Author: Susan Forward, Ph.D. with Donna Frazier
Publisher: William Morrow
"If you really loved me..."
"After all I've done for you..."
"How can you be so selfish..."
Do any of the above sound familiar? They're all examples of emotional blackmail, a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.
Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.
My Thoughts: I've never been a person to buy self-help books. However Susan Forward is highly respected in the world of psychology so I thought I would give it a try. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how good this book is. The first part of the book explains what emotional blackmail is including explaining when arguments are not emotional blackmail. I expected that part of the book and the last part which explains steps to break the cycle. What I wasn't expecting was everything else, which takes up the majority of the book. She explains the psychology behind emotional blackmailers and why they feel the need to use emotional blackmail. Blackmailers are bad people, they are usually scared and feel helpless. She explains how the target needs to take some responsibility in allowing themselves to be blackmailed and advice on how to change those behaviors that invite blackmailing. I thought that she showed very realistic views on the topic. The blackmailers aren't all bad and the targets aren't all innocent. As she says, "it takes two." Her steps to breaking the cycle were practical and realistic as well. I also really liked that this book did not focus solely on romantic relationships but relationships of all kinds and is more universally applicable. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in a relationship that involves fear, obligation, or guilt in unhealthy measure.