What is emotional terrorism? Simply put, it is a term I coined to define passive-aggressive actions and behavior that attempt to destroy all aspects of the victim’s life and well-being. Emotional terrorism can be preempted by one individual; however, it will usually grow to encompass a group or groupthink. The mental distress, physical ailments resulting from distress, and tangible effects of such psychological and physical distresses are manifestations of emotional terrorism. Examples of such tangible evidence resulting from emotional terrorism: doctor bills; loss of income, friends/support group, and professional growth/job; slander in familial, personal and professional circles; physical signs of stress (aging, sickness, etc.); psychological issues (PTSD, eating disorders, agoraphobia, paranoia, insomnia, etc.); fatal illness, and suicide.
Emotional terrorism is effective, systematic and long-term psychological bullying. It is manipulation at the grand end of the scale, where the manipulation is condoned by the certain cult, group or society of the victim. The manipulation of emotional terrorism is ubiquitous. The targeted individual of emotional terrorism may be of any age, class, sex, gender, creed and/or culture. There is not a one-size fits all description of a victim of emotional terrorism, just as there is not a one-size fits all prescription for the problem. The solution that works for one targeted victim may not work for another. Individuality and personality play a role in solving the ordeals of emotional terrorism, as does the nature of the harassing person or group of people sanctioning the emotional terrorism.
The “psychic vampire” definition has been used to describe emotional vampirism in more than one sense. One definition is of a supernatural, intangible nature. This definition of psychic vampirism is not the issue this essay addresses. The emotional vampirism – the unwanted attaching of the predator to the prey – can be a poetic way of describing emotional terrorism. This does not validate or invalidate a preternatural or numinous angle that may or may not exist. Regardless of how you identify psychic vampires, these people are mentally disturbed, and they are energized by the chaos they create. The victim does not ask or invite the unwanted, negative attention in the case of emotional terrorism. In fact, the victim tends to be an accomplished and capable person within his/her social and professional networks. Potential victims, be their “vampire” an emotional terrorist or a maladjusted creep, have only committed the misplacement of trust, friendship and charity in an emotional terrorist. Obviously, the victims of emotional terrorism are not masochistic in any form. Victims do not seek out the emotional anguish and repercussions – mental or otherwise – of such systemic and often public bullying that is emotional terrorism.
Emotional terrorism also differs from the new-age “psychic vampire” in the issue of extrovert verses introvert. Psychic vampirism doesn’t have to be hokey, supernatural, unseen actions. Psychological vampirism is as simple as an extroverted personality draining an introvert, much like a leech drains blood, as it is simply a parasitic relationship. Therefore, it is integral to the health of the introvert that he/she examines interpersonal relationships with extroverts. It is true that introverts make easier targets for the terrorists and vampires alike, but extroverts are targeted as well. Extroverts are affected keenly in group settings because they are group people – they crave social interaction. Whereas, introverts do not crave mass attention and interaction; the very security of their quietude makes them susceptible to the terrorist/vampire. Introverts, in their contemplative aloofness, haven’t the social press of an extrovert. This makes introverts much easier to slander with invented stories. It is unfortunate, yet true – if you are not around to tell your story, someone else will do it for you.
Tactics vary in combating emotional terrorism. Keeping it legal and official is preferable, as it is in the best interest of the victim. Staying on the correct side of legal authorities has the advantage of enabling victims to be blameless in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, many instances of straight-forward self-defense, such as honest, verbal retort, can be manipulated into making the victim appear to be the aggressor by the terrorizing agent. Public confrontations and condemnations of emotional terrorizing may seem at first the best path, and in some instances may be the best answer. However, the bully is often adept at the art of public manipulation, such as feigning innocence in the grandiose manner of crocodile tears and other sanctimonious displays. If the bully has the complete acquiescence and approval of a group, especially a group with societal resources such as a church or a political group, a public proclamation or confrontation will achieve absolutely nothing. The ubiquitous, pathological lies regarding the victim have entered the consciousness of the group. Thus, the adage: “Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth.”
Securing tangible evidence can be difficult due to the passive-aggressive nature of emotional terrorism. The evidence is often intangible: the tone of the bully’s voice; reading between the lines of seemingly benign letters; the hostile stares of the victim’s associates; the lurking gossip of the terrorizing clique/group; etc. Often, all the above will manifest in the form of something material, such as loss of a job. For victims with dependents, the emotional terrorism moves from indirectly to directly targeting those dependents (pets/fur-kids, spouse, children, property, aging parents).
This essay is a definition and description of emotional terrorism as an experience suffered by individuals from various circumstances. But what do you call the emotional terrorist? What could function as an appropriate and established term? My husband, being a physicist of German descent, brought this perfect devil of a word to my attention: schadenfreude. The person reveling in schadenfreude delights in another’s misfortune, deriving joy from suffering. They, your emotional terrorist(s), may not even be motivated by jealousy, greed or power…and that’s the scariest thing: Their motivation is the sadistic mental high they derive from the chaos, despair and destruction they rain on your life.