Knowing how to deal with the negative energy and mind games of narcissists is essential for successfully moving through life. After all, unless you plan to live alone on a mountaintop, you’re going to have to deal with toxicity.
You are bound to come across negative-minded individuals that use emotional extortion, guilt tripping, gaslighting, and other ego-driven tactics in order to get their way. They may even be your own family members.
It is essential that you understand exactly how to thwart their attempts at draining your energy if you want to maintain your frame and control your space.
What is Emotional Extortion?
Most of us know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of emotional extortion.
If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, which is also referred to as emotional blackmail, to be emotionally extorted is to be forced into feeling a certain way by another person, usually to help placate their ego.
This kind of mental subterfuge is all around us, and is relied upon by the weak and emotionally unstable in order acquire energy, feel good about themselves, and leverage control whenever possible. It is a common tool of the malignant narcissist, and is also utilized by those with histrionic personality disorder.
The hallmark of an emotional extortion attempt is when someone tries to make you feel bad or guilt trip you in order to exert control over you.
A person trying to blackmail you with emotions may even attempt to blame your good mood for their own negativity, or may indicate that because you’re not emoting, it means “you don’t care about me.”
Keep in mind that the ego believes that by nature, emotions can’t be controlled. We are expected to just get affected by whatever happens around us and feed into whatever energies happen to be exuded by others.
Overdeveloped egos get absolutely incensed when they see strong-minded individuals maintain their frame, because they know that emotional extortion is one of their only means of leverage.
Here are a few other common examples of emotional blackmail:
- Individual acts out, expecting a certain response out of your and gets angry when you stay in frame.
- “Matching energy”: an individual acts sad and expects you to be sad too.
- Emotional guilt-tripping. Trying to evict an emotion by making you “feel bad.”
- Inferring that emotions are more important than facts or that feelings can overrule the reality of your circumstances.
- Individual blames you for their emotions. “If you only did x, I wouldn’t feel this way.”
- Individual claims they have the “right” to feel a certain way even if it impacts your quality of life. “I have a right to be angry” (even at the expense of ruining your day, destroying your property, guilt tripping you, creating negative karma, etc.)
- Withholding emotional reaction. “If you do x I’ll be happy.”
- Passive-aggressive emotionalism. Individual does something emotionally vague and unclear, expects you to decipher it, and then gets angry when you don’t.
- Emotional incongruity. Things are great, your day is going perfectly fine, energies are moving. Suddenly individual becomes sour and moody because the ego feels left out and needs attention.
- Attaching emotional outcome to physical circumstance. Individual will only be in a good mood if certain physical conditions are met. The inference is that emotions are not controllable but are the “result” of arbitrary physical factors, and you are somehow responsible for meeting these conditions.
- Any form of emotional bribery. Offering of a better mood for x thing, “emotional bartering,” using emotional states like chess pieces.
- “I’m not getting enough attention,” therefore you are a bad person or “cold-hearted.” (wanting attention is in itself a spiritual malignancy)
- Ruining someone’s mood or lowering the vibration of a room, then getting mad or emotional over the results.
- Emotional “baiting.” Individual thinks (or pretends to think) you are feeling a certain way in order to frustrate and cause an emotional response. “It really seems like you’re mad at me.”
- Demanding someone’s time or energy based on emotional grounds.
As you can see, these emotional mind games are all too common. Some people operate solely through emotional extortion, they literally know no other way of obtaining energy and emotional satisfaction.
Understanding the Ego’s Role in Emotions
To the ego, emotions are a zero sum game.
Since the ego feeds off of emotions, it will develop ways to evict emotional responses out of others by any means necessary. And because the ego believes its own bullshit, the individual who performs these extortion tactics will almost always believe that they have the moral high ground.
In fact, more often than not, this is the rule. Emotional extortion artists pride themselves on being the one “in the right” when they don’t get the response they seek.
The victim of emotional extortion is always the “bad guy” in one way or another.
Emotionalism by its very nature depends on a black and white, “us vs them” dichotomy, because this is how the ego sees the world.
What most people assume to be “emotions” or “emotional states” are actually nothing more than defense mechanisms and protective measures of the ego.
They are all manifestations of the same tactics that the ego uses to overcome its fear of becoming irrelevant.
The ego is at all times looking for ways to solidify its position in your life. The larger the ego, the more it will utilize emotional extortion tactics.
You can understand the behavior and motives of people much better when you realize that much of what they think and do is out of ego-preservation rather than genuine Self-expression.
A true and genuine emotion exists apart from attachment and doesn’t require physical conditions or the emotions of others in order to exist. It just is.
How to Thwart Emotional Manipulation
The objective in any ego-based emotional exchange is not to “feed” into the frame of what the emotional aggressor is trying to accomplish.
The key is remembering that your mood and energy belong to you, and that no one has the right to control or extort your emotions for any reason.
Egos repeat behavior that they know works. By targeting emotions, negative-minded individuals learn to “crack open” other people and get what they want out of them.
Many narcissists use a barrage of questions and emotional mind games in order to find “chinks in the armor” of your emotional space that they can exploit and thereby gain access to your energy and time. Other techniques such as probing eye contact and strange body language (exaggerated eye movement) are used here as well.
Though this behavior can seem random, it’s all part of a fine-tuned ego-driven process that has been refined for years in order to get the best results. Make no mistake, most emotional manipulators have learned to do what they do over years of unconscious trial and error.
In order to combat these techniques, you need to be both aware and grounded.
If you have any emotional weaknesses or mindset issues, understand that these are a liability. Not only in matters of avoiding emotional manipulation, but in life as a whole.
Begin by increasing your spatial awareness. By being more aware of your surroundings and the behaviors of others, you learn to recognize patterns and become more comfortable with the present (which is beneficial for reducing your own ego).
- If you feel harried or rushed, take a moment to perform some deep breathing.
- Quietly observe life in action without forming any judgments. This can be birds in the park or people walking down the street. Become a student of the world.
- Get in the habit of consciously reminding yourself to unclench your jaw, loosen your muscles, etc. Being aware of your body helps you cultivate greater awareness in general.
- Be the observer of your own thoughts and emotions. Throughout the day, recognize when you feel or think something strong, sit back, and ask yourself “why?”
- Strive for a “steady” mind. A strong mindset has few extreme highs and lows, and keeps their thinking pattern even keel. Do this through yoga and physical discipline.
- Start taking notes on the patterns and activities you witness throughout the day, but only record what you see, not what you feel about what you see.
Dealing With an Extortion Attempt in the Moment
What happens when someone directly challenges you with an emotional extortion attempt?
While every situation can differ substantially based on who you are dealing with and the context of the conversation, there are a few general rules you can follow here to ensure that you don’t lose frame and that you can protect your energy.
- Never respond to a negative emotion with another negative emotion. This is the easiest “chink in the armor” that egos want to exploit.
- Control the output of your energy. Speak and move slowly and calmly. Egos pick up on “raised” energy and will escalate.
- Though you may use appeals to logic and reason, don’t lean on them and expect them to fix the situation. Egos don’t respond well to logic.
- Hold a “rebuking” mindset. Seek to negate energy, not amplify it. Make it clear that you don’t have the time or patience to deal with nonsense.
- Seek a resolution. Cut past the BS and ask direct and probing questions if you have to.
- Be stern and unyielding. Weak words and body language are like green lights for inflated egos to perpetuate their behavior.
- Keep in mind that you can’t shame an emotional extortionist. Saying things like, “how would x think of you acting this way?” will get you nowhere fast.
- Make light of drama whenever and wherever possible. The bigger the narcissistic blow up, the more you should laugh it off and act as though nothing happened.
- Use “parent” language if need be. “You can fuss all you want but that’s not going to change anything.”
- Dominate your space. Maintain direct and probing eye contact. Don’t act small around a big ego. Don’t give ground, leave your space, or show weakness.
- Never be afraid to get the authorities involved if you are being threatened. Narcissists, while mostly full of bluster, can be dangerous. This is especially true if they get the impression in the heat of the moment that their emotional extortion attempts are failing.
In general, it’s beneficial to cultivate a strong mind if you want to easily contend with narcissists and extortion artists.
Nothing bothers an ego more than an iron mind that can’t be bent through emotionalism.
In my experience the easiest way to make one of these kinds of people deflate, fly into a fit of rage, or admit defeat is to exhibit unwavering mental strength in the face of all extortion attempts.
This applies to most things in life though. The stronger your mindset, the better you will be able to deal with other people, stressful situations, and life in general.
Always remember that you own your space and that any attempt at emotional extortion aimed at you is a direct assault on your peace of mind and quality of life. I would argue that a fierce extortion or manipulation attempt is far worse than a mere punch.
It is not just assault, it is subterfuge, psychological warfare.
Keep this in mind the next time you experience any form of psychological or emotional manipulation. You don’t have to put up with it.
The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.