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  • Lynn Catalano

What is the Silent Treatment?

The Silent Treatment is a regular tactic people with narcissistic personality disorder use to punish their victims. I believe this is the cruelest form of punishment that narcissists use.

Why do Narcissists Use the Silent Treatment?

It’s as if the narcissist figures out that they’ve hurt you or said something awful and they just can’t apologize and accept responsibility for their actions, Instead they storm off and cut you off. They actually pretend you don’t exist. Until they decide they want to have a relationship. That could be days, weeks months or years. My narcissist would walk out of my life for many different reasons like when I confronted him about something horrible he said to someone else about me or when he realized that I knew he had once again chosen his image over me or because he was jealous of me. This is my father. He’s supposed to love me the most. But he can’t. He’s emotionally handicapped. He would rather cut me off and pretend I’m gone then apologize or standby when I’m being honored instead of him. Can you imagine choosing your image over your only child?

The goals of giving the Silent Treatment

1. place the abuser in a position of control

2. silence the target’s attempts at assertion

3. avoid conflict resolution/personal responsibility/compromise

4. punish the target for a perceived ego slight.

Usually, the desired result is provoking a reaction from the victim to reinforce the needed sense of control for the narcissist.

The History of the Silent Treatment

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

“Historically, the phrase “Silent Treatment” originated from 19th-century prison reform in the United States. As an alternative to physical punishment, prisoners were rarely spoken to and no longer allowed to speak to each other. The system referred to them as a number instead of their name. They were forced to spend long hours in isolation. The goal was to break their will. Many prisoners went mad as a response to this kind of deprivation. During this time, renowned scholar and author Alexis de Tocqueville was invited to tour this experiment. He was quoted as condemning these silent prisons. “This absolute solitude, if nothing it is beyond the strength of man; it destroys the criminal without intermission and without pity; it does not reform; it kills.” This program was soon discontinued in the prison system. Thus, the Silent Treatment is considered too cruel for prisoners. However, narcissists still employ it regularly on their victims.”

Narcissistic Abuse is Emotional Abuse

How can you have a relationship with this person when you are always walking on eggshells not to trigger them and that you never know when they will stop talking to you. My narcissist has walked out of my life so many times, some more dramatically than others.

Narcissists have very low emotional intelligence. They really don’t care about the emotions of you or anyone else. When they don’t get what they want, they go into a narcissistic spin and go into some form of narcissistic rage. This type of tantrum results in the ultimate punishment of the victim. Punishment can take many different forms from withholding, to gaslighting to the Silent Treatment.

You can find my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships” on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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