Narcissistic silent treatment is something that virtually every narcissist delivers skilfully. Ironically it’s the horrible blow that they themselves are terrified of – being rendered invalid, invisible and totally redundant. We all know what it is to ignore or be ignored – we may have snubbed someone at sometime in our life, or we may have been given the “cold shoulder” ourselves. We all clearly know silent treatment means this: “I disapprove of you or something you’ve done”.
However, this cruel action – narcissistic silent treatment – is a lot more impactful than merely being brushed off by someone. In my recent article regarding the passive-aggressive narcissist we looked into the ultimate weapon used – narcissistic silent treatment – yet in this article I want to go into this in more detail, to really help you understand this tactic that virtually every narcissist, at some stage, will use.
Narcissists purposefully punish with narcissistic silent treatment; it is used to teach the person it is directed at a lesson. The insane thing about it is, the narcissist may decide to grant no explanation whatsoever for days, weeks, months or even a lifetime. Truly, there are people who experience narcissistic silent treatment who never have any explanation or closure as to why.
In fact, at first, they thought something terrible has happened to the narcissist and that’s why he or she ‘disappeared’. But, usually, this is a pattern and we discover once this happens, it will continue to happen again and again.
And the sad thing is, so many people trapped in narcissistic relationships have tried to do everything they can to prevent the absolute horror of narcissistic silent treatment – being treated as if they no longer exist. They hand over more boundaries, rights and desires and give the narcissist more of what the narcissist wants, hoping this will stop the stonewalling and disappearing acts, but to no avail. These cruel acts continue to happen, for no valid reason.
Be very clear about this – silent treatment is about invaliding your existence, and narcissists can apply this in several different ways.
Please know, if the narcissist is using this weapon against you, and you stick around to receive it – it will keep coming – until the often inevitable ultimate discard.
Narcissistic Silent Treatment After a Breakup
This form of narcissistic silent treatment is a biggie. I have heard so many people in this Community, even after decades with a narcissist and sharing children, when discarded (and usually replaced) being shell-shocked at how the narcissist is capable of shutting them out, and not giving a damn.
They are devastated to experience that the narcissist will not offer any explanation or grant any form of compassion – and is not interested in anything other than forgetting them and getting on with his or her life. The horror of being discarded like yesterday’s garbage, after years of service and devotion, is unspeakable.
It’s so sad that many of these discarded people were long ago been trained into accepting a relationship that was all about the narcissist and very little about them. Even so, they feel like they can’t imagine life without the narcissist. Now the narcissist won’t return their calls, won’t deal with them face to face and is leaving everything up to their solicitors. It is like No Contact has been reversed, the narcissist is the one executing it – with unyielding deliberate force.
This continues, unless the new source of supply is not working out, then the narcissist may return as if nothing happened. This is what many long-suffering partners of narcissists have dealt with for years. Affairs, discard, silent treatment, return, false promises … and the cycle inevitably happens all over again, until it finally is the end (which usually comes).
Is it guilt causing the narcissist to cut themselves off from their previous spouse and sometimes even their family? No, the narcissist will have their self-serving justifications for doing what he or she has done, and the ex-spouse has already been degraded and reduced in value in the narcissist’s psyche to someone who needs to be dispensed of, totally confirming the narcissist’s version of things.
The pulling away and not returning any contact is something narcissists can do with any relationships. What is so painful, when the narcissist walks away and ignores you without a backward glance, is the suddenness, severity and finality that it feels like. Possibly, seemingly moments before, you were being told you were desired and valued, and then you are meaningless and not wanted. Narcissists switch from adoring you to abhorring you on a dime.
Over the last decade I have heard so many versions of the capacity of narcissistic silent treatment – ranging from long-term marriages with narcissists all the way to brief flings where narcissists told people incredible stories such as, they are the narcissists soul mate, and they are destined life partners, only to have the narcissist then vanish into thin air, totally uncontactable – leaving them devastated, shattered and reeling.
If this has happened to you, you may obsess about, “Didn’t s/he feel that intense connection, that I did, too?” The truth was – no, you were simply being used to gratify the narcissist’s False Self in the time you spent together.
Everyday Narcissistic Silent Treatment
When the narcissist is suffering some form of narcissistic injury, when they cannot self-medicate their inner self-annihilating critic with enough narcissistic supply, he or she may decide to punish you with narcissistic silent treatment.
This can be a cruel game, like a cat tormenting a mouse, because you will ask the narcissist what is wrong, and maybe even enquire if have you done something to hurt them. You may get cryptic short answers or simply more of being ignored. Either way, the narcissist is screwing with your noodle, because there is no real explanation and you have no idea what is going on.
You are likely to react because this triggers deep insecurities within you. If you don’t and you remain calm the narcissist will simply up the ante and make sure they keep ignoring you until you do react.
Once you react, you have entered the ring where the narcissist has you pinned in the corner. Now he or she can twist things, blame you, or leave, adding the cruelty of abandonment on top of narcissistic silent treatment. Of course, this is likely to prompt you to get upset. Now the narcissist has you exactly where he or she wants you – emotionally incapacitated, deranged and hooked, and fully handing attention over to them.
Things happen like the narcissist switches their phone off, and you leave numerous missed calls, which the narcissist later showcases to everyone convincing people that you are abusive, controlling and crazy. This, of course, gleans tons of narcissistic supply from the narcissist’s audience in the process.
I experienced this in my narcissistic relationship, as I know many of you have. After getting hooked in and further abused (including smeared to all and sundry) so many times, I sometimes succeeded in detaching. The narcissistic silent treatment would go on for days on end, and even though I was feeling so low, worthless and intensely insecure and panicked I would do everything I could not to bite and get involved.
So he changed tactics. After realising I wouldn’t hook in, he would erupt and attack me for ignoring him and not caring about him and clearly, I must be having an affair because I wasn’t connecting with him. It didn’t matter how many times I told him he started it – he again, with precise narcissistic expertise, would have me so confused and bamboozled I had no idea what had really happened.
The truths were, in regard to his narcissistic silent treatment at home, I was damned if I went in to try to pull him out of it, and I was damned if I didn’t.
Silent Treatment When You Need Support
I really do believe that this version of narcissistic silent treatment is one of the cruellest and most heartbreaking forms imaginable. I remember, when one of my dearly beloved cats Ruby was run over and killed that I was beyond devastated. (As you can imagine being the cat lover I am.) I had family and friends grant me love and support, yet the narcissist went as cold as ice and would not speak to me.
He had done this before, completely pulling away from me and refusing to acknowledge I existed when something in my life was challenging, painful or even devastating – in short when I needed him the most. I felt beyond abandoned by him and when I tried to confront him about it he left and deserted me even more.
Finally, he broke his silence by attacking me mercilessly how everyone else that I had connected to for comfort was more important than him, and how disgusting I was to use the death of my cat to get sympathy from others in this way (of course a narcissistic projection).
I was devastated, I was guttered. I remembered lying on my back lawn as I had many times, sobbing all night.
Now that I understand how narcissists operate, I know this total emotional abandonment and betrayal came about because of his narcissistic rage when I was unavailable to provide him with narcissistic supply, and when the spotlight was well and truly off him.
I know so many of you have suffered at a narcissist’s hands terribly when in need, and they have completely abandoned and ignored you and possibly even cut off all contact. I can’t even begin to list the stories I have heard in this last decade when people have had serious things happen such as a death of a family member, or dreadful illness or injuries and been completely deserted by narcissists.
If you become “high maintenance” (need support) a narcissist is likely to start looking for a fresher source of narcissistic supply who will feed their False Self. A perfect example is my girlfriend’s girlfriend who was dying in palliative care whilst her narcissistic husband was rustling up dates on dating sites.
He couldn’t even wait until she had passed. I know we can’t even begin to stomach how unthinkable this is – but to him, it was totally justifiable.
Let’s talk more about how narcissists use the weapon – silent treatment, to get fresh sources of supply.
Using Silent Treatment to Generate Fresh Narcissistic Supply
I connected to a lady, very recently, whose narcissistic husband would go quiet and withdraw and then he would disappear, without a word. Surely this qualifies as “narcissistic silent treatment”? I think it does, as well as downright total abandonment. He would be uncontactable at these times for weeks or months on end.
Of course, she discovered he was spending time with other women during these absences.
Clearly, when narcissists go missing in action (MIA) this is when they are usually up to no good. It is such a relief for narcissists to escape the confinement of being “an average human” which is repugnant to their False Self. Narcissists crave the extra curriculum activates that feed their need for drama, significance, fresh supply and excitement.
Narcissists need narcissistic supply like ice addicts need ice. If a narcissist has pulled away to ignore you, there is every chance he or she is seeking new supply. I truly can’t think of one example of someone telling me about the silent treatment and cruel desertions they are suffering where this wasn’t eventually the discovered truth.
However, (as I mentioned earlier in this article) if things aren’t going swimmingly with the new sources of supply, the narcissist may return like a homing pigeon. Then he or she breaks their silence, starts communicating, with very little if any explanation and expects to pick up exactly where everything was left off.
The person who has been suffering the incredible trauma of narcissistic silent treatment will usually shut up and put up and reconnect just to try to get some relief from the intense trauma they are feeling. In fact, they may feel powerless not to, and the cycle mercilessly continues stripping their self-worth more and more. Many people have conceded that abuse, in the form of some sort of response, was preferable to being iced out and treated like “something worthless”.
And so it happens, the healthy expectations we have for a relationship get whittled away to nothing other than pure trauma bonding, where any crumb granted is a massive high – a relief that we get addicted too and hooked on – regardless of how much we are abused. When indecent behaviour becomes our normal, narcissists simply hurt us even more.
The lady that I was in communication with, stated that she tried to offer him more of herself when he returned after his affairs so he wouldn’t leave again. Ultimately it happened – he left her for good for another woman that he had been spending time with, and the silent treatment this time became a permanent silence. By the time that happened she felt like she was plunged into a deep abyss. The truth was her self-worth had been shattered long ago.
Other Ways The Relationship May Reunite After Silent Treatment
Many people when receiving the narcissist silent treatment, panic as their unhealed terrors of abandonment surface at full strength. At times, when I failed at disconnecting, I was one of these people. I would track him down and beg him to reconnect. I was also apt to give in to his demands and have no choice other than to take full responsibility for whatever I had supposedly done to him – in order for me to retain him in my life.
Narcissists will use the silent treatment as a powerful method to get the message across if you are prone to react how I used to. It is an effective way of getting us to hand over boundaries and gain control.
Interestingly when I gained strength and the silent treatment didn’t work on me, and I started to feel surer inside about moving on, that is when he would hoover me and draw me back into the web. And of course nothing was resolved, the cycles of abuse were forever cycling and returning. My unhealed traumas that were keeping me stuck in the game were playing out continuously – and I know it could well be the same for you.
That was until I went No Contact for good and finally healed what I needed to. People have asked me, “But isn’t me going no contact doing ‘The Silent Treatment?’”
Please know No Contact is a healthy statement that is necessary to save our life and soul and grants us enough space to get our real inner healing done.
This is not some purposeful tactic to degrade, control and punish someone – it is a definitive statement of I love myself enough to say “no more” and finally heal the reasons within which keeps us doing this deadly dance with narcissists.
The Ultimate Discard of Your Worth
What is narcissistic silent treatment REALLY about? Narcissistic silent treatment carries THIS “message” to its victim …
You are not worth anything in my life. You are not even worthy of one scrap of my attention.
The chilling truth is, apart from the ongoing cycles of narcissistic silent treatment, it can be used as a permanent axing of you.
When a narcissist has decided you have got too close – you know what is under the mask and they could possibly be exposed, or if they have drained you of all that you could possibly give, or you no longer supply the stuff that makes their life interesting and exciting enough, or if better narcissistic supply appears, or if you were only ever used as a tool to momentarily freed the ego or punish on a current partner … or for whatever reason they have decided you don’t fit in to their agenda anymore – then you will be sacked from their life.
Permanent narcissistic silent treatment has happened for this reason – the narcissist has simply changed movie sets. The things and people who are no longer relevant to the present grandiose, fictitious, pathological needs of the False Self, are deemed redundant and discarded accordingly.
How To Heal For Real
There is only one way to heal from this – use space and silence from the narcissist to your advantage. And, there is only one truth to this – you are going to have to detach, pull away and heal in order to escape this life which is destroying your life force and not allowing you to be able to live your true joy, love and unique contributions as your True Self.
There is no easy way to go No Contact with a narcissist. There is no easy way to go alone and feel like you would in a normal relationship breakdown – that it is sad but okay to end it.
With narcissistic abuse you have suffered severe soul violation – you feel depressed, emotionally and mentally fractured, confused, unworthy, needy and constantly triggered. None of this eases and the narcissist is absolutely unavailable, unwilling and incapable of taking your pain away – there is no resolution there.
It’s time when we “get it” that it’s time, to take any opportunity to do the most important work of our life, which is to disconnect from the narcissist, withdraw all of our attention from them, turn inwards to ourselves and find and heal the broken parts of ourselves that the narcissist is reflecting back at us with his or her traumatising behaviour.
These are all the parts of us that feel unlovable and not enough, and that we only have worth if someone else is loving us, rather than knowing we have enough worth to love ourselves and leave if they don’t.
Be prepared, after the silent treatment, that if you stay away and do take this very important work that the narcissist is then likely to hoover you.
They feel the disconnect, they know when you are getting off the narcissistic supply snack list and they may well try to put you back in there. Resist that too – keep going – because if you capitulate you will again fall into the cycle of violence – which narcissistic silent treatment totally is – and the cycles intensify and get worse and worse.
Now the narcissist will make sure he or she has you where they want you – because you will be mercilessly punished for nearly getting away.
If this article resonates with you and you know its time to stop the madness and torture and heal yourself beyond this. Then I’d love you to join me for a free 16-day recover course, which includes 2 comprehensive eBooks, a 3-hour healing workshop with me and lots more.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that this article has helped you gain clarity, sanity and strength, and inspired you to join me in my workshop, where I just know can help you reach the next level of your recovery.
I look forward to answering your comments and questions below.