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Author Topic: SELF-AWARE: What it means to be in the "FOG"  (Read 23821 times)
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« on: October 19, 2008, 08:20:06 AM »

SELF-AWARE:  What it means to be in the "FOG"

In their 1997 book, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You, authors Susan Forward, Ph.D. and Donna Frazier identify fear, obligation or guilt (termed “FOG”) as the tools of emotional manipulators.

Forward and Frazier have greatly helped families by pinpointing fear, obligation or guilt as the important transactional dynamics at play when we feel we are being controlled by others. Understanding this dynamic is the first step in learning how to manage our own feelings of being controlled or the compulsions to do things that are uncomfortable, undesirable, burdensome, or self-sacrificing.

Controlling or being controlled is a transaction. For us, an enabling reaction to the psychological defenses and dysfunctional coping of others - often people who are immature or suffering with addictions, depression, personality disorders, etc.

Read more about the transactional dynamics in this BPDFamily editorial: CLICK HERE

Controlling Styles

Punishers – let us know exactly what they want, and the consequences we’ll face if we don’t give it to them. They may express themselves aggressively or they may smolder in silence, but either way, the anger is always aimed directly at us. The closer the relationship, the higher the stakes – and the more vulnerable we are to punishers.

Self-punishers turn the threats inward threatening what the will do to themselves if they don’t get their way. High drama, hysteria and an air of crisis (precipitated by you) surround self-punishers, who are often excessively needy and dependent.

Sufferers are blamers and guilt-peddlers who make us figure out what they want, and always conclude that it is up to us to ensure they get it. Sufferers take the position that if they feel miserable, sick, unhappy, or are just plain unlucky, there’s only one solution: our giving them what they want – even if they haven’t told us what it is.

Tantalizers put us through a series of tests and hold out a promise of something wonderful if we’ll just give them their way. They encourage us and promise love or money or career advancement, and then make it clear that unless we behave, as they want us to, we don’t get the prize.
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 09:20:07 AM »

According to Susan Forward in Emotional Blackmail, the heart of emotional blackmail is flawed reasoning.  The reasoning is illogical and there is a double standard.  “It is permissible for me to push your buttons to get my needs met, but if you try to do the same thing, I’ll make sure you will regret your selfishness.”  

Examples of F.O.G.

FEAR: Quote from: ohash, “I want so badly to cut him out of my life, but know that I would regret doing so...”

OBLIGATION:   Quote from:  JerryKew, “I got caught up in the "game" of trying ever harder. If only I could do this or that, or change this or that, he would finally understand. I didn't realize I was trying to do all the work for us. My perception of things had grown so skewed and distorted over the years that I just couldn't see clearly anymore.”

GUILT: Quote from  CrazyNoMore, “By the time I was in high school, my home situation had pretty much isolated me, and even then, the very few invitations I would receive to attend a party, go roller skating, go see a movie, I felt obligated to decline because I didn't want to risk the fallout at home. The very few times I went, there was hell to pay later with either a raging inquisition or a never-ending list of chores that needed to be done "now that you've spent your time having fun."  
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2008, 02:32:30 PM »

I know the official definition of F.O.G. here on the board is fear, obligation and guilt.  And yet, all three of those things are good things in the right context.  I.E. - we fear doing something harmful to our family, we feel obligated to work on our relationships, we feel guilty if we have unfaithful thoughts or actually are unfaithful.  All of that is good.  

I think the definition of F.O.G. may even change for us at different stages of our relationship or depending upon the severity of the BPD's condition. 

For me, F.O.G. was when I thought I could somehow make our relationship into a healthy one if I said the right thing, did the right thing, responded the right way etc. etc. etc.  Then I realized how little power I actually had to "fix" things and it was liberating.  It made me feel like I was in the "bright sunlight" again so to speak.  It doesn't mean I don't care - doesn't mean I don't try to use the same consideration and kindnesses and even "customization" in my interactions with my husband as I would with every other person I have interactions with - just means I really don't want to go back to analyzing and agonizing over every interaction I have with him. 
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2008, 09:39:31 PM »

What is my FOG?  I fear the divorce process.  I fear the trashing that will I will get in my social life, the trashing that I will likely get at work and the trashing I will get with the kids.  I fear that I will have to change jobs and move out of state.  I fear that I will lose lots and she will stay in my life harassing me.  I fear letting go of my dream.

I struggle with a sense of obligation to take care of the kids and her before I take care of myself.  Guilt eats at me when I don’t take care of them before myself.  Guilt eats me up when I let myself down and put others first. 

This hero crap has really got to go.  Being pissed off helps.  It pisses me off that we would have a pretty nice life if she would just act half way normal. There is not a reason in the world that I should have to put up with this sort of crap. I am not wanting all that much.  The task ahead of me to let go of the anger and stay just as fed up.   But then again, the anger helps to burn off the FOG.
 
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2008, 09:46:52 AM »

Quote
I fear the divorce process.  I fear the trashing that will I will get in my social life, the trashing that I will likely get at work and the trashing I will get with the kids.  I fear that I will have to change jobs and move out of state.  I fear that I will lose lots and she will stay in my life harassing me.  I fear letting go of my dream.

Ok, add all of those to my list too.  I couldn't agree more.  Sometimes it just seems easier to stay and work with it and try not to believe that all my hopes and dreams we had planned for the future can never be.  I really need to get out of this FOG and and try to remember the things I feel passionate about about do them again.  But that FOG sneaks up on you, sometimes in the middle of the night, like a thief, and you just hope and pray the sun can somehow break thru and burn it off.

I am so terrified that he will do something stupid again and our marriage will be damaged beyond repair . . .  My love for him will be damaged beyond repair.
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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2008, 10:11:17 AM »

I know the official definition of F.O.G. here on the board is fear, obligation and guilt.  And yet, all three of those things are good things in the right context.  I.E. - we fear doing something harmful to our family, we feel obligated to work on our relationships, we feel guilty if we have unfaithful thoughts or actually are unfaithful.  All of that is good.  


Her point is pretty much your point - that these are normal, often helpful, feelings - so we trust them.  And this can be debilitating if we can't recognize when we are caught in a cycle with our partner.
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2008, 04:10:10 PM »

Quote
Her point is pretty much your point - that these are normal, often helpful, feelings - so we trust them.  And this can be debilitating if we can't recognize when we are caught in a cycle with our partner.

Very interesting elaboration Skip - something so important for all of us to remember!
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2008, 01:37:25 PM »

For me it was fear - mostly of failure, of failing at a second marriage...of failing to provide a stable father figure for my kids...fear of being alone again...and yes, some fear of his volatile behavior.

Obligation and guilt - mostly based around the same reasons above...I had put so much work into this marriage, I felt obligated to see it through...obligated to somehow take care of this man who could not seemingly do so for himself...guilty that I couldn't hold it all together, guilty that my kids were hurt by all of it...guilty for giving up on the marriage...and him.

All of it is much more about us and our feelings than it is about the BPD in our lives, and only we can shine enough light to see through that FOG...

See because if I could have seen that for me the light was choosing me and my kids first...that by not choosing I was failing, failing them, failing myself...turning and choosing a different perspective and seeing that by doing so I could see that light...

This was really helpful

Quote
Change Your Response, Change Your Life

To change, we have to alter the way we respond. We need to act.

  • Understand what is happening? There are different levels of demands:

        The demand that is no big deal.
        The demand that involves important issues, and your integrity is on the line.
        The demand that involves a major life issues, and/or by giving in would be harmful to you or others.

  • Understand what you are thinking and feeling? What are your triggers, distortions?

  • When you make decisions based on criteria that are your own rather than the controllers, you have dealt a crippling blow to the control cycle. There are a number of ways to address controlling relationships.


http://bpdfamily.com/content/emotional-blackmail-fear-obligation-and-guilt-fog
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2008, 03:57:50 PM »

I thought the term FOG was originated by Beverly Engel in her book "Emotional Blackmail." I used it in Stop Walking on Eggshells. When I see people use it, I like them to know that.

Here is what I write about FOG in my new book, the Essential Family Guide to BPD." This i s from my files, so there is extra stuff you can ignore. Sorry, the formatting isn't all that great, either.

Steering Clear of the FOG
In chapter 8, Uncover What Keeps You Feeling Stuck, we discussed FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) in the context of the relationship. FOG also comes up like little wisps of smoke during limit-setting conversations. If you don’t prepare for it, it can blur your vision and make it hard to see and remember what you want and need. The next few pages will show you how to prevent FOG from sabotaging your convictions about the limits you must set to make this relationship work (or make your living situation bearable).

Fear of Losing the Relationship
There are many different kinds of fears. Most of them can be approached using the Carnegie problem-solving methods described in chapter 7, page XX. The fear we will deal with here is fear of losing the relationship.

Members of Welcome to Oz say that underneath the disorder, their loved one is a great person. Common adjectives members use to describe their BP include bright, funny, compassionate, loving, and beautiful. It’s very hard to accept that their loved one’s borderline behaviors aren’t isolated anomalies, but a central part of who he is.
To keep themselves safe from their loved one’s erratic and often abusive behaviors, family members give in on issues they actually feel strongly about. The BP’s emotional blow-up acts as a punishment; the non-BP giving in to prevent the punishment acts as a powerful reward. Over time, non-BPs have let their limits slide so far they can no longer be seen with the naked eye.
 
Psychotherapist Beverly Engel, a recognized expert in the field of relationships, explains how limits disappear. She says:

Most of us begin a relationship thinking we have certain limits as to what we will and will not tolerate from a partner. But as the relationship progresses, we tend to move our boundaries back, tolerating more and more intrusion or going along with things we are really opposed to. . . . [Individuals] begin tolerating unacceptable and even abusive behavior, and then convince themselves that these behaviors are normal, acceptable, [and deserved].[5]

Maura, like many non-BPs, is boxed in. She knows just what will happen if she makes any demands on her boyfriend, Fred. When she says she needs time alone or time with her friends, he says he’ll leave her. Not only leave her, but make her life miserable by spreading rumors and lies about her to their friends. Her family and friends tell her the relationship isn’t healthy and that Fred has problems. But she is terribly afraid of losing Fred and wishes that others could see what a wonderful person he is underneath it all. If she can just settle Fred down, get him not to make waves, things will be fine.

Signs of abuse include dictating how others should live; isolating them from family and friends; controlling money or other resources; blaming those they mistreat for the mistreatment; being overly jealous and possessive; or pushing, grabbing, hitting, kicking, punching, or throwing objects.

If this describes your family member, you may think that by remaining silent, you are “helping” this person or “saving” the relationship. This is untrue. Both of you need help immediately from experienced mental health professionals. Call someone who cares about you or a domestic violence hotline. Men and parents can be abused too. If you don’t seek help, the consequences could be tragic.

Obligation and Guilt
Yeardley just knows that her borderline sister is going to ruin her wedding. “You have to ask your sister to be your maid of honor,” their mother insisted. Yeardley had wanted her best friend in that role, but she gave in to her mother’s wishes. It’s been like this her whole life—she always receives love and praise from her parents when she “does her duty” by her sister.
Author Suzanne Robert writes about boundaries and families on her Web site about aging parents: suzanneroberts.net. She points out that we rarely consider setting boundaries with our families for two reasons: self-induced guilt (“He’s my family. I can’t say that.”) and the external fear of what people will think. Roberts believes that we have not only the right but also the responsibility to “allow our family members to be subject to the same criteria as anyone else on this planet,” even if we appear selfish. It is not selfish, she says, to take care of yourself. A person with no boundaries, who functions with knee-jerk reactions to every demand, is too tired, angry, and resentful to be kind and loving, she points out.
Feelings of guilt and obligation are common when they set limits, say members of WTO. Here are some examples:

•   “She said my limits about having my own money meant I didn’t love her or take our marriage seriously.”
•   “She said, ‘How can you do this to your own mother? What kind of a son are you?’”
•   “She accused me of being like her terrible ex-husbands.”

Fear, obligation, and guilt—or FOG, a term coined by Susan Forward in her excellent book Emotional Blackmail —is “penetrating, disorienting, and obscures everything but the pounding discomfort it produces.” Forward says pressure is so uncomfortable, we give in as quickly and as automatically as we would put our hands over our ears when a siren shrieks past.[6]

Once the FOG button works, BPs will press it again and again. One WTO member summed up this dynamic beautifully: “When I try to set limits, my BP keeps at me until I give up, even if it takes hours. It is much easier to give in within the first thirty seconds.”

Forward says that one of the most powerful techniques people can use to cut through the FOG is to say, “I CAN STAND IT” [caps in the original] repeatedly. This puts a new message into the conscious and unconscious mind. When thinking about taking steps to end the blackmail, breathe deeply and say, “I can stand it” at least ten times. The rewards are worth enduring someone getting upset. At a minimum, the rewards are increased self-confidence and a sense of mastery over life.[7]

FOG, however, is just one aspect of what keeps people stuck in relationships. There are other reasons. In the book, I talk about these other reasons:

•   unhealthy bonds forged by emotional abuse (Stockholm Syndrome)
•   feelings of fear
•   obligation, roles, and duty
•   guilt mingled with shame
•   low self-esteem
•   the need to “rescue”
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Author, The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder, Stop Walking on Eggshells, and the SWOE Workbook. Coauthor, Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2009, 10:13:44 AM »

Great Workshop topic!

I think it's important to remember that most with bpd are not intentionally engaging in emotional blackmail.  Their brains work differently from the non and they actually believe that the non (or others) are hurting them... that the non "should" do whatever or is responsible for whatever.  That's why trying to talk about the emotional blackmail won't work.  

If you are still with the partner or still in touch with the family member and you want to work through the Fear Obligation and Guilt, you may want to check out Lessons for members who are staying in their relationships.  If you are out of the relationship or in limited/no contact with the family member, but you are still being psychologically hammered by your own FOG, it's important to remember that you are doing this to yourself...  

P.S. Beverly Engel's book was published after Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You
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