When the People in Your Life Use Fear,
Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Some people overpower us and leave us feeling defeated. Why? How? What can we do about it? These are the central questions Susan Forward asks in her book Emotional Blackmail.
The author says, "Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten, either directly or indirectly, to punish us if we don't do what they want… Our blackmailers make it nearly impossible to see how they're manipulating us, because they lay down a thick fog that obscures their actions. We'd fight back if we could, but they ensure that we literally can't see what is happening to us."
Seeing Through Fog
Susan Forward uses the acronym FOG to stand for fear, obligation, and guilt. These are the three tools of the blackmailer's trade, and most of us can't figure out how to escape them.
Are you a people pleaser? Are you afraid of disapproval? Are you afraid of another's anger? Do you feel you owe someone a duty, even when it involves something you don't want to do or is bad for you? Do you feel guilty when you don't give in? Does it make you feel you aren't a good person?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you. Susan Forward demonstrates how emotional blackmail takes two parties, and she explains the role the innocent party plays and the price they pay. Blackmail is a sequence of demands, pressure, and capitulation, and the author clearly explains how to stop this sequence.
"Empowering" is a much overused word, but this is a wonderfully empowering book. Wayne & Tamara say they cannot recommend it highly enough. Emotional Blackmail is a book to own. It complements Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, as a wonderful guide to personal protection.
From Emotional Blackmail:
--"Blackmailers pump an engulfing FOG into their relationships, ensuring that we will feel afraid to cross them, obligated to give them their way and feel terribly guilty if we don't."
--"…even as we work to burn off the FOG, the blackmailer is busy pumping in thick new layers."
--"Perhaps worst of all, every time we capitulate to emotional blackmail, we lose contact with our integrity, the inner compass that helps us determine what our values and behavior should be."
--"If there is one sweeping generalization I can make without fear of contradiction, it is that 'change' is the scariest word in the English language… Nothing will change in our lives until we change our own behavior. Insight won't do it. Understanding why we do the self-defeating things we do won't make us stop doing them. Nagging and pleading with the other person to change won't do it. We have to act. We have to take the first step down a new road."