Tag Archives: silent treatment
Narcissists seem to have a “gift” for making their victims feel that they are the problem in the relationship, that they are the ones who are dysfunctional, not the narcissist. Often, they are so talented at doing this, a victim is completely baffled as to how it happened. This post will explain some ways narcissists accomplish this.
Narcissists love gaslighting. Gaslighting is the systematic tearing down of a person’s sanity. Narcissists will deny having done something, deny the incident happened as it did, find a way to blame the victim for the problem & more. Constant gaslighting tears down a person’s ability to trust their own memories, feelings, perceptions & yes, even sanity.
Narcissists either imply or say outright that their victims are crazy. My mother used to tell me often, “You need help.” It was accompanied by a pitying expression. She was implying I was in dire need of psychological help, yet, never got it for me. Why? Because she knew I was sane. I, however, had doubts for most of my life about my sanity. After all, no one would say such a thing to their own child if it wasn’t true, I thought.
Narcissists project their faults onto their victims. Narcissists view others through a very distorted lens. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their mind and their conscience are corrupted.” (AMP) One aspect of this is accusing their victims of the very things that they themselves do, even when there is no evidence of the victim doing anything of the sort. They often accuse their victims with such certainty, the victim may believe the accusations are true. There is one good thing about projection. It can be useful in learning what the narcissist is really up to. The narcissistic husband who claims his wife is unfaithful is most likely having an affair. The narcissistic mother who accuses her child of lying is a lair. Listening to what the narcissist accuses you of can give you a great deal of insight into what they are truly like.
Narcissists love the silent treatment as a weapon. In my late teens, my mother & I argued constantly. One of her favorite ways to hurt me was to give me the silent treatment. I would beg her to tell me what was wrong, & she either refused to answer or would say, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” At the time, either scenario was devastating. Saying nothing showed me I wasn’t worth her time or energy to speak to. Saying she wouldn’t tell me if I didn’t know what was wrong made me feel crazy, stupid & ashamed for not knowing what egregious sin I had committed.
Narcissists lack self awareness. Rather than question that maybe, just maybe, they might be the problem in their relationships, they blame all relationship woes on other people. If you aren’t aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be quite easy to believe that the narcissist is right, & you are at fault for their problems or the problems in your relationship.
Narcissists are provokers. In other words, narcissists will do whatever it takes to push their victims to the point of rage so they can use that rage to prove to the victim that the victim is crazy, abusive, irrational or anything else. Since the narcissist stays calm while the victim is clearly upset, it’s easy for the victim to believe what the narcissist says at this point.
Narcissists will say that they forgive you, even when you have done nothing wrong. By saying this, they are implying that you are the problem in this situation, & they are very good & kind people to forgive you for the awful things you have done.
Learning about these tactics can help you to protect your mental health, & not fall for the narcissist’s lies that you & you alone are the dysfunctional one in the relationship.
Many people don’t seem to realize that the silent treatment & no contact are very different things. As a result, many people shame victims who implement no contact. They call victims immature, spoiled, unreasonable & more, saying victims are pouting or trying to punish their abuser when the truth is, abusers are the ones who are being immature, unreasonable & trying to punish their victims by using the silent treatment.
No contact isn’t done to punish or hurt anyone. It is done because a victim has tried & tried to make the relationship better yet nothing has improved. It’s a desperate, last ditch effort to protect a person’s mental & physical health by escaping an abusive person. Any person can take only so much before it affects their health.
No contact is also permanent. There is no going back for the victim who has settled on no contact as their best option. That is partly why so much serious consideration goes into it. Contrary to what many folks believe (primarily abusers & their flying monkeys), almost every single person who has implemented no contact in their life did so only after months or even years of a lot of thought & prayer. It’s not a spur of the moment decision done in the heat of anger.
This also means that victims don’t want their abusers trying to contact them in any way. They don’t want calls, texts, emails, etc. in some pathetic attempt to lure or scare the victim into returning to the relationship. Many abusers seem to think their victims want this type of harassment & it will win their victims back, but nothing could be further from the truth. When a person goes no contact, it’s because they want NO CONTACT, period. It isn’t some attempt to get the abuser’s attention. Abusers often think this is the case, because that is what they want to accomplish by not speaking to someone.
The silent treatment is done on the spur of the moment. Abusers are spontaneous people, & not in a good way. Anything a victim says or does can make an abuser decide in an instant to use the silent treatment. Or, a victim doesn’t have to say or do anything. Abusers don’t exactly have the most integrity in the world. If they want silent treatment drama, they certainly aren’t above creating it by inventing some imaginary slight from their victim.
The silent treatment is done to manipulate & control. The goal is to make the victim feel so insecure & badly that he or she comes crawling to the abuser, apologizing profusely & being willing to do anything to make it up to the abuser. The abuser rarely tells the victim what awful sin he or she committed, but instead makes the victim guess. This makes the victim easier to control & more willing to try harder. I remember my mother using the line, “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you.” Not exactly a healthy or useful way to cope with conflict.
The silent treatment is also done to punish victims. When you aren’t aware of what the silent treatment is all about, it can be devastating! I remember my mother giving me the silent treatment countless times my entire life. It was a horrible feeling when my own mother wouldn’t speak to me or even tell me why. In fact, my mother once stopped speaking to me for 18 months several years ago. Why she did that, she never would say.
The silent treatment is also temporary. It ends when an abuser gets their way or becomes bored with it. A victim knows when it’s over too, because the abuser contacts them acting like nothing happened that was out of the ordinary.
There is one last big difference between the silent treatment & no contact. Victims grow accustomed to the silent treatment. After enduring it so many times, it stops upsetting them. Abusers are always shocked by no contact, no matter how horribly they treated their victims. And ironically, the ones who seem the most shocked by no contact are the ones who repeatedly used the silent treatment.
Narcissists love to have power over their victims. To hurt someone either mentally, physically or sexually gives them a feeling of power. Possibly the only thing that makes narcissists feel even more powerful is watching their victim suck up to them.
When a victim is genuinely repentant & will do anything to make it up to their abuser, this is a huge power trip for the narcissist. They know they can make that victim do anything at this point. There also is the added bonus of the victim accepting responsibility for whatever the narcissist did. This means the narcissist doesn’t have to take any blame at all. (Not that they would anyway, but at least in this situation, they don’t have to work to pawn that blame off on someone else).
Narcissists are incredibly good at manipulation & gaslighting- making a person doubt their own thoughts, feelings, perceptions & even sanity. Because of this, it’s no wonder many victims in the midst of narcissistic abuse continually apologize & suck up to their abuser. I certainly have done my fair share of it before learning about narcissism. (If you have too, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I doubt there is one victim of narcissistic abuse that hasn’t apologized to their abuser at least a couple of times.)
If you’re still in a relationship with a narcissist, I’m sure you’re faced with the scenario at least periodically, where the narcissist is angry with you & demands that you apologize. Or maybe she prefers suddenly to stop speaking to you, with no explanation whatsoever, in an attempt to make you rush to her side, begging for her to speak to you again.
Having been there, I learned something. Don’t do it!!!
If you have done something wrong, then by all means, apologize. It’s just the right, mature thing to do. Say you’re sorry, make things right if you can, & move on.
If you haven’t done something wrong, then do NOT apologize! If you do it once, the narcissist will demand you do it again & again. She will use you & wear you down to get you to make it up to her for whatever horrible thing you supposedly did.
If a person can’t behave like a mature adult by trying to work out a problem, then don’t treat them as if they are one. Let that narcissist pout like the bratty child she’s acting like while you ignore her ridiculous display. If she’s trying to make you feel guilty, pretend not to notice. If she hints for an apology, also pretend not to notice. Learn to enjoy the silent treatment if you’re on the receiving end of it. It’s a reprieve from unnecessary drama- why not enjoy it?
Stop trying to make it up to a narcissist who isn’t telling you what you’ve done wrong or who blames you for them abusing you! It only provides them with narcissistic supply, & the more you provide, the more they will demand from you.
Making it up to someone you have hurt is one thing. It should be a normal thing for a person to do as well as the one hurt to expect. However, when someone constantly expects another person to make it up to them without trying to talk things out, or because they abused their victim, something is very, very wrong with this situation.
Narcissists are masters of abuse. They abuse as cleverly as Claude Monet created beautiful works of art. Sadly, instead of leaving behind beauty as a result of their efforts as Monet did, they leave behind devastation & destruction.
A favorite thing for any narcissist to do is to control their victim. Whether the narcissist is overt or covert matters not in this area, because they all love control.
One means to control their victim is to create a fear of consequences. Naturally, the overt narcissist will use this tactic a bit differently than the covert type, but both use it with equal fervor, & both will send the same messages to the victim: “I’m rejecting you.” “You’re no good & not worthy of my love.” “You’re crazy.” “You will go along with what I want or else face my wrath.”
If an overt narcissist wants to control you, she may scream, psychologically abuse or even physically abuse you. With a covert narcissist, he will give you the silent treatment, attempt to make you feel guilty, attempt to make you pity him or even portray himself as the victim of your abuse.
Naturally, victims want to avoid these awful consequences, so they stop whatever behavior triggered the narcissistic abuse.
That is how a fear of consequences is born. Once that happens, the narcissist learns she can repeat those behaviors to control her victim.
When a person grows up with a parent doing this, it can be hard to stand up to that parent, even as an adult. I understand that completely. However, it must be done!
I’m not saying you have to return tit for tat, screaming at your parent or returning their abusive behavior to them (as justified as it might be..). I am saying that you can & should reject their behavior. Tolerating it only means you will continue to be abused by that person, which is unfair. It also sends the message to you & any others who see it that you won’t defend yourself, you don’t matter, it is perfectly acceptable to abuse you & if you will tolerate this abuse, certainly more will also be acceptable to you.
With narcissists, often saying something confrontational or even setting a simple boundary isn’t a good idea. They will use that information to hurt you further by repeating the behavior or they will tell others how cruel you were to them, while continuing the behavior. You need to know your own individual situation well, so you know when is a good time to speak out, & when isn’t. Any time I’ve had to deal with my narcissistic parents, I ask God to provide whatever I will need for the interaction. Wisdom, strength, courage to speak up.. anything He knows I will need. That has helped me tremendously in knowing when I should speak up & when I shouldn’t.
On the times you know in your heart it is best not to speak out, you still can set your boundaries & not tolerate the abuse. You can hang up the phone or leave the room. All you have to say is, “I need to go now. Good bye.” You don’t owe them any explanations beyond that.
You also need to look at their abusive consequences differently. Getting the silent treatment? Think of it as a reprieve from drama. Enjoy it while it lasts! Is she screaming at you? Trying to make you feel guilty? Acting like she’s the victim & you’re the abuser? Remember, normal people do NOT behave this way! This just goes to show how messed up the narcissist is. She is doing these things to make herself feel better by controlling you as well as injuring your self-esteem by putting you down. If she’s accusing you of being abusive, she is also projecting her own flaws onto you so she can be angry about them while at the same time, rejecting any responsibility for having them. Looking at things this way helps you not to be as devastated or controlled by narcissistic abuse. It protects your self-esteem, too, when you understand why these things are being done to you.
Also, you need to remember that you are an adult now. No parent, narcissistic or not, has the right to control their child.
And, as an adult, your parent can’t hurt you anymore. They can’t take away your video games or car keys. What can that person possibly do to you? At this stage, they would have to move into illegal actions (stalking, harassment, reporting false claims to Child Protective Services, etc). Or, they possibly could cut you out of their will so you don’t get an inheritance if your parent dies before you. Really though, is that a big deal? It’s only money- you can make your own, & doing that wouldn’t have strings attached to it. When narcissists give you money, there are always strings attached somehow. Better to avoid those strings!
Dear Reader, if you are still in a relationship with your narcissistic parent, then I urge you to remember such things. Protect yourself & your sanity as much as you can from your narcissistic parent. You do not deserve their abuse, & you have every right to protect yourself from it however you see fit.
Another control tactic narcissists use is by ignoring their victim. Whether it is pretending the person didn’t say anything or the narcissist didn’t hear the person (when they obviously did) or the silent treatment, ignoring a victim is about control.
Being ignored may not sound very effective, but it can be surprisingly so. It communicates the message that the person being ignored is so awful, they don’t even deserve to be acknowledged. This message can be absolutely devastating, especially when done repeatedly.
It also makes the person being ignored work harder, trying to get the ignoring person’s attention. The person feels they must make it up to the ignoring person. Make what up? They rarely know, but they know they have done something so horrible, it made the ignoring person not want to speak to them.
If the narcissist in question has hearing problems, she may use it to help her ignore you. She may have what I refer to as selective hearing. If you say something she doesn’t like, she may act like she doesn’t hear you.
My narcissistic mother has ignored me more times than I can count. She has hearing problems, & uses it to play innocent claiming she didn’t hear me say something. Yet, I’ve tested her hearing. If we’re discussing something & she isn’t happy with what I’m saying, she without fail says, “What’s that Honey? I can’t hear you..” until I’m practically screaming. If the conversation is normal, I can practically whisper & she hears me fine. She also gives me the silent treatment on a regular basis.
Thanks to her ridiculous behavior, I have had to learn healthy ways to cope.
My mother started using the silent treatment with me sometime in my childhood. I don’t remember when exactly, but I remember her using it most often when her abuse was at its peak in my late teens. It used to upset me terribly! I would beg her to tell me what I did that was so bad, & she would respond with, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” *sigh* I finally had a revelation. If she wouldn’t talk to me like the grown up she was, then whatever I supposedly did couldn’t be so bad. Or, if she wouldn’t tell me, then chances are it was because she didn’t have a leg to stand on- I probably didn’t do anything bad at all. Instead, she was trying to get me to work hard to earn her love back. This knowledge was very helpful for me. I no longer felt the need to work hard to earn her love. I have come to appreciate the silent treatment. I now think of it as a break from the drama & head games my narcissistic mother loves to play.
When she ignores me or uses her selective hearing, I involve my father or whoever else is there. As typical with narcissists, my mother does NOT want to look bad in front of others, so this works to my advantage. If she ignores me, I give my father a look of frustration or ask him to get her attention since she’s ignoring me. Then, he will call my mother by her name & mention me saying something, which forces her to acknowledge me. Once I have her full attention, I can repeat what I was saying. Of course, this works well when someone else is there only, which is another argument for not being alone with a narcissist. Having witnesses can be a very helpful thing, plus the narcissist usually behaves better when there are people around to impress.
I also remind myself whether she is simply ignoring me or giving me the full blown silent treatment that she isn’t doing this because of me. She is doing it because there is something wrong with her. Mature, normal, healthy people don’t treat other people this way. They discuss issues & work things out.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me, Dear Reader!
Narcissists have a large variety of weapons in their arsenal, but possibly the most favorite weapon is the silent treatment.
The silent treatment usually plays out in a similar scenario: You say or do something that offends the narcissist. Chances are, you’re unaware of it, but she certainly isn’t. She suddenly refuses to speak to you. You ask what’s wrong, & she ignores you, sends one of her flying monkeys to “talk some sense into you” in an effort to make you feel guilty, or she says some ridiculous comments to you such as, “you know what you did!” or (my personal favorite- my mother used this one in my teen years) “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you,” You are tormented wondering what you did that was so wrong. You are baffled. Then eventually, she graciously allows you to apologize. And, you may never know what your crime was.
I went through this many times with my narcissistic mother when I was growing up. It used to upset me terribly. It’s very unsettling. I’m a sensitive person & not knowing what I did that was so bad, it made my mother stop speaking to me was very hard. it was confusing, & made me feel like a bad person.
As time went on, though, I began to see that this silent treatment was less about what I did, & more about my mother trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted. This knowledge was very freeing to me. Once I realized this, I stopped worrying when my mother would give me the silent treatment & stopped trying to fix it. I knew that in time, if I left her alone, she would start speaking to me again, & act like nothing ever happened. This has become her routine. In fact, I’m getting the silent treatment as I write this. My mother’s barely spoken to me in months. Why? I have no idea. The last I heard from my father, she was mad because I don’t come to her house to visit. Interestingly, I haven’t been invited to come over since my father had problems last December & January, so I really don’t understand the logic.
If you deal with a narcissistic mother who gives you the silent treatment, I encourage you to do as I have done. Stop asking her what is wrong when she gives you the silent treatment! Let her pout & act like a spoiled child since that is what she wants to do. Instead of asking her what is wrong, ignore her & go on about your life. Enjoy the break from the drama.
If your narcissistic mother’s flying monkeys come to talk to you (triangulation is another weapon of narcissists), refuse to discuss the topic with them. Nothing good can come of it, so simply refuse to discuss that topic. Tell them you won’t discuss this topic & change the subject. Repeatedly if need be, but stick to your guns.
Your life can be much more peaceful if you do these two things when you’re given 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?
My mother has ended her silent treatment. I had a good run of a couple of months of silence this time, but it’s over now. She called me this morning & acted as if we’d just spoken yesterday. It’s like nothing happened- no silent treatment, no trashing me to my father, nothing bad…
In case I haven’t said it lately, I absolutely freaking HATE head games!!!
It was a typical conversation with my narcissistic mother. The exact same conversation that happens every time she stops speaking to me then eventually resumes talking to me. It’s also why I love it when she gives me the silent treatment & dread when she ends it.
She called under the guise of looking for my father- as he often does, he vanished for hours. Without a cell, she has no means of reaching him when he is away from home. Then there was the complaining about him, & that morphed into “did I tell you about my latest back problem?” Side note: I have no sympathy for her back problems, because, as many of you know, when I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall so hard, I was in constant pain for 10 years. I quit working outside the home a few months later. Then there was the usual guilt trip because my husband works long hours (my parents seem to believe I have some evil powers that make him work long hours against his will while I live like I’m on vacation..), & telling me again about a man who recently died who my mother is glad is dead. I must admit, that last part had me laughing. Not because the man has passed away of course or even her coldness about his passing (that was just disconcerting!), but because my mother claims he is a terrible person because he liked to present himself as such a great person when he really wasn’t. According to her, this man even wrote his own obituary & “it sure made him sound like a great guy!” Yes, you read that right. A narcissist is complaining about another person’s narcissistic behavior. Can you wrap your head around that one? I’m still working on it..
Is it any wonder I’ve had a headache all day? As if starting out my day that way thanks to anxiety & nightmares waking me last night wasn’t quite enough…throw in a Mom call & my head is not happy with me..
My mother’s call has skewed my day. I was ok considering I had a rough start to the day. Now? I feel shaken up. Anxious, angry, depressed, dissociating a lot, head achy, & exhausted. It is ridiculous things are this way, however, it is the norm for those times that I have to deal with my mother.
There was also a small part of me that was feeling guilty earlier today for not calling my parents or suggesting lunch together or something similar. Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm for children of narcissistic parents- always at least some guilt in there somewhere for something, some perceived slight against the parents or failure to measure up to their unrealistic expectations.
I think the reasoning is because we are raised by narcissistic parents to feel guilty because we never quite measure up. We don’t get good enough grades in school, or study the right subjects. We always fail because we aren’t whatever they think we should be. We don’t choose the career they want us to work, or marry the person they think we should marry, or drive the right car, or we disappoint them with some other life choices. We are conditioned to feel guilty & the frequency in our lives of knowing how often we disappoint our narcissistic mothers is so painful. That isn’t always easy to shake off, even when we are adults & know better.
But yanno something?? When we “fail” our narcissistic parents, we are simply living life according to our rules as we should. We are following God’s plan for our lives rather than their plans, which is obviously way more important! As Shakespeare said in “Hamlet”, “To thine own self be true.” What wise advice! Living for someone, anyone, else is a guaranteed way to make yourself utterly miserable!
And, as for feeling guilty for not spending time with your narcissistic parents, I’ll share something that God has shown me many times. My parents are reaping what they’ve sown with me. I don’t want to spend time with them because of the sorry way they have treated me for my entire life. Who wants to spend time with anyone who mistreats or abuses them?! If you are battling guilt for setting boundaries on your interaction with your narcissistic parents, please remember that- they are reaping what they have sown. People who sow bad seeds (being abusive, neglectful, hurtful, manipulative) will sow an unpleasant harvest (being ignored, strong boundaries that are enforced, not tolerating abuse) in return. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with you- it means you are a normal person!!
Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m off for some well needed self care. Music, relaxing, snuggling furkids & a shower…