If there is one thing a narcissist knows how to do, and do well, is dosing out the silent treatment when the narcissistic extension has messed up.
Maybe you didn’t admire his new haircut, maybe you disagreed with his royal highness, or maybe you were at the end of your rope and pointed out that he was being a pain in the butt – whatever it was doesn’t really matter. The result was the silent treatment . . . louder than a jet taking off on your back porch, scarier than a menopausal woman without air conditioning, and more effective at getting him to do your bidding than rufie.
The Silent Treatment Is Effective
The silent treatment is most effective on empathetic, sensitive people who feel the undercurrents and read facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language. My ex had the ability to look at me with the utmost disgust and disdain and yet he did it in such a way that no one else was even aware of it. I would feel like Gollum – like I should scuttle off to a dark place and hide myself. I can’t tell you how many times that I said something in a group of people, got the look, and felt like I was the most awkward, stupid, glob of flesh on the planet.
It gets more effective over time as you learn exactly how uncomfortable it makes you feel. There comes a point where you will do anything, and I do mean anything to make sure that you aren’t subjected to the looks or that cool, intense, silence that withers your soul.
The Purpose Is to Control
A narcissist must control you at all costs. It may even look like you are the assertive one, you are the one in control, and you are the one causing the problems. It’s a fascinating thing to watch despite the evil. It’s like watching a puppet master put on a show and each person in the room is one of the puppets.
The silent treatment is emotional abuse, pure and simple.
It Puts the Narcissist in Control
Be honest, when you are the recipient of the silent treatment you grovel. You make his favorite meals, you put on extra mascara, and you wear your sexiest lingerie. You compliment him, you coddle him, and you do whatever you think will work to get him talking again – to get things back to normal.
So who’s in control?
It Is Punishment
It’s punishment, pure and simple. It sends a clear message that if you do that again he can, and will, make your life hell. It alludes to the possibility that next time things might be worse.
It Keeps You from Asserting Yourself
The silent treatment keeps you from realizing your own power, confronting him, and questioning his authority. If there were an argument you could possibly “win” it. In this case there is no winner or loser because there is no place for presenting grievances or opinions. In the southern United States, during the era of slavery, slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write. The ability to communicate would give them power. When one group, or a person, doesn’t allow another to communicate enslavement occurs, whether it’s physical or emotional.
It Dispenses with Responsibility
Silent treatment totally circumvents emotionally messy things like having to admit responsibility, the need to apologize, and any possibility of having to compromise. It puts the attention equally on both the narcissist and his extension, which, in this, case is you.
At some point you have groveled enough, or you blow up, or you react enough to fill up his crazy jar and he begins talking to you again like nothing ever happened. You feel like you’ve walked into the Twilight Zone, but I have news for you. You’ve been living there.
So How Do I Survive It?
Actually, once you know what is happening learning to successfully survive it is easy. Seeing it and understanding how it works is the toughest part. Naming it and turning the light of truth on it makes it whither and become impotent.
Next time you get the look, or the silence, and you can feel that cold, icy heaviness in your chest take a minute and remind yourself that it is a weapon that is being used against you. It is not real, it is a head game – psychological warfare, if you will. Simply refuse to respond.
It takes a while to learn to do well. The first time you’ll feel quite anxious and nervous but just remember that you are breaking an unhealthy habit. The next time it will be easier and after a few times it will begin to be fun as you make a game of it and make mental notes about all of the things he is trying to do to regain control.
It means you are finally winning.
Be warned, however. If you are still in relationship with your narcissist, and you want your relationship to continue, this method could result in him needing to find another victim. At some point you will be tossed aside because you are no longer supplying his need for emotions, drama, and despair. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – just something to prepare yourself for.
Do you need to talk about this with others who’ve dealt with the silent treatment and survived? Sign up with First Wives World today. You don’t have to be alone in this.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Helga Weber