For many people, emotional blackmail is a way of relating in their day to day. In general, it consists of the manipulation of other people to obtain their own benefit. Although it can occur in a specific context as a way to achieve something, in many cases it is part of a dysfunctional communication pattern.
In a society like ours, we can all be emotional blackmailers. It is even possible that we have had this behavior on more than one occasion without even realizing it, and not because of this we have become manipulative and perverse people.
At first, it seems like an easy way to change the other’s mindset. However, it is an inappropriate way of interacting, and whoever exercises it shows that they have few communicative and emotional resources.
The different roles in emotional blackmail
When there is ongoing emotional blackmail, there are two different subjects: the blackmailer and the blackmailed. And although all people are different, those who exercise this behavior most vehemently usually share a series of characteristics such as:
- They need to control others and everything must be done as they want.
- They cause a deep sense of guilt in the other person.
- They use each other’s weaknesses to take advantage of the situation.
- They promote that the relationship with the other person is based on need.
- They are afraid of abandonment and losing control .
- Their relationship with others is not equal to equal, but rather is unbalanced and they exercise power over the other.
- They have been acting in the same way for many years, often learning this communicative pattern in childhood.
- They seek recognition and attention through anger or crying.
- On many occasions, they “buy” the other through gifts and whims to ensure that they do not stray from them.
- They pressure, coerce, threaten and may even use violence to make what they want to happen.
For their part, blackmailed people tend to have the following characteristics in common:
- They do not know how to set limits to others.
- They tend to have low self-esteem.
- They give up their decision-making power to the other, at least in the area where they are blackmailed.
- They feel great guilt and therefore do not act as they would like.
- The situation emotionally destabilizes them significantly.
- They are afraid of rejection and for that reason they yield to the demands of the blackmailer.
- They feel insecure, anxious and sad.
- They are ashamed of the situation but do not know how to get out of it.
Types of blackmailers
People who exercise emotional blackmail do not do everything in the same way. Thus, we can differentiate the following subtypes.
They get what they want at the cost of suffering. They tend to show excess anger, and are aggressive to a lesser or greater extent. This can include behaviors such as:
- Stop talking as punishment.
- An inappropriate tone of voice.
- Insults, yelling, or offensive words.
- Any kind of physical violence.
They direct threats at themselves and emphasize what will happen if other people don’t do what they want. An example of this would be saying … “I hope nothing happens to me these days when you leave me alone.”
They threaten to suffer if we don’t do what they want. Furthermore, they are based on the fact that their suffering is the fault of others. This type of message is typical of reactive people, that is, they do not assume any responsibility for their behavior and what happens to them. Phrases such as “after everything I have done for you” or “without you I am nothing” would be some examples.
They are people who deceive us by promising us some type of good, be it material, love or a job promotion. However, any benefit that we can obtain is conditioned on our behavior being as they wish.
How to deal with emotional blackmail?
Sometimes, the blackmail we are subjected to can be very obvious and not very elaborate , which will allow us to react more easily.
However, this is not always the case, and in certain circumstances it will be much more difficult to detect and avoid, especially if it lasts over time. Therefore, it is important that we keep the following aspects in mind:
- Acknowledge blackmail. As in any situation, being aware of what is happening is the first step to begin to solve it.
- Accept the part of responsibility in the lived situation.
- Set limits. With this we will avoid having a worn and dysfunctional relationship.
- Stop handing over power to the other person.
- Improve assertiveness and learn to say no.
- Reinforce our self-esteem, diminished by the situation.
- Learn conflict resolution strategies to reach healthy agreements with others.
- Recover our own needs that we may have neglected to do things the way the other person wanted.
Read also: Attachment in couple relationships
Reflections on emotional blackmail
Emotional blackmail can be present in our daily lives in many ways; how our children relate to us to get their way, a co-worker who tries to manipulate us for his own benefit or how our partner manages to make us give in.
For this reason, it is important to learn to detect whether our relationships with others are healthy and balanced enough. Otherwise, we must analyze what our greatest weaknesses are, since these can make us vulnerable to manipulation.
If the situation is hurting us too much and we cannot control it, it is best to seek professional help. The psychologist can provide guidance on various strategies to ward off people who try to manipulate us.