A couple of years ago, I was blessed with a fine opportunity. I got to watch a master manipulator work his magic. And since he was being observed by way of a digitally-recorded surveillance camera, I got to play it back in slow motion and really pick it apart.
The manipulator was a little boy, and his victim was his mother. The kid threw a fit when we told him we had to take a blood sample. When he became combative, even threatening the staff with a handy everyday item that most people — including the dipstick that was monitoring him — would not think of as a weapon, I had to get involved.
After we held the little guy down and got the blood we needed, we left the room; his mother remained to pet him and tell him what a good little boy he was. As I walked out of the room, I was thinking, “In a few years hell be too big for her to placate, and then hes going to hurt her… and badly.” I’ve seen it too many times… the little kid is in charge of the entire household.
Its my habit, when we have to “throw down” with a patient and it’s in front of a camera, to go back and review the recording. I get to critique myself and the rest of the staff, finding out what went well and what needs to change. As I was reviewing this one, something inspired me to keep watching, and then to slow the playback waaay down. I got it down to about one-tenth normal speed and watched the kid jerk his mother around like a marionette.
He’s lying on his back on the stretcher, and she bends over him to hug him. He grabs her shirt sleeves in his hands and pulls her toward him… and at the same time, he’s pushing her away with his knees and shins. When she finally responds to the push by standing upright, he reaches at her with his arms, but makes tiny “shoo” motions with his hands, and he allows his legs to fall, open, to the bed.
She once again bends down to hug him, and he puts his arms straight up on either side of her head. She can feel his arms on the sides of her head and neck, but not the back of her neck and her shoulders. This is a rejection, so she again rights herself, and he reaches up to her face with both hands. He barely strokes her hair and then pushes her head back and away. When she stands all the way up, he beckons to her again, and when she does not immediately respond, he falls limp to the stretcher… poor, helpless, defenseless one.
She bites at this hook, and as she bends to hug him, he reaches up toward her, but just before it becomes an embrace, he falls limp again. With her holding on to him, though, this time it is not a come-on; its a put-off.
Back and forth, back and forth, double-bind, bait-and-switch.
All this took place within, perhaps, five or six seconds time. Much of it I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t slowed down the recording.
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