Narcissists are very skilled at dictating your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. It helps them place themselves in a position of power from which they can control every aspect of your life. One of the most common ways that they will do this is through guilt.

To make you feel guilty, narcissists will use a variety of different manipulation tactics such as gaslighting, projection, self-victimization, hoovering, flying monkeys, narcissistic rage, stonewalling, discarding, baiting, and future faking.

In this article we are going to help you understand all of these tactics, give you examples of how narcissists use them to make you feel guilty from the lived experiences of our community members. Here (image below) is a technique that you can start using today to process and overcome the guilt that narcissists create!

10 Manipulation Tactics That Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty

As promised, this section is going to guide you through the different manipulation tactics that narcissists use to make you feel guilty. But before we get started, we’d like to share a quote with you from our friend  Dr. Daksha Hirani, a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma informed psychotherapy and narcissistic abuse recovery!

 Dr. Daksha Hirani, Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Trauma Informed Psychotherapy and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a very powerful manipulation tactic that occurs when someone says or does something that denies or makes you doubt your reality. Over time, gaslighting can force you to question your sanity and ability to conceptualize an accurate version of reality.

In total, there are six types of gaslighting. We have a detailed course that guides you through all six types over at the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform, but in this article we are going to focus on traditional, minimizing, and diversion gaslighting (definitions below), as they are the types that you are most likely to face when a narcissist is trying to make you feel guilty!

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I think my husband uses diversion gaslighting to make me feel guilty. A few months ago we went on vacation to Australia and during the trip, I got stun by a jellyfish. The beach lifeguards were worried that I got stung by a Irukandji jellyfish, look it up if you don’t know what they are but they can be life threatening, and wanted me to go to the hospital immediately. My husband, who was busy playing volleyball with some… lovely ladies a few years younger than me… was furious that I ‘ruined the day’ and belittled me for hours. One of the things that he said was ‘ You know Sandy, hundreds of thousands of people died from this pandemic, it would be nice if you weren’t so selfish all the damn time.’ At the time, I truly felt like he was right so I begged him to stay at the beach because of how guilty I felt. Of course, he insisted on coming and I think that was because he wanted to make it look like I ruined the day.” – Sandy

Projection

Projection is 1/10 defense mechanisms outlined by the work of Anna1 and Sigmund Freud2, that occurs when someone unconsciously takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto someone else. Narcissists have a lot of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions buried within themselves that they find unacceptable.

Since they are too emotionally incompetent to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage their internal environment, they often project them onto others to protect their emotional stability. In a short video (see below) we’ve put together a really good example of this dynamic so you can be sure you understand exactly what projection is!

Short Video: An Example of Projection!

Without a comprehensive grasp of what projection is, experiencing it can be incredibly destabilizing and cause you to feel guilty because you believe the narcissist’s projections to be true!

Self-Victimization

Self-victimization is casting oneself in the role of a victim. It is a very common manipulation tactic that narcissists, especially those with a covert personality, use to make others feel guilty.

It can be a destabilizing feeling to watch someone who has, or at one point had, so much power and control over you in such a fragile and vulnerable state, but it is important that you acknowledge and accept that you are not responsible for their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs if you are to prevent their self-victimization tactics from making you feel guilty!

Hoovering

Hoovering is a manipulation tactic that narcissists often use after their relationship with you has ended. It occurs when a narcissist says or does exactly what you need to hear or see to give the relationship that you once had with them another chance.

There are five different types of hoovering that you can learn all about over at the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform, but the two types of hoovering that a narcissist will use to make you feel guilty are Self-Victimization Hoovering and I Have Changed Hoovering.

Self-Victimization Hoovering is when an abuser says or does something to victimize themselves in the hopes that you will see their “struggle” and bend over backwards to rescue them. This type of hoovering triggers confusing thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as self-doubt, self-blame, guilt, shame, etc. 

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“After 46 years of marriage I finally found the courage to say enough is enough and divorce my narcissistic ex-husband. One of the ways that he tried to hoover me is by refusing to take his insulin. His refusal to take his insulin led to Diabetic Ketoacidosis, and he died 4 months after we got divorced. It took me years of reminding myself that his death is not my fault and that he was doing it to manipulate me to be able to look at myself in the mirror without breaking down.” – Ida

I Have Changed Hoovering is when an abuser says or does something to manipulate you into believing that they have changed and are now capable of maintaining a healthy relationship. This type of hoovering manipulates the person being abused into returning to the abusive relationship because they believe that the abuser has changed.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I had broken up with my narcissistic boyfriend in the summer of 2020 and a week before Christmas I got a text from a random number that said, ‘I miss you so much. I took everything you said seriously and started working on myself. I have been going to therapy for the past six months and I have changed so much. I see how I have been manipulating you into doing things that I want you to do and it makes me sick. I love you more than anything in this world, please give me another chance. – his name’ . His hoovering almost worked on me but thankfully my friend talked me out of going back to him.” – Ann

When a narcissist uses the I Have Changed Hoovering on you, it can make you feel guilty for not acknowledging that he/she has changed and giving them a second chance. If may make you feel selfish for having them do “all of that work to change” only for you to not accept it.

Flying Monkeys

A flying monkey is a person that a narcissist has manipulated into assisting them in the invalidation, devaluation, and degradation of you, or anyone else that they are abusing. A narcissist will recruit a flying monkey by spreading lies and gossip about the person they are abusing.

There are three types of flying monkeys that you should be aware of that we quickly define in a short video (see below) but it is very common for narcissists to use their flying monkeys to guilt you into doing exactly what they want, exactly when they want it.

A description of all the different types of flying monkeys
A description of all the different types of flying monkeys

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“When we got divorced, she turned my family into her mindless flying monkeys for the better part of a year. I’m not sure what she told them to turn them against me, but it had something to do with me being abusive. All lies, but they still believed her. At the time, I didn’t know that she had done this so when my family was coming at me talking about how abusive I was and how dumb I was for screwing up a good thing, it really got to me and made me feel guilty, ashamed, crazy, and alone.” – Oliver

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is an unpredictable, explosive, and unjustifiable response that narcissists have when they experience a narcissistic injury, also known as an ego injury. It can manifest in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect. 

We highly recommend that you check out our article What Happens During Narcissistic Rage? (Survey With 100 Survivors) for more information about this, but narcissistic rage is an incredibly dangerous abusive behavior that can start out as neglect and escalate to life threatening forms of physical abuse very quickly.

How can narcissistic rage make you feel guilty?

In our podcast episode with Janine Hayter, a psychodynamic, CBT therapist, and narcissistic abuse specialist, about how to stay safe from physical abuse (listen here) she touched on a really important point about physical abuse.

A Quote From a Mental Health Professional!

“…I would split physical abuse down into five different stages. Normally a narcissistic partner, or an abusive parter, will start at the intimidation phase to install fear. This is bullying behavior, throwing things at you, throwing things at walls, getting in your face to intimidate you and make you feel afraid, punching things, but then telling you that you made them do this. That you triggered them, you pressed their buttons…”

Janine is spot on here and we highly suggest that you go listen to that podcast as soon as possible as there is a lot of other important information that she shared.

What we want to take away from her episode is the gaslighting element she was speaking about (i.e. "...but then telling you that you made them do this. That you triggered them, you pressed their buttons...")

When a narcissist goes into a rage and then turns around and blames you for their actions, there’s a high probability that it will cause you to feel guilty because you believe what they are saying to be true. Abuse is never your fault and you should never allow someone to make you feel guilty for their abusive, and sometimes violent, behavior.

Suggested Reading!

In our article How to Know if a Narcissist Will Kill You (16 Signs to Keep You Safe) there’s a lot of really important information that you need to know if you have a narcissist in your life!

Stonewalling

The term “stonewalling” refers to a situation where a narcissist refuses to participate in the communication and connection of the relationship. Gaslighting, the silent treatment, and intimacy avoidance are the three most common forms of stonewalling that those experiencing narcissistic abuse face.

We have touched on gaslighting in a previous section and you can learn more about intimacy avoidance in our articles Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy and Are Narcissists Scared of Commitment, but in this section we want to focus on how narcissist make you feel guilty through the silent treatment!

The silent treatment is an emotionally incompetent form of communication that narcissists use to express their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. It usually occurs when they feel like their grandiose self-perception is being contradicted.

If you were to tell a narcissist, "Stop acting like you are better than everyone else because you are not." this would contradict their grandiose sense of self-importance and belief that they are special and unique. They could very well clam up and give you the silent treatment to punish you for your honesty, and regain a sense of power and control of  their surrounding environment.

If you were to experience the silent treatment without knowing what it was, their silence could gaslight you into doubting yourself and even feeling guilty.

It is important to remember that narcissists purposely give you the silent treatment to prevent you from expressing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. Don’t allow their immaturity and emotional incompetence make you doubt yourself and feel guilty!

Discarding

Discarding is when the narcissist ends the relationship that they have with you. When a narcissist discards you, they often do so to reassure themselves that they are still in power and control of their surrounding environment.

Discarding is a highly manipulative tactic that narcissists use and it can often result in those being discarded experiencing a tremendous amount of guilt. Here is a quote from one of our community members to explain this further.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“A few months before my relationship with my ex ended, we had a huge argument about getting married. We had been engaged for 3 years and I just felt like he was stringing me along. In the argument, I told him ‘you are a narcissist, nobody is going to want to spend their life with someone who puts others down to feel good about themselves.’ That came back to bite me in the a** because six months after he discarded me, he was getting married to another woman and posting all over Facebook how happy they were. There were so many emotions flying at me at once but guilt was one of the strongest ones. I couldn’t understand how they looked so happy so I felt guilty for letting go of someone so ‘special’… now I know it was just love bombing since they got divorced a year later!”Carrie

Baiting

Baiting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when a narcissist says or does something manipulative to get you to engage with them in a negative interaction. If you engage, one of the things that they will do is twist the narrative to portray you in a negative light and make you feel guilty.

Baiting is another one of those manipulation tactics with many different variations, six to be exact. In the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform there are courses that teach you about all six types and how to protect yourself from them, but here we are going to focus on it in a more general sense.

Regardless of the type of baiting you come across, the outcome is almost always the same if you don't know how to protect yourself from it. You engage in a negative interaction with the narcissist, they twist the narrative to portray you in a negative light, and you end up looking like the bad guy.

In a short video (see below) we have an example of Public Baiting, and how it can make someone feel guilty for their response.

Short Video: An Example of Public Baiting

Future Faking

When a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present, it is known as future faking. If a narcissist were to suspect that you were going to end the relationship, they could use future faking to make you feel guilty and prevent you from ending the relationship.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“A few weeks after I ended the relationship, she reached out to me and asked for us to meet at a local coffee shop and talk one last time. I foolishly agreed and ended up getting guilt-tripped through future faking back into the relationship. She fed me an elaborate future fake about how she had a dream of us having kids someday and how happy it made her feel. She kept just telling me everything that I wanted to hear and it made me feel incredibly guilty for ‘abandoning’ someone who was so committed to me. We got back together and lasted about 8 months before I realized the mistake I made and left again.” – Tarn

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

There are a ton of different manipulation tactics that narcissists use to make you feel guilty, but you have to try your best to push back against them if you are to protect yourself and heal from narcissistic abuse!

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

[1]Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

[2]Sigmund Freud’s Life and Contributions to Psychology