Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Emotional Blackmail

Emotional blackmail is a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward, about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fearobligation, 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:

Type
Example
Punisher's threat
Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt you.
Self-punisher's threat
Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt myself.
Sufferer's threat
Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now.
Tantalizer's threat
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

When Will Hunting from the movie Good Will Hunting is being choked by Sean Maguire, you can see the spine of the book I'm OK, You're OK in the bookcase that Will is being pinned against 

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.

The twelfth episode of the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is called "Games Ponies Play" as a homage to this work.

Singer/songwriter Warren Zevon mentions transactional analysis in his 1980 song "Gorilla, You're a Desperado" from the album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.

Singer-songwriter Joe South's 1968 song, "Games People Play", was based directly on transactional-analytic concepts and Berne's book of the same name.

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.


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