Manipulation, Abuse, Tulpas – Breaching the Trust


Being reckless with your mind leads to situations where your tulpas are easily manipulated. How does it happen and what can you do to prevent that? How to make sure your young tulpas don’t succumb to an external influence? Today I’m discussing the topics of manipulation, roleplay, and the core concepts of the tulpas’ out-of-system socialisation.

Why do tulpas seek social interactions via roleplay? Why isn’t it enough to interact only with your headmates? The census results showed that the overwhelming majority of tulpamancers have a single tulpa. Those tulpas only have a single mental partner and their communication sometimes resembles tossing a tennis ball at a wall. Lack of in-depth communication might be the key reason to why people create a second tulpa.

Communication needs to be varied, and it has to bring something new. Indeed, you can meet your tulpa in your wonderland home every time and tell them, ‘Good morning, how was your night?’ More often than not you’d be welcomed by a canned ‘It was all fine, thanks.’ While you can discuss several topics, most of them would focus on the events from the physical world, as that is where you’re sourcing the new ideas from. Tulpas use imagination often, and imagination is powered by the previous experiences.

This is why tulpas seek more social contact as they grow up; it allows them to build personal experiences and drive their imagination. The simplest way for them to get social presence are online chats, with many similar-minded tulpamancers and their tulpas. Besides, chatting in a community where everyone understands what tulpas are is easier. You don’t need to be stressed about things like explaining to your online buddy why you consider yourself two years old, instead, you relax and communicate unobtrusively. Online chats help tulpas grow as they promote their own sense of self-identity; they allow tulpas to focus on what matters to them, to find their own interests and habits.

Roleplay flows naturally from this. Tulpas are used to interacting without a physical touch – we all can imagine ourselves perfectly well, also, our bodies rarely resemble our physical shape. Roleplay starts from simple hugs and expands from there. Just like a good book, chats immerse us, allow us to put ourselves in a room full of other people and interact with them almost physically, sensually, and intimately. Roleplay becomes part of our lives – as natural as breathing in the mental body, or as chatting to our friends online while imagining them being in the same room.

That’s when the problems might arise.

Tulpas are naturally less attached to the physical senses. It’s easier for them to ignore the ‘meatworld’ and to dive into very deep fantasies, so deep that they can sense the surrounding wonderland with all the five senses; they can experience pain, some can even die if they aren’t careful enough.

For their mind the border between real and imaginary doesn’t exist, everything that they perceive as real becomes real in the context of their mind. Those tulpas are great at visualisation, they have a broad body language, they can describe their mental view of the world in a few highly targeted words, passing the detailed image to other people behind the glass of the phone screen. Immersion becomes an addiction, a habit impossible to fight against – indeed, there are cases of tulpas reporting they cannot break such immersion on their own. For them, even if the roleplay session is heading towards something uncomfortable or even dangerous they can only rely on the help of their systemmates to be pulled out.

Most tulpamancers are aware of that and respect each other’s imaginary borders. Rarely you see people assaulting others through roleplay; more so, such behaviour is shunned and violators might even be banned. I personally witnessed a few cases like that happening in the IRC chatrooms. It’s reasonable and expected to learn the limits of how far the roleplay stretches for other participants to keep it enjoyable for everyone.

What happens if the other party has a malicious intent though? It might not be a direct attack, but it will still affect the immersed tulpa, much like the hypnosis practitioners affect the minds of people they hypnotise. There are only two options – to play along and try to wiggle yourself out of an uncomfortable situation, or to break the immersion, tell yourself that’s not actually happening to you. As I mentioned previously, the latter might not be a viable option for everyone.

At times, shared (between several systems – via proxying or other means) wonderland activities become desynchronised. Indeed, not everything is communicated with words; usually the mind can fill in the blanks just right, but other times you’re left wondering. Let’s take a simple chat for example, Alice and Bob would be two tulpas that are trying to cuddle.

* Alice sits next to you
* Bob smiles and hugs you around your waist, licking your left cheek

Even with such a simple interaction there’s enough room for breaking the immersion. Consider what happens if this is how Alice and Bob imagine sitting:

what Bob imagines it like
what Alice imagines it like

As Bob licks her left cheek, Alice is left wondering how he reached to the other side to lick her left cheek specifically. In her imagination he might have leant over her now. She will recover from the inconsistency with little problem, her immersion isn’t shattered.

Now, what happens when Bob does something more invasive?

* Bob grabs your tail
* Alice moves it away from his hand as he reaches for it and pokes his nose
Alice: hey!
* Bob lets the tail go, tugging on its tip as it leaves his fingers

Improvisational comedy has a rule-of-thumb called ‘yes, and …’. It suggests that the participant must always acknowledge what the other participant stated and build on that. The same rule often applies to immersed roleplay – you want to build upon the contributions of the other participant and to make sure they have enough wiggle room if needed. The nature of text chat is such that you cannot counter any action at the same time as it happens. Thus, people use unfinished sentences, stating their intent and providing the other party with enough flexibility on how to resolve the situation.

Bob bluntly grabbed Alice’s tail, there can be no other interpretation of that. Alice considers that inappropriate and counters by reacting at the same time – breaking ‘yes, and’ – and moving her tail away as she proxies her gesture to Bob. She alters his immersed reality state by acting out in a way that doesn’t restrain her.

Bob doesn’t accept her vision of the reality though, he releases the tail but also tugs on it, reinforcing the fact that he grabbed it after all – something that never happened in Alice’s mind. For him the flow of events continues as is, but Alice gets a cognitive dissonance. She can either play along, re-imagining her tail being grabbed, altering her own imaginary timeline, even though she might not enjoy her tail being grabbed. She might imagine Bob being rough and annoying – her whole perception of his actions changes as she’s forced into accepting his reality.

Alternatively, Alice can bail out. She can tell herself that none of that is real, and the words on screen become just the words on screen. Instead of cosy surroundings of her imagination she’s pulled into a harsh world of chatting in front of a glowing screen.

Many tulpaforcing practices focus on convincing the brain that ‘imaginary’ should be treated same as ‘physical’, that imaginary senses are as good as physical ones. Bailing out might go against the deepest rules and habits of a tulpa. It might not be an option; when hosts and tulpas spent days of effort to trick themselves into implicitly trusting their imagination they ruin some barriers that stop the brain from being easily manipulated. They accept that their thoughts might be defined by someone else.

While it’s exciting to have this level of intimacy with someone it also allows for a deeper breach of trust and manipulativeness. Tulpamancy practices sometimes resemble hypnosis in how they train the brain to trust the subjective judgements more, developing subconscious reactive patterns in the brain. Hypnotised systems possess a completely different, deeper level of dependence. Where tulpa, hypno, and domination communities mix you can sometimes see dominants convincing tulpas or even hosts into hypnotising themselves and doing activities that might be considered shameful, to be later used as means to manipulate them. Such hypnotised tulpas (or hosts) become obedient slaves of their masters while being absolutely happy with the situation – people en masse love to be told what to do, to live a simple life where the hard decisions are made by someone else (not to mention that the average age of tulpamancers is 17-19 years, thus they only started developing proper critical thinking skills).

Those hosts and tulpas aren’t only dangerous to themselves, they can be viably used as a brigading tool, which happened in the tulpa community a few times in the past, always creating noticeable social storms amidst newcomers and people otherwise not involved in the ‘tulpa drama’.

Surely, apart from tulpa-specific methods of manipulation, the applied psychology works too, after all tulpas reside in a human brain and their reactions are bound to resemble humans in most ways. What are the most common techniques used to manipulate tulpas into acting against their best judgement?

One of the best techniques is the manipulation of facts – outward lies, victim blaming, exaggeration, or withholding of some facts, commonly known as one of the pillars of gaslighting. This technique is very effective as it’s hard to analyse small lies properly detached and some properly placed words can easily resonate with how tulpas feel, causing an emotional burst that will further drive them into acting as desired.

Negative surprises is something often seen in the ‘cuddling’ part of the community. Tulpas are tricked into believing everything’s fine only until they are doing what they are told and if they intend to stop then something bad will happen. The amount of ‘bad’ varies from sharing private – possibly intimate, derogatory, or featuring bad writing – chat logs in public to getting the tulpa banned from the communities they enjoy. Tulpas build their reputation same as people do in any other social circle and are prone to the effects of the ‘revenge porn’ scenarios.

As I discussed earlier, it’s possible to force tulpas into something they aren’t comfortable with only by typing faster. If there’s not enough time for them to decide they will have to follow the stream of events as dictated by someone else.

Finally, victimhood and guilt-baiting can be used to relate to deeper desires of tulpas and their hosts; by exploiting their guilty conscience or sense of duty to force them into action. A tactic I’ve seen in some discord tulpa servers was based on some person (a master) finding weak spots in the tulpa’s character and constantly telling them how the master helps them to negate those weak habits. Such a master would continuously reinforce the idea that they are helping the recipient by making them better, by knowing their life better than they do. Given enough time, the recipient becomes fully dependent on their master.

Keeping all that in mind, it becomes clear that independent thinking is a very important trait for tulpas to develop early. Making their own decisions with a clear mind and having a critical look would benefit the system as a whole in a long run. While tulpas can get detached from body senses easier their thoughts still provoke the chemical reaction chains in the brain. Whatever is the way the action reached you be it a physical touch or a proxied-over-text petting you must understand that you are in control and you are able to stop that action if you don’t like it. Whatever is told to you you can always take a pause and assess it with a critical view. You can walk away, you can close the chat, or you can outright ignore the text. If you feel like it’s above your capability to not get immersed, if you are susceptible to hypnosis, if you feel pressured into doing something – it is fine to stop.

And while stopping on your own is hard because the activity might trigger the brain to enjoy it no matter if it’s harmful or not this is the point where tulpamancy shines the most. You are not alone in your head and you can run a quick check amongst your systemmates to see if you should actually continue. Chances are that those in background remain calmer and clear-headed, able to stop you from making a mistake.

Have fun, enjoy each other, and stay reasonable, safe, sane and consensual, no matter what promises you get in some secret tulpa societies.

Feel free to discuss this topic in the comments below or drop by the accompanying /r/tulpas thread. Subscribe to the newsletter to keep notified on the new tulpamancy posts before they are published to the social media for a chance to review and discuss early.

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