What is the silent treatment, and just as important, what isn’t the silent treatment.
The silent treatment is intentional. It is a refusal to speak to someone, and/or refusal to acknowledge someone in any way or form. It is ignoring someone completely… ignoring someone to the point that they no longer exist to the person inflicting the silent treatment. They completely shut down any and all communication. No reply to phone calls, nor to texts, no emails, and if for some reason you and the person dishing out the silent treatment are in the same room together (say at a birthday party, etc), they act as though you are not there, no acknowledgment whatsoever, you are totally invisible. You are dead to them.
Do not confuse this with taking time to “cool off” after an argument or disagreement. A “cool off” period is smart when it comes to effective communication. Perhaps your S.O. said, or did, something that has you so incredibly hurt and upset… addressing the issue right then and there may not be the best choice because often times, hurtful things are said in the “heat of the moment”, and our words can do severe damage. They can “cut like a knife”. So keep this in mind as you read this over… a “cooling off” period is totally different, it is not the same as the silent treatment in any way, shape, or form.
Silent treatment is ABUSE.
I was surprised to learn as I did research, that the silent treatment is a form of abuse. Then again, I was surprised with myself that I never put two and two together and realize that from the get-go. Perhaps because it was used on me quite often from people I really cared most about… maybe that blinded me to that fact for a moment… it isn’t a blatant attack physically, nor verbally… Now I totally see it for what it is. It is manipulative, it is controlling, it is passive aggressive, it’s a punishment, it is dis-empowering… and to quote psych-central, it is a “favorite tactic of narcissists, or others with impulse control, ie…those with more infantile tendencies”.
To punish?? Yes. The silent treatment is used in punishment. In everyday life, we use it with our children daily, especially when they are young. Under this premise, we call it “Time Out”. Until I was doing research for this post, I never put the two together… but now, it hurts my heart to know that I used this with my children. I began this cycle, though well intended. I must remind myself that it was used only when absolutely needed, and never for lengths of time that were inappropriate. I always used their age as the guide. 3yrs old = 3 minutes. In this way, it is beneficial and that is how we correct unwanted behaviors. Used properly, it is very effective for most, and when used in the correct manner, for an appropriate amount of time, we see good results. It is when it is taken to the extreme, when a child is left with their nose in the corner, not for five minutes, but for an entire shift at work during the graveyard shift, that it is damaging… it then becomes (alongside stupid young parenting) abuse. ~ Yes, that last sentence is one of personal experience. It was not abuse, intentional… but rather a stupid young Dad with a drug problem who put his young daughter into the corner for sneakily putting peas from the t.v. dinner into the garbage. It was intended to be a “time-out” for only 5 minutes. Since he was high, high as a downer can get you, those 5 minutes continued on until my Mom got home from her shift at work. I remember standing there and looking over at him, unable to tell if he was awake or sleeping… listening to Mash playing on the t.v. When my Momma got home, she took care of me and put me to bed, she and my Dad fought of course, and that never happened again. In fact, I don’t have any memories of being home alone with him as a small child. My Momma saved me. ~
Again, we see it used in a more extreme manner with inmates within the prison system… of course it is under a different name… as “solitary confinement”. However, there is a great deal of controversy over whether or not solitary confinement works… especially when it is used for long periods of time. It seems that the longer someone is locked away (away from interaction with others, and confined to a room/cage with only 1 hour out of that room for exercise) and treated as animals in a cage, the more these individuals act out… the more they become less “human”, and more like a wild animal. We tend to act out the way we are treated. Treat humans like animals, caging them and poking them with a stick… don’t be surprised by the end result, you get back what you create, an animal.
How to react to the silent treatment??
How to change this behavior??
How to communicate in an effective manner??
It my next article about the silent treatment, I will address these questions.
I look forward to your comments, your experiences… please share them here or feel free to email me. You can contact me at: Contact Bipolarmuse