Every Thursday I am going to share a “most read” post from my previous blog’s archives. These Posts are intended to help you regain POWER … power that has been stolen or handed over to an emotionally manipulative person in your life.
This first post in the adult bullying series titled, “Adult Bullying Navigating Emotional Blackmail” was originally published on September 3, 2013.
It is a long one, but read it through and come back if you need to – there is a ton of relationship meat in here.
“Internal discomfort is one of the major impediments to change, and we’re so used to responding to it as though it were a fire to be put out…
Most of us are so reluctant to examine our discomfort that we often misinterpret what it’s trying to tell us by reacting to its presence blindly instead of asking what it means.” – Susan Forward
Is there someone in your life that with one word, story, look, sigh, or rolling of the eyes… you are thrown back into feeling like you are helpless little kid again?
You are hopeful that they don’t realize what they are doing (that their intentions towards you are good), or that they are NOT trying to hurt you,
BUT you are often overwhelmed with a haunting truth: there are people in your life who are intentionally placing themselves into a role to dominate you.
You might even label them: adult bullies.
It is difficult to ignore their pushing, nitpicking, and saying just that right thing (flattery or rebuke) attempting to get you to comply with their agenda.
When you are around them your heart is in disarray…
Their actions and words make you feel helpless and out of control.
They throw accusations at you like:
- You are too sensitive.
- You have anger issues.
- You need therapy (aka You are Crazy).
- You are stubborn – pigheaded.
- If you would just follow my game plan.
- If you had listened to what I said.
“Why won’t you let me fix this for you?”
As if there is something wrong with YOUR life that only they can see and only they can fix!
“I am right about you,” is basically all you can hear coming out of their mouths.
And it gets old.
Whether they intend it or not some people are manipulative, coercive, and demanding (ie high maintenance).
There are grownup bullies – who won’t take “NO” for an answer and who don’t care one bit the havoc they cause in your home and life and spirit.
Your “relationship” with them is a continual power struggle: you fighting to maintain control and truth in your life (what Susan Forward calls your “integrity”) vs. them trying to take over control and the flow of your life (your life on their terms no matter the cost to you emotionally, spiritually or physically).
The truth they believe about you and your truth might not look anything alike.
Frankly they rarely if ever even take your truth or voice into consideration.
They panic, react in extremes (you never know what you are going to get).
When they feel that they are losing control or the advantage in the relationship they freak out with extreme displays of emotion that swing from weeping and fear to rages of anger.
You can clearly see this “power struggle” at important seasons in your life:
- future plans
- career choices
- big moves
- starting a family
- choices you make with your children
- They may even freak out about how you use your vacation or sick time (seriously!)
This isn’t merely about them having an opinion that they need to share – it is about how they react to these events in your life.
They have a playbook that they operate from in dealing/handling YOU that includes using: fear, guilt, silence, anger, disapproval, shaming, name calling, backhanded compliments, flattery, material and/or financial rewards/punishments all dependent upon your perceived compliance or noncompliance.
Perhaps they may come in sweet as pie, whispering “loving encouragement into your life” – seemingly helpful and loving, and so you open up your heart and life to allow them to help you or to walk beside you – BUT bam!
They can not resist showing their true colors: when they whisper words of harm, rebuke when no one is looking or they in the future need to continually remind you of how amazing they were in helping you out. How awesome of a person they were for walking beside you during that hard time or good time.
No “thank you” is ever good enough – no applause is ever long enough.
- Afterwards you feel duped.
- You fell for their sweet talk again.
- You thought they were being different.
- You had HOPE things could change.
However feelings of guilt, fear, or obligation have you flooded over again and again every single time you allow them access to your life and heart.
This toxic cycling with them does not end.
You can see it and feel it, but you have no clue how to make it stop.
Who are They?
Most often emotional manipulators are people who have or have had authority in our life at one time: parents, boss, pastor, mentor. OR they could be someone that we have a close connection with: spouse, friend, sibling.
This is anyone whose opinion and voice we value or have valued at some point in our life.
Living with Integrity? Authenticity?
First things first – you can not live from integrity or wholeness with someone that does not hear your voice, who wants power to control you, and who will use any means necessary to keep that power struggle weighted in their favor.
They panic when the power is shifted in your favor and you shows signs of taking back your life.
And they’ll do just about anything to get your full cooperation including using people close to you (another friend, coworker, spouse, child, sibling) to enforce their suffocating, lifesucking, power hungry ways into your life.
They will make it unbearable – and that is the point.
If you don’t behave yourself – you will suffer the consequences.
They forget or do not care that you are not a child who needs to be disciplined for wrong behavior.
You are a grownup who needs to be valued and loved no matter the choices you make. Because living your life is about you NOT them.
It isn’t about relationship for these folks – because a relationship is a give and take of love, truth, and a mutual respect while allowing one another to live life separately.
You are not a tributary of their life – you are your own person and it is OK to have your own life, make your own choices, choice where you want to live, who you want to marry, how many kids you are going to have… and YES you can decide for yourself what you want to do with your vacation time.
Their opinion and ideas about you and your life only hold value if you give it the POWER.
Make it stop…
WAIT there is more. This article is too long for one post.
Are you facing Adult Bullying and Navigating Emotional Blackmail?
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