Emotional Blackmail is a form of controlling one person to gets ones needs met. A blackmailer may use direct or indirect threats against us to get what they want regardless of our opinions or feelings. The one great threat is: If you dont behave the way I want you to, I will make your life miserable.
Emotional blackmailers use our relationship with them to control us. They have no problems using their personal knowledge of our lives to get what they want. An emotional blackmailer can be one person or group of persons or even an organization.
Blackmailers threaten to withhold love or approval or force you to earn the things you need. They will often devalue you are a person or your qualities. Too often they will criticize you for being selfish. In reality they are the selfish ones. They find your "sore spots" and find ways to capitalize on them. The constant pressure can be so overwhelming that it may be easier to just give them what they want. However, this establishes a pattern for future control and blackmail.
Lost in the FOG
Emotional blackmailers make it extremely difficult for others to identify when they are being blackmailed. They lay down what Susan Forward calls a "thick fog." Fog refers to Fear, Obligation and Guilt. This fog makes it very difficult for us to see what they are doing. Blackmailers will use their victims emotions to get what they want.
Forward has created a checklist to help identify whether you are the victim of emotional blackmail
Do important people in your life:
- Threaten to make your life difficult if you dont do what they want?
- Constantly threaten to end the relationship if you dont do what they want?
- Tell you or imply they will neglect, hurt themselves or become depressed if you dont do what they want?
- Always want more, no matter how much you give?
- Regularly assume you will always give in to them?
- Regularly ignore or discount your feelings and wants?
- Make lavish promises that are contingent on your behavior and then rarely keep them?
- Consistently label you as unselfish, bad, greedy, unfeeling or uncaring when you dont give in to them?
- Shower you with approval when you give in to them and take it away when you dont?
- Use money as a weapon to get their way?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you are being emotionally blackmailed. There are many changes you can make to improve your situation and the way you feel.
One of the reasons we dont easily recognize emotional abuse is because it an extension of manipulation. Forward states that:
Manipulation becomes emotional blackmail when it is used repeatedly to coerce us into complying with the blackmailers demands, at the expense of our own wishes and well-being.
Lets take a look at this one-by one.
Threaten to make your life difficult if you dont do what they want?
While these threats are not clearly stated they are inferred. Compliance regarding the rules is mandatory. Sanctions for breaking the rules include "being marked", (identified as poor association), "being reproved", (identified as someone who has sinned), and " being disfellowshiped" (identified as an unrepentant sinner).
Constantly threaten to end the relationship if you dont do what they want?The ultimate threat is that one will be disfellowshiped from the congregation. This would include severing all connections with family and friends. If one chose to continue to go to the meetings he/she would be shunned (treated as if invisible). Not even a prayer is to be said for these ones.
Tell you or imply they will neglect, hurt themselves or become depressed if you dont do what they want?N/A
Always want more, no matter how much you give?More meetings, more fellowship, more prayer, more service. Always more. And if you are still having problems it is your fault for not doing enough.
Regularly assume you will always give in to them?Messages in the magazines present the message "of course you will comply/agree or want to do what we decide is right/what we want" They make it sound like there would be something abnormal if you didnt agree.
Regularly ignore or discount your feelings and wants?The needs of the individual are not important. You will be happy because we say you are happy. We are a happy people so you are a happy person. If you are not happy then you are spiritually weak so pray, go to meetings, go door-to-door. Forget going to university, or a career. Forget about having a family because the end is so near. Sick? Dont worry. No need for doctors. Armageddon is coming. And dont even think about retirement. You wont need to worry about that either because we will keep you busy for a thousand years.
Make lavish promises that are contingent on your behavior and then rarely keep them?If you do as we say, and follow all the rules, everlasting life can be yours. Forget how many times we promised that before. Well, actually we didnt make those promises. You just thought those things up all by yourself. Whatever you give up now will be replaced ten-fold so dont worry about all those material things.
Consistently label you as unselfish, bad, greedy, unfeeling or uncaring when you dont give in to them?Not following all the demands of the WTS identifies one as all of the above. To gain Gods/WTS approval one must give of yourself completely, all the time.
Shower you with approval when you give in to them and take it away when you dont?Approval is only received at the end and from God. The WTS constantly demands more from its followers and offers threats of removal. Privileges for men are rewards for desired behaviors. Privileges can be revoked at any time for non-compliance of the myriad of rules.
Use money as a weapon to get their way?WTS does not use money to gain compliance. The illusive "new system" is the carrot enticingly dangled before the rank and file
Six Deadly Symptoms
The blackmailer makes a demand. He may make it sound loving but if you do not comply they will not back down. He will continue to press for what he wants.
You meet his demand with a NO answer even if vague.
The blackmailer does not try to understand your feelings. He will instead apply pressure to do what he wants, He will take your refusal as proof of your inadequacies or lack of love. He will throw accusations and put-downs towards you. All attempts by the blackmailer are efforts to make you feel bad or guilty and hopefully give in to his demands.
ThreatsAs you continue to stand your ground and refuse his demand the blackmailer will often resort to threats. He may continue to use guilt to force you to comply or he may use sarcasm as a thinly veiled threat.
ComplianceUnder severe pressure from the blackmailer you will slowly begin to doubt your decision. Resistance becomes more exhausting and eventually you give in.
After you have given in and the blackmailer gets what he wants there is often a calm period while each gets comfortable with the new situation. You may still not like the arrangement but the pressure is off. You learn that to stop the pressure just give in. The groundwork is then laid for future repetitions of this blackmailing behavior.
Adapted from Susan Forward Emotional Blackmail 1997
Those who have left have seen these issues from both sides.
Those who are still in only see these issues from the inside.
Just like an abused woman only sees how bad it was after she left so is the case for all those who are still in an abusive relationship. In this case with an organization instead of a person.
Jehovah is not the problem here. The problem is how a group of men determine who will be saved and who won't and the rules to determine that. It is the organization that has become like the scribes and pharisees that Jesus condemned in Matt 23.
And just like the abused woman in a marriage cannot see how bad the abuses are so to the JWs cannot see what those who have left can see. it is too important to them to believe with all their hearts that they are making the right choice.
But just like the abused woman, what if they are wrong? What if, for all their desire to worship Jehovah in a right manner, they have been decieved into doing the opposite and following men?
For those of you who are still Witnesses. What if? How can you tell if you are being decieved? And by whom?
Just like an abusive husband proclaims that his wife belongs to him alone and there is no where else to go, is your organization doing the same to you? How will you know? The abusive husband says, "It is so because I say so." The organization says, "It is so because we say so." How are they different. MY abusive husband used scripture to prove his points. So does the organization. How are they different?
Until you honestly learn about abuse issues and spiritual abuse and what it is you will not be able to determine if you are being decieved.
To make a decision to stay without determining whether you are in an abusive organization is like the abused woman who returns to her husband time and again in the name of honor and love and trust and faith.
Learn what it is that you are putting your honor and love and trust and faith in. If indeed you have the real thing it will stand to any examination. If you are afraid to examine it then what are you doing there?
Your life depends upon it. Read, learn and then decide.