Relationship or emotional hostage taking. I always use myself as an example where possible. Before I got my life right, meaning, stopped drinking and drugging and got right with God, I was an emotional basket case but acted like I wasn’t.
I was broken, always angry, unable to take responsibility , insecure, deflecting, inauthentic and anything else you could think of. In terms of relationships, I never had any really. I just took hostages to my fears and insecurities and then blamed the latest victim of my hostage taking. But why?
All my baggage, pain, unforgiveness and judgements from my dysfunctional growing up experience were still there. I still had resentment, anger, bitterness, and all the leftover dysfunctional patterns, as I had not engaged in any help to break free from all of this past behavior and rooted issues. Gaslighting was a tactic I engaged in before I knew what it even was.
For dealing with specific situations that may be emotional blackmail or a hostage situation, some good questions to ask are:
- Do you feel like you know what your options are, and you can understand which one is best for you? If not, is it because the information is being withheld or dodged through deflection or gaslighting tactics?
- Do you feel like you are safe? Are you clearly stating what you want and acting in directions towards it?
- Do you believe that the other person is considering your feelings at all?
- Is this current issue a one-off, or is this a problem or a type of problem that is starting to form a pattern? (ie. not accepting responsibility for emotional problems, deflecting, not admitting a problem or doing anything to address it.)
If you believe you may be dealing with a relationship that constantly holds you emotionally hostage, here are some questions to ask;
- Is the relationship a constant drain on your energy, confidence, excitement, peace, etc.?
- Are you constantly on guard about what you say or do because you fear their reaction?
- Do they do things that make you question your reality, like withhold information, trivialize your feelings, turn things around on you constantly, or seem to live in a constant state of emergency?
- Have they had to beg or convince you not to abandon them, promise to change or improve, then return to their old behaviors?
- Do you feel like you never know which “version” of them you are going to get when you are around them?
Neither of these lists is comprehensive, but they can help you start spotting emotional hostage behavior and situations so you can plan to address them.
How Do I Escape Being An Emotional Hostage?
If you believe you are an emotional hostage in a specific situation, there are two simple actions you can take. The first one is internal. Ask yourself how you are feeling. If you are feeling stressed, angry, or trapped, try understanding why. For example, is it because you are scared of what the other might say if you call and ask what’s going on? Are you feeling anxious about addressing things that emotionally healthy people should be able to address? Are these fears or anxieties based in reality, or just a heightened sense of stress? Naming your feelings, exploring their origins, checking your own emotional responsibility in the context of the relationship can help you discern what direction you should take. ( ie. seeking intervention, confrontation, etc.)
The second thing you can do is find a way to calmly but confidently speak up about your concerns. It can be hard to speak up because it feels aggressive. However, in most situations, there is nothing wrong with saying something. Most people hesitate to do something because part of them says it’s unnecessary, perhaps because they think they are overreacting, or they don’t want conflict, or are exhausted emotionally and already “know” what the reaction will be, such a gaslighting, deflection, etc.
But what’s important is acknowledging and honoring your feelings. From the other’s perspective, it is easy to assume that everything is fine if you do not speak up or take action of some kind. This is why honest and open communication is essential to bringing the relationship into a place where help can be incorporated, and genuine change can occur. Exiting the relationship is always an option, but we all owe it to ourselves to be as sure as possible we have done all we can do as far as it pertains to us,without bringing continued undo emotional damage to ourselves and others.