The popular 1990's television show, Seinfeld, used the term "svengali" in an episode where Elaine, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is dating her psychiatrist. He is controlling her and she knows it. But every time she tries to end the relationship, he talks her out of it. Manipulates her. She tries to end it by introducing him to her new boyfriend. But her svengali manages to convince her boyfriend to break up with her! In the world of a sit-com, the premise is hysterical. In real life, svengalis ruin people's lives. And anybody those sad (and likely broken) individuals may be connected to.
Even if you've never heard of du Maurier or his novel before, we've all known our share of svengalis. People who bully us. Railroad us. Control us. Convince us that what we know to be wrong, is absolutely right. And there is something really wrong with us for thinking otherwise. Basically, a svengali holds you emotional hostage. The effect is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, where a captive develops love and loyalty for the person holding them against their will. A svengali can make your life hell. And even if you want to escape, unless you take on the svengali directly, which is obviously not easy, you will continuously be drawn back, entangled in their sticky, manipulative web.
So, what do you do? How do you approach a problem like this??? Especially if your svengali is a girlfriend/boyfriend, partner, or spouse.
The first question to ask yourself is, what is it costing you to remain in the relationship?
Are you able to pursue your dreams, or does your svengali shoot down your ideas before they're allowed to flourish?
How's your self-esteem? Your dignity? Has your svengali made you feel less valuable as a human being? As if you are unworthy of anything better? As if you do not deserve things like joy or happiness? And, if you were to achieve those things, does your svengali punish you for it, essentially attempting to sabotage your chance of escaping their negative hold on you?
Do you feel stuck? Like change is impossible so there's no point in trying?
Do you feel hopeless and helpless? Like your life is over and nothing you do or say matters or ever will matter???
What about your identity? Has your svengali twisted your sense of self to the extent that you've abandoned the principles that made you who you are?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, its time to make a MAJOR change. No one who loves you should ever require you to subjugate yourself, your values or your dreams in any way. Real love raises you up, helps you become a better person. Helps you feel better about yourself. Helps you move toward realizing your dreams. Your svengali will say anything to convince you to agree to her terms; she will not relent, even if she promises otherwise. She will trick you by utilizing a push-pull behavior, making you feel rejected, then, accepted, over and over again until you crave her acceptance above all else. In order to break free, you have to be strong enough to recognize your svengali's patterns. You also have to recognize your responsibility in the situation. And forgive yourself when you do. While you may have contributed to your svengali's control over you and your life, once you recognize this, and take pains to remove yourself, you will be free--but only if you stay the course. In order to do that, you must believe you deserve the things your svengali has convinced you are outside of your reach.
It's easy for someone we love to manipulate us. But anyone who manipulates does not really know how to love. You are worth the effort it will take to find real love. Even if the prospect of being alone is daunting. Ask yourself how your behavior and attitude enables your svengali to take control. If you can identify your disconnects, you can begin to make the changes you need to reclaim your life and regain personal agency in what is an otherwise lop-sided relationship.
By giving in to a svengali's emotional extortion, you are cheating yourself out of a better life. Is keeping the peace worth your hopes and dreams? Is it worth sacrificing the joy, happiness, peace, and love a supportive relationship can bring?
While the answers to these questions may seem obvious, breaking free from a svengali is not. A svengali controls. She will ignore you, make you feel worthless, until she needs you. Then, she comes back to you bearing gifts, giving you the attention you crave, and generally sweet-talking you. It's one of the oldest seductions in the book. And both men and women seem to enjoy it at some point in their lives:
"You don't want me??? Oh, baby, I want you so much more now. Because when I get you to want me again, it will be so much more satisfying, too."
The problem with thinking this way is that it perpetuates vulnerability, not strength. Relationships are better as equal partnerships. More satisfying. More supportive. And more loving. In an equal partnership, there is very little drama. Because an equal partnership requires a certain level of maturity. Maturity does not mean things have to be serious or boring. Just the opposite, actually. A mature relationship provides a stable foundation from which both partners can evolve and grow together. That's the stuff a lifetime romance is made of. Because equal partnerships also make for really, really, really *hawt* sex...the kind of sex that involves plaid skirts and lollipops. Yeah, THAT kind of sex.
So if you have a svengali partner, boss, parent, spouse, or friend, it's time to cut the cord. 2015 is right around the corner. End the cycle of abuse and drama and start fresh in the new year. You owe it to yourself to find the stability you need--and deserve--to move your life in the direction you want. Don't cheat yourself out of happiness and joy, peace and love for a moment longer. Because no one else can help you if you don't first help yourself.
You can do this! I believe in you....