The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is of the unknown.
You may have heard of blackmail. It is essentially demanding some sort of gain out of another person (often money) in order to keep a secret or demand something in return. Although this type of blackmail can be extremely deadly, it also has a weakness – It’s obvious. For the most part, people know if they are getting blackmailed or not. But emotional blackmail is much more under the radar. The biggest threat from emotional blackmail is that the victim doesn’t even know it is occurring.
How FOG Blinds Us From Emotional Blackmail
So what makes emotional blackmail so under the radar? The main reason is because we simply refuse to accept that our own loved ones would blackmail us. Emotional blackmail often happens in close relationships where the blackmailer knows you. In order to exploit your emotional weaknesses the blackmailer must know them. For example if someone close to you knows that you pride yourself in your generosity that person may use that against you by calling you greedy. In order to prove that you are indeed generous you may cave; thinking it was your own decision to cave into his or her demands.
So how can you tell when you are a victim of emotional blackmail? Look for three things; Fear, Obligation, and Guilt (FOG). Fear is a big one. Often times people manipulate others because of a fear of abandonment, perhaps from their past. When they feel they are not truly loved they may retaliate by using your emotions and insecurities against you.
Obligation and guilt often go hand in hand. Often in relationships either the man or the woman is unable to let go of past mistakes made by the other partner. This can be anything from being inconsiderate to even being unfaithful. Whatever it is, you may apologize to each other and agree to move on but emotionally one of them clings to the mistake of the other. As a result, one person’s mistake is used as fuel to get what the other person wants. So if a past mistake constantly gets brought up again this is another form of emotional blackmail.
This often takes the form of “Remember when you ___”. “The least you can do is ___”. He or she will basically remind you how you should show your appreciation and how you should show how much you care about the other person. If there is no consistent evidence that you were uncaring this statement is unbiased. You are being made to feel obligated to care through guilt. This is not real love nor is it a real relationship and it will soon crumble.
How to See Past the FOG
The first thing you need to do is detect whether your partner or friend is actually trying to blackmail you or if he or she is trying to solve a problem. This is simple to detect. If the other person is trying to find a solution to the problem then you should try to find a solution with him/her. Otherwise, if the other person is just trying to win then there is no use in arguing.
Ask yourself if your feelings being taken into consideration. Is this person trying to cooperate with you or just get what he/she wants? Is this person trying to find a win-win solution or a win/lose situation? If you think back to your past arguments you may start to realize that you have been emotionally blackmailed in more situations than you may think.
The people who get emotionally blackmailed the most are the ones with low self-esteem, with a problem of confrontation, who seek validation from others. A person with these traits is much more likely to cave and put the blackmailer’s needs above his/her own needs without even realizing the manipulation.
If the person above sounds like you; don’t worry, not all hope is lost. Once you realize you are being blackmailed the first thing you need to do is buy time. This takes away the fuel of the blackmail. It takes away the tension. Use statements like “I will think about it, I don’t have an answer right now.” Or “We can talk about it later”. Doing this allows you time to compose yourself, and relieves pressure – all ammunition for the blackmailer. The blackmailer will try to force you to make a decision now. Keep your composure and simply repeat what you said without getting emotional.
If your partner is really trying to resolve the conflict you should be able to have time to think. Also, think about whether you are being blinded by FOG (see above). Are you feeling guilty? Do you feel like you are the one responsible for his happiness? How does he react when you don’t agree with him? Most importantly, is he taking advantage of the fact that you feel this way? These could be hard questions to ask and hard answers to swallow but it is important.
What to Do About It
Once you realize you are a victim it is time to draw some boundaries. Figure out where in the relationship you feel your boundaries have been crossed so you can recognize when it happens again (and it will). You should also communicate these boundaries with your partner without yelling, attacking or being offensive. Just be understanding and calm.
Remember that a blackmailer doesn’t always know that he or she is doing it so just being upfront about it and saying that you will not be guilt-tripped into anything else will trigger your partner to change. If worse comes to worse you may have to leave the relationship if your partner is not willing to change.
Have a great day!
Have you been a victim of emotional blackmail before? Have you seen this sort of behavior in other people? Let me know in the comments below!