The mind is a complicated thing. It is powerful, but it is also subject to harm. Whether it be a friendship or a romantic relationship, mind games are not an uncommon thing for people in relationships to play.
Mind games are a form of manipulation. They are used by people who have desires to be in control and desire to bring someone down so they can stand tall. People can manipulate their friends, family and partners.
According to Sylvia Smith from Marriage.com, a website for relationship advice, there are at least five ways to determine if one is being the subject of mind games.
A person in a relationship can,“Confuse you,” “Cause you to doubt yourself around them,” “Put you down,” “Intentionally hurt your feelings” and “Use others against you.”
Business administration and marketing major Celia Larabee has experience with mind games through dating apps.
“I would deal with people who would go from being conversational to randomly leaving me on read or ghosting me for days, only to message me later and pretend nothing happened,” Larabee said.
When someone plays mind games they can cause their friend or partner to doubt themselves, and will intentionally hurt their feelings.
“Mind games can be stressful and make a person doubt themselves. I would have a hard time deciding whether or not to keep talking to a person on a dating app, because as soon as I gave up they would try to talk to me and get my attention,” Larabee said.
Senior English major Laura Bower has not had personal experience with someone playing mind games, but expressed her concern over the subject of gaslighting, which is a toxic manipulation. Gaslighting can make someone question their own judgment, therefore doubting themselves and believing the person that is gaslighting them.
“Gaslighting is a big one, because I think communication and trust are the most important things in a relationship,” Bower said.
Mind games are not always obvious. It can take a while for one to notice how frequently they are played in a relationship. Sometimes, mind games can even be seen during adolescence. Senior nursing major Sydnie Gould remembered one of her first experiences with mind games: in middle school.
“Way back in middle school, I really liked this boy, and he would text me all the time and send hearts and compliments. But then he ended up having a crush on the girl sitting next to me, but still continued to send me those things,” Gould said.
Leading two people on at once and using affectionate gestures is a common tactic used in mind games. During early teenage years, it might seem like a harmless little thing, but in the realm of adulthood, especially when it comes to dating, it is important to recognize toxic traits before they get more severe.
“Manipulation takes a lot of different faces, and red flags are a hard thing to see right away. What is a red flag for one person might not be the same red flag for another person,” Gould said.
Mind games and manipulation cause more harm than good. The person who starts to play them most likely wants to feel in control, and as a result, they will most likely put the other person down.
“Playing with someone’s emotions will just inevitably push that person away. It is better to communicate and be clear about your intentions, rather than ghosting and being distant to seem cool,” Larabee said.