Emotional blackmail is a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward, about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG) are the transactional dynamics at play between the controller and the person being controlled. Understanding these dynamics are useful to anyone trying to extricate from the controlling behavior of another person, and deal with their own compulsions to do things that are uncomfortable, undesirable, burdensome, or self-sacrificing for others.
Forward and Frazier identify four blackmail types each with their own mental manipulation style:
Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt you.
Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt myself.
Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now.
Eat the food I cooked for you and you just may get a really yummy dessert.
There are different levels of demands—demands that are of little consequence, demands that involve important issues or personal integrity, demands that affect major life decisions, and/or demands that are dangerous or illegal.
In popular culture
Thomas Harris's successful popular work from the late 1960s, I'm OK, You're OK, is largely based on transactional analysis. A fundamental divergence, however, between Harris and Berne is that Berne postulates that everyone starts life in the "I'm OK" position, whereas Harris believes that life starts out "I'm not OK, you're OK".
New Age author James Redfield has acknowledgedHarris and Berne as important influences in his best-seller The Celestine Prophecy (1993). The protagonists in the novel survive by striving (and succeeding) in escaping from "control dramas" that resemble the games of TA.
TA makes an appearance in Antonio Campos'2016 biographical drama Christine, a film covering the events that led TV journalist Christine Chubbuck to commit suicide on TV. She is brought to a transactional analysis therapy session by a colleague, where they introduce her to the "Yes, But..." technique.
Singer John Denver references transactional analysis in his autobiography. His wife at the time, Annie Denver, was getting into the movement. John says he tried it but found it wanting.