how to recognize it and free itself from it?

At school, in the family, between friends, in a relationship, at work … Emotional blackmail is manipulative behavior that can interfere in all relationships. How to recognize emotional blackmail and how to get out of it

Parents, spouse, friends, colleagues … Sometimes the people we love engage in emotional blackmail, also called emotional blackmail. This is a particularly powerful form of manipulation whereby a loved one threatens, directly or indirectly, to punish you if you do not meet their wishes. While blackmail often exerts financial pressure, the emotional blackmailer reaches you on a deeper level because he uses the affection you have for him. How to act and free yourself from emotional blackmail?

What is emotional blackmail?

Blackmail is a way of taking power over someone, by exerting pressure. Affective blackmail, also called emotional blackmail, is therefore a way of using affection to gain control over someone. It is based on insidious yet explicit threat phrases such as '' if you don't do that, you don't really love me '', or even more serious '' if you leave me, I will difficulty''.

‘Emotional blackmail is first and foremost a threat, since the person is promised something unpleasant to experience if they do not do as they are asked. And in particular, she is threatened to love her less, to care less, or even worse to abandon her or leave her in a romantic relationship. ", explains Sylvie Tenenbaum, psychotherapist and author of numerous books including Free yourself from the emotional hold (Leduc.s editions). But emotional blackmail does not only occur within the couple, it is everywhere. ‘In parent-child relationships, between siblings, between friends, at work, in the playground …’ ’, details the expert. ‘‘ This is a form of abuse. It is emotional and psychological manipulation ''.

What is the profile of the blackmailer?

"The blackmailer can range from the ordinary little manipulator to the big narcissistic pervert", says Sylvie Tenenbaum. In his book Emotional blackmail, When those we love manipulate us (InterEditions, 1998), Susan Forward distinguishes four types of blackmailers:

  • The executioner, who threatens to punish you and who makes it known exactly what he wants (“If you leave me, you won't see the children anymore”, “If you don't agree to work overtime, you can give up your promotion”);
  • The flagellant, who turns the threat against himself and insists on the suffering he will experience if we do not give in to him (‘Quitt If you leave me, I will kill myself’ ’);
  • The martyr or the eternal victim, who brandishes his suffering and makes his victim feel guilty (‘How can you do that to your poor mother?’ ’)
  • The merchant of false hopes, which makes you dangle a future happiness in exchange for the required concessions (‘I'll help you if …’ ’).

For psychotherapist Sylvie Tenenbaum, it is a desire to take power over others, a form of control. ‘‘ In all forms of relationships, emotional blackmail is an extremely toxic form of manipulative communication. The imprisoners always need the other, so they will do whatever they can to keep the other under their rump. ", she adds. Emotional blackmailers are very good at making their victims helpless and confused.

Emotional blackmail: the signs to recognize

In her book, Susan Forward lists situations that can help you determine if you are under the influence of a manipulator. Here are the questions to ask:

  • Are the people who matter in your life threatening to create difficulties for you if you do not meet their demands?
  • Are they constantly threatening to end your relationship if you don't give in?
  • Are they implying, explicitly or not, that they will let go, get depressed, or do something bad to themselves if you don't do what they want?
  • Are they always asking for more, despite your best efforts?
  • Do they consistently behave as if there is no doubt about your submission to their demands?
  • Do they regularly show how little they value your feelings and desires?
  • Do they make big promises that they say they will only keep if you behave as you want but they rarely keep?
  • Do they call you selfish, greedy, or insensitive when you don't comply?
  • Do they shower you with praise when you please them, while they take their esteem away when you don't?
  • Are they using money as leverage?

If you answer yes to even one of these questions, you may be the victim of emotional blackmail.

The different forms of emotional blackmail

  • Emotional blackmail at school

As the specialist points out, emotional blackmail can begin at an early age in the playground. ‘If you’re friends with such and such, I’ll stop talking to you’ ’, can sometimes be heard in children's mouths. "It is not a big blackmail, but it is the spirit of blackmail", specifies Sylvie Tenenbaum.

  • Emotional blackmail in the family

Emotional blackmail regularly takes place within the immediate family: in parent / child or child / parent relationships, or between siblings. Parents' hold on children can manifest itself in different ways: '' You will make your mother die of grief if you don't come for Christmas '', '' After all we've done for you, you really are an ungrateful '', '' You make us sick '', '' If you marry this man, you will not see us again and I will disinherit you '', cites for example the psychotherapist in her work.

  • Emotional blackmail in friendship

Friendship is also a field where emotional control and blackmail can be exercised. This is often the case in toxic friendships. We can for example hear: ‘If you were really a friend, you wouldn't do this …’ ’ or "When you need help I'm always there".

  • Affective blackmail in the couple

In love, emotional blackmail still manifests itself in different degrees, from small manipulation to much more serious blackmail. ‘‘If you go out with your friends, I will feel lonely and depressed ’, or‘ ‘If you left me, I would kill myself ".

What are the consequences of emotional blackmail?

"It is extremely violent emotionally and psychologically", says the specialist. ‘The person is no longer free, he cannot choose his way of life. The victims of blackmail fear that the threat will be effective. It takes a lot of courage to say "you do what you want". It’s a form of hold and resisting it is very difficult, ” she continues. In her book, Susan Forward writes that manipulators aim to intensify three feelings in their victim: fear, obligation and guilt. The emotional blackmail specialist makes you feel that it is your responsibility to give in to his demands and that it is you who are being unreasonable.

How to get rid of it

‘‘ The difficulty is related to the intensity of the emotional bond. The stronger the emotional bond, the harder it is to get out of it. ", says Sylvie Tenenbaum. Start defining your limits and daring to say no, which may surprise the manipulator at first. Ask yourself the following questions: “Is there something about his request that makes me uncomfortable?”, “Does his request reflect my desires and feelings?”. Try to spot your reactions to the blackmailer's pressures. To get started, learn how to counter it by referring it to its own beliefs using phrases like, "This is your opinion". To break the isolation, the psychotherapist recommends talking to people you trust and who can support you. Finally, do not hesitate to ask for help from a professional."You have to increase your self-esteem, and maybe go see a shrink to dare to break up with this person and finally live in harmony with yourself", she advises. “It’s a matter of freedom, of integrity, of oneself with oneself”.

For further :
Emotional blackmail: when those we love manipulate us, Susan Forward, Donna Frazier, InterEditions
Freeing oneself from the emotional hold, Sylvie Tenenbaum, Leduc.s editions