Friday, July 22, 2016

The 10 StEPs to Freedom from Emotional Blackmail (Updated)

A substantial addition (in less academic language) appears following the original text.

Thesis: Normalization to the unconscious paradigm of extreme codependence in the form of habitual submission to emotional blackmail is the result of paradoxical injunctions producing a double-binding induction of fear, obligation and guilt by the parent(s) believed by the child to be omniscient, omnipotent and crucial to survival.

Thesis: De-construction and dis-empowerment of the unconscious paradigm is possible with 10 StEP method of conversion from unconscious belief about to conscious, empirical comprehension of early and present life interpersonal dynamics with resulting modification of affects and behavior.

Freud, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; Bateson et al, in Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia; Bermann, in Scapegoat; The Impact of Death Fear in an American Family; Bradshaw, in On the Family and Healing the Shame that Binds You; Brown, in I Thought It Was Just Me; Deikman, in The Observing Self and Personal Freedom; Esterson, in The Leaves of Spring; Forward, in Emotional Blackmail; Henry, in Culture Against Man and Pathways to Madness; Jackson, in The Etiology of Schizophrenia and Myths of Madness; Karpman, in his work on the "drama triangle;" Krishnamurti, in Education and the Significance of Life and many of his other books; Laing, in The Divided Self and The Politics of the Family; Laing and Esterson, in Sanity, Madness and the Family; Lidz and Fleck, in Schizophrenia and the Family; Mellody, in Facing Codependence; Miller, in For You Own Good and several other books; Schatzman, in Soul Murder: Persecution in the Family; Tangney and Dearing, in Shame & Guilt; Schaef, in Co-Dependence: Misunderstood, Mistreated; Watslawick, in his work on the "paradoxical injunction;" Watts, in The Wisdom of Insecurity and The Book: On the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are; Weinhold and Weinhold, in Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap; Whitfield, in The Child Within; and Winnicott: The Child, The Family and the Outside World all point to and describe a specific etiology (or, roughly, "cause-and-effect relationship") for chronic, conscious or unconscious, adult submission to the will and manipulation of others. Their descriptions of the events that occur in early life vary so slightly that it is difficult (for me, anyway) to -- given my own experience of childhood and what I have heard from hundreds of others -- to suggest that such descriptions are inaccurate.

In summation, the "technique" -- as the term is used by Burrow, in The Social Basis of Consciousness; by Ellul, in The Technological Society; as per Lears, in No Place for Grace; by Lifton, in Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism; by Lippmann, Public Opinion; by Meerloo, in The Rape of the Mind; by Milgram, in Obedience to Authority; by Rokeach, in The Open and Closed Mind; by Rousseau, in Emile, or On Education; by Schein, in Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-psychological Analysis of the Brainwashing of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists; by Margaret Singer, et al, in Cults in Our Midst and Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control; by Taylor, in Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control; by Tye, in The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations; and finally by Watslawick et al in their work on "paradoxical injunctions" -- comes down to the paradoxical injunction leading to the condition of the unconscious "double-bind."

Briefly put, it is the use of mutually conflicting, confusing, and subtly threatening instructions by Baumrind's "authoritarian" parents or others in positions of perceived (if not actual) power over one's welfare or even survival in the manner described (perhaps) best by Forward in Emotional Blackmail: an effective combination of fear, obligation and guilt to place the recipient of the injunctions in a state of "damned if you do and damned if you don't."

Most mental health professionals who understand the concepts of paradoxical injunction and the cognitive and emotional state of being double-bound agree that they describe the underlying, etiological dynamics of what is now accepted as the cognition, emotion and behavior of "codependence."

Those who have read thus far may have noted the listing of several books on group dynamic theory, as well as on the perversion of such in the world of the mind-control or thought-reform cult. I did so because it is clear to me that the group dynamics of cults are very little different, and in many cases identical, to the group dynamics of the family controlled by Baumrind's "authoritarian" parents. In both cases, the conceptually unconscious child or adult who has little or no frame of reference other than what set forth by authorities has little or no way of seeing, hearing and otherwise sensing what is actually going on in either the family or the cult. And he or she cannot see, hear or sense how those dynamics are conditioning, teaching, training, socializing, habituating, accustoming, normalizing and institutionalizing the mind to the frames or constructs of reality (see Berger & Luckman). Very simply, double-binding is the technique of emotional blackmail that produces and maintains the state of dependence upon -- and submission to -- authority.

While I do not wish to go further into the concepts of paradoxical injunction, the double-bind, authoritarianism in general and authoritarian parenting in particular, co-dependence, emotional blackmail, introjected requirements, family dynamics, group dynamics, cult dynamics, mindcontrol and/or thought reform and the techniques thereof, I invite the reader to do so by following the links here. Because I think those who have not yet connected the dots between these concepts will find them not only intriguing but major way stations on the path to psychological freedom from many forms of anxiety and depression.

The major thrust of this brief paper is the use of the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing to release the mind from the programming of impossible perfectionism and the shame, guilt, worry, remorse, regret and morbid reflection that results from such programming. A cursory examination of the 10 StEPs will make it evident to any mental health professional versed in the cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral and somato-sensory processing psychotherapies (e.g.: REBT, CBT per se, DBT, MBCT, MBBT, ACT, SP4T) that the 10 StEPs are an experience-based mnemonic for the psychoeducational concepts and affect regulation skills delivered by such therapies. The specific utility of the 10 StEPs is that it distills the skills and concepts into an easily memorized list of ten ideas grounded in each case by direct experience with the definitions of each term.

The object of the 10 StEPs is to quickly raise (and re-raise, whenever necessary) the consciousness of those who use the technique from the normalized, habituated, accustomed state of any form of common -- or unusual -- cultural conditioning, socialization and institutionalization (including such as derived from experience in one's family of origin) to the level of "awareness" (as the term was used by De Mello, Kramer, Krishnamurti, and Watts) or "mindfulness" as that term is so widely used in current day mental health circles. The awareness or mindfulness is not only self-awareness or self-mindfulness, but awareness or mindfulness of others in interaction with oneself. For it is the combined awareness of self and other that is vital to transcending the "fog" (see Forward) or "trance" (see Tart) or unconsciousness (see Freud) that must be there to keep the double-bind that induces co-dependence in play.

A review of the 10 StEPs will make it evident that conceptually informed observation and noticing of what is being said and done by both parties leads to recognition and acknowledgment of the interpersonal dynamics in play. And once at acknowledgment, the observing party can accept and own what is actually occurring, appreciate his or her conditioning, socialization, habituation, normalization and institutionalization to the game, understand What Is, digest whatever emotions may have come up (e.g.: frustration, resentment, anxiety, depression, shame, worry) and transcend the frame / game / box / trap / paradigm imposed by the other party. 

Moreover, habitual use of the 10 StEPs for any goal of emotion regulation will, over time, habituate and automate the user to its use in the frame of interpersonal manipulation to the level of co-dependence or emotional blackmail during or very quickly following the game sequence (see Berne).  

To provide a concrete example, let us say that one's romantic partner is more than typically conditioned by the paradigms of the common culture to the double-bind of fear of both abuse and abandonment (the classic mental construct of those with borderline personality disorder; see McCormack, Meissner, Preston, and Searles). While the interplay and conflict between the two, mutually anathemic, value positions is not something of which the partner is at all aware, he or she will typically project intentions of both ("emotionally intolerable") abuse and abandonment (rejection leading to being alone and helpless) onto anyone who comes close enough to be a psychological threat. The classic borderline plays a double-binding game of seduce-and-abuse or "bait-and-bite." If previously conditioned, socialized, habituated and normalized by experience in the family of origin (or elsewhere in early life) to covert control via seduction (see Karpman) alternating with persecution and punishment (also see Karpman) from the same person, the recipient of the borderline's alternating behaviors will see such behaviors as normal. And because the recipient grew up normalized to -- and tolerant of -- such behaviors from someone to whom he or she was deeply attached and dependent upon for his or her very survival (as a child to its mother or father), the recipient will often tolerate the similar behavior of the romantic partner.

Worse, the romantic partner is usually strongly rewarded by the recipient's loyalty and willingness to stay in the game -- or drama (see Karpman) -- reinforcing such behavior. Over time, the romantic partner may escalate the game to truly sociopathic and even sadistic levels of baiting and biting the recipient to vent (or "vomit") rage that cannot be expressed to the parent (because of double-binding by and anxious attachment to that parent) onto the recipient in the form of quite vicious emotional blackmail. Moreover, if the borderline's parent utilized Forward's "F.O.G." of fear, obligation and guilt often enough to imprint it upon the unconscious mind of the borderline, one can count upon the borderline to utilize it with most people they are able to seduce or bait into the drama / game.

Use of the 10 StEPs, however, makes it possible to (1-3) observe to notice to recognize the game / drama, to (4) acknowledge it, to (5-6) accept and own one's acquiescence or submission to it, to (7) appreciate why they're doing so (as the result of normalization to it in their own family of origin), to (8) understand the schematics of the game / drama, to (9) digest / metabolize / process the emotional results, to (10) transcend the game / drama, and move on in whatever manner they consciously choose.

In another concrete example, one may be well into adulthood but still enmeshed with a chronically self-obsessed, emotionally immature, narcissistic parent who simply must be right ("righteous rectitude") and dominate the thinking and behavior of his or her offspring. Such parents will often utilize the "techniques" of manipulation described by Brown, Gibson, Golomb, Payson, and Roth in their excellent books on parents with "Cluster B" personality disorders, as well as by Bateson et al, Bermann, Bowen, Esterson, Freud, Henry, Jackson, Laing, Laing & Esterson, Lidz, Mellody, Miller, and Whitfield.

Because the parent is -- similar to the romantic partner described above -- fearful of either abuse or abandonment (sometimes both), he or she will seek to dominate one or more increasingly submissive children... or wear a manipulative mask of "learned helplessness" and "victimhood" (see Seligman) to seduce a more dominant child into rescuing them (see Karpman). Both will utilize Forward's "F.O.G.," though the former will lean more on fear and guilt, and the latter more on obligation and guilt. Both, however, will use shame. And because they were usually the original shamers -- and their children have become conditioned, socialized, habituated, normalized and institutionalized to (fear, obligation, guilt and) shame -- the children (no matter how old and otherwise "mature" they are) will acquiesce and submit to parental (and surrogate parental) authority even when it doesn't look (to them) like "authority" at all. 

As before, use of the 10 StEPs makes it possible to (1-3) observe to notice to recognize the game / drama, to (4) acknowledge it, to (5-6) accept and own one's acquiescence or submission to it, to (7) appreciate why they're doing so (as the result of normalization to it in their own family of origin), to (8) understand the schematics of the game / drama, to (9) digest / metabolize / process the emotional results, to (10) transcend the game / drama, and move on in whatever manner they consciously choose.

In a third example, the parent of a small child says (overtly), "Be good and don't make me look like a bad parent." But covertly, the same parent makes it clear (covertly) that he needs the child to look no better than he does, because -- unconsciously -- the parent knows he is incompetent. So he needs his child to appear to be incompetent to make him look capable (even if just to himself) by comparison. This particular combination of paradoxical injunctions and double-binding was observed by Bateson, Bermann, Bowen, Esterson, Henry, Jackson, Laing and Lidz as the single most common behavior of the parents of schizophrenic adolescent and young adult patients.

Once again, use of the 10 StEPs makes it possible to (1-3) observe to notice to recognize the game as it was played by parents and so effectively instructed, embedded, imprinted, socialized, habituated, normalized and institutionalized into the mind of the child that he carried it with him for the rest of his life; to (4) acknowledge the fact of that programming; to (5-6) accept and own one's acquiescence or submission to it; to (7) appreciate why those parents did so (usually as the result of normalization to it in the parent's own family of origin) and why we were forced to internalize the programming to survive; to (8) understand the schematics and imperatives of the game from both the parent's and the child's points of view; to (9) digest / metabolize / process the emotional results; to (10) detach from and transcend the game, and move on in whatever manner we consciously choose.

Finally, it is also useful to grasp that arrival at the experience of (8) understanding makes it possible for the mind to -- as Krishnamurti so aptly put it -- "be with what is in relationship" (his precise definition of "love"), and thus reach the experiential (rather than merely intellectual or conceptual) state of humility, from which the states of empathy and compassion are accessible. Because when one can get to humility, empathy and compassion, one can see oneself in the other and further own one's own impulse to manipulate and covertly control others.

Added 19 January 2018: The following as the result of a post in Reddit's "Survivors of Abuse" sub:

Great list (from u/ZiFiStripClub) of the (mostly) unconscious parries emotional blackmailers use to keep their codependents on their Karpman Drama Triangles. So good, in fact, that I am going to re-run it (with alphabetizing, a few additions, explanations and other modifications) immediately below for future reference:
Accusation: "You are the guilty one here, not me"
Black and White / all-or-nothing / all right or all wrong / all good or all evil (dichotomous) thinking; no grey areas
Blaming you or others; a form of accusation refusing to accept responsibility for their part in abusing others
Circular conversations / never-ending argument; EG: "Yes, but…"
Condescention; EG: "You don't know what you're talking about"
Deflection; EG: Bringing up your mistakes to keep you away from their own
Distortion of Reality; as they say in court: "Objection, your honor: Facts not in evidence."
Excuses Excuses; EG: "I'm too stressed to deal with your stress," "I'm having a bad week (and you're making it worse)"
Gaslighting; EG: "No I wasn’t…" and "I said no such thing" (when they did) outright denying their actions to make you question your perception, understanding and reality
Guilt Tripping (see "shaming" as it is pretty similar)
Know it All; EG: "I read the book; did you?"
Lying... usually to try to bring in "facts not in evidence," but also to try to make themselves look competent and capable to get "one up" on you
Manipulation using F.O.G..
Multiple personas; EG: ex. good cop, bad cop… you will see multiple personas throughout an argument, they make you feel upset to get your reaction and then are your savior by helping you to calm down and find "logical explanations" (very commonly used by people with BPD to push their victims around the Drama Triangle)
Saying This & Doing (or Saying) That... and then denying they ever said "this" (a common form of gaslighting)
Shaming: Using loaded language about your past and/or your "lack of moral perfection" to trigger profoundly uncomfortable emotions
Righteous Criticism of you and other people; often based on a belief in their own moral perfection
Switching Corners on the Drama Triangle to maintain their position as the "good and moral rescuer" or "powerful persecutor" to keep you in the victim corner at the bottom
Triangulation: They bring a third-party into a situation/conversation; EG: "Should we call your mom to see what she thinks of that?"
Twisting Words to mean what they actually do not
Word Salad: Assertions and explanations that literally do not make sense
Having been regularly neglected, ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, and rejected -- as well as invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, denigrated, derogated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, scapegoated, and/or otherwise abused -- by others upon whom I depended for survival in early life, I was nicely "set up" to tolerate such abuse well into adulthood.
Getting into ACA and CoDA, and reading books like those listed below woke me up:
Nina Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents
Eleanor Payson's The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family
Lindsay Gibson's Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents
Elan Golomb's Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in the Struggle for Self
Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (a bit long in tooth now, but still useful) and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Kimberlee Roth & Frieda Friedman's Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem

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Winnicott, D.: The Child, The Family and The Outside World, 2nd Ed., San Francisco: Da Capo, 1992.

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