Emotional blackmail is fuelled by fear. It involves threat in exchange of fear. The act of threatening someone to succumb them into believing that they need to perform a certain act or behave in a certain way or else the consequence would be negative is known as Emotional Blackmail.

Believe it or not, Emotional Blackmail is practised in most homes on a daily basis, especially in parent-child and husband-wife relationships.

Notice the next time you say to your child something that sounds a bit like this – “If you don’t score above 90% in your exams this year, you certainly won’t be getting that new PlayStation game you’ve been asking for.”

Or, how often have you heard something that may sound like – “If you don’t do as I say, I’ll leave you.”

When there is emotional blackmail in a relationship, love, respect and understanding get replaced with dictatorship, bullying and oppression. Instead of understanding why the child’s exam results are lower than expected and trying to address the underlying causes, the parent emotionally blackmails the child into fearing a situation that is undesirable.

Instead of understanding and empathising with our spouse, we give emotional ultimatums.

Adults who emotionally blackmail are often suppressing anger and have an intense need to control. Adults who give in to emotional blackmail are often lacking self-worth and self-esteem and identify themselves as victims of situations.

Each time a fear-inducing statement is made to emotionally blackmail another, fear dominates.

As Muslims, we must understand that where there is fear, there is no faith. If we are to truly practice faith in only Allah, instead of be governed by the fear induced by nafs, then we must live from the space of understanding, compassion and meaningful conversations.

Often the argument my clients make is that if they don’t resort to emotional blackmailing, they feel things don’t happen according to their expectations.

But think about this for a moment – are you really in control? Do you really feel that succumbing to fear of situations would ever yield positive outcomes in the long term?

People may obey you the first time or even several times, however, eventually resentment takes over and arguments, retaliation, rebelliousness, and sometimes violence, become the norm of the home.

3-Step-strategy to avoid emotional blackmail:

  1. Self-reflection is important. Spend a whole day or week to be mindful and become aware of what you say to people and what they say to you. Do this as an observer without judgment.
  2. Write down these observations in a notebook. Analyse these statements and look for those that revolve around fear and punishment.
  3. Have a conversation with the people involved and say: “Let’s discuss this issue with the goal to understand what is actually causing it. Once we understand the cause, we can work on a solution.”