• Lynn Catalano

What does the Silent Treatment feel like?


This blog post is the second in a series on the Silent Treatment.


When you’re on the receiving end of the Silent Treatment, you are experiencing real emotional trauma. You’ll feel:


  • Confusion

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Guilt

  • Abandonment

  • Loneliness

  • Despair

  • Invisible


Experiencing the Silent Treatment denies the victim the basic human social and relationship needs. In my opinion, it’s the worst tactic narcissists use on their victims. My narcissist is a professional at giving the Silent Treatment as it’s his favorite tactic to employ. I’ve observed him give it to family members, friends, and acquaintances over the years, all in an effort to punish them.


The Silent Treatment is a tactic people with narcissistic personality disorder use to punish their victims. They use it when they perceive an offense when you don’t do what they want or don’t stay on their script. It’s meant to hurt you.


Core Elements of The Silent Treatment

  • Categorically dismisses someone

  • No opportunity for conflict resolution

  • No ability to discuss anything

  • It’s as if you don’t exist at all

  • All the while, the narcissist remains in complete control


What does it feel like when a narcissist uses the Silent Treatment on you?


As someone who has been subject to the Silent Treatment for days, months, weeks, and even years. I can say there is no other punishment that is quite as cruel. This tactic makes you feel completely and utterly abandoned by this person who was supposed to love you.


Below is an excerpt from my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships: How to Identify, Live with or Leave the Narcissist in Your Life.”


“The Silent Treatment is a way of withdrawing and withholding love from another person. Imagine the damage this does to a family member. It wears people down, filling them with shame and guilt. It’s pure torture. Just the threat of it forces us to walk on eggshells around the narcissist. It’s normal behavior of a narcissist who regularly gives the Silent Treatment to expect support from their victims when they’re ready to connect again. This was particularly true of my father.”


Giving the Silent Treatment is Addictive to Narcissists

It's been noted that meting out the Silent Treatment can be addictive for the giver. The parent giving their child and who couldn’t force themselves to speak to their child again suffer the way many addicts suffer. They keep repeating an activity in spite of knowing the harm. Narcissists don’t intend to give the Silent Treatment for as long as they do but they have difficulty stopping. This is like comparing the application of the Silent Treatment to drug addiction. Narcissists become addicted to inflicting this form of emotional abuse as a solution to their own pain. Since narcissists can’t regulate their emotions, they also can’t process criticism, failure, or defeat in a normal way. Their reactions to crisis or controversy are not normal so their go-to reaction is giving the Silent Treatment. This is especially so if they’re without their narcissistic supply to comfort them.

Just Don’t Engage

This isn’t an excuse for those narcissists to continue giving people the Silent Treatment. It just felt like a nightmare version of a rollercoaster ride to me. Everything seems fine and then he perceives an offense and starts giving me the Silent Treatment. After months or years, I go to him and say I want peace. He says he doesn’t want to rehash the who did what and we go on as if nothing happened. Until the next time, when he starts giving me the Silent Treatment. I hate rollercoasters.


You can find my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships” on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.


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