Thursday, September 3, 2015

the silent treatment is abuse!

name of art: "The Silent Treatment Prison"
image is © Lise Winne
watercolor and graphics, 2015
(for questions regarding use of images or to contract an image for your next article
contact: LilacGroveGraphics (att)

(Note, this blog is part of a series: 
*The first post is this one: The Silent Treatment is Abuse! 
*The second one is The Silent Treatment and C-PTSD 
*The third one is called Healing from the Silent Treatment)

Many people do not think that the silent treatment is abuse because it can't leave physical scars. But make no mistake about it, the silent treatment is abuse! It is most always defined and categorized as emotional abuse by any reputable therapist, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, especially if it is practiced between close family members, such as between a parent and child, between spouses or domestic partners. Long time friends where a lot of intimate details have been shared between two people can be traumatized by the silent treatment. If it is practiced as a way to hurt or punish another family member, victims can get PTSD from it just like any other form of abuse. In fact, it causes as much damage, or more damage, as sexual and physical abuse.

For a list of symptoms and ways to handle the silent treatment go to my blog post here about the silent treatment and PTSD.

Victims can and do commit suicide when they are bullied with the silent treatment, especially if other forms of abuse are present as well, which usually there are (please read my post about what constitutes abuse here).  

The only time it is not the silent treatment is when someone is preoccupied (such as grieving), or finding a topic too hard to deal with or focus on. But most people use the silent treatment for one purpose and one purpose only: to punish, as a threat, and to gain dominance and control of another person. If parents are practicing it on children for extended periods of time (isolating a child as a form of punishment), Child Protective Services should be notified. If the silent treatment is being practiced between adults as a form of punishment, there is no question that it is abuse, and proper measures should be used to protect yourself, or to exit the relationship. According to this wiki article the silent treatment is abusive if it is being being used as:

    * A desire to inflict hurt. This person wants to teach you a lesson. Sometimes what is worse than hearing another's feelings, emotions and concerns is to hear nothing at all. If the attempt is to ostracize you, it can easily become a pattern of emotional abuse. This is subtle yet very real bullying. It may be a one-off, or it may be habitual.
    *Control, manipulation and intimidation. This may occur if the person has a personality disorder, such as narcissism, or is simply someone who must dominate but refuses to communicate properly. It could be about testing your boundaries too, to see how much this person can get away with. If this person is close to you, it's possible that you've been subjected often to emotional abuse, and that this person is a habitual offender.

How does the silent treatment make someone feel who uses it? From the book Ostracism, the Power of Silence, Kipling D. Williams interviews a 65 year old woman who enjoys using it on a consistent basis:

I use the silent treatment whenever there may be a fight or confrontation. The silent treatment accomplishes for me all the things that fighting does for other people: control, power and punishment. It gives me pleasure and I'm in control. I also think it is funny how people grovel. I never feel guilty or ashamed ...

However, in the greater society, especially in the present day, it is considered shameful to use the silent treatment on others, particularly on a family member or friend, or in school. There is so much awareness about the silent treatment and other forms of emotional abuse, particularly since schools are teaching students what constitutes bullying, that most young people view its practice as Neanderthal: on the same level as bigotry, Klu Klux Klan lynchings and Nazi gatherings. In school anti-bullying seminars, the silent treatment is taught as a very immature three year old control tactic, where if Suzy-Q doesn't get her own way in the sandbox all of the time, she gives her friend the silent treatment. It is also taught as an exclusionary tactic, with some form of bigotry at its core; i.e. "you aren't good enough to play with us."

Mainly, it is thought to be used primarily by yesteryear throwbacks: people with a great deal of ignorance, aggression, bigotry and stupidity. It would probably have been covered in All in the Family if the show were still running today. Very old black and white films feature women who give men the silent treatment to get their own way.

In schools with children, it is taught as the first sign of bullying. A bully's main objective is to isolate a victim by shunning him, and what better way to do it than to let him know that he isn't good enough to associate with. A bully will often think that his clique are the cool kids, the ones who dress, act and are better than other kinds of kids (bullies and adult abusers are arrogant and believe they rank higher than others).

From there, manufactured stories or erroneous blaming are commonly used to build a coalition of bullies or assistants to bullying. Manufactured stories and erroneous blaming in the childhood atmosphere might include "You're missing your notebook? I think he took it" (he, meaning the victim). In fact, at every opportune moment, when things go wrong, the finger is pointed at the victim. In the teenage atmosphere this might be "I think she is trying to take your boyfriend. I saw her flirting with him."

They also practice forms of bigotry by labeling the victim in derogatory ways: "different, smelly, snake, fat, stupid, goon, dweeb, crazy, yucky, retard, a nothing, a buffoon, waste of a human being, a monkey" and so on. They make fun of the victim in this way behind the victim's back (for awhile). From there it escalates to saying these things right to the victim, using a whole coalition of bullies to drive home all of the various denigrating messages. Anyone who is a friend to the victim either gets the bully treatment too, or they are given the talk: "Do you know who you're talking to? He's the one responsible for taking all the missing notebooks in school" or "I saw him pee-ing right in front of the entire school on the front lawn!" "He's a retard. You should hang with us." "Don't you know that he has to go to a therapist to baby cry? He's a wack-o job!" "He's a dirty hippie. You want peace and love? Well you'll be beaten up too."

This is particularly devastating to a victim. The bullies attempt to work on the friends and siblings of the victim to further isolate the victim. The victim may become paranoid, unable to trust others. He usually becomes depressed and hypervigilent too. Hypervigilence is a beginning sign that a victim is just starting to get PTSD, a condition which will make it hard for a victim to learn and concentrate in class.

Who can learn when the brain is seized with fear, and pre-occupied with keeping safe?  

This is why many bullied victims and victims of domestic abuse have low grades or grades that are drastically falling.   

Once the name-calling becomes routine, it is common for the abuse to escalate to threats and physical abuse.

Threats might be: "You're going to do as I say or there will be dire consequences for you -- and your little sister over there." "Do you hear me? You're going to rub your snot on that girl's binder, or we're going to have a little meeting of minds after school." "You're going to give me the answers to that exam, and if I fail, I know where you live!" "See that guy over there? The one who is six foot six? The one who has the big muscles? He will do anything for me. And he'll grind you up like hamburger if you don't let me put this (drug) in your locker."

Physical abuse might mean a subtle push in a school hallway (to send a threat), throwing papers and other trash at a victim (common), to out-right physical assault with bruises and cuts or damage to organs.

Like a prisoner of war who is constantly beaten, a child can often feel he cannot escape. He cannot be safe. The symptoms of PTSD become unbearable. He has nightmares about his abusers. He cannot sleep. He cannot focus on his studies. He is failing. When he is called on in class, he appears distracted, as though he is daydreaming. No one likes him. He is beginning to believe in all of the insults. The victim can feel that his only escape is to commit suicide.

Suicide is much more prevalent among victims of bullying, than perpetrators of bullying, by-standers of bullying, or children who have not had any first-hand experience with bullying at all. If there is a lack of support at home, or if the parents or siblings are practicing domestic abuse, the combination of school bullying and domestic abuse can be devastating for a victim. All of it can push a child's mind into the realm of suicide ideation.

According to this info-graphic by Nova Southeastern University's Masters Degree in Education Program, "around half of children's suicides in Britain are related to bullying".

The story of Pheobe Prince (an Irish girl who was isolated, slandered and bullied in a Massachusetts school, who committed suicide, and where her bullies were subsequently tried and convicted) and three gay bullied teenagers who committed suicide brought the issue of bullying to the forefront of school policies.

In recent years in much of the country, part of preventing school bullying are the very popular bullying seminars for children. And ... one of the first signs of school bullying is shunning and isolating (the silent treatment).

The silent treatment as practiced in the family follows a similar trajectory as school bullying. Say, a parent gives the silent treatment to his child. Then he might enlist the other parent to co-bully or to assess in some way. Name-calling, insults, erroneous blaming (in desperate cases a "look" on a child's face is used to "punish" a child), vilifying, slander, favoritism via golden child and scapegoat, and other forms of abuse are used. But usually it starts with the silent treatment.

The silent treatment is abuse because it is being used to hurt the child, and the way that it hurts the child is extremely detrimental to the child as well as the relationship between the child and the adult. According to this article, Kipling D. Williams, PhD, a professor of psychology at Purdue University who has studied ostracism for twenty years, has stated that the cingulate cortex part of the brain responds to the silent treatment as if it was a physical pain.  

Other forms of discipline are much more effective and less detrimental. Silent treatments between a parent and adult child are always labeled as abuse. It is also often labeled in many journals as the worst form of emotional abuse, with studies revealing that it does as much damage to a child as sexual abuse. Why? Because the message behind the silent treatment is: "You don't exist."

Not all goes well for the perpetrators of the silent treatment either. It is clear from reading Ostracism, the Power of Silence by the same researcher (Kipling D. Williams, PhD)., that the silent treatment has very few rewards for anyone. The perpetrators are eventually seen as bullies, and avoided (shunned right back) for being intransigent, intolerant and single-minded. Since perpetrators treat their victims with callous disregard, as though the victim is dead or sub-human, it is hard for anyone to respect, feel compassionate about or have warm feelings for a perpetrator of the silent treatment, even when the perpetrator is on his knees, begging for forgiveness. If there is a history of silent treatments, or the silent treatment goes on longer than a couple of months, victims overwhelmingly never trust their perpetrators again. The damage has been done. With very little respect going towards the aggressors, this creates a conundrum as to the effectiveness of the silent treatment as a tool for manipulation. Often it is the abuser who comes to the realization that the silent treatment is too painful, enervating, heartbreaking and is leading to his own alienation, dejection and depression.

That is, unless the abuser doesn't feel empathy or have a conscience, the harbingers of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder. In the case of narcissism, the narcissist will never be able to understand why a victim wouldn't want them in their lives, or why a victim wouldn't trust them. That is because they think they are desirable no matter how abusive they are.
Unfortunately, a great majority of people who use the silent treatment for more than a few days do have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In this article, the narcissist employs the silent treatment as a way to punish others:

People with narcissistic tendencies (e.g., “I will punish you if you reject me, have any complaints about me, or suggest that I am lacking in any way.”), and people with antisocial tendencies (e.g., “If you cross me or disrespect me you will pay for it and I don’t care how it makes you feel.”) also use silent treatment. -- Dr. Steve David, clinical psychologist, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department Of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles

There’s a certain high that comes from wielding the silent treatment as a communication weapon, “Let me see this person beg for my attention, squirm to fight their way back in.” ... Often, this feeling is what compels people to repeatedly use the silent treatment–because it feels so good to see someone beg, plead for attention. -- Yashar 

After a narcissistic silent treatment, at some point, the narcissist will want to hoover his victim back in again with false promises, false motives and false concern. According to this blog post by Zari Ballard:

The hoover usually follows a silent treatment (which is really a break-up in disguise) and comes long after the victim has been completely devastated by the silence. The narcissist may hoover in several different ways and for various reasons, with each hoovering event staged according to that pathological relationship agenda he lives by. This is an agenda that I am all to familiar with and one that I describe in detail in my book When Love Is a Lie.

In this article, the silent treatment (unhealthy) is distinguished from a cooling off period (healthy):
Usually the silent treatment occurs when you do something that the abuser does not like or approve of in their book. Or when you dare to disagree with them or actually point out something wrong that they did. And then Wham, you get punished by them not speaking to you for days ...
Do not confuse the silent treatment with something known as “the cooling off period”. The cooling off period is where one person is so angry or disgusted by the other person that they just cannot deal with the situation in that state, and need time to calm down before they begin to speak to this person. That’s normal and should be allowed in a relationship. But purposely ignoring and refusing to hear or talk to a person is wrong, intentional, manipulative, and demonstrates extreme calculation and cruelty on how to hurt another person... -- Patricia Jones, M.A.

In this blog post, the silent treatment is labeled abuse because there is "no closure" or "chance at reconciliation":

The silent treatment is a form of erasing someone from the abuser's existence without the benefit of closure or a good bye or a chance at reconciliation. -- Greta Ella

On a deeper level, there is really a power struggle going on for the partner who has lapsed into silence. The silent treatment is really the expression of lots of aggression. The ultimate goal of the strategy is to win. The silent partner is expressing rage in a way that is passive aggressive. This is designed to get attention and to provoke feelings of guilt. Winning means that the target person admits to having committed some type of offense for which they are now begging forgiveness.

The paradox in this situation is that ultimately gets provoked is anger ...

Because the use of this passive aggressive weapon is so damaging to relationships ... Stonewalling does not promote intimacy, trust or marital and relational happiness.

The silent treatment can be intimidating and isolating, leaving a person at a loss as to how to cope and baffled as to why the person they love would want to be so cold and immature as to engage in such passive aggression over the smallest thing. They may spend many hours trying to understand things from the abuser’s perspective in an effort to reason with them and resolve things, often to no avail ... Regular occurrence of silent treatment is a slow but sure path to deep seated resentment which can be a death knell to the bond you once shared with your partner. Whether or not they are fully conscious of what they are actually doing, silent treatment is a form of passive aggressive abuse on the part of the perpetrator. The victim may be unaware that they are effectively being bullied and manipulated. 

This same author suggests taking yourself out of the game:

Some victims have noted their abuser becomes notably happier the more worn down and miserable they become. In order to cope, the victim must appreciate that a silent treatment abuser thrives on observing the negative effect they have on their target. Therefore it is necessary to stop “feeding” their desire for control and power.

This means NOT giving them the satisfaction of seeing the negative emotional affects of their immature behaviour. They can derive a great sense of self importance and triumph if you get irate, annoyed, upset, capitulate/apologise, weep or plead with them to talk to you. Starve them of these rewards for their unjust behaviour and they will likely eventually tire of engaging in the silent treatment and revert more quickly than usual to their normal demeanour ...

When they use sarcasm or will only speak to you in a patronizing manner, instead of getting upset or responding in kind, simply get on with enjoying something on your previously prepared silent treatment “Survival” list of things to do! Let them see that their attempt to rile you is a waste of their time and yours! Remember - do not “feed” their habit. 

In looking through forums on the silent treatment, the longer the silent treatment is practiced on a victim, the more the victim comes to prefer it over talking about the conflict that it originated from. There is a sense that if the silent treatment goes on for too long, the person who gave the silent treatment is psychologically disordered (sick), not reasonable and not worth talking to, especially because it will never resolve satisfactorily: there is a demand behind it (with the insinuation that if you don't give into their demand, they will use the silent treatment over and over again). Most people who use the silent treatment are emotionally childish and abusive in other ways too. So the silence becomes welcomed by the victim because it is better than listening to the perpetrators insults (verbal abuse), gaslighting (psychological abuse), threats (emotional abuse), spinning of the facts (psychological abuse), intimidations (emotional abuse), diverting and blame-shifting (emotional abuse) and intransigence.

This forum poster from the Out of the Fog website states that protecting yourself from a "punishing silent treatment" by removing yourself from relationships with people who practice it can make you feel absolved if you react to the silence with silence because it is protecting yourself from abuse:

Manners are for people who deserve them. Once the abuse starts, all bets are off! I don't think we're under any obligation to continue to be mannerly (AKA lie down and take the abuse) when people are toxic and abusive! "Hold still and let them punch you, dear. You don't want to be difficult." ... No I don't have to hold still...
Taking abuse is NOT taking the high road. Don't take the abuse -- and yes, the deliberate punishing silent treatment IS abuse. Protecting yourself by removing yourself from their silent treatment or blacklisting is good self-care and good self-protection, it's not "sinking to their level" either. Punishing is offensive and wrong. No contact is the consequences of THEIR abusive actions and it's good self-care and boundaries.  --
Sasha~ (forum ID)

In fact, the majority of therapists who specialize in domestic abuse, tell their patients to react to a perpetrator who is giving them the silent treatment by going no contact. This is especially the advice given when the silent treatment is practiced by a parent on an adult child, or between marital partners. If the perpetrator is using it to inflict pain and punishment, then there is not much choice other than putting up boundaries and not allowing people who want to use the silent treatment on you into your life, or at the very least, into your inner circle.

Of course, perpetrators will try to convince you that you are giving them the silent treatment right back. But in fact, what you are doing is protecting yourself from their silent treatment by putting up a boundary. Don't forget: they started it! They kept rejecting your overtures! In fact the boundary is about not responding to them when they decide they want you back in their life again; it is a good form of protection.

Dr. Phil in his top ten parenting failures, describes parents who use the silent treatment on their kids as "fumer parents". His quotes: " This is the parent that gives the silent treatment, invokes fear and makes them walk on eggshells." Another one that might apply is the I'm the Boss Parent: This is the “my way or the highway” parents.

Parents who chronically give young children the silent treatment, do it to break down a child's self esteem. The purpose of it is to starve the child of praise and attention, make them fearful of the parent, so that the child will be compliant of all parental wishes, including working very hard for parental approval and love. However, this kind of abuse is detrimental, and even dangerous. Children whose self esteem is too dependent on parental approval, and in keeping the peace in the family, can and do commit suicide, particularly during teen years when it is natural and necessary to forge some independence.

Parents who practice the silent treatment on adult children often end up with children who balk at discussing anything personal or intimate. The relationship becomes shallow, hollow and distant, and often non-existent in cases where the parent is continually trying to challenge the boundary of low contact and no-personal-subjects-discussed. If the parent has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the parent doesn't know how to respect boundaries. In this case, if they've been using the silent treatment to punish, without being rewarded by the demand behind it, they often end the silent treatment by becoming dangerous stalker parents (which is a gross disrespect of a boundary).

Most children of narcissistic parents, with the exception of the golden favored child, have usually been given the silent treatment throughout their lives, whether following a disagreement, a parental temper tantrum or because the parent didn't feel the center of attention, or favored by the child. If the adult child does not placate the narcissistic parent, then slander and acquiring co-bully family members to discipline or to bring down the adult child, is used by the offending parent. Narcissistic mothers, in particular, have been known to either look the other way, condone or advocate the golden child bullying his other siblings (more about that in this post).

Narcissistic parents who are confronted about the silent treatment by their grown children, often try to sidetrack the issue by trying to inflict guilt on their child. "After all we have done for you! So ungrateful!" is a common one for all abusers, and for narcissists in particular. It sends the message to their adult child that the parent has the right to abuse them with the silent treatment and other abuses because they gave them something. By the way, The "ungrateful" phrase is the most common phrase used on victims by the great majority of perpetrators to get victims to comply (see my post about that here). "You needed to be punished for that look on your face!" is also common for narcissists. The message is that they feel entitled to interpret your facial expressions in a dark way at any time in order to take their rage and abusive tendencies out on you (see my post on erroneous blaming for more information).

Guilt-ing is used when the adult child does not comply with parental wishes as a way to get the adult child to agree that punishments and abuse are needed in some way. In fact, very rarely does the child discipline ever end for narcissistic parents! They have been known to treat sixty year olds like misbehaving four year olds!

If your parent is trying to punish and discipline you as an adult, know that it is inappropriate, toxic, wrong, abusive and may be against the law in your state.

A spouse who chronically uses the silent treatment, or abandons his partner either physically or emotionally, also ends up with a spouse who doesn't trust him, and who eventually leaves him. Some partners use the silent treatment after a heated argument to starve their mates of attention and love. Some partners use a heated argument as an excuse to give the silent treatment and to pursue an affair. Either way, it is a form of spousal abuse.

If your partner seems gleeful and smug about hurting you in any way, your partner probably has one of the following personality disorders, either Borderline, Narcissistic or Antisocial (sociopathic). Normal adults will always be concerned and show concern if they hurt you (normal empathy is present in 98 percent of the population, after all).    

In my own life:

I view the silent treatment as a kind of stinky gas with poison in it ("sarin with a fart", if you like). It is stinky because it is childish, and it is poison because it ruins the relationship and all of the former trust, intimacy and respect that you used to share with that person. It is such an obvious play for power and domination, that it is disgusting. It can bring tremendous grief because it is a realization that the relationship never meant anything to the other person on its own merits. It only meant something to them if they could control you. As in school bullying, the silent treatment by a "loved one" is the first tip-off  to a narcissistic response, a narcissistic person, an incredibly toxic person.

There is no other choice than to retreat. This often means giving up on the relationship, along with hopes and dreams.

One of the things that I have noticed about the silent treatment is that the longer it goes on, the more your own world starts to take over and you forget about the person who wanted to punish you. Being in the moment starts to feel more important than yesterday. As you sit and write the fifteenth letter you will never send them, you realize that you don't want to send it anyway because it would just open up a can of worms again and you know you are dealing with someone who is totally unpleasant and unreasonable to talk to. Many people who use the silent treatment abuse for more than a day or two are not interested in your words, your thoughts, your research, how you want to be treated. They don't want to show respect or be polite. They don't care about the relationship; they only care about getting their own way all of the time, every time. You only exist as their tool to use. The tool has an on/off button -- on for "you are pleasing me" and off for "you are not pleasing me". It is a facile relationship without meaning beyond if you are a marionette for someone else ... no thanks! It becomes more objectionable to communicate with them than to just let them be, wrapped up in their smug silence.

I am a "fixer" and a team player by nature. And believe me, the silent treatment challenges all of that.

The fixer in me doesn't like the way a paint line looks, so I fix it. The fixer in me doesn't like the fact that there are dirty dishes in the sink, so I wash them. The fixer in me doesn't like the way the guitar string buzzes, so I put on a new one. Most narcissists who practice extended forms of the silent treatment aren't fixers: they are "abandon this because it isn't working and go onto the next supply/victim or project" kind of people. They are "You do all the sweaty hard work of fixing this for me because I'm too lazy and entitled, and do it exactly how I want it otherwise I don't want it fixed at all" kind of people. They are "I don't want it fixed; I'm totally getting off on your pain and enjoying your suffering too much to fix it" kind of people. They are high maintenance vampires. All of the narcissistic reactions over time make most people feel sick to their stomach. Dealing with narcissistic silent treatments can be compared to a leaky pipe that keeps leaking no matter how many patches and how much time you put into it -- because the pipe is flawed, not the fixing or expertise.

The team player exists in me because I've been a musician for most of my life. You have to be a good and fair team player to create great music with others. Musicians and artists self-critique and get critiques. That is how they get better at what they do and that is what they are used to. Narcissists can't stand to be criticized even for minutiae. They are the opposites of musicians. They are like the princess and the pea: anything they don't like, whether it be a phrase, an off-handed remark, or even a look can mean they want to punish you. They go into a rage with silent treatments that can last for weeks, months, years, or forever. The more you insist on fairness and team playing, the more they will try to dominate you. It is a no-win situation.  

For people who stonewall any overtures, such as reasonable apologies, invites and gestures to talk it out, or meet together, or to meet with a mediator or therapist if the issue is too big and involves too many people to handle, with the desire to come to some sort of resolution, or even just expressing a desire for a truce, or at the very least agreeing to disagree, reaching out actually becomes abhorrent because you know you will just come up against a brick wall again, or get abused by something else: verbal assaults, erroneous blaming and gaslighting are the common ones. This is especially true for people whose silent treatments send a message that whether you live or die doesn't matter to them, or people who put punishment agendas ahead of everything else in your mutual lives.

Among musicians, we have a phrase called "deal breaker." Some deal breakers include your fellow band member not showing up for a gig that you planned together. Or who put the priority of going with another band at the last moment because they are promised better pay, all of which leave the rest of the band extremely stressed, especially if you practiced together and have complex arrangements with solos. A member who insults other band members also creates undue stress because music is a team effort where respect and trust in your partners is a must. You also have to have the ability to be in the background when it is not your turn to solo. All of these are deal breakers because this is how a fellow musician can ruin it for the band, the audience, the composition, the sound, indeed everything can be compromised. Flakes, egoists and people who have temper tantrums really should not be playing music with others. Narcissism and music do not mix.

So, when someone acts like they've all but murdered you except physically, they really don't deserve your attention. They don't deserve your good heart. They don't deserve consideration. They don't deserve to be in a team. They don't deserve harmony. And indeed, people who practice the silent treatment a lot, and take it to its ultimate, tend to get rid of all of the good people and surround themselves with bad ignorant people, who also think it is good to use tactics like the silent treatment. No one who lives for harmony, enlightenment, understanding, love and helping others is going to be able to stand someone who loves the silent treatment as a weapon (or is a has-to-be-my-way-or-the-highway type of person, doling out emotional abuses 'til kingdom come!). Once you get through the grieving process, believe me, these kinds of people incite disgust, eye-rolling and irritation more than sadness or pain.

Except in the case of cartoons! Yup, I decided that silent treatments were cartoon-worthy (more on this in a later post). Why? Because it is a way to get the point across that it is disgusting in a funny way. I have also noticed that narcissists have a particular liking for cartoons (because they act like children, after all). They are so self centered in their thoughts and deeds that they are funny.

Take Hyacinth Bucket of Keeping Up Appearances. In the series she treats her husband as though he is a doll on a leash who needs to be commanded by her. She chastises him for not following her orders. She also chastises him when he does follow her hair-brained orders because they do not work out the way she had planned, another narcissistic trait that is not too endearing and often infuriating, but it makes great comedy. Hopefully I am contributing to laughs as well, and so can you. The more fun we poke at the practice of self centered-ness, blowing up over criticism, habitual silent treatments, treating mature normal adults as children, victim blaming and narcissism, the more enlightenment we can bring to the condition (hopefully), the more that narcissistic reactions (like the silent treatment) will be even more unpopular and shameful than they are already.

There is no worthwhile reward in talking to someone who habitually gives you the silent treatment. It definitely becomes impossible to reach out knowing they will get satisfaction out of abusing you again, setting up yet another situation where you will have to walk on paper thin eggshells where anything at all can cause them to blow up at you. It is like being on a yoyo: when the yo-yo goes up, you get abused, then when it comes down you start healing, but not enough healing takes place because your abuser tries to hoover you back in, the yo-yo is back up again (more abuse), up, down, up, down. The more cycles, the more bruises that don't heal, the more you are emotionally battered to the point where you can't make sense of your life or how you got into such a terrible situation, the less you do with your life, the more you are just surviving or in recovery mode from all of the abuse ... So unproductive! Such a waste of your life!

These are sick people. It is better to let them fester in their sickness and silence than to be drawn back in to their game. As this wiki article explains:

Do not become embedded in a friendship/relationship by silent treatment.There is a limit to how much you can try to cope with someone who keeps resorting to silent treatment behaviors. Soon, all you are doing is walking on eggshells and pacifying someone who has learned that this isn't such a bad way to control you. Relationships should be balanced. When someone keeps on giving you the silent treatment, they are always taking the "reins" by allowing or not allowing communication. This is a very emotionally abusive behavior. It usually leaves the person who is at the receiving end of the silent treatment frustrated, confused, and angry.
Lay healthy boundaries of what you are willing to accept in your relationships by informing people who use this tactic that you are not going to continue a relationship in that way.


Why the silent treatment is abuse and why it is destructive in a close personal relationship -- recommended reading

How to get over the silent treatment

The Deafening Brutality of the Narcissist's Silent Treatment -- the narcissist using the silent treatment as an aggressive form of control and punishment for what his or her partner did. The motivation is about getting the victim to "behave." It is a nasty form of abuse.

The silent treatment as childhood trauma that is difficult to heal from

Why Narcissists Disappear: Hint: It's Not Just the Silent Treatment! -- primarily a post about the silent treatment in a dating relationship

Parents who give their teens the silent treatment end up with teens who are resentful and aggressive. Many teens who have substance abuse issues were on the receiving end of a parent's silent treatment.

The silent treatment as the worse form of emotional abuse.

Time-outs are also becoming unpopular ways to punish small children. Time-outs became an alternative for spanking, and were used as an alternative. However, there is growing evidence that it doesn't work, or solve anything. While time-outs are not the silent treatment (time-outs are minutes, not days, weeks or years), problem-solving is compromised in children. Video explains it. 

The silent treatment used to abruptly end a relationship (typically a dating relationship) without an explanation is sometimes referred to as "ghosting"

Here is a graphic that I thought was pertinent to this day's topic:

Here is a graphic about Narcissistic blame:


  1. Lise.....I so connected with your article....there is a family pattern in my maternal side of the family that has effected my mom, mysrlf, and now my granddaughter and I'd like to end the cycle. My motivation is my beautiful granddaughter but it's because of personnel pain as well......I'd like to follow your blog as well on my blog and bring allot of awareness to this epidemic which often times leads to sucide of victims.

    1. Lynne, I am glad it helped. Most practices of abuse are passed down the generations (used on the new generation). If the former generation is not able to rehabilitate their practice of it, sometimes cutting off or minimizing contact with that former generation is your only option.

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  4. I'm going through exactly what you've been saying,to the tee.unbeluevable.stress,susidall.worrie,of what did I do to make her. Be this over for me xits been 5 months.still no right,but finally.said no more,I hope I can keep with the,don't communicate process.killing me

    1. Sometimes the people who practice the silent treatment and stonewalling can trigger very debilitating PTSD episodes, that when (and if you do) reconnect, you find there is nothing you want to say to them.
      In other words, communication with them causes a traumatic event.
      I go into this in this post:


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