The acronym FOG—Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.
I have loved fog since I was a child, my favorite weather phenomenon by far. What I find so alluring and mysterious about fog is what’s UNSEEN. That’s precisely why I find this the perfect acronym for these complex and often confusing emotions.
We don’t know what’s happening around us until the sun burns away what’s obscured from our vision and then we’re able to gain more clarity.
Fear is a mental process that that triggers a physical response in humans when confronted by a threat.
Obligation comes from an innate sense of community responsibility. We are born with an instinctive sense of obligation to those around us.
Guilt comes from the same root as obligation. Most of us feel guilt when we do something that we think hurts others or disappoints of others.
“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.”
Source: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
When someone is trapped in the FOG of an unhealthy relationship, a common method of control is the use of gaslighting.
Gaslighting deploys often repeated phrases and makes us doubt our own beliefs, even when there’s overwhelming and well-documented information to the contrary.
Here’s an example of gaslighting: The world-wide virus, Covid19 is a Hoax, a Plandemic designed to make this administration look bad before the 2020 election.
This can’t possibly be true—173,000 people in America have died so far from the virus and 1000 Americans are dying every day. Being told repeatedly that the US is managing the virus better than most other countries is false, often repeated, and done deliberately to make people doubt the well-documented reality that the virus is ravaging our nation on so many levels. There were protocols in place for how to manage a likely pandemic. They have been ignored by the Trump administration.
NOTE: Eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States during the 2014-2016 epidemic. https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/2014-2016-outbreak/index.html
Clearing away the FOG will allow more visibility into the reality of your relationships and how they may be affecting your health and quality of life. No one should live in a constant state of FEAR, OBLIGATION, and GUILT.
If you find yourself in a challenging relationship of any kind, the OUT of the FOG website provides very help information. There are tips about how to take care of yourself, respond with compassion to difficult circumstances, put appropriate (and loving) boundaries in place, and when to seek professional guidance to navigate turbulent emotional waters.
Merriam Webster is the source for all definitions.