about you to your friends and family members. This creates a dynamic where others start to question your character based on the manipulator's narrative.

Example: Your partner talks to your mutual friends about your "irrational behaviors," creating a narrative that you're the problematic one in the relationship. This can isolate you and make it harder to seek support, effectively giving the manipulator more control over you.

I was constantly being taken to different pastors and churches to help remove the spirit of dis-obediance or the divisive spirit from me. In prayer circles that he would orchestrate it was offen commended, by him, how I never asked for anything. This was met by praise from the other members in the prayer circle which caused a cognitive dissonance within me and silenced me from asking for what I needed.


Using Children as Messengers

In cases where children are present, manipulators may use them as messengers or pawns in conflicts. This not only manipulates the situation but also places an unfair emotional burden on the child.

Example: Your partner tells your child to inform you about a decision they've made without discussing it with you first. This puts the child in the middle and makes them a tool for manipulation.


Inciting Jealousy

Manipulators might bring another person into the mix to incite jealousy and create insecurity. They can use this tactic to control you and keep you off balance.

Example: Your partner constantly talks about how wonderful their ex-partner was, comparing you unfavorably to them. This can make you feel inadequate and constantly strive to meet impossible standards.

At first my ex- told me I was the most amazing woman in the world. Soon that turned into very subtle attention giving and praise of other women-strategically if I was questioning his motives or intentions. He would even begin "working" with a very attractive woman if I was thinking of leaving him.

One time, when I was away for a period, I came over to find he had replaced all my paintings in the living room, with all his ex girlfriends paintings.

Recognizing and Responding to Triangulation

Recognizing these tactics is the first step toward taking control and breaking free from the manipulative cycle. Here are some strategies to combat triangulation:

  • Awareness: Understand that the manipulator's behavior is about their need for control, not about your worthiness or adequacy.

  • Direct Communication: If someone is trying to triangulate you, insist on direct communication with the person involved. Avoid being pulled into the manipulator's games. If you are noticing there are situations where you feel jealous, pay close attention to why. Is he bringing other women into the conversation or into your life?

  • Set Boundaries: Make it clear that you won't tolerate manipulative tactics and that you will remove yourself from the situation if it continues.

  • Seek Support: Reach out to a therapist, counselor or support group like CODA, SLAA or Alanon; who can provide the tools and strategies to help you navigate these challenges.

Remember, it's not your responsibility to change a manipulator's behavior. Your responsibility lies in taking care of your own mental and emotional well-being. With awareness and the right strategies, you can navigate triangulation and create healthier dynamics in your relationships.

V. Triangulation in the Medical Industry

Triangulation is a phenomenon that transcends beyond personal relationships and can be seen in professional settings such as the medical industry. A typical scenario might involve a doctor using complex medical jargon and leveraging the agreement of a nurse or another healthcare practitioner to manipulate a patient into consenting to a specific treatment plan.

**Example:**A doctor may say: "Your tests indicate you have condition X, which is quite serious. My colleague here (nurse/another doctor) agrees that medication Y is the best course of treatment."

Such tactics can significantly undermine the trust between patients and healthcare providers, leading to decisions about healthcare that may not be fully informed or in the patient's best interest.

In a similar vein, the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies can influence the treatment plans proposed to patients. Pharmaceutical companies often advertise their drugs to doctors, who in turn may be more likely to prescribe these medications.

**Example:**Pharmaceutical company Z may offer incentives or provide information to Doctor A about their new drug B. As a result, Doctor A might be more inclined to prescribe drug B to their patients, irrespective of whether it is the most effective treatment option.

If you suspect that you're being manipulated in such a medical setting, it's crucial to take steps to protect your interests. Consider getting a second opinion from another healthcare provider or bring a trusted friend or family member to your appointments, and do your own research into all the possible options for treating yourself.

**Tip:**Remember, it's your health on the line. Therefore, it is perfectly okay to ask questions, seek further clarification, and make sure you fully understand your treatment plan and any potential alternatives.

In conclusion, triangulation in the medical industry can occur in various forms and can have serious implications on the quality of patient care. Ensuring open, honest, and transparent communication between patients and healthcare providers, as well as being empowered nd self informed about your options; is essential in preventing such manipulation.

VI. Triangulation in Government and Political Systems

Triangulation can be a significant force within government and political systems. Politicians often employ this strategy by aligning themselves with other political endorsements and using media outlets to disseminate information or disinformation, thereby creating conflict among citizens.

**Example:**A politician might team up with a popular figure or another politician to endorse their campaign. This endorsement can then be utilized to manipulate public opinion and gain voter support. 

Politicians may also use controversial political issues as a tool for triangulation, leveraging these issues to polarize public opinion and create a divide among citizens.

**Example:**A politician might strongly advocate for a divisive political issue, thereby creating an "us vs. them" atmosphere. This can lead to a divided electorate and hinder constructive dialogue and progress.

Furthermore, political advertisements often employ triangulation tactics. These advertisements tend to highlight the politician's strengths while undermining opponents, creating a distorted picture for the voters.

**Example:**Political advertisements often highlight a politician's achievements while simultaneously criticizing the opposition's policies or actions. This can manipulate voters into seeing a skewed view of the political landscape.

To confront these triangulation tactics, it's important to stay informed, critically evaluate sources of information, and foster open communication and dialogue.

**Tip:**Always question the sources of your information and encourage a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect. In the political realm, it is essential to look beyond political advertisements and endorsements and focus on the politicians' policies, actions, and track records.

In conclusion, triangulation in government and political systems can be detrimental to community cohesion and democratic processes. Recognizing these tactics and promoting transparency, critical thinking, and open dialogue is crucial to combat these issues.

VII. Triangulation in Religious Institutions

Triangulation is not just restricted to personal relationships, professional settings, or political systems—it can also be found within religious institutions. Leaders within these institutions might use religious texts or the faith of their congregation members as a tool to manipulate them into conforming to specific beliefs or actions.

**Example:**A religious leader might interpret a religious text, such as the Bible, Quran, Torah, or Bhagavad Gita, in a particular way that supports their viewpoint, insisting that their interpretation is the only "correct" one. This could lead members of the congregation to feel pressured to conform to this interpretation, even if their personal understanding or belief differs.

Such manipulation can distort one's perception of their faith and even lead to spiritual trauma. This can be particularly damaging because it directly impacts individuals' spiritual lives, which are often closely tied to their sense of self and well-being.

**Example:**A religious leader might insist that there is only one "right" way to be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. This insistence can create a sense of guilt or fear in individuals who might have different beliefs, practices, or interpretations of their faith.

If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to seek support and guidance. Consider reaching out to trusted peers within your religious community or explore different religious communities that foster open dialogue and respect for individual beliefs and interpretations.

**Tip:**Remember, spirituality and faith are deeply personal. It's crucial to find a religious community that respects your individual beliefs and allows for open and respectful dialogue. If you ever feel manipulated or uncomfortable, seeking a second opinion or exploring other communities can be a helpful step.

In conclusion, triangulation can be found in all kinds of organized religions and can have profound effects on individuals' spiritual lives. Recognizing these tactics and promoting open dialogue, respect for diverse beliefs, and critical thinking within religious communities is essential.

VIII. Conclusion

Understanding triangulation is vital for anyone who has experienced or is currently in a high control relationship. This coercive control tactic can have severe psychological effects and is prevalent in various settings, from domestic relationships to professional environments and religious institutions.

If you believe you're a victim of triangulation, remember: you are not alone, and help is available. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or professional. Understanding and awareness are the first steps towards healing.

Gracie Joyce is an Author, Metaphysician, Narcissistic Abuse educator, and Narcissistic Abuse Coach, .

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