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Emotional blackmail- surviving it

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

For me and many others that are subjected to emotional blackmail, it can have lasting lifetime effects. What is emotional blackmail?

In my experience emotional blackmail develops in a person that, for whatever reason, believes their conventional methods of accomplishing control, no longer work. They think of other techniques in a desperate attempt to maintain their status rather that using other tools like love and persuasion. EM can also develop when a parents children turn to adults, an era when a parent often loses the control they once had over their child. The parents lack of control is unacceptable to them and unless they do accept their child as having the ability to make adult decisions, it becomes a downward spiral that wont recover. The parents demands become louder and their techniques more desperate.

Sometimes the child/adult child is unaware of such unacceptable conduct like emotional blackmail being used. I was 27yo before it hit me between the eyes. I was educated at a GROW meeting and a chapter was dedicated to the topic in one of their booklets. From then on I had a fight on my hands with my mother as the EB continued. I had a girlfriend at the time that my mother didnt like "if you dont split up from her I'm going to pack my bags and go visit my cousin for 2 weeks"... my answer "I'll help you pack". Sounds nasty but you need to equalise the injustice/car for yourself.

The people that use EB are desperate souls so it isnt limited to that technique to get you to do what they want you to do. Triangulation is another hurtful form of manipulation. Have a fall out with the parent, parent rings your sibling to get them on side, you then have a serious fall out with your sibling. It's all about power and power over an individual isnt freedom. It isnt developing strong relationships.

Sadly you have few options. In fact my sister and I stopped all contact with our mother 11 years ago. She is now 90yo and no children in her life nor 3 grandchildren as they were treated similar (not from our influence or that would make us as guilty).

I'm convinced there is mental illness at play however strong denial means nothing can be done to save the situation. Refusal to get treatment by a perpetrator means they also often deny themselves of family and friends and, sadly, thats a choice they make for their own lives.

Those with EB can be tyrants. The victims can be scarred for life. Make the best out of a bad situation and seek peace.


32 Replies 32

Community Member

Hi TonyWK

I agree with you. They are tyrants.

My experience with my ex was that everything was about control. Affection, intimacy, kindness etc. were all ways of maintaining control. Emotional blackmail was a way of obtaining control.

In the case of my ex, I suspect she has narcissistic personality disorder. In the end though, it's unlikely she will ever see a therapist or counsellor to try and self-improve. During the relationship it was me who sought counselling and therapy to try and 'fix' myself. I thought I was defective in some way or another, hence her being so unhappy. It took 5 1/2 years to figure out that she was the one with the problem. I feel very sorry for her, as it's such a sad and lonely way to live.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi thankks for sharing

I was emotionally blackmailed as a child my mother was a control freak and felt like she was losing control so she blackmailed her kids and have had a falling out with siblings so I can definitely relate.

Havent spoken to my mum is 7 years, neither has anyone else she had split personality.

Thankfull I have healed quite well from all the trauma, it was not easy but I am proud.

Community Member

Thanks for you post white knight. I have an extended family member that what you said sort of fits him. He is extremely controlling and from my understanding makes threats. I think he become worse when his children were able to think for themselves.

I never knew he was like this until a year ago or so. He would just seem nice around me. I often wonder if it was a public face? A performance.

Think he has alienated himself from many people. It is so very sad. Do they really see reality different? And what makes them this way, do you know?

Like did your mum know what love is. Did she experience it from anyone. Her own mother, father.

And are their threats just that. Nothing comes from them, just an empty threat and the last effort to control the other person?

Community Champion
Community Champion

Tony thanks for your thread and for explsining EB.
Also She’ll, batticus ,and Happyhelper have written relatable posts.

Does EB and controlling go together?

I know someone close to me who uses EB by not talking or sulking if I don’t agree.

I know for a long time I would say sorry even if didn’t need to, but I am a people pleaser who wants peace at any cost.

Thanks Tony and everyone posting for your honesty I have much to think about it.

Shell I find people who are charming to everyone but their family is quite manipulative so if you say anything no one believes you.

Hi all,

Each reply has its close relevance to this topic that can fly under the radar with things that can cause or at least adds to our symptoms of mental illness. So thankyou.

Batticus, at least you got help! Also those with some MI won't seek help or only attend a psychiatrist for a few visits then they stop especially BPD sufferers.

Happy helper, well done. I disowned my mother late in life because early as a child she was indeed a nurturing type. It was hard to break away. Like Batticus I felt sad for her. It was never revenge, it was all about survival and happiness.

Shelll, I think these abusers make threats thinking, wishing, expecting their target will fall/wilt. They are of course delusional, they don't accept their little boy or little girl has grown up. Indeed when my mother used that particular threat on leaving my gf, I was 27yo. I'd spent 3 years in the air force, 3 years as a warder in a jail and was an investigator. I'd lived an adult life for 10 years. She had no right to push her values, beliefs onto me. Ridiculous.

Quirky, "....so if you say anything no one believes you". As usual Quirky, you are so bright and perspective. These people are clever, more so they think they are clever as they wear masks as they act out their drama. The term "crocodile tears" comes to mind. People swallow their version of events. You get suspicious when visitors arrive and they act angry with you, worse still when they comment "I think it's terrible what you did to your mother". My usual response is "I don't interfere in your relationships so please..."

Worse still is those loving souls that give tyrants 100% blind faith. My dad was my mother's greatest ally and she knew it, using him as a weapon. Daily hours were spent over cups of tea with her manipulating to get him to inflict hurt, such hurt alien to his nature.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Tony,

Another cracking post, thank you for the interesting topics. My emotional blackmail was from my mother. She wielded it differently against my sister and I - my sister was quite independent and strong-willed so it was more forceful, curfews, job, board, all sound quite reasonable but our house was a battle ground as those two duked it out. Truth be told my sister just wanted some freedoms but my mother felt that her authority was being threatened so the fights were epic and regular. Mine was more insidious, I was a sickly child so it was more “you’ll never do this” “you can’t do that because of your illness” “don’t do this or you’ll die” - rather than ease my fears about my illness, they were heightened, blown out of proportion. I would go to her seeking reassurance in my darkest moments and instead I got the opposite. My father was her minion. She would very often send him to do her bidding and he obliged. My dad is soft and loving but blindly devoted, he would do whatever morally questionable thing she wanted with no fight. It was only during therapy that I uncovered that I had a lot of anger towards him, I expected it from her, she was crazy/narcissistic/whatever the hell is wrong there but he knew better and still he did nothing.

@batticus - your post reminds me of a quote “people seek therapy to learn to deal with the people in their lives who refuse to go”. These people take therapy as an admission of guilt and their ego could never allow it when in reality it takes a mature and evolved person to try and understand a situation and their role in it. I hope you have found peace now x

Hi Juliet,

Amazing parallels here. Narc/domineering/unreasonable parent and the "minion" spouse.

In your case, to add fear to a child already living with an overdose of fear is...well we ordered can't express.

I want to talk about manipulation. I don't think tyrants can operate without it. Masters of leaving out critical facts to others that would turn their allies views on a dime, depending heavily on wedding vows to force guilt onto their spouse suggesting disloyalty if they didn't support them 100%... which is another way of saying "support me in everything I do or you are not devoted to me like a proper husband/wife.

Two threads of interest here come to mind-

The first is how to effectively defend yourself with fewer words.


The next is to google

Witch Queen waif hermit

That is the theme/extract of a book by Dr Christine Lawson "walking on eggshells". It explains the four characters of extreme bpd people (apologies to those with bpd seeking treatment, it's mainly those not getting treatment).

My mother is all 4 characters.

Be great to hear your views


Learn to Fly
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Everyone,

Truly amazing insides from you All. You got me thinking hard and I am grateful to you for that. It’s like peeling an onion at times. Layer by layer…

I am still working on my case, trying to get to the bottom of it.

My mother was very controlling and her way of EB inflicted on myself was to make me feel guilty of not doing something to her expectations. I have never really fought with her that much. This was more skilful on her behalf. Manipulating my self-believe by constantly letting me feel that whatever I did was somehow not good enough. It was skilfully done because she didn’t even have to say anything. But her entire body language would be so obviously criticising that I was never left with any doubt. I thought this was normal. It wasn’t until years after I left my parents house when I started to get some perspective and see the things as they truly are. Me, always trying to help her, clean the house, help her financially etc and somehow always left with this feeling of “not good enough”. My brother: a life mistake after a life mistake and her always finding excuses for him and instead of giving him a constructive criticism, prizing him for silly things that would falsely inflate his self-image. And my sister sickly as a child and until this day treated like she always needs protection and assistance and rest. Never criticised. Such imbalanced family dynamics. Her self-portrait was picture perfect. What she did was the best. She always knew better, even when she had no idea what the thing was about. Never admitting to a mistake or saying sorry. But to the outside world… a legend. Nobody would ever utter a bad word about her.

Anyway, thanks Tony for another most engaging post and topic and everyone else for your stories. As I said before, you got me thinking all right. Opening few hidden eyes of mine on some things.

Thanks LTF,

You raised interesting things.

Personally I've never understood how any parent can favour one child over another or all others. Those not in favour struggle all their lives to seek the recognition/love they deserve but rarely reach the level that's just and that can be a weapon used against you.

When researching narcissism I learned many acts are under that umbrella. Silence used as a weapon is narcissistic behaviour (my 1st wife). So body language used by a parent with her knowing full well its adverse effects on you is concerning.

These manipulative even demonstrative actions can scar the victim well beyond the death of the perpetrator. That potentially how serious this is.

Unfortunately the more we victims fight for our basic rights the worse the treatment becomes, the less likely apologies come our way, or the abuser seeks help or if they seek professional help it's only to confirm their own actions. "My psychologist said you have treated me terribly over the years". Knowing I could never get confirmation of said statement. No confirmation- it was never said!

Since I left my mother's life in 2010 I've adopted an older lady as my mother (unofficially). She is really proud of everything I do. In contrast 45 years ago as a very young prison warder I had to remind my birth mother that I'm on the right side of the bars.

It takes great determination and self belief to brave a parents onslaught when they manipulate or blackmail. As victims we know right from wrong and as victims we should stand strong and take action for our own greater good...whatever action that is chosen. For self esteem reasons such action might begin as baby steps which eventually arrives at a fork in the road. One road, continue taking the treatment hoping things will change or the other road, break free. There is low chance of middle ground because a caring loving proud and stable relationship doesn't include "control".