The silent treatment. When you send a message to someone, and you see seen or delivered. You expect an answer, but it doesn't arrive. Or you see that someone is there and available, but just not for you. You always get answers after a long time, and you are named someone who is too demanding, bored, and/or jealous.
They say silence calms. It allows us to hear more clearly and to hear what our unconscious is telling us. It is the wiser part of our personality and knows before we are even aware that we know. IT is primal; it is stronger than our SELF. I will agree with this. Respect that part of you. On the other hand, there are moments when silence is not soothing.
What Is The Silent Treatment?
The silent treatment in toxic relationships is the most powerful weapon of collapsing one's identity and subtle control. That means someone doesn't have to do anything, and yet they manage to control you. The answer to the question "Why?" is also simple - because of the law of completion, our need to finish the unfinished.
Silence is a covert punishment that aims to make a particular change without someone saying or doing something. When we talk about toxic relationships, here I usually mean a combination of a person who is quite empathetic and someone who has that empathy at a minimum or does not have it at all. I won't go into what type of personality it is or if some personality disorders cause it since it doesn't matter for our story. What is important is that someone cannot take into account another person's feelings and put themself in other's shoes.
Silence is a way to complete something that in psychology in the field of toxic connections is called identity erosion. Erosion of identity is the last phase before gaining complete control over someone's personality, which begins with gradually weakening someone's boundaries, from minor services to larger ones, where you program yourself to deserve someone's love given to you.
For this to succeed, it takes place in cycles of good-bad and, most importantly, gradually, so that your entire identity collapses and you would not overthink about your own needs later, but exclusively about theirs.
The better organized and perfectionist you are, the better this process will succeed because you will constantly want to achieve more, better, and create harmony. That's why it's important to have boundaries. I will not go into the intentions of the people who do this, but it is essential to know that manipulation is someone's kind of adaptation to life.
When an empathetic person receives silent treatment, it has a very destructive effect on them and most often produces feelings of guilt, remorse, and questions about what happened badly. As a result, they tend to adjust their behaviors to avoid this re-treatment in the future.
In this adjustment of behavior, one often thinks of submission to other people's needs and desires, neglects one's own, and is often unable to stand behind oneself. The moment you start to doubt yourself, even though you essentially know you have no reason to and think that others are more valuable than you, is the moment you give someone else power over your life. That is the moment when you tacitly agreed for someone else to draw psychic energy from you, and you put yourself in the backseat.
Silent Treatment Tactics
Silent treatment includes actions such as:
Refusing to talk to someone
Not acknowledging what they are saying
Pretending you can't hear them
Distancing or avoiding their company as if they were contagious
Ignoring their explicit demands or needs
Any kind of behavior that makes the person feel invisible or invalid
These types of behaviors are pretty harmful. Not only do they show immaturity and lack of emotional intelligence, but they can have severe consequences for the other person. Participating in this behavior is an attempt at control and harassment. And this does not represent anything positive for the relationship.
Silent Treatment Examples
Here are the four most common examples of silent treatment or ignorance and intentional distancing that you can recognize. In essence, the goal is to manipulate and control the other person.
Manipulation by silence: when the abuser refuses to talk to you for a while because you refuse to agree to their demands (e.g. your mother calls you to spend Christmas with her. You can't, and her reaction is to refuse your calls, and refuse to communicate completely)
Punishment by silence: when the abuser refuses to talk to you because you said or did something that did not suit them and will not accept any reasonable or sincere apology (e.g. you did not meet a friend and missed the game because you did not arrive on time even if you have a good reason and sincerely apologize)
Leaving you in the dark: when you have said or done something that a person does not like, and they will not tell you what it is that you have said or done, leaving you unable to apologize (e.g. when your partner refuses to talk to you when you ask them what is bothering them, they answer "If you care about me or love me, you would know what is bothering me." "If you were worried, you would apologize for what you did)
Lowering self-esteem: when the abuser completely ignores what you said, changes the topic of conversation or does not answer the question that generally requires an answer (for example, a worker with the skills you possess is needed at work. You respond by raising your hand and saying "I can do it", the boss ignores and acts as if they have not seen or heard anything).
Silent Treatment Can Cause Stress And Emotional Trauma
A person who is the target of silent treatment can feel very intense negative emotions. Ignoring a person means that they are worth nothing and that they are not necessary. Things become even more unhealthy when all this happens in a cruel and cold silence. The victim does not know how to interpret this behavior.
People who are ignored eventually become overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. This can sometimes lead to depression. They also feel anger, fear, and guilt. Ignoring someone is a way of indirectly accusing them or pointing the finger at them. This is exactly what makes this strategy an unhealthy way of resolving conflict.
Victims of this type of behavior tend to feel extremely upset. They cannot understand what they are doing wrong or why the other person is treating them this way. It's like they're losing control, and it's causing them a lot of stress. This is why it is considered a form of abuse. There is no shouting or beating, but there is plenty of violence.
Silent Treatment Has Physical Consequences
Feelings of exclusion or ignorance can cause changes in the brain. There is an area in the human brain which is responsible for detecting different levels of pain. Scientists have proven that this zone is activated when someone receives silent treatment.
Activation in this zone means that physical symptoms also appear. Some of the common symptoms are headaches and digestive problems. Fatigue and insomnia are also common. If the situation is serious and long-lasting, greater problems can occur, like increased blood pressure or diabetes.
The silent treatment causes high levels of stress, which can affect the autoimmune system. The consequences are even more serious if the person giving the silent treatment is an authority such as a teacher, parent, or boss.
Learning To Negotiate These Types Of Situations
Sometimes silent treatment is used by two people who love each other, such as romantic partners, good friends, siblings, etc. People think that if they use the silent treatment, the other person will change their behavior or do what they want them to do. They are, however, very wrong. Ignoring another person as a form of punishment only destroys relationships.
As with many defensive tactics that come from insecurity, stonewalling shows very poor communication skills.
Silence can be healthy when temperaments are high, and a break is needed before someone worsens the situation. However, when silence is used as a method of control or punishment, it becomes abuse.
No one should passively allow someone to ignore them, at least not without explaining their behavior. And no one should try to resolve the conflict using the silent treatment. When there is a problem between two people, the only healthy thing is to engage in dialogue to find solutions. Silence and distance only create more problems and, in the end, solve absolutely nothing.
Maybe you did something wrong. Perhaps you didn't. But you find yourself in this very unpleasant situation. Not sure how to handle a silent treatment? Here's what you need to do to survive it.
How To Deal With A Silent Treatment
We all make mistakes, and depending on who we deal with, those mistakes can result in neglect. Everyone knows what silent treatment is. I'm pretty sure everyone around the world has experienced it. But you may not know how to act while getting the silent treatment and survive. Do not worry. I have you covered.
If this is your first time experiencing a silent treatment, let me tell you what you will go through. Suddenly, the person you disagree with stops talking to you and pretends you don't exist. The silent treatment is usually the most common * and ineffective * way of fighting people.
You feel punished for what you did. Everyone deserves some time to think about what happened. But, for most, this becomes an easy way to punish the other person and deprive them of arguments.
These types of treatments are not easy to handle, especially if that person is a family member or a partner. But listen, you'll get over this and get out stronger.
Ask yourself why. The other person often does not give you silent treatment just because they want to, they do it for a reason. Now, you need to do some thinking and ask yourself why they are doing it. Many people struggle with expressing their feelings. Instead of talking about them, they shut down and act distant. The silent treatment can be a way to protect themselves. However, it can also be used in a manipulative way as well. They don't get what they want, so instead, they give you a silent treatment until you give up. But let's not jump to conclusions. Instead, ask yourself why they act distant.
Avoid allowing silent treatment to reach you. It's embarrassing when someone ignores you. They do it because they need a reaction. Whether frightened by conflict, or doing it to be manipulative, neglect is their way of approaching the problem. Now you can approach them and talk about the problem in a mature way, that's fine. Don't let their behavior get into your head. Don't let it take over and take over your thoughts.
Don't react negatively. Many people react with negativity when faced with silent treatment. They get upset which makes complete sense. It is better if you handle silent treatment in a different manner. Instead of getting angry or upset, approach them calmly and let them know you are available if they want to talk to you. That way, you admit that something is wrong, but put the ball on your court when it comes to talking about it. If something bothers them, they should come to you and express it.
Talk to the person about the silent treatment. If they don't want to oppose, then you should confront them. First, give them enough time to approach you. Then, if you choose to talk to them, don't approach them aggressively. Instead, be completely calm and ask them if they will talk. If they do, talk to them about the incident and why they are giving you a silent treatment. Ask them how they feel and what they need from you. Then tell them how you feel and what you need from them.
Remind them how you feel. In conversation, remind them how their behavior affects you. Silent treatment is not effective when it comes to communication problems. It works quite the opposite. You are not talking so how can you resolve anything? Remember to use "I" statements and express how they make you feel.
Talk about your boundaries. It's time to create some boundaries. No one loves boundaries, but they come for a reason. If someone gives you a silent treatment, it is emotionally detrimental to you and them. So, you have to set some limits. Are you ready to endure this behavior again? If not, then tell them. Shutting down will not result in a positive attitude.
Discuss effective communication. Okay, so you told them your limits, but that's not enough. Now you need to work on building effective ways to communicate. Set rules for what you should and should not do if you are upset. If they are angry, then it may be best to calm down and get closer when you can talk and vice versa.
Write it down. If you want to track the progress of the relationship between the two of you, write it down. When you have disagreements, write down how you felt, what it was about, and how you resolved it. In this way, you track not only their behavior but your own. Maybe you are doing something that triggers the silent treatment.
Focus on yourself. The silent treatment can throw the strongest person off-balance. It is very effective in mentally breaking people down and that is why it is so often used. But now is not the time to allow yourself to be thrown off balance. You should focus on your mental health. If you are receiving silent treatment, remember that this is a behavior of immature people. Keep your routine, exercise, meditate and be around positive people during this time.
It takes two. Remember, any relationship takes two people to succeed. If someone gives you a silent treatment, it is your responsibility to stay healthy and safe. Take care of your life and make sure they understand that this is not going to work with you. But it also means you'll need to help them work on healthy communication. Here is the team effort.
Any refusal to solve a problem by talking ends up being destructive. In such adverse action, no one comes out as a winner. The one who is giving the silent treatment only seemingly wins the battle. The problem deepens, and the only question is when it will reappear.
Never accept emotional abuse. Get into healthy relationships with people who can communicate in a mature, emotionally healthy way. You deserve nothing less.