FOG Fear, Obligation Guilt

Emotional blackmail is one of the narcissists favourite forms of manipulation.  FOG stands for Fear, Obligation and Guilt, they use it to threaten either overtly or indirectly, to quietly punish you for non-compliance to their demands

  • Such as pretending to be sick
  • Using their own false/exaggerated fears to manipulate you to serve them
  • Weakness and vulnerability to make you take care of them


  • react with a totally inappropriate rage
  • Call in exaggerated favours that they have done for you in the past
  • Pull rank
  • Demean/call names
  • Tell you it is your duty

Remember that you are always dealing with a narcissists sense of entitlement emotional blackmail is the used because they are unwilling or unable to make a direct request for what they want.  Why should they have to bother?  They are entitled to what they want anyway and a direct request would involve you doing them a favour (which to a narcissist means they would be in debt to you in some way).  They cannot negotiate either as that means relating to the other person and their situation and needs.  The narcissist is not interested in either, they just want what they want and they usually want it now!

Emotional blackmail in intangible, there is no logic to it and the leverage that they use will be something that you feel is instinctively wrong (gut feeling) but they will be so convinced that they are right and entitled that it is easy to think “if they are so certain maybe I am missing something” or “if they feel that strongly about it”  The other thing that they do is provide very mixed messages,  such as “you are not making enough money, the Smiths next door have just bought a new car/gone on holiday”, you work harder and longer hours  and you are met with “you are never at home/you don’t spend enough time with the family”.

If you pull them up on the fact that they cannot have it both ways, they will see your standing up for yourself as insubordination/criticism and you will be met with rage, sulking or storming off (followed by some sort of punishment), it is a complete double standard and you will always be wrong in the eyes of the narcissist.  They will use all kinds of “tools” to make you in the wrong in their eyes and make you doubt your sanity and theirs.  The temptation is to just go along with what they say for the sake of a peaceful life.  This approach does not work with a narcissist because they just push the boundaries out further, remember they are always looking for drama and love to evoke emotion in others.  You will never be able to satisfy a narcissist, there may be moments of calm but these are fleeting and if they think that you are relaxing in the relationship they will definitely go on the offensive again.  They want you to be hyper reactive and in a perpetual state of danger management, it makes them feel powerful and it does not happen by accident it is designed to confuse and keep you off balance.

The blackmailing only works if you comply, the narcissist will make a demand either forcibly or subtly “You have to do… ” or they might just say it with their “little voice” peppered with sighs so that you ask “what is wrong” and then they reel you in implying that s/he will get sad, sulky or angry if you do not meet their demand or will make the demand after they have reeled you in “I would feel so much better if you would just do…”

You might not want to rush to their aid (again) but they will manipulate in two ways, you will feel sorry for them or you don’t like neglecting your friends/partner in their hour of need.  Your line of reasoning could be “if I called a friend when I was THAT upset, how would I feel if they turned me down”, the reality is that they are acting and you would never get so upset by trivia like a narcissist does, but the same rules do not apply.  They have just violated your boundaries a little further and this is a win for them.

If you try to get out of what really amounts to obeying them, they will put on more pressure either by being melodramatic or by pushing on one of your vulnerable spots.  Again this can be either direct or indirect depending on what they think will be more effective.

When you obey their demands they know that their manipulation has worked and they will employ it again and again in various ways.


  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of upsetting a lonely elderly parent
  • Fear of temper tantrums and confrontation
  • Fear for your own physical safety


  • “After all the sacrifices I have made for you”
  • “You never ….”
  • “You always …”
  • “I can’t do it”
  • “You are so ungrateful”
  • “You did that because..”
  • “Why won’t you?”
  • “I would do it for you”
  • “You are so selfish”
  • “I need your help” (means you do this for me while I do something more pleasurable)
  • “It is your duty”


  • For having done something to upset or offend
  • For being cold hearted
  • For not pulling your weight in a relationship
  • For spending too much time at work
  • Not earning enough money
  • Having interesting/useful friends
  • Being happy/enjoying yourself

4 thoughts on “FOG Fear, Obligation Guilt”

  1. I’ve just realised that I have this FOG and have had it since childhood. I have always been put down or told that I am lying/imagining/wrongful for speaking my thoughts and feelings to my mother regarding the mental, emotional and sexual abuse I had experienced from my stepfather. She also denies anything she did wrong or tries to make an excuse for her actions and behaviour. For example, when I asked her why I wasn’t seeing my birth father, she said that he couldn’t cope with me. I was too much for him. For 8 years, I took her word for it cause I was too scared to ask my father. When I asked my father, at age 16 – he said it was my mother who stopped contact. So I asked her if what my father said was true, she then said that she could not be bothered with it herself and subject is now closed. She never has believed me about the sexual abuse and has a silent condition towards me that I have never to say anything or talk about it with her or anyone else. When she found out that I did speak to someone about it, she rejected me and my son – no visits or calls, nothing for years.

  2. Hi Cheryl, I hope that you are doing okay and if you want to talk that is perfectly fine with me. I completely understand what you are going through. Take care xx

  3. This is exactly the article I needed right now! Thank you for writing it. My mom is punishing me right now. I’m 43, married, just to say that I’m a grown woman with my own life. She decided I wasn’t helping her enough a few days ago (she says she’s “having a hard time”…code for feeling sorry for herself and looking for sympathy. She was already in a state when she called…I knew the inevitable was coming). She said she hadn’t spoken with me all week, and she felt like she didn’t even have a daughter. When I told her I never intended to make her feel badly, she flew off the handle and ended the call. She’s been ignoring my calls, and her response to my texts today, checking in on her and inviting her to a movie with my husband and me, were met with curt, passive aggressive replies (“fine” and “maybe when I get back”). As much work as I’ve done in therapy, learning how to set boundaries and manage my relationships, I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to being blindsided by her emotional blackmail.

    1. It is a really hard one to get used to because you have been trained/brainwashed since birth. I too have a narcissistic mother and I found her absolutely impossible, the biggest mistake I made in life was trusting her. If you want my personal advice, I would go no contact/low contact with her. Stop trying to make her feel “better” it doesn’t work, she is a bottomless bit and ingratitude is a hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder. If you threw yourself down on the ground for her, she would complain that you weren’t soft enough (do you see what I mean?). The other thing that narcs believe is that kindness and integrity are a sign of weakness, so just protect you and your husband from her interfering and guilt tripping and look the other way. It is hard because our culture says “but she is your mother, she loves you, wants what is best for you, gave birth to you” , with a narcissist that is not true they want what is best for themselves, period. Watch how she treats you, not what she says to you – therein lies the truth. It is really hard to get your head around this information and if you want to chat just drop me a line. Remember you don’t owe her anything, she was the one who let you down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *