Table of Contents
What is emotional blackmail?
Emotional blackmail is the process of using your personal insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams as a means of control over a person. For the blackmailer, this can include a number of tactics and processes with the sole aim being the establishment of control over the individual in mind. For the person being blackmailed, this is a harmful and toxic process which can drain a person’s confidence, abilities, and even their own self-assurance.
For example, say that you are slightly insecure being around other people. One way that an emotional blackmailer could use this knowledge would be to continually make plans for large social gatherings, without your knowledge or a discussion, and then pressure you into going by downplaying your anxieties or fears. They could make comments regarding the issue being you, blaming you for limiting or holding them back, or even claim that you are jealous. They will continue to do this until you feel miserable enough to go, despite your desires not to.
Who engages in emotional blackmail?
Emotional blackmailing is not something that is limited to just romantic relationships. It can occur in any type of relationship or partnership, friendship or business relationship. Both men and women are capable of using emotional blackmail as a means of control over another individual. While this harmful tactic can be used by nearly any person, there are a few specific personality types which will typically tend to use emotional blackmail more frequently.
Those with personality disorders – Some, but not all, personality disorders can affect the individuals ability to understand or empathize with others as well as having a super inflated ego or sense of entitlement. Personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are two personality disorders that are often commonly associated with the use of emotional blackmail.
Those who judge harshly – Individuals who feel the need to comment on and criticize the lives and choices of others typically will engage in some level of emotional blackmailing. Judgemental people will almost always take advantage of any opportunity to control an undesirable situation using emotional blackmail to guilt the other party into compliance.
Those with passive-aggressive tendencies – Passive-aggressive people, in general, tend to look for the most indirect means to exerting control over others. This alleviates them from having any direct responsibility for choices or harm caused by their influence. Passive-aggressive individuals may use emotional blackmail to indirectly suggest their desires in terms of disappointment and frustration, thus coaxing their target into submission and control.
How does emotional blackmail happen?
There are a few primary ways in which individuals can exhibit emotional blackmail tactics over others. Below are the 5 most common experiences.
- Fear tactics – Individuals sometimes use fear tactics, or threats, as a means of emotional blackmail. In some cases, for romantic relationships, a partner may withhold intimacy or take actions to purposefully upset their partner if they are not happy with a decision or action their partner has taken. In a business relationship, an employer may suggest the loss of a potential promotion if the employee does not work extra hours unpaid. Fear tactics are used as a form of manipulation in which the target feels threatened, pressured, or punished if they are not willing to comply with the demands of the emotional blackmailer.
- Guilt trip – This type of emotional blackmail occurs when the individual insinuates to their victim that if they do not comply, then they are a bad person. For example, in a marriage, a husband may use emotional blackmail to manipulate his wife’s decision to return to her career. He may make statements regarding other women’s desires to stay at home, the need for her to be home for children, or even use reverse psychology by stating he believes she thinks he doesn’t make enough money. In this process, the victim feels guilty for not obeying or going along with the desires of the blackmailer.
- Establishing Superiority – Clever individuals who engage in emotional blackmail may choose to do so by establishing superiority. This can mean that he or she finds an area in which their victim has some difficulty or insecurity. They would then do whatever necessary to convince the victim that they are an expert and thus their approval should be obtained. However, in most cases, that approval is never received. Instead, the victim is left feeling utterly worthless, insufficient, and incapable.
- Fantasy promises – One very common means of emotional blackmail is using the desires of the victim as a means of conditioning their behavior. For example, in an emotionally abusive relationship, a boyfriend may promise to take a girlfriend to Paris, if she loses 20 lbs. Additionally, a girlfriend may promise intimacy but only if the boyfriend can buy her a new car. This type of emotional blackmail can range from very minor to very severe depending on the results of the experience.
- Reverse Psychology – Typically with emotional blackmail, there is a request and a threat of unpleasant consequences if the victim is not compliant. In some cases, the blackmailer may use reverse psychology to convince the victim that his or her actions have a negative impact on the blackmailer. For example, a girlfriend may threaten suicide if her boyfriend breaks up with her, blaming him for the action or a father may claim that his poor work performance is due to the children not behaving accordingly. This type of emotional blackmail can insight a range of emotional trauma for the victim, making them truly believe that their actions resulted in the problems in someone else’s life.
In the most typical scenarios involving emotional blackmail, the goal of the blackmailer is controlling their victim. They will see an opportunity to use their personal knowledge and shared experiences with their victims to exploit and manipulate them into feeling responsibility, guilt, fear, or even depression if they do not agree to willingly carry out the blackmailer’s desires. If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional blackmailing, there are a number of therapies to help you heal and recover from this traumatic experience.