The Manipulator: A Psychoanalytic View


Publisher: Yale University Press

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Manipulate: to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage (Webster’s).

Ben Bursten begins his unique study of the practical and theoretical problems raised by manipulators with this definition. He brings together broad clinical data, firsthand experience of hospital situations, and a deep understanding of Freudian theory.

Dr. Bursten first carefully defines the four characteristic s of manipulative behavior: it must involve a conflict of goals between the manipulator and the other person, the behavior must be intentional, deception must be involved, the manipulator must feel the exhilaration of having put something over.

Although manipulation may disrupt the hospital milieu and seem to interfere with treatment, Dr. Bursten’s careful distinction between what is manipulative and what is not will be useful in many settings.

While all of us, including psychiatrists, manipulate from time to time, the author shows how certain people use this exploitative relationship as a characteristic way of dealing with others and places the manipulative personality in the larger context of the analysis of narcissistic personalities. (542 pp.)


“…a good book—solid, sensible, and closely reasoned. It is refreshing to read a book by a psychoanalyst with … no axe to grind, he sees both the flaws and necessities in other points of view. Bursten…takes the study of manipulative behavior past its customary interpersonal focus to its intrapsychic core within–the intrasystemic play of the ego, id, and superego with, and off each other.” –Emanuel F. Hammer

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