How many times has the narcissist punished you for some imagined slight by removing themselves from your life? By and large, the silent treatment is one of the cruelest forms of punishment the narcissist can inflict on their victim and one of their favorites as it requires no real effort on their part. It cuts to the bone, to the core of your being and your soul. It affects your sense of value both in your eyes and theirs. You feel as if you are insignificant and worthless. And, the longer it goes on, the longer you wallow in a misery that only they could deliver you from. If only they would call. If only your phone would *ding* with a text or e-Mail from them exclaiming how much you’re loved and missed. But the silence continues. How could they do this to you? Why would they do this to you?
First and foremost, the silent treatment is one of the narcissist’s favorite forms of torture. It’s a passive-aggressive method to inflict pain that is the equivalent of emotional murder. While that may sound a bit extreme, perhaps even melodramatic, if you are not currently in the throes of the silent treatment at the hands of your narcissist, reflect back and try to remember that last time they removed themselves from your life in an effort to hurt you. Remember how that felt? Yeah, pretty horrible. And more than likely it was without explanation or reason. How long did you lament in misery, wondering what you had done? Wondering what you could do to make it better again just to bring them back. They wouldn’t return your phone calls, texts, or e-Mails. It was an absolute form of sheer hell, wasn’t it? And every morning that started with their absence was a gentle reminder that they weren’t in your life. Just as each night you crawled into bed alone was a solemn reminder that you had perpetrated some imagined insult against them but all you could think of was how you longed to feel their gentle touch, to hear their voice soft and lilting in your ear, to smell their scent, and feel their arms wrapped around you again. That sounds like a fairly tortuous experience to me. Now, imagine feeling that way night after night after night for weeks, perhaps even months – if that’s not emotional murder, I don’t know what is. But what other wordless messages does the narcissist send us when they remove themselves from our lives?
How about the denial of your very existence? Worse than emotional murder, the silent treatment is an outright renouncement of the other person’s being, an unabashed denial of the validity of your feelings whilst at the same time an acknowledgment of the narcissist’s perceived lack of value of you as a person, and, perhaps worst of all, an invalidation of the love you thought was shared between you. In short: you do not exist or have any value…in the narcissist’s eyes, anyway. It’s an outright denoucement and denial of everything that is you and them, an overt expression of cowardice, an unwillingness to be both an adult and an individual involved in a mature and loving relationship. It’s the application of manipulation in an attempt to not only control the other person but punish them.
As we’ve already discussed, the narcissist is not emotionally or psychologically healthy. In a way, one can almost feel pity for them because we know that they will never actually be able to share a genuine, selfless love with another human being. But, at the same time, we have to assign culpability where it is due and that lies in the fact that a narcissist is an adult, perfectly capable of making rational decisions and controlling their behavior. Don’t think they can control it? Watch them the next time you’re in public together (if that ever happens again) or think back to the last time you were in public together. Weren’t they more caring, expressive, loving, attentive than when you were alone with them just minutes before or hours later? You see, they know they’re treating you horribly when you’re alone together, the reality is, they simply don’t care. Your one purpose in their life is to fill their emotionally stunted existence with your positive energy, love, and attention, and to reinforce their ever-eroding sense of self-worth with praise and adoration.
While the silent treatment is an absolutely abysmal form of punishment, in a roundabout way, it’s a blessing. At least, now, you don’t have them blinding you with their lies, false accusations, and pillow-talk promises of things and a future that will never be. So do we thank them for showing us the terrible person they are? Do we hate them for what they are doing to us? For what they’ve done to us? Maybe it’s a little bit of all three. And do we forgive them? Well, that really all depends on where you are in your journey of healing and your relationship with the narcissist. You may not be to the point that you’ve been “punished” one too many times and are ready to leave. And that’s okay. It takes courage to take that step. A helluva lot of courage. Through trauma bonding, they’ve conditioned you to need and rely on only them and them only. Your journey to healing can only begin when your relationship with the narcissist comes to an end. But what if you fall for the lies, the deception, the attempts to “hoover” you back in? Don’t beat yourself up when that happens because, trust me, it will. Rather think of it as getting one step closer to realizing how much healthier, happier, and whole you are without them. While that may sound scary right now, especially if you’re still not ready to leave, believe me, one day, it’s going to sound amazing. And guess what, it’s going to feel even more amazing!