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Emotional Blackmail

By Debbie Olujobi

Blackmail is widely understood to be a crime where one is coerced to part with something of value, to act under duress or even give up a position to someone who has a leverage of some sort. The person is either in possession of a truth,secret or some information we don’t want shared or may be holding something of some value to coerce us into a compromising position.

It happens in business, in politics, in the church; its a power game of chance, there is always a target, who becomes victim. Blackmail is a trade; a most unfair trade; where one can only lose gravely.  Emotional blackmail on the other hand is not a crime, though it could be argued as an extenuating circumstance in the defence of a crime. As the name suggests, emotional blackmail trades on feelings, allegiances and beliefs to take undue advantage and bend someone to a will not their own. It is not considered a crime but the results can be just as damaging.

Last week was an eye opener in many ways. I had written about letting go of past relationships and I had been inundated with texts from people who agreed with my position  but couldn’t find the power to cut themselves free of the emotional shackles they were not even aware they were wearing.

Shackles may seem a rather harsh description but what other term can one use to describe something that keeps one rooted in limbo? There are so many people running on the same spot; financially, physically and emotionally fatigued  but stuck.

They suffer from inertia; their body and their minds resists the forces of acceleration necessary to move on from the familiar and I daresay unfulfilling. The major problem is the heavy weight of obligation that comes with emotional dependency; some relationships are toxic and suck out joy especially when emotions become tools of barter .

I write from the vantage point of someone’s who’s been there and still sometimes fall back there; old habits die hard. It has been my experience that any meaningful peace or joy comes from active pursuit and practice. I pray and move in the direction of joy and peace constantly or I fall back into the trap of the familiar; darkness is a sorcerer and its easy to settle for misery thats familiar and sure than move towards change.

I have had to cut people off and severe relationships and associations that shackle me. Surprisingly most of those people, relationships and associations are still intact; once people realise you are not willing to be a puppet to the emotional strings they yank; they stop and respect begins or we all move on.

A while back I came to the conclusion that my life was firstly about me; fulfilling the purpose for which I was created. In my mind that means living my best life, finding my place in the world and where possible following peace with all men. I wouldn’t say I was perfect at it but I try; that is the power behind my every intention.

The main point I make today is the main cause of the Inertia suffered by so many of us. We remain rooted in the past mostly out of obligation or emotional stagnation; we just don’t have the energy to even try. Sometimes we cant let go of those who have let us go and other times we cant walk away from those we should let go.

I am a retailer and the test of success in retail is cash, in the same vein the test of any relationship or association should be growth, we should grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. Where we are diminished and caused pain again and again; we should just walk away. This doesn’t just apply to lovers or friends; it very much applies to those we are related to. To quote a friend’s Blackberry Status; blood may make us related but only loyalty makes us family.

I am not advocating that families be broken and friendships disbanded, I am just promoting some self actualisation for those who have long been overlooked. Love thrives when there is reciprocity of kindness, tolerance, forgiveness and respect.

Those who love us or are claiming to should not feel entitled to thread on our emotions or use those emotions to ask us to sacrifice ourselves for their convenience. My mother died of cervical cancer; it was a painful and debilitating way to die but she never once asked any of us to help her end her suffering.

I know of another mother who asked her daughter to help her die and she is behind bars years later; paying for a crime she was emotionally blackmailed into committing. Both mothers loved their daughters no doubt but one of them destroyed her child using love. That is an extreme example and wont apply to most people but I used it to show how pain can cause us to become entrapped in emotional quagmires.

Walking away towards a chance at peace if not joy is always a gamble everyone should take at least once in a life time. So my mind is very much on the same topic of letting go and moving on. I remember a song from long ago and the title was “Love don’t live here anymore”.

The song talked about abandonment and why the singer had moved on since she was no longer wanted and loved. Its about getting our priorities right, putting ourselves  first; being grounded and happy so we can make others happy too. On the plane they always tell us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first before helping others; do the same in real life. Anything that is asked of us that needs emotional coercion is blackmail, that includes deathbed wishes, tantrums, coercion and any expectation of sacrifice that enslaves.


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