The silent treatment is a commonly used weapon of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is a passive/aggressive behavior, involving acting as if someone is not even there, not speaking to or acknowledging them. It takes away approval and love. It is used in the hopes of making you ask, “What’s wrong?”, to make you feel guilty or ashamed, to punish you or to help an abuser get their way about something.
In short, the silent treatment is about control.
Also, you need to know that there are distinct differences between the silent treatment and taking some time to cool off after an argument before confronting the other person. A cooling off period is often a wise move. It gives you time to calm down and think about things, rather than acting immediately out of emotion, and possibly saying or doing things you will regret. A cooling off period also has a time limit- it does not last very long – whereas the silent treatment can go on indefinitely.
When someone is giving another the silent treatment, that person often will deny doing so, whereas someone in a cooling off period will say something like, “I’m angry, and I just need a little time to myself right now. I’ll discuss this later.”
Being on the receiving end of the silent treatment can be very unsettling. It leaves you confused, feeling guilty, and trying to figure out what you have done to deserve this. It is especially difficult to handle when it is your own parent doing this to you. I understand – I have been on the receiving end of my own mother’s silent treatment more times than I can count.
There are some ways that you can cope with the silent treatment:
- Do not try to push your parent into telling you why she or he is giving you the silent treatment. Most likely, your parent will deny giving you the silent treatment.
- Leave your parent alone. Let him or her sulk if that is what your parent wants to do. Your parent is an adult, and if he or she can’t use words to work out a solution to the problem like an adult, then that is not your problem.
- Always remember – the more you play into the manipulation by asking what is wrong or why is he or she not talking to you, the more secure your parent will become in the effectiveness of the silent treatment. Don’t give your parent that control!
Believe it or not, the more you ignore the silent treatment, the easier it gets. I got to the point I actually enjoyed it when my mother gave me the silent treatment. It meant less drama, less frustration, and less hurt for me. I came to embrace the silent treatment. It was a reprieve for me, not a punishment as it was intended to be. You will get to this place too.