From Emotional Blackmail:

When the People in Your Life Use Fear,

Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You


By Dr. Susan Forward



How do so many smart, capable people find themselves groping to understand behavior that seems so obvious? One key reason is that 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 they’re doing, or what is happening to us.


I use fog as both a metaphor for the confusion blackmailers create in us and as a lens for burning it off. FOG is a shorthand way of referring to Fear, Obligation and Guilt, the tools of the blackmailer’s trade. Blackmailers pump an engulfing FOG into their relationships, ensuring that we will feel afraid to cross them, obligated to give them their way, and terribly guilty if we don’t.


Because it’s so tough to cut through this FOG and recognize emotional blackmail when it’s happening – or even in retrospect – I’ve devised the following checklist to help you determine if you are a blackmailer’s target. If you answer yes to even one of these questions, you are being emotionally blackmailed.


Do important people in your life:


• Threaten to make your life difficult if you don’t do what they want?


• Constantly threaten to end the relationship if you don’t do what they want?


• Tell you or imply that they will neglect, hurt themselves or become depressed if you don’t do what they want?


• Always want more, no matter how much you give?


• Regularly assume you will give in to them?


• Regularly ignore or discount your feelings and needs?


• Make lavish promises that are contingent on your behavior and then rarely, or never, keep them?


• Shower you with approval when you give in to them, and take it away when you don’t?


• Use money as a weapon to get their way?





Emotional Blackmail


This review is based on the book: Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward, Ph.D. The author is an internationally acclaimed therapist, lecturer, and author.