We explore the psyche of a blackmailer. Not all have the same style or character traits: some are passive; others, quite aggressive; some are direct and others extremely subtle; Some tell us very clearly what the consequences will be if we oppose them, and others, finally, emphasize how much we are making them suffer.

But regardless of how different they may appear at first glance, they all have great features in common, characteristics that fuel their manipulative behavior. We will see how these blackmailers use fear, obligation and guilt, as well as other weapons, and we will understand what drives them to act the way they do.

What is emotional blackmail?

Emotional manipulation is a common problem in relationships. It can be used by both men and women. Each pair develops an individual form of manipulation. One of the most difficult tasks is recognizing emotional blackmail.

Emotional blackmail is defined as the action of a person who tries to strategically manipulate another through feelings. If you do not do exactly what the extortionist demands, the extortion will carry strong negative feelings.

It always takes two for emotional blackmail

The fear of loss, the fear of change and rejection, the fear of loss of power – is the common ground on which all people who become blackmailers move. In some cases, those fears are rooted in a long history of feelings of heartbreak and inadequacy.

In others, they may be the response to more recent uncertainties and stresses, which have undermined their self-esteem and feelings of competence and security. The potential to become a blackmailer suddenly increases as fears build up in that person’s life.

They will see how easily certain triggers, such as sentimental rejection by another person, the loss of a job, a divorce, withdrawal from work life or an illness can turn someone in our immediate environment into a blackmailer.

The price we pay when we repeatedly give in to emotional blackmail is enormous. The blackmailer’s comments and attitudes make us feel unbalanced, ashamed, and guilty. We know we have to change the situation and we repeatedly promise ourselves that we will, only to find ourselves, over and over again, mocked and manipulated, as if we have been ambushed again.

We begin to doubt our ability to keep the promises we make to ourselves and lose confidence in our efficiency. Our self-esteem is eroding. And worst of all, perhaps, is that every time we surrender to emotional blackmail, we lose touch with our own integrity, that inner compass that helps us determine what our values ​​and behavior should be.

Although emotional blackmail is not violent psychophysical abuse, do not be tempted to assume that the price you pay is not very high. When we live with him, the emotional blackmail eats away at us and spreads to the point of damaging our most important relationships and our own self-esteem.

Without our consent, the blackmailer becomes totally powerless

Symptoms of emotional blackmail

For someone’s behavior to qualify as “emotional blackmail,” it must have certain components. We can make that diagnosis in the same way that a doctor would determine that a person has some physical discomfort: analyzing the limits.

1. Requirement

Jim wants something from Elena. He suggests that since the relationship between the two is so close and that they share a large part of the day, the most logical thing would be to move in together. “I’m practically living at your house now,” Jim tells Elena. The only thing missing is to make this situation official. He adds that since Elena’s apartment is very large and that half of her belongings are already there anyway, the transition would be very simple.

There are times when blackmailers do not express so clearly or what they want, but try to make the other guess. Jim, for example, could have expressed his wish indirectly: to show resentment at the occasion of a friend’s wedding and to say, after having asked Elena, insistently, what was wrong with her: “I wish I could spend more time with you; sometimes I feel so lonely… ”, to finally add that he would like to go live with her.

At first glance, Jim’s suggestion seems born out of deep love and doesn’t carry the connotations of a lawsuit. But it soon becomes clear that you are determined to get what you want and that you are not going to discuss the issue or change your mind.

2. Resistance

Elena is bothered by the idea of ​​Jim moving into her house, and she expresses that sentiment by telling him that she is unprepared for this fundamental change in the relationship. She loves him very much, but for now she would like him to have his own home.

If Elena were a less frank and direct person, her opposition could come to be expressed differently. Perhaps she distanced herself from Jim, being less affectionate, or telling him that she has decided to paint her apartment and that he will have to take her things with her until the work is done. On the contrary, he expresses his resistance unambiguously and the message is clear. The answer is no”.

3. Pressure

When Jim realizes that Elena is not reacting the way he wants, he does not make the slightest effort to understand her feelings but, on the contrary, pressures her to change her mind. At first, he acts like he’s willing to discuss the subject, but that discussion turns into a monologue that has the tone of a sermon.

He transforms Elena’s statement into an exposition of her faults and poses his own wishes and demands as highly positive. “I only want the best for both of us. I want to give you more things. When two people love each other, they should want to share their daily life. Or is it that you don’t want to share your life with me? If you weren’t so self-centered, you could be more open to the good things in life. ”

She immediately turns to a more seductive attitude and asks: “Do you no longer love me enough to always have me by your side?” Another blackmailer might increase the pressure by vehemently insisting that by living together, the bond between the two of you will become closer and the relationship will improve even more.

Regardless of the style used, the pressure ends up appearing, no matter how much it is disguised with benevolent expressions such as, for example, Jim’s when expressing how much Elena’s reluctance hurts.

4. Threats

Seeing his wishes collide with a wall, Jim lets Elena know that if she does not give in to his request, he will suffer the consequences of her refusal. The blackmailer may threaten to cause pain or misery.

You can tell us how much we are making you suffer. He can try to win us over with promises about everything he will give us or how much he will love us if we do what he asks. Jim presses Elena with veiled threats: “If you are not able to make this kind of commitment, after all that we share and mean to each other, maybe we better start trying to meet other people.”

He does not directly threaten to break the relationship, but it is impossible for Elena to ignore what his words imply.

5. Obedience

Elena does not want to lose Jim and tells herself that it may be a mistake on her part to tell him that she does not want him to go live with her, even though the idea of ​​living together still makes her uncomfortable. He has analyzed his concerns about dissuading her. A few months later, Elena gives up her resistance and Jim moves home.

6. Reiteration

Jim’s triumph is followed by a period of peace and serenity. Now that you’ve gotten what you wanted, take the pressure off and the relationship seems to stabilize. Elena remains uncomfortable with the situation, but is also relieved to have been released from the pressure and regained Jim’s love and approval.

He, for his part, has proven that pressuring Elena and making her feel guilty is an infallible recipe for getting whatever comes to mind. And Elena has realized that the quickest way to cut through Jim’s pressure tactics is to give in to his wishes. In this way, the basis for a repetitive scheme of demands, pressures and capitulations has been established.

These six characteristics constitute the core of the emotional blackmail syndrome .

A bad word that begins with “M”: FEAR

The emotional blackmailer builds his strategy consciously and unconsciously based on the information that we provide him about what causes us fear. They observe what things we run away from and what things make us nervous, they look at how we physically react in response to the things we feel.

It is not that they actively take note and record the information for later use against us; We all absorb that kind of knowledge about the people around us. In emotional blackmail. Fear also transforms the blackmailer.

In a simple way, we can say that the fear that the emotional blackmailer feels of not getting what he wants becomes so intense that all he can do is focus his attention on the desired result, which makes it impossible for him to look away objective and perceive how their way of acting affects us.

In this instance, all the information that they have collected about us in the course of the relationship becomes their tool to close a deal fueled by the fear of the two parties involved, The conditions they put on us are tailor-made for us: yes You do what I ask, I don’t:

  • I will abandon you.
  • I will censor you.
  • I will stop loving you.
  • I will yell at you.
  • I will make you suffer.
  • I will oppose your will.
  • I will fire you.

The only thing that matters is themselves

All the blackmailers we have seen focus their attention almost entirely on their own needs, and the way their pressures affect us do not matter in the least. The characteristics that make us vulnerable to emotional blackmail:

  • An excessive need for approval.
  • A deep fear of anger and rage from those around us.
  • A great need for peace, whatever its price.
  • A tendency to take too much responsibility for the lives of others.
  • A high level of insecurity regarding our worth and ability

Who trains the emotional blackmailer?

When you are pressured by a blackmailer:

  • you apologize
  • “Reason”
  • discuss
  • you cry
  • pleading
  • change or cancel plans and important appointments
  • you give in, hoping it’s the last time
  • you give up

It is difficult or impossible for you:

  • defend your position or your own needs
  • face what is happening to you
  • put limits
  • letting the blackmailer know that their behavior is unacceptable

If you answered yes to any of these questions, surely you are acting as a coach and are the protagonist in the drama of emotional blackmail.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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