Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward, Ph.D.
When the People in Your life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward, Ph.D with Donna Frazier - link
This review goes into deep details of the book and will spoil chapters but it is my personal experience and as such, even with my spoilers I would highly recommend you read this book if you deal with people fitting this description. And If you have read this book I would very much like to hear your thoughts as you read through my review.
I bought this book a couple of months ago to help me through a situation I was about to find myself in. And it did. It helped me get through that situation with a clear head and a stronger resolution. I wanted help dealing with the emotional blackmailers in my life and the first half of the book really put things in perspective for me.
Throughout my reading I had noticed minor things in my behavior mirroring that of blackmailers I grew up with being explained. Which is a scary but at the same time it's nice to have words for the things you've felt. I grew up in a house full of blackmailers. As a child you absorb the traits and personalities of those teaching you so blackmail is an unfortunate trait I've grown into. When I got to the chapter called "The Inner World of the Blackmailer" it got scarier. When you're reading a book designed to give you the tools to help protect yourself against others and suddenly its pointing the finger back at you, you kinda just want to take a moment to freak out.
The thing I've learned the most since cutting off my relationship with my parents is that I want to ensure that I never have a relationship like theirs. And now all I can think about is how I have blackmailed Kevin into giving me what I've wanted. Nothing to their extreme obviously, but it's still happened. It's been an interesting source of conversation between the two of us these past few weeks, as we learn what we say to each other. I feel like every word out of my mouth needs to be reevaluated for manipulation and motivate, which probably isn't a bad thing. When you get that moment of anger though and you forget and see the damage it's causes afterwards it's hard to forgive yourself.
The next chapter is even more gut-wrenching "It Takes Two". It's hard to justify that "it takes two" when your 5 years old or ten years old. You've never known differently so how can you stop it? You've been condition, to be whatever the blackmail needs; the approval junkie or peacemaker. Or like in my case a combination of blame taker and atlas syndrome - I take the blame for whatever happened and/or try to solve whatever the problem is. Susan Forward does end the chapter with a note to say
"Please don't use this chapter as a way of beating up on yourself. Until now, you've done the best you could with what you knew."
But it's really hard to not do just that.
This Paragraph could be TMI, but
"The Impact of Blackmail" follows It Takes Two, was a breeze to read after the first half of the book. Mostly because I've been through this and because it was all expected. The way my body shuts down after dealing with someone who blackmails and the residual effects. The long-term stress. How I thought it was natural to have two bowel movements a week growing up, that were solid as a rock and bloody painful. Turns out that's just stress from living with my Mother. Remove her from my life and VOILA! The book carries on into strategies and conversation paths, ideas, steps to helping you counter a blackmailer. All stuff I wish I had, had three years ago. It would have been useful. I think though the thing that was the best reflection was the end letter on the second last page, from Michael to his manipulative self. It gives me hope. Hope that I can learn, understand, and change my behavior. Hope that I am not just a product of my environment but a product of what I want to be. I think self-awareness is huge when it comes to learning and understanding and like Susan says in the introduction
"Change is the scariest word in the English language. No one likes it, almost everyone is terrified of it, and most people, including me, will become exquisitely creative to avoid it. Our actions may be making us miserable, but the idea of doing anything differently is worse. Yet if there's one thing I know with absolute certainty, both personally and professionally, it is this: Nothing will change in our lives until we change our own behavior"
Change is scary but I will not be like them.
"When we receive a kindness from a blackmailer, it's not soon forgotten. More like an open-ended loan than a gift, it's always got payments attached-with interest- and we can never seem to get out of the red"
This is how I see kindness. It's why I freaked out when I found a dishwasher in my apartment or a TV kindly gifted from Kevin's parents. Or the bedroom set they bought us. They are the only people in the world I have ever met that have never asked me for anything in return for the things they have given me. It is the strangest feeling.
"I take a stand for what I believe in. I don't let fear run my life. I confront people who have injured me. I define who I am rather then being defined by other people. I keep the promises I make to myself. I protect my physical and emotional health. I don't betray other people. I tell the truth."
Powerful statements I definitely need to tell myself more often.