There are patterns of psychological manipulation that have very similar effects as the imperius curse described in Harry Potter. When you’re on the receiving end, it can be very hard to figure out what’s going on and resist.
One way to tell is watching how you change when you’re around someone, especially if you’re not comfortable with the changes. Double especially if they emphatically say that they are not trying to influence you and would never try to influence you.
For instance, if your views change dramatically around someone else in this kind of pattern:
- You normally think one thing
- When you’re with this person, your views dramatically change
- When you’re not with them, you can’t understand why your views changed
- Or you might even find the views you adopted in their presence repulsive
- But it keeps happening over and over when you interact with them
Especially if this happens when you try to contradict them:
- You: I don’t agree with you about x. I don’t see myself that way. I don’t believe that.
- Them: Why are you telling me that? What makes you think I ever told you what to think?
- (And then, somehow, you still end up thinking the thing while you’re with them. And not thinking it when you’ve been away from them for a while.)
This can also happen with actions. Sometimes imperius curses mean that being around someone affects what you do. It can mean you do a lot of things you don’t think that you want to do. It can mean being really confused about why you did the things.
Particularly if this happens when you try to avoid doing the things:
- You: I don’t want to do x.
- Them: Did I ever say you should? All I did was ask.
- (Then you somehow still end up doing the thing. And when you’re not with them, you don’t think you want to do the thing and aren’t quite sure how it happened.)
- They say they’re not trying to influence you.
- You try to express a different opinion or desire or choice
- If you’re trying to express a thought or desire, you don’t get to complete the thought or process why you think it
- Instead, the conversation drifts into their opinion
- You end up feeling like you agree, and complying with it
- It’s not really agreement, because you weren’t really able to think about what they are saying and what you think about it, and why you think what you think
- It’s being prompted into an emotional state in which disagreeing with their position feels impossible or petty, and in which surrendering is a relief
When you try to express a choice:
- They pretend that you didn’t express a choice
- And keep talking about it as though a decision has not been made
- (And maybe say some things that might be reasonable if you hadn’t already made a choice and expressed your choice)
- (Or some things that would make sense if you’d asked for their advice)
- They also say some things that are just prompting you in the direction they want you to go in
- And somehow, the conversation never stops until you give in to what they wanted
- (And, often, not until you feel like it was your idea and reassure them that you agree with them, or maybe even thank them for their help)
- They say something awful about you in a tone that sounds loving and compassionate
- The way they speak to you makes it hard to realize that any other opinion is possible.
- You might end up thanking them
- (And then possibly getting angry hours or weeks later when the effect wears off)
- (And being really confused about what happened).
These are a few examples. There are many other ways this can play out.
Changing your opinion in response to someone else’s ideas is not bad in itself. Neither is changing your mind about what you want to do. Those are both important things to do in a lot of situations. The reason that imperius curse effects are bad isn’t that people subjected to them change their opinions or desires. Changing can be good; it’s the *kinds* of changes that imperius curse effects cause that’s the problem.
Imperius curse effects are bad because they short-circuit persuasion and induce compliance. They create emotional prompts that feel like believing something, even if you haven’t actually been persuaded of it. Or prompts that feel similar to wanting to do something, even if you don’t actually want to do it. It makes it hard to tell that the other person ends somewhere, and that your thoughts and feelings matter and might be different from theirs. It’s an intense violation, and it can be hard to detect and resist. I think knowing about the patterns helps some.
Short version: The effects of the Imperius Curse described in Harry Potter are very similar to a form of non-magical emotional manipulation that happens in the real world. They trick people into feeling like they want things they don’t want, or like they agree with things they don’t agree with. There are some patterns they tend to happen in. Knowing about the patterns can make them easier to detect.