Why Narcissists Use The SILENT TREATMENT!!
The narcissist is an expert manipulator who’s goal is to cause suffering, chaos, pain, and anger yet all with the ability to hide behind their covert tactics to the point that you do not realize that the intense pain you are experiencing are a direct result of the person claiming they love you and would never do anything to hurt you.
One of their favorite covert abuse tactics is the silent treatment.
The silent treatment is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising, without insults and criticism or any forms of verbal abuse. The pain is there….but it is hidden from not only the sight of others, but even of yourself.
Imagine trying to explain the sheer anguish of the pain in your relationship and if someone were to ask you –
Does he/she hit you? Well – No.
Is he or she screaming at you? Umm, not at all.
Are they calling you names and insulting you? Nope
Then what’s the problem?
They won’t talk to me, they give me the silent treatment.
Ok. Can you imagine the look on the listeners face? Automatically
your friend/family member will think you are overreacting, that it’s not as bad as we are claiming, or that others have it worse!!
There’s nothing worse than feeling the anguish of abuse and then having it minimized by those we open up to.
The truth is, the silent treatment is just as damaging as physical abuse.Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain.
Some people may even view the silent treatment as a good thing, they may rationalize with you –
maybe he/she’s just trying to cool off. Maybe they just don’t want to say something they will regret. Maybe they are just trying to not put more fuel into the fire.
If you begin to rationalize that these are the motives of the narcissist – then their abuse
is truly hiding deeper and deeper and the effects on you are getting worse and worse.
The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that detects physical pain. The initial pain is the same, regardless of whether the exclusion is by strangers, close friends or enemies.
The silent treatment is the narcissists favorite weapon of choice because it’s powerful and it’s easy to get away with. There is nothing subtle about a physical or verbal lashing, but an accusation of the silent treatment, ‘Are you ignoring me?’ can easily be denied.
If you find yourself constantly getting sucked into the silent treatment, this may be your normal response:
” The pain of the silence, the ignoring is so unbearable. I beg him/her to tell me what’s wrong, to talk to me. I let him/her know that I’m sorry for whatever I did that hurt him/her. I’m not sure this time what exactly set his/her anger off in the first place, but I apologize because I don’t care about who is at fault I just want peace and if I have to be the one to apologize (since he/she never does) then so be it. I just want to feel acknowledged.
It’s been days since he/she has directed a word let a lone a glance at me. Even when he/she is at work all I can do is think about what happened, mull around in my mind what I did wrong, what I could’ve done right, how to make things better. These thoughts dominate my mind so much that I find it so difficult to concentrate on work, I can’t feel any happiness. All I feel is an anxious dread as to what is going to happen next, how long it will be before this silence ends. I never knew silence could be so loud and so painful. I just want it to stop. I will do or say anything to make it go away.”
Ok if any of the above thoughts are thoughts that have gone through your mind during the silent treatment….then you have fallen into the game of the narcissist. You are being controlled by the subtle form of abuse that the narcissist loves to employ.
Here are 3 tips to free you from falling victim of the silent treatment.
1) Call it for what it is. The silent treatment is ABUSE. If you are enduring the silent treatment, especially on a regular basis you are being emotionally abused. It is NOT normal, it should NOT be a an every day part of your relationship. You do NOT deserve it no matter what the other party says. Once you recognize it for what it is – ABUSE – STOP apologizing for it!! By apologizing, even for the sake of peace, for something you did not do, by apologizing for the narcissists uncontrollable narcissistic rage or narcissistic injury – you are virtually supporting a lie. The lie in the narcissists head is that any time they feel a negative thougth or emotion – IT IS YOUR FAULT!! Every time you apologize you strengthen this false reality in the narcissists mind. The next time the narcissist gives you the silent treatment …pause….notice it…recognize it as abuse….remind yourself that you are not responisble for the feelings and actions of others you are ONLY responsible for what you do, say, think and feel.
2) LAY DOWN A BOUNDARY. When the narcissist ignores you and talks to you when and if they feel like it, they are denying you any rights as to how YOU would like to be treated. The narcissist uses the silent treament as a dictatorship – they will talk with you as long as you do, act, feel, say, dress, think EXACTLY how they want you to. However, if you deviate, and dare to show any kind of seperateness of persona, any kind of individuality, or worse – any kind of difference in opinion than the narcissist -they ultimately kill you in their minds. By not talking to you, or acknowledging your presence you basically do not exist to them in their minds. You will not be allowed to exist again until you once again become submissive to their dictatorship by eradicating anything and everything that makes you – YOU and simply accept the fact that you are now a mere extention of the narcissist.
A boundary you can set can be as follows:
“Well, since you are unwilling to have an adult conversation I’m going to go out and get some things done. I will be back in two hours, I hope you are ready to talk at that point.”
THEN ENFORCE YOUR BOUNDARY BY LEAVING
If the narcissist suddenly says they are ready to talk now….remind them of your boundary. Well, I have some things to get done. I’m glad you’re willing to talk, I will be back in two hours. Do not keep explaining, do not get sucked into a drama battle. Their only point in trying to talk at that moment is to exercise control. They do not want YOU to feel ANY measure of empowerment and by keeping you or drawing you into a drama battle they prevent you from feeling empowered.
WHEN YOU LEAVE FOR TWO HOURS….do NOT spend the time crying, or wondering why they do what they do, or wishing they were different. This is your time to give to YOU. Take a walk and enjoy nature, go to your favorite coffee shop and enjoy your favorite drink, visit a good friend, window shop in your favorite store. The point is to do something that reminds you that you are important, that you have value, that you deserve to be treated in a healthy fashion. Use these 2 hours as an emotional power charge for yourself.
3) OBSERVE AND TAKE ACTION. This final point is the hardest but most important. When you go back and attempt to have a conversation with the narcissist you should be in observe mode.
Pay attention to his/her body language.
Do they look as if they want to reconcile?
Do they seem like they are willing to be reasonable?
Do they look angry and accusotory?
When you attempt to converse are they still giving you the silent treatment?
If they are actually talking, are they simply accusing, insulting and blaming?
Are their words seemingly trying to reconcile or reject and shame?
If they still are using abusive tactics this is when you need to TAKE ACTION. And I do not mean by getting sucked into a drama battle. You need to discern if this relationship is healthy or unhealthy. Does this person cause more harm and damage than love and kindness? Is this relationship destroying you?
Make a firm decision to not tolerate abuse. You cannot stop someone else from being an abusive person….but you can stop yourself from being in a relationship full of abuse.