Fear Obligation and Guilt is a type of emotional blackmail which is commonly referred to as ‘FOG’, a contrived acronym- a play on the word fog which describes something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought process.
This emotional blackmail typically involves two people who have established a close relationship and the abuser uses fear, obligation and guilt in the relationship, ensuring the other feels afraid to cross them, obligated to give them their way and swamped by guilt if they resist. Knowing that someone close to them wants love, approval or conformation of identity and self-esteem, blackmailers may threaten to withhold them or take them away altogether, making the person feel that they must earn them by agreement.
The innermost fears of the abused and an unreasonable sense of obligation are manipulated by the abuser to coerce the former’s compliance. The blackmail may take these forms:
- Threats (more on this later)
- Passive Aggressiveness
- Light at the end of the tunnel (somehow fostering a belief in the abused that all this is temporary and will get better)
- Labelling (The abused always comes out as the ‘bad guy’ and is pathologized as sick or crazy)
- Enlisting (The abuser turns other people against the abused using negative comparison)
Although all the above-mentioned tools are used by a FOG abuser, the most potent and widely used tool of such an abuser is threat. Here are the different types of threat used by FOG abuser:
- Punisher’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you or I’ll hurt you.
- Self-punisher’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you or I’ll hurt myself.
- Sufferer’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now.
- Tantalizer’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you and you just may get a yummy dessert.
The essence of a FOG blackmail, is the abuser making different types of demands from the abused and using threat as a weapon, while it is essential to recognize threat being employed it is also essential to recognize when and what type of a demand is being made; these are the different types of demands a FOG abuser makes:
- Demands of little consequence
- Demands that risk the victim’s personal integrity
- Demands that affect major life decisions
- Demands that are dangerous or illegal
While FOG abuse is more prevalent than it is given credit for, there are some demographics and situations that foster such abuse more than others.
They often believe that being in control is how to achieve success and happiness in life. People who follow this rule use it as a survival skill, having usually learned it in childhood. As long as they make the rules, no one can back them in to a corner with their feelings.
- Mental Illness
People with mental conditions are predisposed to controlling behaviour including those with paranoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. People with borderline personality disorder and particularly likely to use emotional blackmail (so are destructive narcissists), however, their actions may be impulsive and driven by fear and a desperate sense of hopelessness, rather than out of a conscious plan.
It often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. This can lead to emotional abuse. Co-dependency can occur in any kind of relationship, including family, work, friendship and also romantic, peer or community relationships.
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