Say “No” To Silence and Mandated Shunning
The dreaded silent treatment. It should not be allowed in our lives for many reasons. The silent treatment equates with a lack of human dignity and a lack of love and respect. Who needs that?
Nobody likes being on the receiving end of silence. Not many realize what is truly happening during the silent treatment. Many individuals don’t understand at all what is happening, especially if one is highly empathetic and tends to see the good in others.
Individuals who are acting abusively use the silent treatment dagger to throw the target off kilter and to keep control and domination. It is a subtle yet damaging form of aggression, and why would we allow aggression and coercive control in our lives? It’s an attempt to control a person, to tell them clearly – without words – “You don’t matter” and “I dominate you in this relationship.” It’s human oppression which is rooted in pride and hatred rather than freedom, humility and love. The silent treatment is manipulation.
The best we can do when we are dealing with a controlling person is to pray for him or her and to stop giving the person the opportunity to further abuse. This might equate with stopping the chase. Keep in mind that true narcissists love the mind games which include a chase. When we chase a narcissist, we are only hurting ourselves.
Are We Overthinking It?
Often, the temptation creeps in which makes us think that we are “overthinking” the silence. That is, maybe the silent person is “Just busy” or “Not trying to be overtly mean.” While that might be absolutely true in some rare cases, our intuitions (God-sent) do alarm us when something is unhealthy in the relationship. The fact is that where the silent treatment flourishes, there is often an unhealthy or toxic dynamic. Plain and simple, the silent treatment, when done on purpose to punish someone, is oppressive emotional abuse! Gaslighting (when the abuser gets the target to doubt his or her understanding and reality), confusion and cognitive dissonance often ensue.
While I believe there can be times to show grace, mercy and to give others the benefit of the doubt, often our gullibility and lack of education concerning the silent treatment tactic ends up perpetuating the abuse. Those who have kind, merciful hearts are at high risk for emotional abuse from the silent treatment.
Sharie Stines, Psy.D explains,
“Abusers and/or narcissistic personality types love to ignore you and they love for you to know that they are ignoring you [this is part of the game of chase]. Why is that? Let’s parse this concept apart. The silent treatment is not blatant; it’s insidious [it’s not a mere accident, it’s an actual, aggressive tactic used in abusive relationships. Yes, there are people this cruel]. The only person who really feels the silent treatment is the target. The person giving the silent treatment is not being overtly aggressive, abusive, or unkind in any visible way [this lends to the confusion of the abusive dynamic]. This keeps him looking “good” and reasonable. When challenged, the giver of the silent treatment can say comments such as, “I’m fine.” “Nothing’s wrong.” “I’m not mad.” Or some other innocuous comment [this causes self-doubt and more confusion]. Realize that these comments are forms of gas lighting and confabulation, which are other common narcissistic weapons (see Coping with Narcissistic Confabulators.) The internal confusion results in the experience of cognitive dissonance, which is prevalent in abusive relationships.” (Emphasis in brackets added)https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2016/07/the-silent-treatment/
Friends, allowing ourselves to be ignored is not a good idea for one main reason: it eats away at our self-worth and self-esteem. It is a blatant contradiction to the truth: that God values you and that you have human dignity. You should not allow the silent treatment in your life because you have worth and you matter! You should value yourself too. The silent treatment – like a poison – will only damage your psyche, your spirit and even those around you who need you to be healthy!
We are called to respect others but also to respect ourselves. Relationships should be nourishing, life-giving and should allow for equal communication with mutual listening. Above all, when dealing with others who are trying to dominate with the iron fist of silence, let go of fear. Instead, operate in a spirit of power, love and self-control. You – not the abuser – have the power to say “No” to the shaming tool of silence, to love them, pray for them, and get on with your life of freedom.
In my future article, I will discuss my insights about what to do when the silent treatment happens to you. I look forward to exploring those insights and going deeper, together.