Really good article on silent treatment

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#1 Nov 27 - 10PM
nomoredenial's picture

Really good article on silent treatment

and interesting web page

The silent (but deadly) treatment

Steve Becker LCSW, Lovefraud Expert, licenced clinical social worker and hypnotherapist

This post comes from Steve's own website and highlights the psychopaths most powerful weapons abuse the silent treatment.

The silent treatment is not only silent, but can be deadly. Deadly, that is, to relationships. Deadly, more specifically, to the trust, love, safety, communication and intimacy that preserve and nourish relationships.

The silent treatment (also known as stonewalling) entails a partner's (the silencer) passive-aggressively refusing to communicate with the other (the silenced). Unlike avoidance (a conflict-aversion defense), the silencer deploys the silent treatment with toxic purposes in mind.

The silencer's aim is, above all, to silence communication. More specifically, it is to render the other invisible and, in so doing, induce in the "other" feelings of powerlessness and shame. (Note that the experience of powerlessness often evokes shame.)

The silent treatment is a statement of contempt, relating, "You aren't worth the energy it would take me to acknowledge your existence, let alone your feelings or needs."

The silent treatment tactically communicates, You have done something wrong, seriously wrong — wrong enough to warrant my repudiation of your existence.

Its message is menacing and extortive — menacing in its implicit accusation of guilt, and extortive in the lose-lose proposition it makes: either you confess to a "crime" (against the silencer) you may be unaware of having committed (a degrading concession), or, if you don't, the silencer continues to blot you out.

The silent treatment is a technique of torture. This may sound hyperbolic, but human beings need (on the most basic level) recognition of their existence. The withholding of this recognition, especially if protracted, can have soul-warping consequences on personality. (Just consult attachment theory for proof of this.)

It is deeply disturbing to be silenced (stonewalled), especially by someone you love, or someone you believe (or want to believe) loves you. The silent treatment aims, therefore, to exploit a very deep, elemental vulnerability.

Understandably it is the kind of vulnerability from which one desperately wants relief. And the controlling, abusive silencer holds the cards — he can provide relief by deciding if, and when, to reinstate his recognition of your existence.

However, like many abusers, he may require something of you first–namely, your capitulation. From the silencer's perspective, "capitulation" may involve his metaphorically bringing you to your knees, meaning he may demand that you appeal to, plead for and/or beg his forgiveness as a condition of his readmitting you into his good graces.

As noted, you may feel coerced into admitting something you didn't do, say or mean. This, after all, is how false confessions occur: the accused feels so exhausted, disempowered and helpless to be heard against the monolithic accuser that, simply to escape the hell of being disbelieved, she relents (and confesses).

Or else she may begin to wonder, under the prolonged, accusatory assault, whether she's crazy; whether maybe she is, in fact, guilty of a crime that not too long ago she was mystified and/or outraged to be accused of.

As I suggested in The Pathological Self-Confidence of the Sociopath, it's not so hard to jar the confidence of, and foment doubt in, others. While we invest some degree of trust in our perceptions, that trust can be surprisingly fragile. Because we tend to be built with more uncertainty than certainty, we are prone, especially facing another's prolonged, implacable invalidation, to feel self-doubt rising like flood-waters.

The abusive individual, whether narcissistic or sociopathic, exploits this natural psychological frailty. For this reason (and others) he will prize the silent treatment for its capacity to sow insecurity, dread, even terror, in its intended target.

(Please note that my use of "he" throughout this, and other, posts is a convenience and not to suggest that women are incapable of the behaviors discussed.)

Nov 28 - 10AM
Victim-no-more's picture

I seriously think that

I seriously think that whenever I start to feel I might be "missing" him, rereading this post will do the trick. I could spit nails after reading that and I hate that s.o.b.right now.
Nov 28 - 8AM
Hunter's picture

Silent Treatment

Welcome to my world.. Silence = Peace! Hunter
Nov 28 - 5AM
Syren66 (not verified)
Anonymous's picture

Good read, good info, but....

I really wish these folks who write these articles would elucidate a bit more, if at all, as to how one can effectively counter such actions. I used to get the ST as well...he would sit in the basement and ignore me for a couple days, only emerging to get ready and leave for work. And I gave it RIGHT back. I had a child and the dog with me at all times...we went on our merry way, laughing, doing stuff around the house, totally oblivious to the tantrum in the dungeon taking place one floor below us. When he realized I was not going to cave to this crap tactic of his and when he realized two could play that game, it stopped. Not to say that's effective on all of them, but it worked for me. I was raised by a somewhat narcissistic mother who loved that form of 'punishment'...I recognized it instantly for what it was.
Nov 28 - 5AM
EiPuff (not verified)
Anonymous's picture


thank you for helping me find this information, I'm literally shaking, that's how profound and important this article was to me, I thought - and was told - I'm overreacting, this indicates I was actually abused. I'm becoming afraid of him, for first time this wknd I dreamed I saw him and was fearful.
Nov 28 - 5AM
empath's picture

silent treatment

Thank you so much for sharing this, NMD. The silent treatment...I would guess it is the Ns most often used method of punishment and they definitely do it with the intent of being cruel and controlling. Hunter had enlightened us here to the true abusive nature of silent treatment...Google "silent treatment abuse" and you will find articles on how the silent treatment actually causes pain in the person being ignored, because it because it affects the anterior cingulate cortex of our brains, which process emotion and pain. Silent treatment is an amazingly simple, powerful and highly effective form of abuse. Remember that it is abuse; it is a hostile, contemptuous act of abuse. Knowledge is power. Awareness of this insidious abuse is key in protecting yourself from its effects. On a related note, I do believe that our NC is perceived by the N as ST. This is something that has "bothered" me, because I don,t like the idea of doing something cruel and abusive, it is very ego-dystonic behavior for us compassionate, empathic people. An N is not going to have the life experience or insight to reason that what we are doing is "no contact" because they are toxic people that need to be completely avoided in order to protect our own well-being. That would never occur to them...if they had introspection and awareness to differentiate like that, we might not have left them and they might not be Ns. To counterbalance the feelings I have from employing NC and believing it is interpreted by the N as ST, I remind myself that what he thinks no longer matters to me, that NC truly is the only way to break free of their toxic world, and then I remind myself of how incredibly cold and cruel the N was to me, and how easy it was for him to ST me...and he most certainly did do it as a punishment. If protecting me results in punishing him, that is unfortunate. I know that it is not the way I would conduct myself with a "normal" person in a relationship, and sadly Ns aren't normal, they leave us no choice except to go NC. When I rethink NC in this manner, it helps me to stay the course and even to feel strong enough to feel empowered by it and express the "Silence = Fuck you!" aspect of NC. NC is not ST, not when we do it to protect ourselves and unfortunately there is no other way for us to deal with the N. There also isn't any way or any reason for us to alter the Ns perception of our NC as ST, so do what you have to do, to keep yourself from feeling like you are being "mean" to the N. You know who you are, and that you are a kind person. You know that you don't make a habit of abusing people and employing ST. Your NC behavior with the N has to be the exception you allow yourself, in order to heal. It is an absolute necessity to our healing, and compassion begins with yourself.
Nov 28 - 6AM (Reply to #9)
Sea's picture

Very well said Empath! NC

Very well said Empath! NC means we want out forever. ST is short term, narcs come back after that.
Nov 28 - 6AM (Reply to #10)
empath's picture

great point Sumiko!

ST is temporary and meant to prolong abusive behavior, NC is permanent and meant to STOP abusive behavior. I hadn't thought of it that way...thank you! That will help me in being even more resolute in staying NC. I am not expecting the hoovering to last much longer...the N is too prideful and I've no doubt he's got plenty of OW to provide him with NS. I didn't respond to him on my birthday, didn't respond to him last week, and his birthday is coming up in just a few days....when he does not get a birthday greeting from me, I think he will give up and accept that I am not coming back for more of his mistreatment. Then again, this is a guy that I left and have not seen since January, and he's still hoovering me so maybe he's just never going to give up. I do know he is vengeful and contemptuous and it does bother me to think he is still wanting to hurt me...not much else I can do except batten down the hatches and allow the little Hoover storms to blow on by until hey hopefully just stop altogether.
Nov 28 - 5AM (Reply to #5)
EiPuff (not verified)
Anonymous's picture


brilliantly expressed, empath - addressed exactly what my concern was - however, even though I am a kind loving person who just doesn't want to be hurt anymore, I can't help but feel a small bit of satisfaction that N will feel the NC as ST - I have imagined a million different ways to reply to him but anything I say will be perceived by my n as bitterness because I can't have him. Radio silence is the only way for me to reclaim my dignity and pride - if this ends on MY terms with NC after he tries to reach out to me, then I can at least feel one small victory of "you can't fire me, I quit" and it will be easier to move on. That creep owes me a couple thousand dollars - I've let it go and decided to take the loss as a small price to pay for my emotional & mental freedom.
Nov 28 - 5AM (Reply to #7)
EiPuff (not verified)
Anonymous's picture

let it go

a spiritual mentor once told me "nothing that is meant to be yours can be kept from you, nor can you get, by any means, something that is not meant to be yours" - I take it to mean that the money I lost in loaning it to my N must not have been meant to be mine if I don't get it back. The info regarding considering the money as "tuition" for a life lesson learned, is yet another brilliant offering from Empath. This website is helping me so much and I am blessed and grateful for everyone's support here.
Nov 28 - 5AM (Reply to #8)
empath's picture

let it go

EiPuff, you will get it back though...just through other means. :-) I am glad you liked the Wayne Dyer-ism....that is nothing "brilliant" from me, just passing it along. That, and the concept that your spiritual mentor relayed to you, are concepts that I hold dear, and that have kept me in the right must always think thoughts of security and abundance, not insecurity and lack. Money is an energetic exchange and your mindset determines your relationship to it. That is why people who hit the lottery often wind up worse off and poorer than they were before...they don't have the mindset to know how to handle abundance, their frame of reference is only in dealing with lack.
Nov 28 - 5AM (Reply to #6)
empath's picture


I knew that I would not be alone in feeling that way about NC versus ST, so I am glad that helped you, and very glad that article gave you what you needed to hear. This forum is a life-saving, sanity-restoring resource...a blessing to us all. Just wanted to add something about your decision to let go of whatever amount of money is involved...I once read somewhere....think it was Wayne Dyer....about not viewing things like that s a loss, but rather as "tuition"...the price you paid to the Universe, for the lesson learned. :-) I think it is very wise of you to let go of whatever amount it is, because the cost to your soul to attempt to get it back would be far greater...and they would never pay you back anyway. I am sure that some how your generosity will be blessed through some other means. I think you made the right decision. Happy for you, in your healing and moving forward. Stay strong and keep reading! :-)
Nov 28 - 1AM
destiny (not verified)
Anonymous's picture

great article...the ST- gets

great article...the ST- gets very old after awhile...same patterns...etc. after some time of this merry go realize it isnt even worth reacting to...and then one day when you think you cant possibly go thru another find the courage within to banish THEM from your life for good.
Nov 27 - 10PM
jenjen816's picture


This is EXACTLY what he does to me! I find myself even apologizing for things that I KNOW I was not responsible for, just to get back in his good graces! Thank you for this article, it is helping me to begin to break free of him.
Nov 27 - 10PM
IncognitoBurrito's picture


I really really really really really really really love this article. Thank you. Love it.