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Narcissists like to control people and circumstances based on their own whims and fancies. Sometimes the emotions are so strong that they completely ignore reasoning and the rationality of the situation at hand.
In their attempt to control and dominate others, they resort to using aggression or subtle (covert) manipulation tactics. The narcissistic silent treatment is one such tactic that is very often used by a narcissistic person in order to punish and show superiority over the other person.
It is made very clear that there won’t be any conversation unless and until the others person (at the receiving end) subscribes to their thoughts and ideas. From the perspective of the narcissist, giving silent treatment is a way to punish and invalidate your existence.
The narcissist will give no explanation as to the cause of his or her discontent. This is to keep the victim guessing and confused. The result of such a behavior is that the unsuspecting victims are mentally traumatized into thinking what wrong they have done.
In many cases, it is seen that the victim constantly approaches the narc and the most common phrases that we hear from the victims are as follows:
- “Please tell me what have I done wrong”
- “Why won’t you talk to me”
- “Let’s sit and calmly sort out issue”
- “Are you unhappy with me and this relationship”
However, the responses to these questions are either met with complete denial or stonewalling. And since the victim is constantly begging and pleading, the narcissist sadistically enjoys their suffering.
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This game is played very often and can continue for many days, weeks, months, or even years until the narcissist finally discards you.
However, it’s not that the silent treatment is always narcissistic. Sometimes we ourselves like to be quiet and don’t respond to people. That can happen when we are physical and emotionally exhausted and a lot of stuff is going on in our minds.
In that particular situation, we like staying aloof in order to sort out some of the stuff that’s going on and get some peace of mind. It’s just that sometimes we are so tired that we don’t feel like exchanging pleasantries with others. AND THAT’S OK. The genuine people will always understand and give you the required space.
But in the case of narcissists, it is not so. The narcissists will deliberately give you a cold shoulder and make their discontent quite clear. This kind of behavior is purely to satisfy their own ego and gain control over others.
Narcissistic people are purely driven by ego. Their main motive of giving the silent treatment is to get things done ‘their way’. Their drive for satisfying the ego is so strong that they don’t even care who they end up hurting by their actions.
They create an illusion that they have been hurt internally. As I said earlier, the idea is to dominate and control. It is not that they want something – they just want to punish their victim.
Even when they start talking after ending the silent treatment you will be confused as to why they did it in the first place. Don’t even bother to understand the logic or motive behind it. Because there was none in the first place.
Please remember that narcissists are incapable of emotional regulation and have no empathy whatsoever. It doesn’t matter how long you have been in a relationship with narcissists, when the time comes, they will not even moment hesitate to throw you out of their lives.
What Are the Adverse Effects of Silent Treatment
Silent treatment becomes psychological abuse when it is taken to such an extreme that the very existence of the person undergoing it is invalidated. This can happen in a variety of ways such as:
- Being completely ignored by coworkers or group of known people.
- Being ostracized by a community (either offline or online on social media platforms or other channels)
- Receiving silent treatment as a child from a parent.
- Being ignored by a group of high school friends.
- Receiving silent treatment from a spouse or someone very close.
- Disownment by the family for going against their belief system.
The silent treatment is given by narcissists generally comes with cold stares and a very clear passive aggregation. The negative vibe is so strong that it can be clearly felt within the environment, and this generally leads to stress and anxiety. The narcissist’s anger is pretty evident but the only thing is that it is non-verbal in this particular case.
Some people are resilient to this type of psychological manipulation and can hold themselves in most adverse situations, but most of us are vulnerable to such emotional abuse.
And in such cases, the consequences of prolonged exposure to frequent episodes of silent treatment (even for short time periods) can result in an increase in anger, depression, alienation, feeling of unworthiness and helplessness, and even PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in extreme cases.
There is a popular belief that being social or having a sense of belonging to a group or community is critical for an individual to survive (something I don’t fully agree with … but more on that later).
And it is very common for us to derive our self-worth by associating ourselves with an organization or a group. So when ostracized by that very group we experience a sense of personal uncertainty, and this leads to panic and anxiety because our self-worth is now at stake.
It is seen that in most of these cases the heads of these communities and groups are people with high narcissistic traits. They are fully aware of your vulnerabilities and they know how to hit where it hurts the most.
Studies have shown that silent treatment triggers the same response in the areas of the brain as during a physical injury. Professor Kipling D. Williams of the Purdue University of psychological sciences shows how ostracizing hurts individuals more than a physical injury.
He clearly mentions that psychological abuse such as ostracizing is an invisible form of bullying that doesn’t leave external scars but creates a deep psychological hurt within, the effects of which are grossly underestimated.
The Reason Why Narcissists like to Give Silent Treatment
Narcissism is an indication of a deep psychological problem the root of which lies in the early childhood stages. Every child has a need to be emotionally validated by his or her parents.
A well-balanced emotional validation gives children a sense of security and develops confidence and instills high self-esteem within them. When they are denied this by the very people who are closest to them they start developing fears and insecurities that go deep within their subconscious.
For example, when a child falls down while playing and starts crying, we hear these common phrases from parents:
- “Come on … you are strong … get up and get going”.
- “Toughen up kiddo … it’s a bad world out there”.
- “I’m not going to talk to you till you stop crying”.
The problem is that these parents have been suppressing their own emotions, and therefore, they invalidate their children’s emotions. They were never taught to recognize and accept their own emotions in the first place, and unconsciously, they teach their children to do the same.
Parents who do not provide emotional support to their children are very likely to be suffering from narcissism (or other mental health issues) themselves. And the result is that their children grow up with a lot of self-esteem issues. They resort to people-pleasing and keep seek validations from others their whole life.
No matter how much you try to validate, a narcissist will never be satisfied in the long run. It’s very difficult to make narcissists realize their actions because the problem lies at the subconscious level.
So satisfying their ego (by putting down others) gives a temporary boost to their self-esteem. However, this does not last very long. Very soon they crave the need to be validated and repeat the same toxic behaviors again. And every time they do that they either go into denial or come up with a lame excuse.
The narcissist is done punishing only when you start feeling bad about yourself and are convinced that all that happened was your fault.
After that comes the next phase of abuse which is called ‘hoovering’. Now the abuser will give justifications for his or her behavior. They may even apologize; get you a bunch of flowers; take you out for dinner; and more. You are given the illusion that everything is back to normal.
However, this phase does not last very long. The narcissist’s low self-esteem kicks off very soon and they again feel the need to be validated. Only this time the intensity of the abuse will be much higher.
There will be more passive aggression and the abuse will continue for a longer time period than before. You will be meted out with the same silent treatment and stonewalling behavior. Leaving you in more confusion than ever before.
How to Handle the Silent Treatment by a Narcissistic Person
Know that we know about the silent treatment and why narcissists like to give it, let’s also understand how to handle this psychological abuse.
Don’t Give An Emotion Reaction (Disengage)
Whenever you find yourself at the receiving end of the silent treatment understand that it’s not about you. It’s about the person who’s giving you the silent treatment. It’s a manipulation tactic to exercise control and it comes out of the deep insecurities and low self-esteem that the abusers carry within themselves.
The objective of the narcissist is to control you by pulling you down and making you feel bad. The more you give in to this manipulation tactic the more sadistic pleasure is derived by the abuser.
Therefore, don’t give any kind of justification or emotional reaction. Don’t try to settle things because it isn’t going to happen. Many people get so emotionally hurt by the silent treatment that they feel like talking and clearing out the air. But it’s not so simple with a narcissist.
Begging and pleading with the narcissist is also never going to help. In fact, that was the whole point behind giving you the silent treatment. It’s a victory for the narcissist whenever you say things like “I don’t know why you’re so mad … but I’m really sorry if I’ve hurt you in some way or the other … please be okay now”.
Talk to a therapist
Although you might be hiding your emotions in front of the narcissist, and as discussed above that’s the right thing to do, but on the inside, you might be bubbling with sadness or restlessness. In such a case, it’s a good idea to speak to someone about it.
You can talk to a therapist or a close family member or even a friend. What’s important is that you should be honest about your feelings with them. Let them know how you’re feeling inside and what the abuse is doing to you.
You can also join a support group. There are some online support groups on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit. However, in my experience, face-to-face talk is always better when dealing with such sensitive issues.
Keep Your Mind Occupied
This is perhaps one of the most important things. Narcissists like to mess up our minds so diverting your attention to other things will greatly help. Just try not to think too much about the narcissist.
You can do lots of things to disengage your mind:
- Watching your favorite sitcom.
- Call up a friend (but don’t talk about the narcissist).
- Try the 30 days self-care challenge.
- Pursue your favorite hobbies (art, music, yoga, dance, or whatever you like).
- Practice mindfulness and meditation (very effective).
Journal Your Thoughts and Emotions
Journaling your thoughts and emotions offers great catharsis. Just write down whatever is going on in your mind. However, ensure that you keep your journal hidden away from the narcissist. If the narcissist gets to know about how you’re feeling they will use it to their advantage.
Keep Minimum Contact
Now, this may be very difficult for some of you, especially for those of you who are dependent on narcissists for financial support or otherwise. But try to minimize your contact with them. Avoid unnecessary eye contact and keep yourself busy in other activities.
For example, if the narcissist is working in the kitchen or watching tv in the living room, just wait for them to leave. If there’s an urgent matter that needs attention on the part of the narcissist, just message on the phone or write a note on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge.
Don’t hope for the narcissists to change. In my experience, people don’t change because the patterns of behavior exist in the subconscious. Changing the subconscious requires a lot of effort on the part of the narcissistic person which they are very unlikely to do.
They will never agree to counsel or therapy because they don’t see anything wrong with them. Even if they do agree to visit a therapist they will be dishonest. I can tell you from my own experience that there is no way you can change the narcissist.
What the narcissists don’t realize is that the continued cycles of abuse eventually leads to victim alienating them. As soon as the victim realizes what’s going on, and goes limited contact, and finally full no contact, it’s game over for the narcissist.
Because behind the façade of superiority and grandiosity is a broken individual with extremely low self-esteem. All the show of grandiosity is to hide the fears and insecurities they have within.
A narcissist will resort to all types of manipulations to keep you hooked on to the cycle of abuse. Narcissists are extremely scared of abandonment and choose to discard only when they have another potential victim ready to serve them.
As soon as they find someone else they will go for ultimate discard and not even for a moment thinks about you. They will leave you confused and hurt. This is much worse than getting a physical injury.
When the time for ultimate discard comes they will instantly throw you out of their life just like people throw worn-out stuff from their home. There will be no feelings or attachments. They will give no heed to the amount of effort and sacrifice you have put in building and maintaining the relationship for such a long time. For them, it will all be over in an instant.
A physical injury to the body heals after are a certain period of time, but psychological wounds caused by the prolonged cycles of abuse take years to heal. Many people end up in severe depression and require extensive counseling; therapy; and other healing practices to come out of it.
But the narcissists simply don’t care. They never even cared in the first place. All that love bombing you experienced in the early phases of your relationship was just a hook to bait you in. It was a carefully calculated move to entice you into the relationship for their own agenda of inflicting pain on you. They were fully aware of what they were doing.
For them, all of this is a game and they always see themselves as the winner. I know IT HURTS … but that’s the brutal reality.
However, I don’t want you to feel despair. The way out of an abusive relationship starts by moving away from the abuser, working on rebuilding the lost confidence, practicing self-care, and finally letting go of the hurt within you.
All of this is a gradual process and it requires time and patience. The healing has to be done at the level of both mind-body and spirit. I will be covering all of the healing topics in greater detail in the articles to come.
I’ve been here and I feel your hurt. Let me tell you – though not fully – but I have healed myself to a great extent and I can see the positive results. AND SO WILL YOU … JUST HAVE FAITH. Feel free to ask me anything, either in the comments or through the contact page.
- How Cognitive Dissonance in Toxic Relationships Keeps You Trapped?
- Energy (Chakra) Healing for Victims of Narcissistic Abuse
- 101 Empath Survival Guide (Take Charge And Protect Yourself from Toxic People)
- 8 Signs You Were Raised By A Covert Narcissistic Mother
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