The Silent Treatment

I visited a very good friend of mine yesterday.  Like me, her mother was a narcissist.  A much more malignant narcissist than mine.  While we were talking, she mentioned that her mother never gave her the silent treatment.  In fact, instead she would fake illness brought on by the stress my friend caused by either disagreeing with her or disobeying her.

I told her what she was missing out on!  The silent treatment can be a wonderful thing!  It gives you a break from your narcissistic mother’s drama, cruelty, mind games & more.  At first, it may not feel good, but after a while, it really feels like a gift from God.  Yes, that sounds awful, I know, but it’s the truth!

Many daughters of narcissistic mothers have faced the silent treatment at some point.  As young children, it can be devastating!  It certainly was for me. I couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t speak to me.  I would try anything to gain her attention.  I even asked what was wrong, & was met with among the most ridiculous responses ever: “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”  At first this made me try harder, but I quickly realized that was why she said it, & stopped trying so hard.

As I grew older, I learned some more things about the silent treatment, & I’d like to share them with you to (hopefully!) help you.

  • The silent treatment is about control.  It is supposed to force you to ask, “What’s wrong?” so your narcissistic mother can tell you exactly what is wrong with you to upset her so much, she had to withdraw from you.
  • The silent treatment is also to make you feel inadequate, flawed, wrong, crazy.  The more messed up you believe you are, the less likely it is you’ll stand up to your narcissistic mother.  You will be easier for her to control.
  • The silent treatment really has nothing to do with what you did.  Whatever you did was just an excuse to give you the silent treatment.  Didn’t do anything?  That’s fine too- narcissists aren’t above lying to get what they want.
  • Normal, healthy people do NOT use the silent treatment!!  Normal people get angry, & may even want a little space from you if you said or did something hurtful, but that space doesn’t last long.  It’s only a little time to cool off, & not to punish you.
  • The silent treatment shows the person giving it is very immature, selfish, childish..  If your narcissistic mother can’t approach you like an adult to work things out, using the silent treatment instead, she’s behaving like a spoiled rotten little child.

So how does one deal with being on the receiving end of the silent treatment??

  • Keep the above list in mind.  This will help you to remember that this silent treatment speaks more about your narcissistic mother’s problems than something being wrong with you.  Like I said, normal, healthy people don’t use the silent treatment!  They speak to the person who hurt them & work things out like mature adults.
  • Never, ever ask, “What’s wrong?”  If you do, you most likely will open up her narcissistic rage arsenal of weapons.  “What’s wrong?” seems to translate to “Now I can really abuse her!!” in the mind of a narcissist.  If your narcissistic mother won’t try to work this out, then that is her problem.  How are you supposed to repair whatever you did wrong if you don’t even know what you did wrong?
  • Remember, refusing to play your narcissistic mother’s games is honorable!  Honoring your mother as the Bible commands doesn’t mean play into her manipulation.  To truly honor someone means you want the best for them, & the best is for your mother to be a healthy person.  Granted, to become mentally healthy, she has to want to become healthy- you can’t make her want that, nor can you make her healthy.  However, you can gently push her in that direction by refusing to engage in her games.
  • Think of this time without your narcissistic mother as a break.  In all honesty, probably you aren’t getting the silent treatment because you did something bad.  Probably, you dared to have your own opinion, didn’t praise your mother enough, didn’t jump through some ridiculous hoops that she wanted you to jump through.  Why beat yourself up over something so stupid?  Instead, just think of this silent treatment as a reprieve.  Enjoy the peace & quiet for however long it lasts!  Besides, most likely your mother will contact you soon anyway, as soon as she needs something from you.
  • Take care of yourself.  Refuse to think about “What did I do wrong?” or feel guilty.  Instead, do nice things for yourself. Get a mani/pedi.  Get yourself a new book you’ve been wanting.  Spend a day relaxing with herbal tea & good movies.

It probably will take you some time to stop feeling guilty & to start enjoying the silent treatment.  And then, you may feel somewhat guilty for enjoying it.  I know I did at first.  But, that doesn’t last long once you realize how peaceful your life has become!

I have realized that the last few times my mother has given me the silent treatment, it took me a while to realize it was happening!  Weeks would go by, when suddenly I realized she hadn’t called me.  Quite an improvement over fretting about how to get her to start speaking to me again & feeling guilty for being such a terrible daughter, don’t you think?



Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

8 responses to “The Silent Treatment

  1. Margaret Morris

    You are so right that normal people don’t use this silent treatment, they actually talk to you and work out the problem. This analogy of the narcissist is spot on Cynthia.

    Personally, I love the silent treatment. I used your advice last year and set boundaries away from my mother and this included me using the silent treatment on her. It works like a treat and I don’t feel one bit guilty.

    I have another problem that has just arisen. My 60th birthday has past without my mother giving me anything even though it was a significant milestone birthday. All my family gave me lovely gifts and we enjoyed a special dinner at a restaurant (without my mother).

    Now I heard from my daughter that this week she was asked to take out money from the teller machine (as my mother feigns she can’t work the machine). The money was for a present for my cousin who is turning 60 this week end. Why did my mother give me nothing for my 60th and is giving her neice who she rarely sees a gift of money? My brother is really angry with this and feels we should both tell mum this is not acceptable.

    Using reverse psychology, I am angry at the situation, but deep down I know mum would be happy if I was upset about not getting anything for my birthday. Do you think my brother and I should speak to mum about this injustice or leave it well alone?

    Thanks again for all your help Cynthia.
    Cheers, Margaret


    • Thank you, Margaret!

      Isn’t the silent treatment a wonderful thing?! lol

      Really? How did giving your mother the silent treatment work on her? I haven’t done that with mine- never thought of it! Not sure she’d notice, come to think of it..

      Happy belated birthday! It sounds like you had a lovely day!

      Honestly? I wouldn’t say a thing to her if I were you. Narcissists love attention, even if it’s negative, so that’s just “feeding” her. Plus, chances are very good that she’ll end up only hurting you more by defending her actions or making you look like you’re wrong, crazy, oversensitive, etc. She probably made sure this would get back to you so you would get angry & confront her & she could have her scene.

      I’m so sorry your mother did this.. it must be really painful! Sending big hugs!!


  2. Margaret Morris

    Hi Cynthia
    Thanks for the advice and the hugs I appreciate your support. I am very fortunate I have a wonderful family who keep me sane and love me.

    Well, it’s actually my brother that is more angry than me about my non-existent birthday present from mum. I think I will take your advice and not put myself in harm’s way by asking her why she didn’t give me a present. I know that she enjoys attention even if it’s negative as you said.

    You are right, chances are she will only hurt me again and definitely she LOVES making a scene and turning everything around so she is the victim and I look like the big bad wolf.

    Using the silent treatment on mum is absolutely wonderful. She definitely notices, believe me that I don’t call her or speak to her for ages. However, it is not completely “silent” in that you do eventually speak but it is extremely limited what you say. I got the idea from you last year advising me to put boundaries in place and distance between myself and my mother after her terrible abuse.

    When I eventually call my mother, and it’s always on my terms, I keep my conversation so brief and tell her absolutely no news of my life, work or what her grand-children are doing. The good side to this is that she has no ammunition to spread bad things about me or my family because she doesn’t know anything to blab. She hates it and I can tell from her conversation that she tries in vain to get any juicy news to spread. As you well know narcissists are total liars, so if they don’t have any information to spread then their gossip source dries up. Then they do on to spread lies about other people, but at least you are not the one in the firing line!!!

    Try it Cynthia, it definitely works.
    Cheers, Margaret


    • You’re very welcome!

      I’m so glad you have others who love & support you in your life. That makes a big difference! 🙂

      Does your brother know about narcissism? If not, please teach him! He’ll see why he shouldn’t confront your mother about your birthday. It’s not worth the extra frustration & hurt that would come with it!

      I see what you mean about giving your mother the silent treatment! That’s how I related to my narcissistic mother in-law before I quit speaking to her. It was so funny watching her get angry with me for not giving her any details, & knowing she couldn’t say anything about it without sounding unreasonable! LOL Isn’t that just fun?! I do it with my mother as well, but she doesn’t get as mad- she just gives up trying to get information from me.


  3. Margaret Morris

    Just to clarify my “silent treatment” theory. I never use this with normal people, like my family or friends because we talk and work things out if we have problems or differences. We don’t have to use the silence against each other. However, my mother, being a narcissist is definitely not “normal” so the silent treatment is useful on her because she will never try to work things out with anyone because she loves attention on herself, be it negative or positive. The distance from her along with the silence is bliss.


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