Emotional Blackmail – Return to Sender

Thank GOD and all that is holy, I no longer deal with people who use fear, obligation or guilt to manipulate me! But at one time… or two, or ten… okay, for the first 40-odd years of my life, I most-certainly DID.

Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward, Ph.D. with Donna Frazier is one of the books that saved me from myself! This doc is so smart she even has a section on punishing yourself. Have I not been talking about self-sabatage for days? I mean, c’mon, gotta love synchonicity!

You may be asking yourself… “Do you mean the emotional blackmailer of me… is ME?” Oh yeah, baby, I did it in spades. For … yeah… years. And years.

I also allowed many and myriad people to do it to me. Same verse, same as the first: For years!

This is a great book and in looking back through it, I can actually amend “great” to “excellent”… it’s that good.

The first half of the book explains how Emotional Blackmail happens and the second  half is “Turning understanding into action”… and boy-oh-boy, LOTS in between.

It’s written in clear language, covers every possible scenario, and never goes above your head, whether you’re a self-help guru, nut or grouch… it’s just a good book that everyone can relate to… and I say “everyone” purposely, because dammit-all, it seems everyone knows an Emotional Blackmailer.

Remember that these people are always close to you – a stranger can’t emotionally blackmail you because they have nothing in their arsenal. Nope, it’s people who … and I hate saying this… care about you enough to know what will hurt. These people:

  • Threaten: To make things difficult, leave you, hurt themselves (or you or someone you love)
  • Discount or neglect: Your feelings, wants and needs
  • Approve: When you do what they want, they shower you with attention and/or gifts

And guess what? It’s not just abusive partners who do this… it’s bosses, co-workers, friends, family members and though Forward doesn’t mention it, I’ll add professionals who know us intimately, including therapists and doctors.

As I’ve been writing, I realize I’m feeling very anxious.

My late, ex-husband did things like swing a belt or punch holes in the walls next to my head. A couple of times, he took the distributer cap from the car so I couldn’t leave. His brother actually took the tires off his wife’s car and literally took the phone to work with him so she couldn’t call anyone… back when there were no cell phones. These kinds of things sometimes run in families, it seems.

I’m also remembering all the people I’ve encountered in my life who I felt… indebted to, for one reason or another. Part of the reason it was true for me? I was needy. The reasons are legion. Boring. You’ve heard them all before – my move, immigration delays, lonely, broken and broke ($$)… all these things set me up. No, that’s not how I want to say that. Because I was *always* a little lonely, broken and broke, which made me feel vulnerable and in fact, DID make me vulnerable to people who took advantage.

What made me stop? Well, I’d say it’s a combination of things and it didn’t happen all at once. The first thing I realized is that there are times that people actually need help and that’s okay. I learned to be gracious. I learned to say no, when help wasn’t actually necessary – and this was very, very difficult for me to do. I learned that I was not – I repeat NOT – a victim. Being lonely, broken and broke is (for most people) a way of life at some time. Everyone feels lonely and broken sometimes. Most of us have been broke… or at least, worried about money.

Then, I decided that my time, talent and (not to put to fine a point on it) my love deserves respect.

Honestly, the only people who still get me with the guilts are my adult children – and yes, I am still learning how to let go of that. But ya know, they’ve earned it a little bit and I allow it. I think that’s part of being a mom. I don’t let it get out of hand anymore because it was seriously making me sick.

Friends who have used fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate me have been weeded out. Sadly, when you find your voice and start using it… or realize something’s fishy and back away… there is nothing left to blackmail you *with*… and so, the relationship ends. I had one such friendship that I  wrote about here. It was heartbreaking because I didn’t realize what was happening until it was over. Hindsight, you know.

This book… really was a catalyst for me… a catalyst for change. But it took years to come full-circle. I hope you don’t have to wait as long as I did…

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2 comments

  1. I have a similar story. I had a similar epiphany in a friendship. (One where I realized we weren’t as close as I thought we were. And that was the beginning of the end.) And my breakthrough book was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Live and learn!

    Liked by 1 person

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