Emotional Blackmail

This week Tony and I talked about “emotional blackmail”.  It was a pretty good place to end our interviews on the Home and Harden show, as from next week I’ll be talking with Wallace Chapman on the Sunday morning show, each fortnight.  (Click here for a link to this week’s interview).

Emotional blackmail can also be considered emotional abuse, psychological manipulation or just plain being mean.  But it’s mean with the goal of manipulating or controlling an others behaviour.

“According to psychotherapist Susan Forward, who did much to popularise the term,”emotional blackmail” is a powerful form of manipulation in which blackmailers who are close to the victim threaten, either directly or indirectly, to punish them to get what they want. They may know the victim’s vulnerabilities and their deepest secrets. “Many of the people who use emotional blackmail are friends, colleagues and family members with whom we have close ties that we want to strengthen and salvage”- parents, partners, bosses or lovers. No matter how much the blackmailer cares about the victim, they use their intimate knowledge to win compliance.” (Click here for the whole article)

A useful way to define emotional abuse is via the simple acronym “F.O.G.” which stands for Fear; the emotional blackmailer either brings about fear in the other person, attempts to control them via Obligation or manipualtes via Guilt.  (Click here for the whole article).

Obviously this applies to all sorts of close relationships, but mostly Tony and I talked about how hard it is to be able to think about how to end friendships.  Often I talk to people who are struggling with how to manage friendships where emotional blackmail has become a feature, and it can be very difficult because there is no “map” for how to break up from friendships.

The important thing, I think, is to be honest and to use our mindfulness skills to approach and accept the painful feelings that would motivate such a decision.  To do so will enable us to act with integrity and to be clear, honest and not retaliatory.  As the song says “breakin’ up is hard to do…”

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