One of the most common ways that narcissists maintain power and control over the people that they abuse is by making them feel guilty.

Ten of the most common tactics that narcissists use to make you feel guilty are blame-shifting, trivializing your feelings, invalidating your experiences, gaslighting, playing the victim, withholding affection and love as a punishment, bringing up the past, guilt-tripping, the silent treatment, and projection.

This article is going to guide you through each one of these tactics so that you can grasp a better understanding of how the narcissist in your life makes you feel guilty.

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Blame-Shifting

The first tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is blame-shifting.

The term “blame-shifting” refers to a manipulation tactic that occurs when a narcissist redirects blame or responsibility from themselves to another person. 

For example, imagine that you are in a narcissistic marriage.

You and your narcissistic spouse get into an argument about household chores.

You tell your narcissistic spouse, “I feel like I have been doing everything around here and I am starting to feel overwhelmed.”

They respond by saying, “You’re always making things about you. If you weren’t so lazy, you wouldn’t be so stressed.”

A narcissist blaming shifting to make someone feel guilty.

This would be considered blame-shifting because instead of taking responsibility for dropping the ball on their household responsibilities, your narcissistic spouse shifts the blame to you and says things that make you feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed.

If you didn’t realize that they were blame-shifting, you would likely accept the things that they were saying, begin to feel guilty, and question your own feelings, even though the problem lies with your spouse’s lack of effort in helping with the chores.

Our healing platform offers valuable resources to help you understand and recognize blame-shifting tactics used by narcissists.

By accessing video lessons, expert advice, and a supportive community, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself from this manipulation tactic.

Trivializing Your Feelings

The second tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is trivializing your feelings. 

The phrase “trivializing your feelings” refers to the act of belittling, disregarding, or making light of feelings.

For example, imagine that you said to the narcissist in your life, “I feel really hurt and upset that you canceled our plans without telling me.”

Then they responded with, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? It’s just a simple cancellation. Don’t be so sensitive.” 

A narcissist trivializing someone's feelings.

This would be considered trivializing your feelings and it is actually a form of gaslighting, a tactic we will speak about later on in this article. 

You see, in the example you just read the narcissist is trivializing your feelings by downplaying the impact of their actions and making you feel like your feelings are unjustified or excessive.

If you didn’t know that the narcissist in your life was trivializing your feelings, an interaction like this could make you feel guilty for having those feelings.

To support your healing journey, our healing platform provides comprehensive resources that explore the ins and outs of trivializing and gaslighting.

Through expert-led lessons and a compassionate community, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of these tactics and learn how to counteract them.

Invalidating Your Experiences

The third tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is invalidating your experiences. 

The phrase “invalidating your experiences” means denying or dismissing the validity of someone’s emotions, thoughts, or experiences.

For example, imagine that you tell the narcissist in your life, “I had a really rough day at work today. My boss was yelling at me for something that wasn’t even my fault.”

They respond with, “Oh come on, it can’t have been that bad. You’re always exaggerating things.”

You follow this up with, “I’m not exaggerating, it was really difficult for me.”

The narcissist says, “You’re always making things into a big deal. It’s just a job, why are you getting so worked up about it?

A narcissist trying to invalidate someone's feelings.

To which you respond, “I just needed to vent about it and it feels like you’re not even listening to me.”

Then the narcissist ends the conversation by saying, “I am listening, I just don’t see why you’re getting so upset. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

This would be considered invalidating your experiences because the narcissist in your life is not acknowledging your feelings and making it seem like you are overreacting.

If you didn’t know that this was happening, it could manipulate you into feeling guilty for expressing yourself. 

Our healing platform is designed to empower you with the knowledge and tools to recognize and counteract invalidation.

With access to expert guidance and a supportive community, you’ll be better prepared to navigate these challenges and regain your sense of self.

Gaslighting

The fourth tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when a narcissist says or does something that doubts or denies reality. 

It often manipulates those being gaslighted into questioning their own memories, sanity, and perception of reality.

A simple example of gaslighting being used to make someone feel guilty could be the following: 

John, a narcissistic man, had an argument with his girlfriend about a recent purchase that he made with her money without her consent.

She brought up the issue and expressed her anger with John’s financially abusive behavior.

However, instead of taking responsibility for his actions and apologizing, John shifted the blame to her.

He told her she was being overly sensitive and that the purchase was not a big deal.

A narcissist telling someone that they are big too sensitive.

Over the next few days, John made sure to constantly remind his girlfriend of how she was wrong and how he was right.

He even started bringing up other past disagreements they had had and twisted her words to make it seem like she was the one being unreasonable. 

Because of this, John’s girlfriend started to doubt her own memory and began to feel guilty for causing an argument.

The healing platform offers resources to help you identify and cope with gaslighting, a particularly damaging manipulation tactic.

Through our expert-led lessons and supportive community, you’ll gain the tools you need to protect yourself from this form of manipulation.

Here’s Your Free Guide:

Did you know that there are six different types of gaslighting that narcissists use? If not, click here to download our free guide to all six of them.

Playing the Victim

The fifth tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is playing the victim, which is also known as self-victimization. 

When we say, “playing the victim” we are referring to a narcissist’s tendency to cast themselves in the role of a victim. 

A simple example of this could be a narcissistic woman named Sarah belittling and criticizing her brother.

Despite this, Sarah always paints herself as the victim, saying things like “You’re always making me feel bad” or “I just can’t handle the constant criticism from you.” 

This self-victimization, combined with the other manipulation tactics that narcissists frequently use, manipulates Sarah’s brother into feeling guilty and taking the blame for the problems in the relationship, even though Sarah’s behavior is the root cause. 

Because Sarah’s brother doesn’t know that he is being manipulated, Sarah is able to continue to play the victim, which makes her brother feel even more guilty. 

Our healing platform is committed to helping you recognize and counteract the victim-playing tactics used by narcissists.

By accessing resources like therapist-led lessons and connecting with a community of survivors, you’ll be better equipped to handle this form of manipulation.

Withholding Affection or Love as a Punishment

The sixth tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is withholding affection or love as a punishment.

What this means is that the narcissist in your life denies you of the affection or love they normally give, as a form of control or punishment

For example, imagine that you are in a relationship with a narcissist. 

One day, your narcissistic partner gets angry with you because you didn’t do something that they wanted you to do.

A narcissist withholding affection and love.

Because of this, your narcissistic partner decides to punish you by withholding affection and love and acts distant and cold towards you the next day.

They make sure not to give you any physical affection or verbal affirmations of love. 

This makes you feel guilty for not doing what they wanted and you become worried that you are losing their love. 

The healing platform offers resources to help you understand and cope with the tactic of withholding affection or love as a punishment.

With expert guidance and a supportive community, you’ll be able to identify and protect yourself from this harmful manipulation tactic.

Bringing Up Past Mistakes That You’ve Made

The seventh tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is bringing up past mistakes that you have made.

For example, imagine that you have a narcissistic parent who is trying to make you feel guilty. 

They could do this by saying something like, “Remember that time you broke the vase when you were 8? You still haven’t learned how to be careful. How many times do I have to remind you? You’re always causing problems for everyone else.”

Over time, being in a manipulative environment where you are constantly being reminded of your past mistakes can manipulate you into feeling guilty.

Our healing platform provides insightful resources to help you understand why narcissists bring up past mistakes and how to cope with this manipulation tactic.

By engaging with expert-led lessons and a compassionate community, you’ll gain the knowledge and support you need to handle these challenges.

Recommended Article:

Our article Why Do Narcissists Bring up the Past? (4 Insightful Reasons)” has a ton of information that will help you understand the reason that narcissists bring up the past.

Guilt-Tripping

The eighth tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is guilt-tripping.

The term “guilt-tripping” refers to the act of making someone feel guilty, ashamed, or responsible for something.

Generally speaking, narcissists use guilt-tripping to manipulate you or make you feel obliged to do what you want.

Imagine that you work at a company and have a narcissistic manager.

The company has strict rules about requesting time off so when your daughter’s dance recital comes up, you make sure to submit your request months in advance. 

Your narcissistic manager accepts your request but a week before you are scheduled to take time off, they say, “I can’t believe you’re leaving us like this. Don’t you care about the team? We are counting on you.” 

A narcissist trying to guilt-trip someone.

This is guilt-tripping. 

If you didn’t know that you were being manipulated, an interaction like this could manipulate you into feeling guilty for taking time off even though you have a right to.

To support your healing journey, our healing platform offers resources that delve into guilt-tripping, a common manipulation tactic used by narcissists.

Through expert advice and a supportive community, you’ll gain the tools you need to identify and counteract guilt-tripping tactics.

The Silent Treatment

The ninth tactic that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is the silent treatment. 

Silent treatment is the refusal to communicate verbally and electronically with someone who is trying to communicate and elicit a response. 

For example, Justin, a narcissistic man, and Rachel have been in a relationship for four years.

One day, Rachel finds out that Justin has been lying about some financial issues. 

When she confronts him about it, Justin becomes incredibly defensive, leaves the house, and stops responding to her. 

Rachel tries to get in touch with Justin but he continues to ignore her calls and texts.

Days go by and Justin is still refusing to speak to Rachel. 

This is the silent treatment and it leaves Rachel feeling confused and guilty about the situation because she feels like she has done something wrong that drove Justin away.

Recommended Article:

Our article How to Respond to a Narcissist’s Silent Treatment (3 Methods) will help you protect yourself when a narcissist gives you the silent treatment.

Projection

The last tactic that we will speak about that a narcissist could use to make you feel guilty is projection. 

Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes a part of their identity that they find unacceptable and places it onto someone else.

For example, imagine that you are in a narcissistic relationship.

Your narcissistic partner has a habit of constantly accusing you of cheating, even though you have always been faithful to them.

A narcissist accusing someone of cheating.

What is really going on here is that your narcissistic partner is the one being unfaithful but they can’t accept that their own behavior is the problem so they project the blame onto you.

Over time, this makes you feel guilty and you start questioning your own behavior even though you have done nothing wrong. 

Projection allows narcissists to find ways to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and it often leaves the people around them feeling guilty because of it.

Our healing platform is designed to help you understand and cope with projection, a common tactic used by narcissists to manipulate the people that they abuse.

By accessing expert advice, lessons, and a supportive community, you’ll gain the tools you need to protect yourself from projection and other forms of manipulation.

Recommended Article:

Our article Why Do Narcissists Use Projection? will help you grasp a better understanding of the reason that narcissists use projection.


About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

About This Article

We used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create parts of this article to enhance its accuracy and readability. It underwent a strict human editorial process before being published. See additional information.

References:

Rudinow, Joel. “Manipulation.” Ethics 88.4 (1978): 338-347.

Howard, Vickie. “Recognising narcissistic abuse and the implications for mental health nursing practice.” Issues in mental health nursing (2019).

2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I do believe I’m the daughter of (at very least) a narcissistic mother, and I wasn’t sure if something she had said was a form of manipulation. It sure is. The victim blaming section cleared it up. I have always internalized things because of how she’s spoken to me throughout my life and continues to. Thank you so much!

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