I don't know but I've thought about this quite a lot in my life. Having watched certain things in action like the obvious manipulators who pretend to be kind to you to get you to do something for them or be something to them that they want from you and if you do not act accordingly, there is no kindness displayed next. In fact, the personal rejection of kindness will bring out vengeance and vindictive behavior quicker than anything in some. As you can imagine, there is all sorts of psychology that applies here and rather than quickly judge someone as bad or wrong, I suggest that we step back a moment and seek the higher wisdom of understanding so that when you encounter the negative aspects of intentional manipulation that you can respond accordingly.
I'm not convinced that people are kind only to manipulate you for love, validation, attention or even as a pre-emptive strike. I have met souls who embody pure unconditional love, pure kindness and simply love the energy put into the world of that kindness and they ask for not one thing in return. They will not change their kind-hearted behavior towards all because people don't respond positively to them. They simply just seem to love the energy of kindness. Rather than judging all with suspicion or questioning motives of people, I suggest that we sit back, live and let live and whether the consequences turn out to be positive or negative, the actions taken are really about the individual taking the action. I don't think people manipulate to be evil (not always anyway). I think that some souls have taken on a lot of pain, a lot of rejection and a lot of harm in their formative years from adults and others in their lives that did not know what love was or what true kindness or support was. To make someone feel worthy only to the point they are giving you what you want or think you need isn't really fair. The reality is most souls are absolutely worthy of love and act accordingly. Some may act out in unhealthy ways until they learn to heal the wounds inside, accept themselves as loving individuals and learn to forgive those that treated them poorly so that the unhealed wounds of assumption can finally be transformed into truth and understanding.
I walk away from these thoughts thinking that we all just want to find love and acceptance. We all just want to be happy. I think that we sometimes learn unhealthy ways to get what we need without realizing we carry wounds within our hearts. Such souls do not need judgment and persecution but perhaps they need only to learn of their own love and light and perhaps they may find it with some patient soul willing to show them - if, and only if, they are willing to see. Me, myself, I love kind souls and I even love those who have manipulated for love. I understand them. That doesn't mean I am going to tolerate negatively manipulative behavior but I will love and forgive those that employ manipulation in any form. I may not stand there for repeat performances but I at least will not carry the animosity of taking misguided behavior personally. The kind souls out there, for whatever reason, do put out an amazing energy of love when they do it with no expectation of personal gain. Such souls do exist. So, give people a break through understanding. Rather than negatively assuming, judging, labeling or condescending to people, understand that everyone has had a hard path to walk at times and will protect their hearts in whatever way they see fit whether healthy or not. Those that wish to heal and grow may just find themselves in the company of the truly kind-hearted and unconditionally loving souls who might just teach them to love themselves.
I don't have any answers as I mentioned from the start but as to the question originally posed, "Is kindness a hidden form of manipulation?" I think my answer is this, I think the answer is yes sometimes and it is no sometimes. You can only know which answer applies by considering the dynamics and specifics of each encounter. Each encounter warrants it's own response and not a single stereotypical response. Any how, food for thought. ~Blessings of unconditional love and true kindness for all of you beautiful dreamers.
(c) 2012 Jaie Hart (photo, random internet find). Post inspired by a friend, Stephen Paulsen - Thank you my friend, for your inspirational words. :)