By Susan Forward, PhD.
“Why can’t I ever get my point across?...Blackmailers can skillfully mask the pressure they are applying to us, and often, we experience it in ways that make us question our perception of what’s happening…Yet, no matter how different they appear on the surface, they all have major traits in common…
…The people we are coming up against in these can’t-win situations are skilled manipulators.
Diagnosis: Emotional Blackmail
Sub section: What’s the real motive?
If someone’s primary goal is ‘to win…’ There’s no balance of power…
The Four Faces of Blackmail:
Punishers, Self Punishers, Sufferers and Tantalizers.
3. Their Blind Spots—and Ours
“…They genuinely believe in the correctness of what they are doing and the rightness of what they want…They tend to fuse and enmesh themselves with those around them.
(My own favourite Chapter: I feel like I could also name this one “Psychiatric Blackmail: tools of the trade’, since it fits so well)
Tools of the Trade:
The Spin Doctor, Confusing Labels, Making us ‘Bad’, Pathologizing, What’s Wrong with YOU?, Dangerous secrets, Enlisting Allies, Bringing in Fresh Troops, Calling on a Hidden Authority, (God, psychiatrists etc.) Negative Comparisons (to others who are ‘better’ than you because they co-operate)
‘…The ‘spin involves applying adjectives—positive ones to the blackmailer and the compliant target; negative ones to the person who resists… The experience is disorienting…we begin to internalize the blackmailer’s questions about our perceptions, our character, our worth, our desirability, our values. We are trapped in a dense FOG…We buy into the spin because we want our friends, lovers, bosses and family members to be right and good, not mean unfeeling or oppressive…
It’s All About Them
…‘All the blackmailers we’ve seen are focused almost totally on THEIR needs, THEIR desires; they don’t seem to be the least bit interested in OUR needs or how their pressure is affecting us. Blackmailers can be like steamrollers when we don’t satisfy them, becoming ruthless in their single minded pursuit of their goals…It is a strange kind of love that is so blind to the target’s feelings…
Making Mountains Out of Molehills
Teaching us a Lesson
…’Insults an infantilizing are similarly explained away with the, ‘it’s for your own good rationale… there are attractive payoffs to clinging to this erroneous idea of punishment as training. Blackmailers can live with almost anything if they can make targets seem like dunces…In this way they can avoid any introspection…’
Old Battles, New Victims
…’the blackmailer strikes out at a target who has become a stand-in for a figure from the past…’ (this is known as acting out on a surrogate)
The Blame- Taker
…’ In fact, they [blackmailers] demand that we buy into it. If they’re displeased, we’re the problem. And our compliance with them is the solution. Under pressure from her family to recant or face exile…She had become the family scapegoat… it is not uncommon for one person to become the repository of everything that goes wrong in the family…in order to keep everyone else in balance…It is especially tough to believe your own perceptions are valid when people you love are telling you how crazy, wrong or sick you are…
A Vicious Cycle
..”It was a totally no-win situation…Under pressure we do something that doesn’t fit with who we are…”
Rationalizing and Justifying
“Protecting our integrity can be frightening and lonely…She did what many blackmail targets do given a choice between being true to themselves and complying with what someone else wants: she rationalized.’
The Impact on Our Well Being
‘Emotional blackmail leaves us full of unexpressed smoldering feelings.’
The Impact on the Relationship
Targets of emotional blackmail become so accustomed to negative judgments disapproval, pressure and overreactions that…they are reluctant to share major parts of their lives. We stop talking about… (listed)…Just below the artificial calm that surrounds a placated blackmailer and a target who has given in, is the widening chasm that is opening between them….In a blackmail tainted situation, relationships with friends , lovers and family members that once had real depth begins to get thinner as the roster of safe topics shrinks.’
A New Dance
Be prepared for even more pressure as blackmailers try to regain their position.