Emotional blackmail is a dysfunctional form of manipulation that people use to place demands and threaten victims to get what they want. The undertone of emotional blackmail is if you don’t do what I want when I want it, you will suffer.
The term was introduced by Susan Forward, Ph.D., in her book Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You (Forward & Frazier, 1998).
She describes how emotional blackmail tactics are used by abusers to threaten in order to get what they want. In placing demands and threats, they create feelings of fear, guilt, and anger to solicit compliance from their victims. In doing so, they divert blame and responsibility to the victim for their own negative actions. Typically, this dysfunctional type of manipulation occurs in close relationships.
Emotional blackmail is a concept recently developed and one receiving increased attention. The #MeToo movement is bringing education and awareness around the dynamics of emotional abuse and its powerful negative impact. In this article, we explore the meaning behind emotional blackmail, examples of this manipulation, the damage that occurs from this emotional abuse, and ways to handle it.