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.