Growing up with Emotional Blackmail



So this is something that I’ve always wanted to talk about – I just didn’t know how.

Emotional blackmail is a form of abuse, one that takes a while to recognise. It has been defined as about “people in relationships that use (and the theory that) fear, obligation and guilt to control.”

It is something that is used regularly on children, and it is difficult to see the effects of this kind of behaviour until the children are adults. It is a very personal topic to me as both my parents have used this tactic on me and my siblings all through our lives. The funny thing is that they still refuse to acknowledge that they did anything wrong.

It is one of those things that, until you step away from the situation, you wouldn’t realise it was there to begin with. It can develop in many different ways, and here are some examples of emotional abuse:


Aggressive behaviours include:




         Threatening harm to themselves

         Critical and intimidating behaviour


Psychological indicators are:

         Manipulation of feelings or insecurities

         Hostile and cold episodes

         Withholding love and affection

         Distorting the sense of reality

         Isolating the victim

         Making the victim feel silly for getting upset


It is also known as F.O.G – fear, obligation and guilt.  These are a few of the common factors found in such situations.

In my life, examples I can offer would be my mother telling me not to talk to my father as he was worthless. When I would talk to him, she would become cold and hostile towards me.

My father in turn was prone to feeling very sorry for himself. He later delved into depression and became an alcoholic. But with him it was money – he would make me feel very guilty and as if I didn’t love him if I didn’t give him money for alcohol etc. So I would feel guilty continuously and give away my lunch money. These are just a few examples; I have a lifetime of different symptoms I could share.

They say if one parent has a mental health problem, the children have a 1 in 2 chance of ending up with mental health issues. In my case – 2/3 of my siblings have ended up with mental health problems.

I can’t talk for every child of emotional blackmail, but I can say for myself it has had serious impact on my life. Every time either of my parents raise their voice, I still get flashbacks of locking myself in my room and crying until it ended. I have serious trust issues, and when people try and emotionally guilt me into stuff I get irrationally angry.

I work for a charity that deals with parental child abduction and it is so often that the children are coached to dislike one parent or be heavily biased to one side. Parental child abduction is where one parent takes the child out of the country without the other parent’s consent. It is a growing issue as the number of multicultural families rise, as well as family breakdowns.

In these circumstances the children are often coached into believing that the other parent is evil, and they want to stay with the abducting parent. In the UK we have experienced CAFCASS officers that interview children in such circumstances and are trained to look out for such influenced behaviour. However in other countries this is not the case and the child’s opinion is sometimes relied upon.

I feel like people forget that the child’s welfare is the main issue in breakdown of relationships. It is easy to be spiteful and use children to get to one another. It is also understandable to want children to understand that you aren’t the bad one. But at the end of the day, a child needs both parents. You have to put your issues in a box and keep them separate.

It is just such a shame that this could have been easily avoided. Okay, go and hate each other. But protect your children.


Mitta is a 24 year old from the UK, she is Indian, Muslim and technically Brazilian. She loves loves loves to read and is obsessed with cats. Check out her poetry on  @mt-1992.


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