Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Indigo Blue

Silent treatment vs self-protection

Recommended Posts

Being passive aggressive and using "silent treatment" vs being silent and withdrawn because you are hurt and you want to go into self-protection mode while you process your emotions.

That's what this post is about.

So, if someone deals a cutting remark that you truly didn't deserve and you find yourself retreating to lick your wounds and by default are giving the silent treatment, how does this compare to using the silent treatment in a manipulative way? Okay, now that I've typed it out it seems like an odd question that makes no sense.

Let me try this way: If the silent treatment is manipulative, how then do you deal with someone whose remarks hurt you ASSUMING THAT MATURELY TALKING TO THIS PERSON DOESN'T SEEM TO HELP? What if because of past history you've decided the best thing to do is hold it in until you feel better? Which means retreating for a few hours. So are you then being passive aggressive?

Yes, someone recently said something to me and this is how I've handled it. In my mind I'm not being manipulative. I'm doing the only thing I can do at the time. I'm okay and this will pass, but it just got me thinking. Is temporarily withdrawing from someone because you are truly sad the same as punitively giving them the silent treatment? 

And, for those of you who have read my previous posts....no, this isn't coming from someone with NPD. Maybe a trait, but not NPD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the silent treatment the person will still be around the person with whom they are "punishing", by choice - because if you're going to let someone know they made you angry and you are "punishing them" by not speaking to them - they have to see you so they'll know you aren't speaking to them.

withdrawn is more withdrawn.  they may not be around the person with whom they are upset, or they might be if forced and tend to act more submissive lest they piss the person off again.

there are some channels on narcissists that are helpful even if the person isn't a narcissist.

I like dr. les carter, "surviving narcissism", and Joanna kujath.  both have some good videos on how to talk with a narcissist, etc.   again, even if the person only has some traits, some of the ideas should be helpful.

I also found this woman, who may be addressing what you need. her other videos do indicate she has some level of experience with narcissism.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

Yes, someone recently said something to me and this is how I've handled it. In my mind I'm not being manipulative. I'm doing the only thing I can do at the time. I'm okay and this will pass, but it just got me thinking. Is temporarily withdrawing from someone because you are truly sad the same as punitively giving them the silent treatment? 

It sounds like the person doesn't like natural consequences. If you hurt someone's feelings, OF COURSE they're not going to want to be around you. 

It almost seems like you're letting the person define the terms for what you did and then tell you that *you* should feel guilty when *they* aren't acknowledging what they did and apologizing. That seems like adding more logs on the fire they started, seems to me. 

It's always ok to say you need a break and LEAVE. Maybe that will give them the picture. Walk out the door, go out to eat, go watch a movie, whatever. It almost seems like you're being mistreated further by staying, no matter what you do, which is why you leave. Or show that person the door if they aren't a resident. Or encourage them to move out if they're over 18. Or take them to a counselor if they're under 18.

If this is happening very often, you might want to get professional help, someone you can talk with to sort things through.

Edited by PeterPan
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that the silent treatment is more rude than being withdrawn.  If someone asks the hurt person a question, "withdrawn" would give a short answer while "silent treatment" would completely ignore the other person.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that, even though the actions themselves are similar, the intent and the goals are quite different.  Punitive silent treatment is aimed at hurting the other person, while withdrawing to calm down and recover is aimed at helping oneself.  Let's say the other person doesn't notice the withdrawal and silence, or doesn't care: does that make your withdrawal/silence ineffective or not?  If you were trying to hurt them with the silent treatment, then their not noticing or caring ruins it; if you were trying to heal yourself, then their not noticing or caring is basically irrelevant (might even be a plus).

I get that it might look similar to the other person, especially if the other person is primed to watch out for silent treatment in general.  It's probably worth examining yourself to make sure that punitive motives aren't creeping in, because you can certainly withdraw to nurse your wounds *and* hope that your withdrawal makes the other person feel badly for hurting you.  And reassure the person at neutral times that your withdrawing is about you coping and not about you punishing them.  And possibly watch out for how long the withdrawal lasts.  Otherwise, if they persist in taking it badly despite you genuinely not meaning it badly *and* you letting them know that you don't mean it badly, then <shrug>.  Out of love for them you could try to check in on them here and there during your withdrawal, to let them know the relationship isn't broken over this hurt.  Otherwise the best you can do might be to just not take offense at *their* taking offense - to know that they will take it badly and to not take it personally.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it depends a lot on the person in question and your relationship. It is really weird and uncomfortable when someone you're close to suddenly isn't talking to you, especially if you have no idea why. I've been on the receiving end of that a couple of times and it's very upsetting and it does seem extremely manipulative. I'm thinking of one instance where someone I was very close with and I were on a trip together with kids. She stopped talking to me almost completely. She kept avoiding being around me. If she had just said, hey, I'm overwhelmed about this other thing and I'm upset about this thing that happened, I need some space for this week, even though it's probably not what you planned... okay. Our relationship probably would have been salvageable. But as was, I felt like she was horrid to me - and honestly, I still don't really know why. She basically got over it a couple weeks later, but at that point, I was like, why are you suddenly acting like nothing happened? That was a traumatic week of weirdness that you subjected me to. I was alone with my kids and she talked to the other parent and his kids, but would literally get up and leave if my kids and I sat down with her and her kids. SO AWKWARD. Like, didn't we come on this trip together? What the heck.

But assuming it's a casual friend or not close family or someone you work with or something...

I think it's fine to withdraw. If the person makes it all about them, then that's really telling, honestly.

It's fine to decide you don't want to hang out with, chat with, or generally be around a person who says something that upset you. I think it becomes manipulative when you do complicated things to convey basic information instead of just telling them. Or when you close them out of discussions that they probably should be a part of. Or, and hopefully this is obvious, but any time you pointedly let them know you're not talking to them, that's really manipulative. So, for example, someone says something rude, you withdraw and don't talk to them anymore, but they're on the church planning committee you're on, or they're a cousin who is attending grandma's birthday with you, then you're not obliged to make chatty small talk, but you are obliged to say hello, to respond to their ideas, etc. Otherwise you are being rude.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always felt the other person deserves an answer when my behavior changes.  I can do a short "I need time alone to think.  I'm not okay."  It's the difference between dh wondering what's going on in my head and knowing what he needs to know so he can give me that space.  I actually used a similar statement today and took some time for myself before I was ready to have that conversation in a calm, productive manner.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You explain to them that you feelings are hurt and you need some time. If they still try to pressure you after that and not give you the time you need then they are being manipulative. But I don't necessarily think it is manipulative or passive aggressive to refuse to talk to someone who is purposely hurting your feelings. I tend to think of it as more of a natural consequence. And provided that the person knows that they hurt your feelings, I find it strange that they would expect you to continue engaging them in conversation.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Junie said:

I think that the silent treatment is more rude than being withdrawn.  If someone asks the hurt person a question, "withdrawn" would give a short answer while "silent treatment" would completely ignore the other person.

 

Yes, this is how I think about it, too. The silent treatment is ignoring a person, avoiding eye contact, not answering them when they ask questions, that sort of stuff. The end goal of the silent treatment is to bend the will of the other person in some way. Basically to manipulate a desired end goal.

Being withdrawn, for me, looks like not initiating meaningful conversation, keeping things more trivial and surface level, but I'm not ignoring the person. Nor am I desiring some specific outcome by being withdrawn. I may hope that the person can bring themselves to apologize for their actions but that's not the point of being withdrawn. The thing that keeps withdrawing from moving into manipulation territory is the willingness to reengage with the initial conflict. If a person withdraws and then also never wants to rehash and work out the initial conflict, then I would call that unhealthy conflict resolution and avoidance. 

 

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The difference between "the silent treatment" and "holding one's tongue" is in the motivation of the speaker/non-speaker.  Here is part of a prayer that I prayed like 300 times a day when my son was a teen. 

Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Silent treatment is intended to punish someone - to deprive them of your company. My mother thought this was the ways to deal with kids but once we were in teen years, we just thought, "Great, Mom is quiet. We don't have to listen to her." Totally backfired.

Withdrawing can be done by explaining that you are too upset to speak and need time to process. It's usually understood that you will engage in discussion again unless you have to create distance and separate yourself somehow from the person in order to avoid more harm.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm  currently on the receiving end of the silent treatment and I'm really enjoying the peace and quiet.  I don't think it works on me.

  • Like 4
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

apparently the silent treatment has been classified as a form of domestic abuse 

I was a bit surprised to hear that as I thought that it isn't pleasant but a heck way better than physical aggression. seems I was under the wrong impression 

hmm. after looking it up I see that some people carry the silent treatment to a completely different level to what I have heard about/seen

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Silent treatments are given to punish someone. The intent is to hurt the other person for a perceived  or real wrongdoing and the goal is to get that person to "repent", "feel sorry", "stew in their own juices" and then come to their senses because life without the person giving the silent treatment talking to you is bad - at least, the NPDs in my life think this way when they do this to me. It totally backfires because I pretend that I am too busy or too dense to notice that they have been giving me the silent treatment.

Withdrawing from interaction with a toxic person does not intend to punish that person nor is it hostile. It just means that you are overwhelmed, the toxic person is uncontrollable and unreasonable and you are afraid of getting hurt further and you need to disengage from them for a while to lick your wounds. That is a normal reaction of a nonaggressive person when they have no control over the actions of the person causing harm. Mostly, I do this when I am a victim of manipulation or betrayal from people who are supposed to care for me but instead hurt me deliberately.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Melissa in Australia said:

apparently the silent treatment has been classified as a form of domestic abuse 

I was a bit surprised to hear that as I thought that it isn't pleasant but a heck way better than physical aggression. seems I was under the wrong impression 

hmm. after looking it up I see that some people carry the silent treatment to a completely different level to what I have heard about/seen

 

Just to focus on the bolded for a second, we can say that something is domestic abuse without saying it is JUST AS BAD (or even worse than) some other form of abuse. Sure, the silent treatment is probably better than marital rape and beatings. But that doesn't mean it's good or okay. Similarly, being punched is better than being choked to death, having the car restricted is better than being locked in a closet, having somebody check your phone is better than not being allowed to go outside without permission... but none of these things are good.

The silent treatment, assuming an ongoing relationship*, can be classified as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is still abuse. It's still bad even if it doesn't bruise.

* Cutting ties with a person and totally severing the relationship is not "the silent treatment" because, well, you've just moved that person into the vastly larger category of "people who currently are alive with whom I have no relationship".

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

 

Just to focus on the bolded for a second, we can say that something is domestic abuse without saying it is JUST AS BAD (or even worse than) some other form of abuse. Sure, the silent treatment is probably better than marital rape and beatings. But that doesn't mean it's good or okay. Similarly, being punched is better than being choked to death, having the car restricted is better than being locked in a closet, having somebody check your phone is better than not being allowed to go outside without permission... but none of these things are good.

The silent treatment, assuming an ongoing relationship*, can be classified as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is still abuse. It's still bad even if it doesn't bruise.

* Cutting ties with a person and totally severing the relationship is not "the silent treatment" because, well, you've just moved that person into the vastly larger category of "people who currently are alive with whom I have no relationship".

 This is what I discovered when I looked it up.

 I had a misconception about silent treatment. to me it meant that one person wasn't talking to the other for a short while - instead of having an argument  they would just stop speaking for a while - not in a passive aggressive way but rather I am not talking to you at the moment and I am not even going to be in the same room for a few hours until we calm down kind of way. 

 When I looked it up I found out I had a complete misconception  and it is much worse and very manipulative. https://pairedlife.com/problems/silent-treatment-abuse

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Being the type of person who withdraws... what this looks like often depends upon who is doing the hurting.  Early on in my marriage, I withdrew from a room to try to get my feelings and emotions under control.   My husband followed me and kept demanding an answer, asking repeatedly what was wrong.  I E.X.P.L.O.D.E.D.  Much, much later that day, I explained to him that when I feel myself growing upset, or frustrated and angry, I withdraw so that I can gather my thoughts and self composure until I can come back and talk reasonably.  That was the only time in our marriage this happened.

With others, friends, acquaintances, etc. -- I tend to simply withdraw from and be a lot more quiet around them, answer simply, and not seek out additional engagement.  I probably will never open myself up to them in any significant way, although I may continue to work "professionally" along side them and be pleasant and often accommodating.   I have often still gone out of my way to help them when in need, or where I could.  But I don't count them as a personal friend, as someone I can share my intimate thoughts with.  

The silent treatment (used in anger as a demonstration of anger) is totally different and IMO, not productive for anyone.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A counsellor I saw said that family members living in the same house should never apply the silent treatment for more than an hour. The hurt/angry/upset person has a right to withdraw but no longer than that. It may be that there are issues they want to think further on, but it's abusive to not talk at all to someone for more than that. Days, weeks, or months indicate a very serious problem with the individual who does that.

If an individual is consistently making remarks that you find hurtful or handling conflict in a cruel way, you completely have the right to demand counselling and/or accountability. That's not acceptable in a family. 

If kids observe these types of things consistently over many years, they will be affected. 

Different rules for people outside the immediate family. I've gone no and minimal contact and keep certain acquaintances at arm's length. That's fine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

The silent treatment, assuming an ongoing relationship*, can be classified as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is still abuse. It's still bad even if it doesn't bruise.

* Cutting ties with a person and totally severing the relationship is not "the silent treatment" because, well, you've just moved that person into the vastly larger category of "people who currently are alive with whom I have no relationship".

 

Emotional abuse over many years can have more far-reaching effects that a limited physical abuse. Both are bad of course.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

 

Just to focus on the bolded for a second, we can say that something is domestic abuse without saying it is JUST AS BAD (or even worse than) some other form of abuse. Sure, the silent treatment is probably better than marital rape and beatings. But that doesn't mean it's good or okay. Similarly, being punched is better than being choked to death, having the car restricted is better than being locked in a closet, having somebody check your phone is better than not being allowed to go outside without permission... but none of these things are good.

The silent treatment, assuming an ongoing relationship*, can be classified as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is still abuse. It's still bad even if it doesn't bruise.

* Cutting ties with a person and totally severing the relationship is not "the silent treatment" because, well, you've just moved that person into the vastly larger category of "people who currently are alive with whom I have no relationship".

 

6 hours ago, Melissa in Australia said:

 This is what I discovered when I looked it up.

 I had a misconception about silent treatment. to me it meant that one person wasn't talking to the other for a short while - instead of having an argument  they would just stop speaking for a while - not in a passive aggressive way but rather I am not talking to you at the moment and I am not even going to be in the same room for a few hours until we calm down kind of way. 

 When I looked it up I found out I had a complete misconception  and it is much worse and very manipulative. https://pairedlife.com/problems/silent-treatment-abuse

I’m having a hard time putting the silent treatment into the abuse category. Not every unhealthy or even manipulative behavior rises to the level of abuse, in my mind. I can see how silent treatment coupled with other emotionally abusive actions can be part of the package, but taken by itself... I get a little weary of labeling every individual action as abuse in itself. Does that make sense? 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, sassenach said:

 

I’m having a hard time putting the silent treatment into the abuse category. Not every unhealthy or even manipulative behavior rises to the level of abuse, in my mind. I can see how silent treatment coupled with other emotionally abusive actions can be part of the package, but taken by itself... I get a little weary of labeling every individual action as abuse in itself. Does that make sense? 

 

As someone who grew up with a LOT of fighting and a husband who grew up with the silent treatment, we had a lot to overcome -- and he did use the silent treatment for many years until we both figured out how better to address our problems.  I don't know how to describe the pain - and maybe those who started out with higher self-esteem wouldn't be affected the same way -- but it is an all-body, gut-wrenching painful experience.  It is overwhelming and debilitating.  
 

One of my friendships ended because of this.  She was unable to express what she was feeling and so retreated and didn't speak to me.  It sent me into a complete panic and emotional spiral.  Our friendship couldn't survive it. 

  • Like 1
  • Sad 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

As someone who grew up with a LOT of fighting and a husband who grew up with the silent treatment, we had a lot to overcome -- and he did use the silent treatment for many years until we both figured out how better to address our problems.  I don't know how to describe the pain - and maybe those who started out with higher self-esteem wouldn't be affected the same way -- but it is an all-body, gut-wrenching painful experience.  It is overwhelming and debilitating.  
 

One of my friendships ended because of this.  She was unable to express what she was feeling and so retreated and didn't speak to me.  It sent me into a complete panic and emotional spiral.  Our friendship couldn't survive it. 

Thank you for sharing that. 💕

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the difference is communication. Even a short "I need some time to process this" is indicative of withdrawing and not giving someone the silent treatment. I'm not a verbal processor and tend to take a long time to think things through. I think as long as you communicate that then taking some time away to think is normal. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

As someone who grew up with a LOT of fighting and a husband who grew up with the silent treatment, we had a lot to overcome -- and he did use the silent treatment for many years until we both figured out how better to address our problems.  I don't know how to describe the pain - and maybe those who started out with higher self-esteem wouldn't be affected the same way -- but it is an all-body, gut-wrenching painful experience.  It is overwhelming and debilitating.  
 

One of my friendships ended because of this.  She was unable to express what she was feeling and so retreated and didn't speak to me.  It sent me into a complete panic and emotional spiral.  Our friendship couldn't survive it. 

I'm so sorry that you had this experience. I don't think any friendships of mine would survive if given the silent treatment either. It's such a manipulative way of dealing with another person. It's lording a position of unequal power struggle where you cut yourself off from the other person in all ways and is selfish. My Dad does this to my mom for weeks on end because of small infractions. I can't tell you how much it infuriates me. 

Having different FOO that dealt with things differently must have been very hard. I'm so glad you and your DH figured out how to address your problems!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think you're being passive aggressive, at all. To me it sounds like you are withdrawing 1) because you are hurt and 2) you need time to process what happened and think about the best way to respond. That's called self-care, not passive aggressive. To me, passive aggressive is (and i have at least 2 relatives that are this way) saying something like, "Everyone was here; well, except you, of course" or saying to one person, while sister is in the same room, "Maybe (sister) will take the dog out before it gets too late" instead of asking sister directly, and politely, what you want her to do. DH does this all the time and it drives my kids nuts! Me, too, actually. Anyway, i don't see anything wrong with your response to the stated situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, sassenach said:

I’m having a hard time putting the silent treatment into the abuse category. Not every unhealthy or even manipulative behavior rises to the level of abuse, in my mind. I can see how silent treatment coupled with other emotionally abusive actions can be part of the package, but taken by itself... I get a little weary of labeling every individual action as abuse in itself. Does that make sense?

 

I can understand this point of view. However, it seems to me that something like the silent treatment is both premeditated and, almost certainly, part of an entire abusive pattern of behavior. It just can't exist alone. Somebody who is willing to refuse to speak to their partner for an extended period of time as a method of punishment or control is almost certainly also doing other things like belittling their partner (when they do interact), controlling their access to money, limiting their contact with others, gaslighting them, and so on. This behavior cannot exist in a vacuum, so when you say "the silent treatment coupled with other emotionally abusive actions can be part of the package" - well, it pretty much will be by default. Non-abusive people don't do this to their family.

Additionally, anybody might verbally or even physically lash out one time when they've been strongly provoked, and then never do it again. That's not good, but one angry fight does not an abusive relationship make. However, in order to refuse to speak to somebody with whom you live you have to make a conscious choice every time you are in the same room with each other, or else rearrange your life so you're not in the same room with each other. That's a level of commitment and grudge-holding that is seriously unhealthy, and it has a similar effect to other emotionally abusive acts. I think the level of premeditation bumps up what might be relatively minor into a much more serious issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...