Issue 7 of The Art of Self Care
Definition of Emotional Blackmail:
“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.” (Susan Forward)
Manipulators are experts at convincing their “victims” to give them more than they themselves give in return. When you are involved with a manipulator/blackmailer, it is often hard to see your way clearly because of the thick emotional fog that engulfs you.
This fog is: Fear, Obligation & Guilt.
The purposes of emotional blackmail:
1. Attempts to control another person.
2. Ignoring or criticizing someone’s feelings or concerns.
3. Finding fault with someone else’s opinions while extolling one’s own.
4. Avoidance of responsibility while placing all the blame on someone else.
Emotional blackmail works on a covert level. You give in or acquiesce to make your pain stop.
Whether you are the recipient of emotional blackmail, or you find yourself using it with others, know that the purpose is to ensure (though in an unhealthy way) that your needs are met.
The way to end emotional blackmail is to make the covert, overt.
1. A request is made with a clear need/position/desired outcome/goal expressed.
2. You communicate clearly what is and is not acceptable. (boundaries)
3. Give the other person the option of saying yes or no. (Trusting that you can cope with the answer either way.)
Now it’s Your Turn:
Step 1. Stay focused on your desired outcome… remind yourself what it is you want or need.
Step 2: Love and respect yourself enough to know that you deserve to have boundaries, needs, feelings that are different from the other person... That doesn't make you bad or wrong.
Step 3: Own your feelings. Do NOT apologize for your feelings. Feelings are never wrong, they are simply feelings.
Step 4: Stay focused: Don't get mesmerized by the argument. Get out of the FOG.
Step 5: Take a BREAK… Trust your gut/intuition. You know when you are being manipulated, and when this happens, take a timeout and allow your (or your partner’s) feelings to subside. Revisit the issue when cooler heads prevail.