Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Category: Relationships
Author: Susan Forward, Donna Frazier
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by not-moses   2018-03-19

Rule of thumb for this abusee: NEVER confront an abuser without giving it plenty of forethought.

Here's a pick-up that may be pointless after the corral gate got opened and the horses ran off, but...

Confronting Abusers & Handling Rage Effectively

And... as regards dealing with the upshots:

Recovering from Shame

The Feeling is Always Temporary

Distress Tolerance & Emotion Regulation

Finally, some books to help your process the abuse without getting into it with either parent:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2018-03-19

Ma was one of those. (Sigh.) So I get what you're talking about. (See the list of possibly useful books below, btw.)

Virtually all of the psychotherapies listed in Item 7, 7b and 7c in the earlier post at the link immediately below have been highly effective for regaining connection to -- as well as (paradoxically, I suppose) detachment from -- them, so that my "sensors" are working, but the computer chip that reads them does not get overloaded.

From Bipolar to Borderline to Complex PTSD: The Long Way Around the Recovery Barn

Ahhhh, those books:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2018-02-16

> "I'm ignoring you while still vaguely acknowledging your existence in an abusive way" from a distance to try and break me and there's something in me that keeps digging for some kind of oral truth he'll never supply -- which drives me crazy and keeps me trapped

Only if we but their stuff as having some element of truth to it, make a down payment and then make installment payments on their utterances every time they make them. I'd look into "attachment theory" in general and "ambivalent" and "disorganized" attachment in particular. (John Bowlby was the big name in that stuff. It's definitely worth looking into because is the "fuel" that powers relationships on the Karpman Drama Triangle. The "persecutor" in the upper corner there is often "Mr. Revenge" to try to get out of the "victim" corner at the bottom.

> part of my mind froze over and is stuck

Of course. Children don't have the wherewithall to get out of the "victim" corner. And if a persecuting parent (or other authority figure) keeps shoving them down into the victim corner, they get conditioned, socialized and [normalized](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normalization_(sociology) to the whole drama in the brain's default mode network.

Hmm. Might wanna read some of these, even thought they tend to be about parents. If one understands that they may have found a new version of one or both parents in a romantic relationship -- and transferred the unprocessed emotions from the original onto the new one because it is similar in some ways -- it can help to connect some major mental dots sufficiently to give something like the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing, Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFST), Trauma Focused Therapy (TFT), Hakomi Body Centered Psychotherapy (HBCP), Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapy (SEPt), Sensorimotor Processing for Trauma (SP4T), or the Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM) a chance to "digest" those emotions.

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2018-02-16

> she was molested when she was 6 and her parents were involved with an almost cult-like church.

Hey! Were we raised by the same woman?!?!?! (Seriously.)

IDK how far you want to go into this, but I can tell you that my willingness to dig pretty deeply has Changed My Life plenty.

Here are some suggestions:

Understand the Drama Triangle. Understand BPD.

Hurt People... Hurt (other) People

On Bullies

10 StEPs for Emotional Blackmail

Alexander Chapman & Kimberly Gratz's The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living with BPD (hers, not yours, if you even have it... though it does tend to be "handed down," sigh)

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

Block, S.; Block, C.: Mind-Body Workbook for Anxiety: Effective Tools for Overcoming Panic, Fear & Worry, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2014. (MBBT)

Chapman, A.; Gratz, K.; Tull, M.: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety: Breaking Free from Worry, Panic, PTSD & Other Anxiety Symptoms, Oakland CA: New Harbinger, 2011. (DBT)

Chapman, A.; Gratz, K.; Tull, M.: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anger: Using DBT Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation Skills to Manage Anger, Oakland CA: New Harbinger, 2015. (DBT)

Knaus, W.: The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2008. (CBT)

Marra, T.: Depressed & Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression & Anxiety, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2004. (DBT)

McKay, M.; Wood, J.; Brantley, J.: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2007. (DBT)

McKay, M.; Fanning, P.; Ona, P. Z.: Mind and Emotions: A Universal Treatment for Emotional Disorders, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2011. (all of the above)

Pederson, L.; Pederson, C. S.: The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual, Eau Claire WI: Premier Publishing, 2012. (DBT)

Stahl, B.; Goldstein, E.: A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Oakland CA: New Harbinger, 2010. (MBSR)

Van Dijk, S.: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder: Using DBT to Regain Control of Your Emotions and Your Life, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2009. (DBT; applies strongly to anxiety symptoms)

Van Dijk, S.: Calming the Emotional Storm, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2012. (DBT, ACT, MBCT)

by not-moses   2018-02-16

> I want to forgive my parents for emotional abuse...

Understanding the following is almost always helpful in deals like this:

1) Anxious and ambivalent attachment,

2) learned helplessness,

3) family systems theory, and the

4) Karpman Drama Triangle.

Once you have those down, reading books like these with a journal close by to make notes and process in as one comes to tease out the truth from the family fantasies and secrets usually works wonders.

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

Also likely to be helpful: From Bipolar to Borderline to Complex PTSD: The Long Way Around the Recovery Barn.

by not-moses   2018-02-16

> he tore it apart. And I mean everything. Parts just everywhere ... Wants my dad's gun.

Was he ever diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder? Or a substance abuse disorder?

1) Get a restraining order so that he can be arrested next time he shows up.

2) Use Google to find everything legitimate you can on complex post traumatic stress disorder. (We do not diagnose here, but it sounds like a good possibility.)

3) Look over some of the following:

Hurt People... Hurt (other) People

Understand the Drama Triangle. Understand BPD.

How & Why, and the Road Out of CPTSD

Why we Tolerate Abuse, in my reply on this earlier thread

From Bipolar to Borderline to Complex PTSD: The Long Way Around the Recovery Barn

4) Buy and read Susan Forward's Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

by not-moses   2018-02-16

The Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families perspective, for sure. Been around for about 40 years now. Good stuff.

If you're "bookish," at all, you can find out where the LC got most of her ideas:

Anonymous: Adult Children of Alcoholics: Alcoholic / Dysfunctional Families, Torrance, CA: ACA World Service Office, 2006.

Bradshaw, J.: Bradshaw On: The Family, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1990.

Friel, J.; Friel, L.: Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc., 1990.

Whitfield, C.: The Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Children of Dysfunctional Families, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc. 1987.

Woititz, J. G.: Adult Children of Alcoholics, Pompano Beach. FL: Health Communications, 1983.

Woititz, J. G.; Garner, A.: Life Skills for Adult Children of Alcoholics, Pompano Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1990.

And for those who are really bookish:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2018-02-16

Fire your mom. Seriously. I have worked with a lot of people who should have and didn't. (I should have fired mine long before I did. OR... at least set appropriate, effective and functional boundaries with her.)

Some people are qualified by dint of some combination of how they were raised and useful education to be what the great D. W. Winnicott called "good enough parents." Some others, however, are not.

I got out of the Parent Trap with the help of Codependents Anonymous (which is about a lot more than being the partner of a substance abuser). In time, I was lead to such books as these:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2017-08-19

Well. While we do not diagnose here, I will suggest looking into C-PTSD because that is a) pretty likely what's under all your other symptoms at the level of physiology, and b) what we would treat for to deal with all the symptomatic upshots of it. Suggested:

1) At least look into the following books to get a fix on the etiology:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

(I was raised by crazymakers, and got a lot of clarity about how I imitated my abusers and/or compensated with all manner of defense mechanisms for the effects of having been in-struct-ed, programmed, conditioned, socialized and/or normalized to the state of learned helplessness in which I lived when my defenses failed me.)

2) Support Groups: AA, MA and/or NA if one is using intoxicants to try to cope with emotional pain; ACA, EA and CoDA... where you will find others in similar boats who have found explanations, answers and solutions.

3) Books and academic, professional websites including Mayo Clinic, WebMD, NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and even Wikipedia (when everything asserted is solidly documented with citations). Accurate information is power.

4) Psychotherapy: I currently use Ogden's SP4T as the interoceptive 9th of the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing, but had good results over the years with several of the CBTs including REBT, collegiate critical thinking, CPT, and schema therapy, as well as EMDR, DBT, MBCT, ACT, MBBT, MBSR, HBCT, SEPt, and NARM.

To find the clinicians who know how to use these psychotherapies, look here, and here, and here, and (for DBT specialists in particular) here. If you dig a little on each page, you will be able to see which therapies they use. Most MD / psychiatrists, btw, are not therapists themselves (they are medication specialists), but can refer you to those who are, and are often -- though not always -- excellent sources of referral.

5) Mindfulness Meditation: Try the Vipassana-style? (For a lot of people with anxiety, this stuff handles anxiety chop chop. Not sure about depression. Many of the modern psychotherapies for anxiety are actually based on it now.)

6) Therapy Workbooks: I got a lot of lift-off by using inexpensive workbooks like these, and these, and these, and these.

7) Moderate exercise: Because it is the single healthiest of the distractions one can use to yank oneself out of the paradigm for a while... and it can help to "massage" the brain so that it responds more quickly to psychotherapy.

8) Medications, but only if really needed to get one stabilized enough to do the previous seven things on this list: Find a board certified psychopharmacologist in your area by using the clinician locator on the Psychology Today website. Getting psych meds from a GP or primary care doc can be useless or even risky. Psych diagnoses, meds and med interactions are just too complex now for most GPs and primary care docs.

by not-moses   2017-08-19

Let's not go to prison for what someone else did.

I will presume you've read some of the books list at the end of this post for the lurkers.

If the following statement resonates for you, and you want to get out of this Matrix, reply to this message.

"If one was regularly ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, and rejected -- as well as invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, scapegoated, and/or otherwise abused -- by others upon whom they depended for survival in early life, AND/OR they are highly stressed by school, work, relationships or other chronic life challenges,...

they may have been in-struct-ed, in-doctrine-ated, programmed, conditioned, socialized and/or normalized to...

beliefs, values, ideals, principles, convictions, rules, codes, regulations and requirements about how we or they (or the world) should / must / ought / have to be...

and then beat themselves up for not being that way."


Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

by not-moses   2017-08-19

If she is in her 50s and has a history of substance abuse, odd thinking and/or stress, she may be slipping into early onset dementia .

Of course, none of the above may apply and she may just be a character in one of these books:

Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents

Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents

Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self

Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

You may get nowhere at all with her, but you will almost surely get better from reading and doing the exercises in them, and likewise with this particular set of tools.