How the Narcissist Keeps You in a FOG

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Have you come across the term “FOG” when reading about narcissism?  FOG is an acronym that stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt.  Narcissists use FOG to keep their targets in a haze so they can’t see how the narcissist is using their emotions against them in order to make them doubt their own judgment and perceptions, thereby gaining complete control over them.

When the relationship comes to an end (as they always do with Narcissists) targets are left with lingering questions such as:  How did I not see what was happening?  How did I fall for his (or her) tricks?  How could I have been so blind?  How do I get out of this constant state of anxiety?  Why do I still love them?

What one needs to understand is that they were brainwashed by a skilled predator.  Consequently, they slowly began to operate from a state of semi-consciousness, only coming out of the coma when the relationship comes to its inevitable and debilitating end.

Let’s examine how the Narcissist keeps you living in a F.O.G.


Everyone has some sort of insecurity.  We all have regrets.  These feelings are part of the human condition.  When we enter into a relationship with a Narcissist, they shoot from both hips in order to ensure these emotions are perpetually triggered.

Remember all the questions they asked you in the beginning when you thought they were genuinely interested and concerned for you?  How you spilled your innermost secrets and they patted you on the shoulder with feigned empathy?  

What they were doing was noting what makes you uncomfortable and what pulls at your heartstrings.  Then, they weaponize those feelings.  This may include comments and actions such as:

  • “I knew you weren’t the right person for me.”
  • “So-and-so always did that for me and never complained.”
  • “You used to be so fit, what happened to you?”
  • “My co-worker (or Ex) thinks you look old”
  • Giving you the silent treatment and leaving you alone for a few days with no contact.
  • Talking about Exes or potential new partners “waiting in the wings” for them.
  • Making the comment that it would be sad if something happened to your pet.
  • Threatening to go to your employer with lies that would destroy your career.

Nothing is off limits to them, and everything they do is to trigger your fear of their leaving you.  If you don’t care about their opinion, they might threaten to hurt your children’s feelings.


Most of us were raised with the belief that we should put others’ needs before our own.  These beliefs were instilled in us by our parents, grandparents, society, the Church, and various forms of media.  Unfortunately, we often internalize the obligations we have towards others disproportionately, especially if we have codependent tendencies.  Narcissists use this fact to their advantage.

Narcissists blackmail us using our sense of obligation by giving the false impression that they are making huge sacrifices by being in a relationship with us.  This puts us in the position of believing we owe them.  If we’re married to them, they use our sense of obligation as a wife or husband to make us feel further indebted to them.  Some examples include:

  • “A good wife would ______.”
  • “The Bible says that a husband should always _____.”
  • “You should be willing to do anything for me regardless of whether it’s convenient or not.”
  • “I helped you out when you needed it, the least you could do is _____.”
  • “If you’re not going to help me, I guess I’ll just have to depend on _____.”
  • “You can’t let my affair ruin our marriage.  God tells us to turn the other cheek.”
  • “You have an obligation to this family to _____.”

While in the FOG, we fail to recognize that while the Narcissist wants our sense of duty to be all encompassing, they don’t hold themselves to the same standards.  Thus, they continue getting everything they want while giving nothing in return.  It’s also a great opportunity for blame-shifting, where they commit a heinous act, yet want us to believe it’s somehow our fault or that it’s our duty to forgive them since we are good people.

Don’t fall prey to any random act of kindness bestowed upon you by the Narcissist.  For example, they might give you a birthday gift, and then hold you accountable for something they want from you.  Especially if they typically don’t remember your birthday, much less give you a gift.  Understand that the Narcissist gives nothing without logging it in his or her mental ledger and figuring out ways to recoup their “contribution”.


Anyone with a conscience feels guilt.  This explains why we feel torn up while in a relationship with a Narcissist, while they seem oblivious to any harm that they do.  That’s because, in contrast to us, they have no conscience.  It’s also how they use our self-reproach to further their own selfish agendas.

Ever notice how the Narcissist takes a common, innocent action and turns it into something we should feel guilty about?  Did you buy a birthday gift for your nephew?  You’re a selfish b**ch because you knew he needed that money for _____.  Did you approach him for intimacy?  You’re a greedy slut who should be ashamed.  Did you go out to lunch with a same-sex colleague?  You were out showing off and trying to flirt with the wait staff.

Even if you didn’t do any harm, the Narcissist wants you to believe you did.  In this way, you normalize their unacceptable behaviors and give in to them just to experience temporary relief from the guilt.

All of the guilt that’s projected onto us by the narcissist is undeserved.  This feeling of guilt partly explains why we endlessly yearn for them after they discard us (or we leave them), because we feel so guilty, ashamed, and worthless that we truly believe no one would ever want us.  It’s all part of the systematic brainwashing they perform on us.  When they are through, our whole belief system has been reprogrammed.  They’ve succeeded in causing us to absorb the blame for everything, when all along they were the guilty one.

You will never be in control of your self-esteem or your emotions as long as the Narcissist is in your life.  Even a seemingly innocent act or comment on their behalf comes with a high price.  There is a motive for every single thing they say and do.  Don’t let him or her warp your sense of self any longer.  Make the decision to leave, initiate no contact, and get out of there.  You were put on this earth to be happy, not someone’s slave and emotional punching bag.  Bring yourself out of the FOG and start the path to recovery.

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Narcissistic Recovery: The Shame – A Twist On Life says March 1, 2018

[…] to recognize it. It’s much easier to stay angry with myself and with him, to think I was in the FOG from the beginning, rather than admit that I once had genuine feelings for someone so […]

Feel Like You Were Brainwashed by the Narcissist? | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says November 4, 2014

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The Freedom Agenda – What Every Empath and Co-Dependent Needs to Know | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says August 20, 2014

[…] first need to acknowledge they are wounded.  Instead, Narcissists use fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG) to keep their targets perpetually catering to their every whim…and overlooking lies and broken […]

Torn 2 Peaces says February 13, 2014

Kim, I think therapists aren’t often able to even uncover let alone expose the alienating parent’s psychological tactics in the short time they get to see their client(s). I hope teachers & neighbors will read your posts so they can intervene when they recognize this type of abuse because a dog & pony show is harder to keep up under continual observation. Teens are very vulnerable & that’s when alienating fathers get into their head — sometimes after being estranged & sometimes after the child having been groomed.

Anonymous says February 10, 2014

So much in this article that I experienced. Wow.

Lee says February 10, 2014

Hi Kim,

Thanks for a great piece. Narcissists live in a fog of falsity. They surround themselves with this fog, blanketing everyone in their vicinity, and even shrouding their own minds in a fog of lies and deception so thick that it can rarely, if ever, be penetrated.

Narcissism, or exclusive self-love accompanied by a desire to dominate and control others, is the evil at the root of the worst evils of humankind. It has an unholy marriage with falsity and deception, which it uses to justify itself and to carry out its desire to control and abuse others.

I analyzed this twisted “marriage” of evil and deception in a long and rather unpleasant piece written a year ago, after my wife and I watched the movie “Compliance.” The post has become popular on my blog due to the “strip search prank calls” theme. I hope at least some of the people attracted to it that way actually read the article and have their eyes opened about sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Here is a link to the article, which you and your readers may find helpful in further understanding the fog of the narcissist:

Strip Search Prank Calls, Domestic Violence: Evil Loves Deception

martynblair says February 10, 2014

Reblogged this on Martyn Blair and commented:
This is a well written, readable blog about living or relating to people with Narcististic traits. Some of the traits I believe are in us all, its about the level and number of traits. The important message I hear, is how difficult it is to live with a Narcissist, that grasping for understanding of what is happening in the FOG.

    Kim Saeed says February 23, 2014

    Thank you for re-blogging my post, Martyn! What an honor 🙂

Torn 2 Peaces says February 9, 2014

These tactics are used in Parental Alienation (read Heather Kent’s story how her father alienated her from her mother & accounts by other adult child victims of Parental Alienation). How I wish I could have read this article decades ago! You are so right, unfortunately, about this cruel reality.

    Kim Saeed says February 9, 2014

    Thank you for the reblog 🙂

    I am sorry for anyone who loses the love of their children due to these twisted people. I think my Ex has tried to do this with my 4 yr-old. Are they ever exposed for their actions from what you’ve read?

      Hurt 2 Long says February 10, 2014

      My ex-narc twisted & manipulated our 15 yr old daughter severely! Thank goodness she was finally able to see him for the monster he is!!!

        Kim Saeed says February 10, 2014

        Dear Hurt,

        Our children usually do see them for what they are, eventually.

        But in between, it’s very hard to deal with.

        Blessings to you and your situation.

Fellow Survivor says February 9, 2014


If I was to relate every instance where all of this was true in that old relationship it would take up to much space on your blog. Lets just say I know what you are taking about. One statement she said truly revealed her character or lack thereof. I was trying to make a point that her actions, choices and behavior towards me just wasn’t workin for my so much and she said

“You’ll never leave daughter” That one statement encompasses all three tools; fear, obligation, and guilt

Torn 2 Peaces says February 9, 2014

Reblogged this on Moms' Hearts Unsilenced and commented:
Same tactics used in Parental Alienation.

Lynette d'Arty-Cross says February 6, 2014

Very true – excellent post! 🙂

    Kim Saeed says February 7, 2014

    Thanks! 🙂

StrongerSoulSurvivor says February 6, 2014

An insightful post, Kim.

My abuser regularly reminded me how much he gave up for me, and what he risked by being with me. In his mind, I was ‘obliged’ therefore, to stick with him no matter what he did to me.

Every time I returned to him, he told me I was wrong for leaving – and he’d never forgive me! He was/ is a master of emotional blackmail.

Amazing how textbook these men are!

    Kim Saeed says February 23, 2014

    Ugghh! I heard that so often from the Ex, “I’ll never forgive you!” It was a daily thing until I finally had to get a restraining order because of his stalking.

    Of course, this statement was always weaved in with his hoovering and flirting. I guess they don’t see how they contradict themselves.

    Anonymous says October 5, 2015

    And women too..

navigator1965 says February 6, 2014

Excellent post, Kim. My narcissistic ex-wife was a master of constantly using guilting techniques as a means to project her own subconscious shame onto me.

When I tried to speak to her about it, she deflected the question with “You feel guilty of you didn’t have something to feel guilty about,” said with a laugh. Often said “half in jest,” always the humour poorly hid the barb.

Anna says February 6, 2014

Wow…this is all so true. My soon to be ex-N has guilt-tripped me throughout our entire marriage. He has deftly used my sense of duty and obligation to our family to keep me in this marriage way longer than I should’ve been.

secretangel says February 6, 2014

Awesome post. This is so true.

Teela Hart says February 6, 2014

I have been out of domestic violence for more than a year now and the fog continues to linger at times. Thanks for the information. Getting free after getting free is a process.

    Kim Saeed says February 6, 2014

    Gosh, don’t I know it. That would be an excellent title for an article!

      Teela Hart says February 6, 2014

      It’s yours…..can’t wait to read it.

        Kim Saeed says February 6, 2014

        Thanks! Coming soon to a blog near you 🙂

Sofia Leo says February 6, 2014

Reblogged this on I Won't Take It and commented:
“What we need to understand is that we were brainwashed by a skilled predator. At some point in the relationship, we knew we were unhappy. There was a constant feeling of unease but we failed to acknowledge it or give any power to it. Consequently, we slowly began to operate from a state of semi-consciousness, only coming out of the coma when the relationship came to a debilitating end.”
Exactly. This post is right on about how we get sucked in and why it takes so long to realize what we have become.

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