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Understanding emotional blackmail Understanding emotional blackmail
by Joseph Gatt
2020-11-29 10:24:48
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Emotional blackmail is often defined as “the threat of withdrawing emotional support if certain lines are crossed.”

That wouldn't be my definition of emotional blackmail. Because there are relatively few instances of threats of withdrawing emotional support, and the threat is relatively petty.

My definition of emotional blackmail would be “a constant state of irritation at someone, where the victim on the receiving end thinks that his or her behavior should change to please the bully.”

That is, these men and women (they are called “bullies” in the jargon) who show up at work and at home constantly irritated at their employee or spouse (sometimes just one particular employee or spouse, sometimes several employees and family members).

lon01_400The victims on the receiving end tend to think that perhaps they “are not up to the task” and that they need to “be better people” and “perform better at tasks” to please the bully.

That's emotional blackmail or emotional harassment if you want to call it that.

Why would someone be in a constant state or irritation in the first place? What makes bullies, bullies?

The literature has it that bullies are “insecure” people who want to assert their authority.

I tend to disagree with that assessment.

Emotional harassment usually takes place for three reasons: competition, diversion or as a sanction.

Emotional harassment for competition purposes: that's when the bully harasses the victim to beat them at some form of competition. Perhaps the victim has better grades and the bully wants the victim's grades to drop. Perhaps the victim is “more handsome” or “prettier” and the bully wants the victim to become depressed and “stop being pretty.” Perhaps the victim is doing something very well, and the bully is trying to break their good work. Perhaps the victim has a lot of money, and the bully is trying to make the victim depressed.

Emotional harassment for diversion purposes: Sometimes, the bully is just trying to prevent the victim from finding out compromising information. The bully just lost his entire life savings, and is preventing the victim from checking out the bank accounts, so the bully forces the victim to stay home. Or perhaps the bully just harmed the victim's project in an irreparable way, and if the victim finds out they would sue the bully and that would land the bully in jail. In sum, the bully is trying to hide bigger problems, so he abuses the victim emotionally to prevent the victim from thinking “straight.”

Emotional harassment as a sanction: of course, sometimes the bully loses at a game, and harasses the victim. Or the bully gets insulted by the victim, and the bully responds by emotionally harassing the victim. Or the victim is too casual with the bully, so the bully harasses them.

A fourth form of emotional harassment is when the bully harasses the victim because the bully thinks the victim has done something (or several things) and is trying to find out the truth.

The problem with bullies: they tend to be very good at “justifying” their bullying.

First tactic bullies tend to use is to say “I only bullied him/her once.”

Second tactic they use is “he/she bullied me and I fought back.”

Third tactic they use is, if they are facing the principal or the boss, they always want “to talk first.” And when they talk, they keep talking and talking until the principal or boss no longer wants to deal with the problem.

Fourth tactic they use is, when they sense the victim is about to complain, they go complain first, before the victim does. Then the victim is the one receiving morality speeches from the boss or principal, getting lectured on “not to bully” (happened to me a couple of times). And the victim is asked to shut up when trying to tell the full story.  

Fifth tactic they use is propaganda: they keep discussing the victim in the social sphere as a “bully” and that is, they turn the victim into a bully herself or himself.

Let's keep it short. If there are bullies in your surroundings, hope this will help you identify them.

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