Thursday, January 25, 2007

Emotional Blackmail

"If you really loved me..."

"After all I've done for you..."

"How can you be so selfish..."

Do any of the above sound familiar? They're all examples of emotional blackmail, 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 are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.

Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Susan Forward, Donna Frazier
# ISBN-10: 0060928972
# ISBN-13: 978-0060928971

This book does a very clear job of defining emotional blackmail so you can begin to easily spot emotional blackmailers in your life. It then concludes with telling you specifically how to deal with emotional blackmail, that is, how to keep your energy, resources, and sometimes your very soul, from being stolen by them.
Something that was particularly important for me personally in the book was the part at the end where she talks about not emotionally blackmailing *yourself*! What an insight! I realized that even when rigid, controlling people are not around to inspire guilt, fear and shame in me to get me to do things that are hurtful to me for their selfish benefit, I have a "voice" in my head that does the job for them, telling me that whatever I do that doesn't fit the world view of past and present blackmailers is "wrong," "selfish," or even "evil." So I beat myself up on behalf of my blackmailers even when they are not around to do it.
I also was impressed by the insight that not only does it "take two to tango," that no one can blackmail me if I don't let them, but that it is also possible for me to actually "train" people to blackmail me. This is particularly, true, I think, for those of us raised in rigid, controlling homes with emotionally blackmailing parents. Thereafter, we are, so to speak, fertile ground for any future emotional blackmailers.
I had rather been realizing these sorts of things the past few years now that I'm in my 40s (the middle years when we suddenly reevaluate our whole life), and gradually eliminating emotional blackmailers from my life, without exactly using that term. (The term I used was ridding myself of people whose presence felt like "being nibbled to death by ducks.") This book has validated my innate human "right" to not be eaten alive by the selfish demands of others.
Kudos to Ms. Forward!
Kate McMurry

I am an emotional blackmailer, I just had no idea until I read this book. It was suggested to me by my soon to be ex- husband who couldn't take it anymore. I thought I was being strong and standing my ground and this book helped me to see that I was emotionally bullying other people. I beleived I was always right and no human being can be. It also helped me to see that it doesn't matter if you are wrong or right, making another person feel as if they must agree with you or they are "bad" is not OK. I was using the behaviors descibed in the book to protect myself from being hurt and have hurt sooooo many others in the process. If you're a person who always feels like a victim or have no idea why so many people don't like you when you think you're such a wonderful person READ IT!!!

This book hit the nail on the head for me. It helped me extricate myself from a life time of having to deal with my mother's emotional blackmail, PLUS confront my own maladaptive patterns that were equally bad. Uncannily enough, I had saved photocopies of a pile of letters I had sent to a long-term past boyfriend with whom I had a dysfunctional relationship. I went through all of those letters and underlined all my blackmailing tricks and named which category they belonged to. What a revelation and how wonderfully freeing. I then prayed that God would give me the courage to overcome these ways and replace it with courage and insight to be honest. Wow! I've never looked back ... only to consult the book every now and again for a booster! And to re-read those letters for a laugh.
The book is also hilarious in places. Humour is just what the emotional blackmailee and 'er' need!
Cyber Gypsy