Emotional Blackmail

Like a restaurant refusing to take Amex or Discover anymore, I have stopped letting people blackmail me emotionally. I have learned through the years that people use emotions as currency and I can fall easy prey to emotional blackmail. Thankfully there are those around me that help keep me sane and remind me that people do not have power over you, you give them that power.

Guilt is a powerful tool used by many to get their way. I am sure we have all been victims at one time or another of someone making us feel guilty about an action or situation. The worse kind is the one that attempts to make us feel guilty about the way we feel.

Many people do not understand that emotions are involuntary. While many of us have learned to control our emotions in certain situations, we are not able to fully control everything that we feel. Emotions are thoughts that carry feelings, and they steer them inside our brains at speeds that are times are impossible to stop or even slow down. They come crashing into our heart and make us, happy, sad, desperate or elated.

When we give people the key to our hearts, we open a door for them to look inside and see what feelings have more power than others on that emotional highway. They learn that maybe family overrules career when they are both racing towards a decision. They can use that knowledge to support our decisions, or use it against us to hurt us where it will cause the most pain. However it was our fault when we get hurt because we are the ones that let them take a peek inside ourselves.

I am not saying that we should be guarded, but rather to learn to take what people say for what is really worth. Sometimes those close to us say things that might hurt, but we need to learn when to let words hurt us because they are trying to make us see something we have overlooked and when it is plain emotional blackmail.

We must all learn to live life for ourselves and not for others. God’s greatest gift besides love is free will. We can make decisions and learn to know what to listen to and what to hear. It is important to learn to discern between what is tough love and what are emotional bombs.

15 comments on “Emotional Blackmail

  1. I have trouble with this, and I’ve also been guilty of using emotional blackmail as a weapon to get what I think I need or what I want. Then life shows me something different when I realize that I cannot control what other people feel and that the idea that I have about their lives is probably very far from reality.

    The problem with people who like to manipulate others emotionally, is that sometimes they don’t realize it. What they think they’re doing right, is probably hurting those they are talking to. That’s where our character needs to play its role, and we have to be honest about the way their words or actions make us feel.

    I have no problem in stopping people who want to twist my thoughts and feelings anymore. I think our emotions should be validated and not used against us. After all, we’re only human.

    And to finish my babbling, I want to add that as along as you live a life you can feel proud of, and have no regrets, what other people say shouldn’t matter. It’s hard, but doable.

  2. I agree with Bea. Most women tend to use emotional blackmail as a main weapon. Although some men use verbal warfare and don’t realize it’s hurtful as well as informative. Some men don’t know how to give the information without being hurtful. All i knowis once it’s said you can’t take it back and you have to live with yourself and the ones you hurt. I stress to everyone to think before you speak and mabye then we’ll have a little more understanding in the world.

  3. I agree with what you said about living your life for yourself. That’s one thing I’ve always tried to live by and something that I instilled into my kids.

  4. This post has a “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” flavor … I like it lots.

    I am always stunned when I discover that someone I trust, knowing my vulnerabilities because I’ve been guileless with them, would even consider emotional blackmail. However, how they treat me speaks volumes about them and nothing about me. As I get older it gets easier not to do the guilt dance as someone fires emotional bullets at my feet.

    Unfortunately, people are people and sometimes they will try that passive-aggresive stuff. The trick is not to be emotionally mortally wounded by it.

    Great post!

  5. Look who I’ve spotted on my blog and others! Long time no see… glad to have you around.

    This is, indeed, a great post. You must love and take care of your own heart before you can confidently share it with others.


  6. Before I learned to manage my borderline personality disorder, I was a master manipulator. However, I think this is learned behavior.

    I stopped speaking to my own mother for about three years because I was tired of, not just the things she would say to me, but the way those things made me feel. You’re right–we can’t control our emotions because we feel the way we feel, but we do have control over our own environments.

    Though I talk to her now and our relationship is better (not great, mind you, but better), I’ve learned that I can’t control other people’s behavior, but I can control my own reactions. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t let myself feel my emotions because they’re valild, but I can choose not to let the person hurt me. It isn’t easy, though, especially when it’s a loved one.

  7. Not letting someone get to one is easier said than done. This is only possible depending on the environment one is in. Your latest post on Nathan is a classic example where he could not just ignore abuse. I realize that what he experienced was physical abuse — emotional abuse can be just as damaging. Something needs to be done to empower people to fight this injustice. Blogging about ways to become empowered is important. Self awareness about to detect manipulators is a good start.

  8. good for you. I too refuse to let someone else’s emotions influence me. I HATE it when I am having a conversation with someone and they say “I feel …”. I’m like, dude, you just emoted on me. Keep yer damn feelings to yourself. no on cares. Except of course the Bride. The Bride has unlimited access to the feelings processing module. Thankfully she does not invoke it often tho.

  9. I think it hurts because when someone uses emotional blackmail against you, it means that they see you as their little puppet and not as the free thinking opinionated person that you are. They can only have that relationship with you if they have power over you. It means they need you desperately and are afraid of being alone themselves. I seem to attract these people maybe because everyone in my family is like it, so maybe I seek it out at some level. I have learnt to say well that is just your opinion or take my company away for a while when its used on me. You are right that a strong belief in your own values and beliefs is totally necassary, but on days my self esteem is zero, it hurts. I think you should always say I need time to think about what you just said, then go away and look at the evidence when you have calmed down, or pretend its two other people you are looking at and ask what would be appropriate so you can think about it objectively because your emotions can stop you doing that.

  10. i have been a victon of emoshanal balckmail.and i think it is wrong for people to use it agenst someone if they care or love the other person. i find it hard to handle emoshanal blackmail because in i am so young,and being a singal 17 year old mum.

  11. i am coping with the fallout from emotional blackmail, and my soon to be ex is the perpetrator. now that he can’t get to me, he uses our children. it’s pathetic because they are easy targets…there love for him is unconditional and they don’t have the level of sophistication to realize how badly used they are. there really needs to be more awareness about this type of abuse, as it is difficult for some people to fathom the extent of the damage or to recognize it.

  12. Hi…I would very much appreciate others’ takes on this situation.

    Over the past 4 and a half years, I’ve been involved with a man whom I orginally thought was just having the blues on occasion. Over time it got worse. He could be conscious and so caring one moment and then within minutes turn into the ultimate poor me/victim type. Yes, now I feel like a total idiot now that I see this, he smoked dope (the real potent stuff) nearly every night, is obese, calls on his friends to give him “pain killer” pills, downs anti-depressants, and then, of course, slams down hard liquor with beer chasers (and many at that) whenever he has a gig.

    I fell in love with the “good” in him – he can be very charming, tried to be supportive, and really cared for him deeply even though at least half the time was spent, for me, trying to heal from the effects of his “blues” times. Yet, I still considered him my best friend and looked forward to spending time with him and his calls.

    Out of the blue (pardon the pun), he stopped calling me after Thanksgiving weekend (which he told me he really enjoyed). I fell apart after four weeks of not hearing a peep from him and finally received an email six weeks later telling me that he is miserable, he is in a constant state of guilt because he can’t say “no” to me, and says I’m controlling. He went on to say that he can no longer be in a “relationship” with me, but wants to be friends (what the heck does that mean, esp. since he’s been unable to be “physical” for eons). My intuition told me that he didn’t write that letter, which was confirmed. Instead, he involved some of his “family” members who’s ideas and statements were included in the letter.

    I went and got some expert help (probably the sanest thing I’ve done in a long time). I learned so much and was described to have suffered “severe emotional abuse” in this relationship. The doctors couldn’t understand why I still loved this man so much and helped me figure out that I was dealing either with a person with a personality disorder (boderline or at least disfunctional) OR someone with clinical depression.

    Long story short, I assumed the clinical depression footprint and that his use of drugs and his reactions were a means for dealing with the pain of clinical depression. When I described the results to him (in writing), he and his family responded with the statements that him using drugs all had to do with his brother’s death (but that can’t be because his brother passed away, expectedly, two years ago) and my “friend” has been using for years and that continual every day use of pot is not problematic. He and his family also say that my “intervention” letter was irresponsible, that I’m controlling, that my putting the issues in writing as well as telling him what I’ve had to go through is a form of “emotional blackmail.”

    The psych/AA/NA folks that I asked for advice simply respond with the statement that my friend is in denial, as is his family, and that they probably feel a lot of guilt because they should have done some type of intervention years ago, esp. since his sister is a counselor, and are angry that I “called the kettle black.”

    I tried to explain the situation to his family members, but that was only received with abusive reactions (telling others untrue and very disturbing things about me to try to ruin my reputation), referring to me as a stalker because I called several times to get in touch with my friend (I admit was having a very difficult time those two days and just wanted to chat – nevertheless, ideally, I shouldn’t have called so many times) and dishing out a constant stream of lies during my last visit. I’m still shaking over this entire situation. Most of all, I’ve never been told that I was “controlling” nor “an emotional blackmailer.”

    My long time friends tell me that he’s emotionally bankrupt and comes from a world of addiction and this is how such a person responds. I simply can’t tell – are he and his family the blackmailers or am I? I was just trying to help, provide an intervention of sorts, so my friend would have factual information to discuss with a therapist (or so I hope he does, but that’s his call whether or not to deal with in a proactive way). I haven’t been able to sleep for days now.

    I don’t know how to take all that has happened…Any suggestions – please, just be truthful. I’m so tired of weeding out his lies and the who said what to whom scenarios and truly need others to just be frank with me. Thanks!

  13. I’ve just discovered what emotional blackmail is and how it comes out in various aspects of an abusive relationship. I’ve also come to understand that abusers fully know that they are being abusive, but, the damage to you doesn’t matter, just that they get what they want. This makes it all the more difficult and painful that someone you is being intentionally harmful without thought qas to all the ramifications of his/her conduct. I also didn’t realize how growing up under a parent you emotionally blackmails can influence you terribly as well.

    The intentional provokation of hate and anger. It makes deciding to leave a lot easier when you come to this realization.

    I’ve promised never to never make excuses for an abusers conduct and/or be emotionally blackmailed again and/or emotionally blackmail another person.

    When we learn better, We choose better, We experience better.

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