Original Research

De-stigmatising manipulation: An exercise in second-order empathic understanding

G Stanghellini
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 20, No 1 | a510 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v20i1.510 | © 2014 G Stanghellini | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 October 2013 | Published: 30 April 2014

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Standard definitions of ‘manipulation’, especially regarding people with a borderline personality diagnosis, usually highlight the alloplastic purpose of manipulativity, i.e. the intention to produce a belief in, or action by another person. In this article, I will try to show that this is only one side of the coin, and shed light on a complementary aspect of manipulative behaviour: manipulation can serve an epistemic, rather than alloplastic, pragmatic motif – the attempt to establish contact with the other in order to achieve a more distinct experience and representation of the other. My tentative hypothesis is based on the meaning of manipulation as touching (‘manus’ means ‘hand’) in infant behaviour where manipulation is a means to explore, rather than a way to modify the other’s state of mind.


manipulation; second-order empathic understanding;


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