Stoicism, An Antidote To Blackmail

August 9, 2018

I have unfortunately been blackmailed more than once. It is a very strange experience and one that affects you down to your core. It is essentially the purest form of bullying. It is an opportunity taken by an individual(s) who believe they hold some leverage over you. Leverage that can be used to benefit them at your personal expense. It is the perceived knowledge of something that they believe can be used to manipulate your actions on the basis of exposing something that would hurt you; either personally, professionally or sometimes both. I have experienced people subtly blackmail me, to an extent that I only acknowledged that I had been blackmailed months after the event, and people who have left me in no doubt as to their intentions. 

 

Blackmail is the act of a coward; it is an act that exposes everything you need to know about the character of the blackmailer. They expect the victim to behave as they would do under such circumstances; as a coward. It goes without saying that when faced with such a situation that it is vital to stand your ground. Rather than buckle and let them take control of your life you must take comfort in the knowledge that you can fall back on that great natural forcefield, the truth. There is a saying that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and it is a saying that I believe should be repeated as often and frequently as possible. We are all imperfect and make mistakes and so we are all able to forgive or empathize with others when they make mistakes so long as they are honest. Things go wrong, however, when we are not honest with ourselves and others in those moments.it is that dishonesty that is less forgivable and it is that weakness that blackmailers hope to exploit.

 

When faced with the deliberate malice and cowardice of blackmail it is so important to be mentally strong; to embrace the natural fight reaction and reject the natural flight reaction. This is no easy task, but the lessons we can all learn from the philosophy of Stoicism make a seemingly impossible situation become manageable. Stoicism is a Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Cilium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy that hides weakness and demonstrates calm. The teachings of stoicism state that the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain. 

 

As simple as these ideas may seem, they are incredibly powerful and valuable. These teachings help us to recognize the strength in calm when faced with direct aggression and spite, as well as the power that can be garnered from accepting a situation rather than hoping to change the reality of what is happening. There can be no greater rebuttal to the act of blackmail than this interpretation of stoicism.

 

Sadly, more often than not, if you are unlucky enough to be blackmailed it will be most likely by someone that you know. They will hope to use their personal knowledge of you and your family and the things you hold dear to get you to bend to their will. This can be heartbreaking but again rather than reject the idea of it happening, it is simply important to accept it and to know that the actions of the protagonist(s) are unveiling their true character. There is an enormous power to that reality, especially when you realize that the situation is conversely a great opportunity to demonstrate your true colors as well. To demonstrate you have nothing to hide or fear and that you will not be craven or bullied into acting as they wish for fear of whatever damage they intend to do to you.

 

In short, if you ever find yourself blackmailed; never allow yourself to become the victim, accept the reality of the situation and see it as an opportunity to show your own qualities while exposing the weakness of your protagonists. This is made all the easier by embracing stoicism at times in your life when you have to look someone in the eye that wants to do you harm. 

 

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