If you’ve ever experienced the silent treatment from a narcissist, you’ll know exactly why we call it emotional abuse. First of all, silent treatment hurts. Most narcissists that use silence as punishment in what we call “silent treatment” know they are doing it.
They will justify the silence by shifting blame, playing victim, outright stating why you deserve it or totally ignoring the fact that they did it. The silent treatment is felt by you as pain; it literally registers in your brain the same way physical pain does.
It is no wonder we react to it and have a hard time with the silence. Stick with me here and I’ll give you some ways to shut down the narcissist during the silent treatment and also understand what is happening to you so that you can have it affect you maybe just a little bit less. But first, it’s important that you understand the psychology of the narcissist during the silent treatment.
Remember: the narcissist uses the silent treatment as a tool to assert control and power to manipulate you.
The Silent Treatment is Emotional Abuse
You might be feeling all kinds of things from frantic to totally disregarded. Who could blame you? These feelings can make some of us act in ways that show desperate attempts to “make things better,” such as fawning behaviors like begging, over-apologizing by taking all the blame, pleading, people-pleasing, walking on eggshells, or being overly affectionate with no return of affection.
Another reaction might be anger, resulting in the fight reaction. This can include things like yelling, insisting, pushing buttons or anything just to break the silence. All of these reactions are supply for the narcissist and will not get you what you need, an adult conversation and reconciliation.
What I’ve learned from dealing with narcissistic abuse and would like to share is that it is not about really shutting down or controlling the narcissist. It’s really all about learning to control our own reactions and our own selves. This way, we can think clearly. It allows us the brainpower we need to get out and not be affected by the tools of abuse.
Easier said than done, I know. But it is really important to learn to disengage from the behaviors of the narcissist. Why? Because the silent treatment has no power if you don’t engage with it.
Shut down the narcissist’s silent treatment by disengaging.
- Know that silent treatment is not a mature and adult way of communication and it is not healthy.
- Stop taking the narcissist’s behavior personally. Remember that this is not about you or because of you – this is how they control and manipulate.
- There is no fixing this and it is not yours to fix if there were a way.
- It is not your fault! Know that and tell yourself that.
Shut down the narcissist’s silent treatment by getting some perspective.
- Take some breaths and look at the situation from a bit of a distance.
- See that this is THEIR pattern and a way for the narcissist to never have to take accountability or resolve any issue in the relationship.
- Your need for connection, resolve and care will not be met by engaging with the silent treatment.
Overcome the pain of the narcissist’s silent treatment with self-care.
- This is where self-care comes in.
- Remember you matter, you deserve a better and healthier way of communicating which will not be met by the narcissist.
- Let me remind you: YOU deserve better.
- Make your own self-care kit.
Use the silent treatment as a time of self-reflection and decide what comes next.
The silent treatment can be a pause for you to assess the relationship and decide if it is what you want in your life. Know that as long as the narcissist remains in your life, it won’t change for the better.
Take away their power by seeing your own needs and that they are not mature enough to meet them – nor do they have the empathy it takes to be healthy in a relationship.
Silence can be a time to step back and really look at who the narcissist really is. If you engage with them it is more difficult to see it for what it really is, narcissistic abuse.
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Lise Colucci is an intuitive healer and certified life coach, as well as a certified narcissistic abuse recovery coach. She is a long-time admin and mentor for the SPAN Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Group, actively helping survivors of narcissistic abuse in the expansive community to learn and heal.