Monday, June 16, 2014

the silent treatment

name of illustration: The Scream Over the Silent Treatment
after the 1893 painting The Scream by Edvard Munch
medium: inks and colored pencil on Arches watercolor paper
image is ©2014 Lise Winne with proper attributes to Edvard Munch
(for questions regarding any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att) yahoo.com)

(note: more of this topic is covered in this blog post, The Silent Treatment is Abuse!) 

I found this by a reader from the Silent Treatment Blog:

It occurs in small ways and begins in all the little things that you stop saying to each other. Then the resentment starts. The quarrels, the arguments, the snippy conversations, the single word answer to every question that is asked. And growing use of the word ‘Fine’. -- Kate

From one of my favorite bloggers on dysfunctional relationships, Thomas G. Fiffer (who writes many articles for The Good Men Project), here are some snippets from this article on the silent pain of emotional withholding (which can also be interpreted as "the silent treatment"). In the article he is responding to a reader who talks about a dysfunctional relationship that is the passive-death non-relationship in which every dissatisfaction you express is completely ignored or casually dismissed. Not with a bang but a whimper……….

Here are some of his responses (again, if you are interested in the full article, it is here):

If you've lived with a dysfunctional partner, chances are you've experienced it. Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect. Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we've done something wrong or failed or worse, that there's something wrong with us ... You're desperately lonely, even though the person who could comfort you by sharing even one kind word is right there ... When you speak, you might as well be talking to the wall, because you’re not going to get an answer, except maybe, if you’re lucky, a dismissive shrug. And the more you talk about anything that matters to you, the more you try to assert that you matter, the more likely your withholding partner is to belittle or ignore what you’re saying and leave you in the cold ... You ask yourself, am I here? Do I mean anything to this person? Do I matter? Do I even exist? ... Your accomplishments go unrecognized, your contributions unmentioned, your presence at best grudgingly acknowledged, and any effort at bridging the chasm is spurned ... Emotional withholding is typically a response to your trying to stand up for yourself, to an assertion of your rights within the relationship. And perhaps the deepest pain of all comes from your partner’s insistence that you deserve to be treated this way, deserve to be punished, and, to paraphrase my older post, your partner’s absurd argument that if you just give up your silly notion of having a healthy, communicative relationship between two equal partners and resubmit to emotional domination and abuse, the caring, compassion, communication, and connection, the warmth and the love, will return ... And they might—for five minutes, five hours, even five days—until you assert your yourself again." --- Thomas G. Fiffer

The point is that even if you capitulate and give in, it is likely to happen all over again when you need to assert yourself again. And it is very, very likely that you will have to assert yourself again over another issue! Imagine all of the ways in which you will not be able to compromise. Some of these might include (or think of your own): you might be expected to apologize to an abusive sibling through the pressure of a parent, you might be expected to allow an abusive in-law who has molested your daughter back into your life by a spouse, you might be expected to go on a dangerous trip in a war-torn country where there is heavy artillery with your newborn baby by an abusive boss, you might be expected to drive through a blizzard when no one else is out on the roads except snowplows, anything... If the relationship has a pattern where you have bended under pressure to concede or grovel for love lest you take the consequences of being dismissed or abused, you'll be expected to knuckle under again and again, no matter what is at stake to you, your life, your health, your sanity ... "What you allow is what will continue."

As Thomas G. Fiffer says in the closing of his article:

The truth is, caring, compassion, communication, connection, warmth, and love should NEVER be conditional and NEVER be willfully withheld, EVER, unless the relationship is already over and you need to draw a boundary to establish your new life and preserve your own sanity. Withholding these within a relationship is abuse, a kind of emotional blackmail, no different from the other kind that threatens to hurt you where you’re most vulnerable if you don’t comply with your partner’s desires or needs. But the harder you work towards creating a healthy relationship, the more your dysfunctional partner will withhold the very things on which the health of the relationship depends. This is how your relationship becomes “the passive-death non-relationship” ... sunk under the weight of scorn and silence instead of buoyed by the lift of love.

If you have a narcissist in your life, they use the silent treatment as a way to manipulate and control you (the victim) as this article by Alexander Burgemeester will attest to:

When a narcissist uses the silent treatment with someone, they take it to the extreme. A narcissist may refuse to speak to or even acknowledge someone for great lengths of time- and then demand an apology that is out of proportion to the perceived offense. By demanding this apology, it supports the narcissist’s inflated view of himself or herself. The silent treatment is a common form of abuse used by people who cannot tolerate being on the receiving end of someone else’s self-assertiveness ... When the victim does something that displeases the narcissist, they cease to exist for a certain period of time-most often extensive and disproportionate amounts of time. -- Alexander Burgemeester


Many psychology journals refer to "the silent Treatment" as silent bullying.



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