What is emotional blackmail?
It is a way for your addict to secure something he wants through manipulating your feelings of kindness, sympathy or duty. He feels he is entitled to make demands on you, no matter how tired or stressed or unwell you may be.
Addicts are master manipulators of our emotions – they know exactly which of our buttons to press in order to get what they want.
For example, your son may induce shame or guilt in you:
“You’ve helped my siblings with their Uni fees – why won’t you give me money?”
“You’ve got a lovely house/everything you need/things were easier when you were young – so give me money for my phone bill/rent/heating/give me your spare car”
“If you loved me you’d help me out”
“You’ve always expected too much of me; you were pushy parents and I couldn’t take it. You should look after me.”
Because we love our addict, we can get into a vicious circle of ‘just giving him £50 here and there’. Or maybe much more than £50. Whether your son extracts money from you, lives like a parasite in your house, or makes you solve his problems – the pattern is the same. Over time, you have lost self-esteem and confidence, while your addict has gained an increasing sense of power.
Your son may also use rage, intimidation or threats to get what he wants:
“I don’t want to clean my room. And if you try to come in here and clean it, that would be a big mistake.”
“I’m not moving out! Fuck you! This is my home and I’m staying here! You know what happens if you make me angry!”
“I can’t take any more. No-one cares about me. I’m going to kill myself”.
Your son knows that the threat of violence and/or the threat of suicide are the most effective weapons he has against you. You are afraid of what will happen if you refuse to give into his demands; families go through feelings of desperate fear and guilt if their Addict threatens suicide. Your Addict plays on that fear.
And of course, your Addict may become violent. Sons will often hit their fathers; girls can be violent too; things escalate and may end with the police being called.
Remember – Addiction is the bully. And we conquer it by standing up to it.
Changing the Rules
We stand up to Addiction by changing the rules. Up until now, the rules have been that our son runs the show. He may be in his 20s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s – but he’s like a toddler throwing a tantrum in a public place. We give in because we believe we’re securing peace and quiet by doing so. But each time we give in, we reward bad behaviour and the pattern of manipulation is reinforced. Breaking established behaviour patterns is a mission – but it’s not impossible.
I’ve broken down our approach to this challenge into three phases We will be changing the rules in the final and third phase. Click through to the next post as you finish reading about each phase.
Next post in this series: Emotional Blackmail Part 2