Fear Obligation Guilt

psychology, Uncategorized

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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)
  • Punishments
  • Self-Harm
  • Self-Pitying
  • Hysterics
  • 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:

  1. Punisher’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you or I’ll hurt you.
  2. Self-punisher’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you or I’ll hurt myself.
  3. Sufferer’s Threat – Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now.
  4. 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:

  1. Demands of little consequence
  2. Demands that risk the victim’s personal integrity
  3. Demands that affect major life decisions
  4. 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.

  • Addicts

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.

  • Co-dependency

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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Bunny Boiling



Bunny Boiling is a reference to an iconic scene in the movie “Fatal Attraction” in which the main character Alex, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, kills the family’s pet rabbit and boils it on the stove. Bunny Boiling has become a popular reference to how people sometimes exhibit their rage by behaving destructively towards symbolic, important or treasured possessions or representations of those whom they wish to hurt, control or intimidate.

In a reddit post user anon_girl shares how she was a victim of bunny boiling growing up. This is her post:

“So I recently started doing some research on emotional abuse and one tactic that abusers use is called Bunny Boiling and it basically means that the abuser takes something the victim cherishes, and destroys it in such a way that it causes psychological damage to the victim. Throughout my entire life my dad had no problems taking away my things but some things stick out more than others.

1) We had a small shoe rack in our laundry room and my sister and I were only allowed to keep 3 pairs of shoes on the rack at a time and the rest had to stay in our rooms. If my dad found more than 3 pairs of one of our shoes on the rack he would take our favorite ones from the extra and throw them in the trash without telling us.

2) When my dad was going at it with my sister one night he took her alarm clock radio and threw it on the ground as hard as he could, shattering it to pieces, then took her ipod, threw it into the sink and turned on the garbage disposal, tearing it to shreds

3) When my dad got mad at me once he went to my room, brought back my hair curler and straightener, held them above his head by the plugs, then cut the cords and let them both clatter to the ground

I only just now realized how much worse that was than if he had just taken those things away for a week. Now I’m very possessive of my things and get angry at people when they ask me to share”

In an extreme case of bunny boiling, Sarah Williams murdered 60-year-old businesswoman Sadie Hartley by first paralyzing her with a stun gun and then stabbing her 40 times, her only crime was that she was dating Sarah Williams’s ex-boyfriend Ian Johnson. Psychological abuse can taper into violence and take extreme forms. It is more tough than one may think to decipher abuse when it is happening. Most of the times the abuser denies he is indulging in abuse. It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse especially since it can take such dangerous forms as ‘Bunny Boiling’.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash