We want all children to have a safe and positive experience when they go online, but sometimes a child might be sent an image, video or message without their consent that upsets or confuses them. It can be hard to know what to say or do in these types of situations and that’s completely normal.
The abusive man hates the woman for continuing to exist outside of him. No matter how hard she may try, in her terror and in her trauma, to disappear inside of him, she simply cannot do it. (And if she gets some support in her life, she may even attempt to refuse to continue trying.) He hates her for this, for still being there, because he was taught that to disappear inside of him is her unlimited obligation and will make him whole.
When you find yourself wondering why the abuser hates you – as most abused women do at one point or another – this is why: because you continue to breathe, because you have skin, because you eat food and then move with the energy of that food, because by getting out of bed and standing up in the morning you have once again demonstrated your failure to become him.
Though he blames his hatred on your characteristics — your supposed failings, that is — these have absolutely nothing to with it. It has only to do with the fact of your continued being. He will only forgive you when he finally succeeds in cleaving you into pieces and vacuuming those pieces into his interior, which he will of course never be able to do.
So I encourage you to stop wondering if it was this thing about you or that thing about you, this thing you said or that thing you did, this thing you set off in him or that thing you brought up in him, which caused him to come to hate you. What’s going on with him has nothing to do with you at all, it’s entirely about him and about his society.
I pray that you find a way to get beyond the reach of his cleaver, beyond the sucking pull of his vacuum hose.
When in a dysfunctional cycle of emotional blackmail, the victim may be inclined to: apologize, plead, change plans to meet the others’ needs, cry, use logic, give in, or challenge. Typically, they will find it difficult to stand up for themselves, directly address the issue, set boundaries, and communicate with the blackmailer that the behavior is inappropriate. They do not consistently set clear boundaries indicating what is acceptable for them.
Forward and Frazier recognize four types of blackmailing, each with varying manipulation tactics.
- Punishers – Punishers operate with a need to get their way, regardless of the feelings or needs of the other person. Their motto is “my way or the highway.” Punishers will insist upon pushing for control and getting what they want with threats to inflict damage or harm.
- Self-punishers – Individuals can make threats of self-harm if the partner does not comply with what they want.
- Sufferers – this is the voice of a victim conveying guilt on the partner if they do not do what is demanded. If they don’t comply, there is a suggestion that their suffering will be the others’ fault. “After all that I’ve done for you, you are going to let me suffer…?”
- Tantalizers – This can be the most subtle and confusing form of manipulation. There is a promise of what will be better if they comply. It sparks hope yet is still connecting a threat to the demand.
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.
Societal Solutions for Societal Problems
Maltreatment takes many forms. Physical, sexual or emotional abuse, extreme neglect, and separation from parents are the more obvious forms. More insidious causes of toxic stress, including poverty, food insecurity, and systemic racism, can also affect psychological and physical health. Social-educational programs directed at early childhood or adolescence have shown mixed results in addressing poor health outcomes from these less overt but more widespread toxic-stress environments. A few stand out.
Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others’ shoes
One of the most toxic and damaging behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly cruel and destructive to others just because they can. They tear people down online but in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a weapon. Cruelty, backstabbing, and ripping someone to shreds is toxic, and it hurts you as well as your target.
I had a powerful learning experience about this a few years ago. I came into the house one day in a nasty mood, and shared a mean, sniping comment to my husband about the way a neighbor was parenting her child through one of his problem phases. In less than 24 hours, that very same issue the parent was dealing with came home to roost in my house, with my child. It was as if the Universe sent me the message that “Ah, if you want to be cruel and demeaning about someone, we’ll give you the same experience you’ve judged so negatively, so you can learn some compassion.” And I did.
If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks. Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all the same.
Over time, a pattern is established between a Narcissist and his victim (change pronoun if needed) that involves a gradual lowering of our boundaries and expectations in response to the lack of love and attention we became accustomed to receiving at the beginning of our relationship with a Narcissist (the love-bombing stage) and which we later only receive in sporadic amounts. Essentially, we were promised a feast and yet find ourselves begging for scraps as time goes on.
The plot twist? We see the one offering us those crumbs as our savior, the one who really cares about us, not knowing that our minds have been muddled with desperation. At that moment, it’s nearly impossible to see how we’ve been trained to lower our expectations to such a level that we are actually satisfied with those crumbs.
Emotionally abused children will not always become emotionally abusive parents, however. Studies indicate that the number of abused children perpetuating the cycle of abuse is far lower than previously thought.
“In a survey of such studies, Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler, psychologists at Yale, concluded that 30 percent is the best estimate of the rate at which abuse of one generation is repeated in the next. ” (New York Times article, “Sad Legacy of Abuse: The Search for Remedies“)
The study shows that the denial of abuse can be the greatest indicator of future trouble. Hence, the abused child who grows up to be an adult who denies having been abused has the greatest risk of becoming an abuser. But adult survivors of childhood emotional abuse who awaken to the truth of their damaging childhood, and strive to do the opposite of what they have been taught will NOT emotionally abuse their children.
If the adult seeks therapy and healing from an abusive childhood, the adult child can break the emotional abuse cycle and not perpetuate the abuse with their own children.
Healing from an emotionally abusive childhood can be very difficult, but as Andrew Vachss says:
Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.
It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.
How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with a commitment to try is more than half the battle. Much more.
And it is never too soon—or too late—to start.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), also referred to as domestic violence, occurs when an individual purposely causes harm or threatens the risk of harm to any past or current partner or spouse. While abuse often occurs as a pattern of controlling and coercive behavior, an initial episode of abuse may also be cause for concern. Tactics used in IPV can be physical, sexual, financial, verbal, or emotional in nature against the partner. Individuals may also experience stalking, terrorizing, blame, hurt, humiliation, manipulation, and intentional isolation from social supports and family. IPV can vary in frequency and severity. Children are often the hidden or silent victims of IPV, and some are directly injured, while others are frightened witnesses. Children with IPV exposure are more likely to have also experienced emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and community violence.
As the scope of the problem has become understood, IPV is now identified as a significant legal and public health issue, not only a private family problem. Abuse can affect families and communities across generations, and can occur across the lifespan, from dating teens to elderly couples. There are laws in every state that address IPV. Abuse occurs in all types of relationships and among people with varying backgrounds of age, race, religion, financial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and education. Although the majority of victims of IPV are women, it is important to acknowledge that men can be victims too. IPV disproportionately affects members of the LGBTQ community, who experience barriers to assistance from community resources such as shelters or police.