Thursday, 12 October 2017

Emotional Blackmail

US Psychologist Susan Forward has coined the term „emotional blackmail“ for describing a pattern of dysfunctional relationships, in which one person tries to control the behaviour of the other person by addressing fears and producing guilt feelings and thus enforce his/her own will onto the other person.

Emotional blackmail can happen in any kind of relationship: between lovers, parents and children, friends, relatives, but also in a working environment. Although it looks as if the blackmailer would be the bad guy, emotional blackmail only works when the victim plays his/her role. Both sides are controlled by emotional schemes created in early childhood, which shape the respective patterns of behaviour, so usually the blackmailer does not notice how he acts, rather he thinks he has no alternative and is right. Equally, the victim thinks that she has no other chance as to give in to the pressure to avoid worse things to happen.

Four Types of Emotional Blackmail

The punisher:
He tells the victim exactly what he wants and which consequences the other person has to face when she does not comply. He can play his role aggressively or by silently withdrawing. Yet his anger is directly pointing at the victim when his demands are not fulfilled.
The self-punisher:
She directs her threats towards herself and tells the victim what she will do to herself when she does not get what she wants.
The sufferer: He has a talent in finger-pointing and addressing guilt feelings in the victim. He requires the victim to find out what he needs. He assumes that the other always has to take care of him so that his needs can be met.
The tantalizer: She presents tests to the partner and promises wonderful rewards when he passes.

All types share the strategy to work with conditional phrases for enforcing their needs: When you do not A, B will happen. Or: Only when you do A, B can be avoided and C will happen. Conditions narrow the activity space of the other person, who then only has the option of accepting or rejecting.

Six Typical Phases of Emotional Blackmail

1. Demand
A partner in a relationship shares a wish to the other person and strives with all means for getting what he wants. Thus, the wish becomes a demand. Often the wish is presented in a way that it should also be in the interest of the partner and that it is indispensable for the development of the relationship.

2. Resistance
The other partner reacts with resistance as he feels overpowered or disrespected.

3. Pressure
The blackmailing partner increases the pressure e.g. by bringing the issue up again and again and by insisting on the fulfillment of the demand. Devaluations can be used like: You are so egotistic. Unconsciously, the intention is to produce guilt feelings in the partner, which could motivate him to do what the blackmailer wants. Another strategy consists in comparing the partner with other people who would act according to the demands of the blackmailer or who hold the same standards and values. Thus, the partner should get a feeling of being wrong.

4. Threats
When resistance persists in the sense of not complying with the demand, consequences are depicted as threats. Drastically is described what would happen, when the wish, which has become a demand, is not fulfilled.

5. Subjection
Some partners react with giving in at this point. Yet they unconsciously stay in resentment. They decline their will-power for the sake of peace in the relationship. But this harmony is shaky.

6. Repetition
The blackmailing partner is content and happy, and the other partner is glad about the harmony, although an underlying unpleasant feeling remains. The blackmailer has learned a way to pursue his aims. The partner has understood how he can put an end to the pattern of demand, pressure and threat quickly: By subjection and resignation. In this way, the doors are open for repeating the pattern.

The Emotional Atmosphere

Everyone has encountered states of fear, obligation and guilt. We all know many different kinds of fear, which all have to do with relationship in the core. As infants, we were dependent on other people to take care of us. So we developed fears, which should warn us for risking these crucial relationships. From there, the sense of obligation emerged, which has its constructive sides in taking responsibility for people around us when needed. But in its unconscious form, obligation feels like pressure and burden. Guilt feelings remind us of mistakes we made and of situations we would like to revert. They all have to do with hurting someone and risking a relationship.

In general, we have learned to deal with these feelings, yet in the case of emotional blackmail, these feelings get instrumentalized for a power struggle in the relationship. Blackmailers increase the energetic load and pressure by becoming louder, quicker and more intense, trying to overpower the victim, which tends to comply in any way just to return to a normal atmosphere of communication. The victim reacts, dominated by a FOG of feelings: Fear, Obligation and Guilt. This reaction becomes automatic like holding the ears when someone starts to scream. The victim has little chance to reflect and just can react – and this is the key to effective emotional blackmail.

Although it looks like a well-planned process, most blackmailers produce this fog of fear, obligation and guilt without being aware of it.

How to activate fears:
Act the way I want it, and I will not leave you, I will not scream at you, I will not devaluate you; but if you do not give in, you will have to bear the consequences.

How to address feelings of obligation:

•    A good daughter should spend time with her mother.
•    I am working day and night for this family, so I can expect at least that you are present, when I come home.
•    The boss is always right, so obey. 

An example for the dynamics of guilt-feelings:
1.    I tell a friend that I cannot go to the cinema tonight with her.
2.    She is upset.
3.    I feel terrible and am convinced that it is my fault that she is upset. I feel as if I were a bad person.
4.    I cancel my other appointment se we can go to the cinema together. She feels better, and I feel better because she feels better.

Stopping Emotional Blackmail

The victim of blackmail has to resolve the fog of fear, obligation and guilt. These feelings have emerged in the course of infancy as survival strategies; in grown-up life, they lead to the trap of blackmail. When fears are replaced by the power of self-assertion, when feelings of diffuse obligation become conscious responsibility and guilt-feelings are turned into self-acceptance, the blackmailer has no more chance. Either he quits his strategy, or the victim quits the relationship.

Literature: Susan Forward, Donna Frazier: Emotional Blackmail. When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. Morrow Paperback, 1998

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The First Breath and the Immune Reaction

After the first breath, the lungs changes stronger as any other organ. Before birth, the lungs do not have any function; this is similar between humans and mice. Though they are trained by various movements of muscles, which the unborn performs, they are filled by liquid and get their blood supply directly from the placenta, while the vascular system bypasses this organ. In the first breath, which is often connected with a strong scream, the liquid gets absorbed by the body. The lungs unfold and are fully supplied with blood from now on. In the next three weeks, the lungs develop to become what their task is for the rest of the life is: the central breathing organ. By the sudden stretching of the lungs and by the first scream, certain mediators get released, among them a cytokine, interleukin 33, which then exerts a strong influence on other immune cells.

In the maternal body, the lungs still are free of microbes. Yet after that, the lungs need a well working immune defense, for with every breath noxious substances and bacteria stream into the lungs. This immune system gets activated with the first breath in a chain reaction. IL33 is released and activates IL2-cells, special white blood cells, which invade the lungs. This leads to the activation of the most important immune cells in the breath ways, the alveola-macrophages.

The IL2-cells are important for keeping up a balance: on the one hand, pollutants should be rejected, on the other hand, over-reactions should be avoided. The IL2-cells reduce the activity of the immune system, which has the disadvantage as bacteria have a better chance to spread in the body.
The first breath can work more or less well. Labor plays and important role, but also the shock in temperature is an important trigger factor. Not all babies have the same preconditions for the kick-off of the lungs, Cesarean babies are disadvantaged.

This is the translation of a radio broadcast featuring the research work of Silvia Knapp from the Medical University of Vienna, from March 3rd, 2017 with the title: “The first breath and the immune system”, transcribed and translated by me.


Also this context demonstrates the negative consequences of Cesarean birth for the health of the babies. It is an artificial disruption of a process, which has its inner natural logics, here presented in the connection of the development of the immune system of the lungs. When this process cannot take place, important components are missing, which the child has to build up by itself in a different way later on in life.

The article seduces to enforce a well-known prejudice in one point: The stronger the scream of a baby after birth, the better for its health and robustness. On my enquiry about this point, I got this answer from the ORF redactor: “Mrs Ronzheimer has reported about the actual research project of Silvia Knapp. As far as she knows, the first breath and the scream connected with it is crucial for the development of the immune system of the lungs. According to Silvia Knapp, the immune system also develops normally in the case of a Cesarean birth, which is not under ideal conditions, and not as well as in the case of natural birth. Whether the scream is decisive, cannot be confirmed by Mrs Ronzheimer – the theme is the first breath, which is naturally deeper with a scream.”

Or course, a scream requires a deeper breath. Yet many experts on birth have the opinion that the scream is caused by an abrupt transection of the umbilical cord. Babies, whose cord stays attached up to the end of pulsation, usually start to breath slowly and gently, without a scream. Thus they do not suffer from the placenta trauma, which could be the emotional cause of the scream in the other case.

See the lecture of Susanna Hinnawi on "Lotus Birth" at the Global Inspiration Conference on August 5, 2017 in Hirschwang/Austria and the workshop on "Healing the Placenta Trauma" facillitated by Wilfried Ehrmann at the same event.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Coherent Breathing - Aligning Breath and Heart

Coherent breathing intends to promote the optimal cooperation of the nervous system with all major physical functions via breathing. By using the appropriate breathing frequency in a regular rhythm and with relaxed exhalation, heart rate variability improves consistently and measurably. This informs about the state of the autonomic nervous system and a good level of variability indicates a strong parasympathicus.

With the help of polyvagal theory, this book highlights the connections between the nervous system and emotional and social functioning. Awareness of relaxed breathing plays a key role for our well---being and for resolving inner issues in psychotherapy and coaching.

In this book, various other techniques and methods of breathing are compared with coherent breathing. It is argued that the latter can claim the position of a method of meta-breathing, as it can be combined with all the other approaches in breathwork and at the same time can serve as a role model for optimal breathing in daily life.

When we are looking for a way to more equanimity, joy of life and motivation, coherent breathing can provide a competent answer. Its theory is based on research on the physiology of breathing, circulation, nervous system and brain. It is easy and simple to learn and to apply in daily life.
The method has proven its value as supportive practice with many forms of mental disorders as well as with trauma healing. Furthermore, it helps effectively with sleeping disorders, panic attacks and states of anxiety.

Sportive people use coherent breathing for improving their endurance performance, and meditators faster access a state of inner peace and awareness with this method.

The book can be ordered as hardcopy, paperback or e-book.