Guilt Trips, NPD and Manipulation Psychology

Written by Angela Atkinson

Narcissists guilt trip you like crazy – and who among us hasn’t been on one of those? Only sociopaths are able NEVER to feel guilt – and for those of us who do feel it, guilt is distressing and draining.

More help with guilt trips – playlist here. 

After the devalue and discard phases, you might feel like you were the one who isn’t good enough. But still, you’re reasonably sure that something isn’t right in your relationship.

(If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time trying to fix what’s wrong with you. And I mean EVERYTHING! I tried to become a whole different person, and it was never, ever enough. NOTHING (and no one) is ever enough for a narcissist. 

Once you’ve turned yourself inside out trying to fix every possible issue, you’re forced to look back at the narcissist.

But you might feel sorry for them, having an apparently irreversible personality disorder; maybe you feel a little guilty when you find yourself so overwhelmed by a narcissist’s manipulation and guilt-tripping that you just want to give up on the whole relationship. 

But how many times have you done or said something you regret – or been made to feel guilty when you didn’t deserve it as a direct result of a guilt trip laid on thick by a narcissist?

What is a guilt trip?

Guilt trips are a form of mental abuse that can be difficult to overcome. Guilt trips come in many forms, but all have the same purpose: to make you feel bad about yourself.

In a nutshell, it means that the narcissist wants you to feel bad, so they’ll try to make you feel guilty by telling you you’re guilty.

A guilt trip might be used to make you feel bad, but it might also be a tool to deflect from a bigger issue. 

Why do narcissists guilt trip you? 

There’s a reason why narcissists use guilt-tripping as a go-to tactic. It’s a way to make you question yourself. It can also make you not notice something else that’s going on.

If you are or were dealing with a narcissistic parent, chances are that you’re probably automatically programmed to respond to a guilt trip in a certain way that gives narcissists a bit of supply. 

You know, when you try to stay calm and hold your ground, but before you know it, they’ve gotten under your skin, and you’re acting as if you have a reason to be guilty, thereby bending to their every whim. 

And if you dare to refuse to do anything they ask, demand, or require? They’ll pull out the old guilt trip again.

For you, that feels worse than just giving them what they want. So, in the end, that’s exactly what you do – even if it means you must die inside a little each time. 

Why do the narcissist’s guilt trips work so well?

So, their logic goes like this:

  • If they make you feel bad about yourself, they can make you doubt yourself.
  • They want to make you feel like nothing is good about you and everything is your fault. 
  • If they can get you to believe that, then they control you – and guilt trips are the obvious go-to manipulation tactic. 

Think about it – if you believe you’re no good and deserve nothing and that everyone around you is disgusted by you secretly, you might doubt everything.

And while they nurture your trauma bond by offering plenty of intermittent reinforcement, you’re starting to think they’re right – and then you doubt yourself, your people, and your own perception. 

You start to ask the narcissist’s opinion about everything, whether it’s what kind of gum to buy or whether or not you should take the promotion that would force you to move across the country. And you start to, on some level, accept their opinion as your own. 

Maybe you do this because you’re afraid of how they’ll react when you disagree or even, god forbid, try to enforce your own opinion on something that shouldn’t matter. 

Or, maybe you do it because you think it’ll impress them. But either way, it only lasts for so long before something has to give.  

In any case, you’re uncomfortable without an obvious solution. What can be done about it now?

How to Deal With Guilt Trips

How do we stop them from happening or making us feel bad? And how can we use them as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of sinking into depression and self-loathing?

Narcissists and manipulators use guilt trips all the time. They’ll try to make their victims feel bad about themselves for absolutely no reason at all – except for their own enjoyment. 

So how do you deal with the narcissist’s guilt trips? You’ll first want to get a clear understanding of why they might be trying to guilt-trip you.

When someone gives you a guilt trip, remember that they are trying to manipulate your emotions to get what they want—not because they think you’ve done anything wrong or because they care about how much time you spend away from them (even if they act like they do).

Sometimes it’s just because they’re trying to get something out of you and don’t care how they do it, but that doesn’t mean ‘there isn’t anything you can do about it.

What to Say to the Narcissist

Once you’ve figured out what’s going on, then take action! If possible, try sticking up for yourself by explaining why what they’re saying isn’t true or validating your feelings about whatever situation brought them up in the first place. For example:

  • “I think what matters here is [state your reason].”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from, but I just don’t agree with this.”
  • “That wasn’t my fault, and I don’t feel guilty about it.”

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support


  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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