LET’S TALK ABOUT….EMOTIONAL HOSTAGES!!! Do you ever find yourself “walking on eggshells” with a loved one? When jabs are made at your emotion, do you melt to the “guilt” level and allow yourself to be manipulated? Do you help your loved ones at the personal expense of compromising your beliefs and values—your “truth”?
If you answered “yes” to any, or all, of the above, you are probably being held hostage by an emotional terrorist.
As a substance abuse counselor, I am privy to observing this dynamic between families of adult children that have addictions. These “adults” set-up a hostage situation where, as soon as the adult with addiction takes on the role of emotional terrorist (ET), the parents, and other family members, become hostages.
There becomes a family dynamic of emotional blackmail: the ET threatens, either directly or indirectly, to punish the family if they don’t do what they want. The ET will use all the knowledge of what button to push to manipulate into compliance.
Dr. Susan Forward, “Emotional Blackmail” 1998; “Emotional Blackmail and FOG are about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fear, obligation or guilt (“FOG”) are the transactional dynamics at play between the controller and the person being controlled.”
ET’s are very proficient getting their hostages to sign off on their addictive behaviors. It is sometimes as simple as saying “I am thinking about going into treatment.” Family response (they heard “I am going into treatment”), “Great! What do you need to make that happen?” ET’s lie “I need to get cleaned up and rest before I check in…in a motel for a few nights.” Out comes the credit card. The ET now has a warm place to continue addictive behaviors for a few nights.
Warning signs to assess if you are an emotional hostage:
-The relationship is extremely draining on you;
-ET plays off your sense of duty, obligation, and guilt;
-If you say “no”, a crises or emergency is sure to follow–you reverse your decision;
-Being around the ET questions your own sanity, beliefs, and values;
-Your feelings and needs are trivialized;
-Even if you do nothing wrong, ET will twist situations so you are to blame;
-They will keep you captive with charm, praise and attention;
-They may threaten self-harm if you do not comply (immediately call 911 for help).
To release the shackles of the ET, set your-self free, and, possibly help your loved with addiction, examine your own truth:
-Be clear about what your value and belief system is;
-Say what you mean, and mean what you say: set clean, clear boundaries—AND STICK TO THEM;
-Understand that your addictive loved one is living in a different negative culture that parallel’s with your healthy culture—you are not obligated to support that lifestyle—let go with love.
Hostages are vulnerable to ETs because of the extent of the pain, shame, or blame they carry—particularly as family members. Truth gives shape, depth, and breadth to their pain, gives a clear picture of where they are emotionally, and presents an opportunity to reclaim personal power.
Of course, it is just my opinion.
Glad we talked.
“Ask MAx” is published weekly in the Springfield Times, Springfield, OR. You can subscribe to the Springfield Times at http://www.springfieldtimes.net/.
This column is reprinted on the internet at HealerToday.com. You can comment on this article and make suggestions for future columns, at maxfabry@HealerToday.com.
Or, snail mail your topics to Lifestyle Changes, PO Box 1962, Eugene, OR 97440.
ember, we always speak our truth from our hearts, with love.