“Silent Treatment Abuse” is the ancient practice of shunning using modern terminology to describe how it appears in our present relationships. It can be most confusing and frustrating because it feels like there is nothing that can be done about it.
Many people have experienced abandonment, helplessness and loss when they have been shunned by a group or by loved ones. It is a form of shaming another person. Various religious groups have made a science out of it.
The silent treatment or shunning is a strategy to control someone.
We often observe it in marriages. One or both partners may cut off communication and contact in order to manipulate the other person to get what they want.
It is important to take a break from communicating or having contact with another sometimes. However, it is with purpose of returning to the discussion and finding new ground together.
Manipulation of another is emotionally young. We see it often in junior high kids, but when it moves into adulthood, it can cause big problems because the relationship is based on power and control instead of equality. Many adults have not learned how to ask for what they need without manipulation.
Some of the common unconscious dialogues of the silent treatment can go like this, “The only way to control you is to withdraw my love and attention.” “I am emotionally lost and do not know what to do or say, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut”, “I want to punish you for your behavior so I will pretend you do not exist” and so on. Basically, it is a young reaction to emotional struggle.
We hear of some parents saying to their teen or adult children, “you are dead to me” because the adult child has not lived up to the parents’ ideals. Shunning is not this severe in most families, but some form of silent treatment may be in the mix.
What can we do about the silent treatment in a relationship?
Mindfulness, reflection and then follow through
Example of mindfulness:
“Oh, I am giving him/her the silent treatment right now”.
Or, “I feel like I am getting the silent treatment. So, what am I going to do about it?”. When there is mindfulness, there is choice to participate in a different way.
Example of reflection:
“I am giving him/her the silent treatment now because I am afraid to talk.”
Or, “I am getting the silent treatment right now. I usually attack him/her when I get the silent treatment.”
Example of follow through:
“I have been giving you the silent treatment recently and I am sorry. I just have not known how to talk about it yet. How about talking tonight after work? If that doesn’t work we can get some help?”
“I feel like I am getting the silent treatment and I would like to talk about what has been happening with us. I would like to talk without blaming and see if we can hear each other as individuals and then work on this together. We could try and keep the discussion conversational and if it starts getting too intense we can take a break and then come back to it. Could you tell me when you would be ready to talk?.”
How to deal with emotional abuse?
Get help and support. Emotional abuse is destructive and is very under estimated, especially if there are children in the family. Finding a good therapist may cost a little money but it is way cheaper than divorce or a miserable relationship.
Emotional abuse may be directed toward women or men. It can be any sort of manipulation, guilt tripping, threatening, blaming, bullying, humiliating, shaming and controlling of another.
You may be experiencing emotional abuse if someone:
- Monitors what you’re doing all the time
- Unfairly accuses you of being unfaithful all the time
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family
- Tries to stop you from going to work or school
- Gets angry in a way that is frightening to you
- Controls how you spend your money
- Humiliates you in front of others
- Threatens to hurt you or people you care about
- Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
- Says things like, “If I can’t have you then no one can.”
- Decides things for you that you should decide (like what to wear or eat)
These sort of symptoms can be in any relationship to varying degrees. People generally do not realize they are emotionally abusing another until it is brought out in the open.
The power of shunning another and other forms of emotional abuse are connected to Fear of Abandonment as I wrote about in a previous post. As we learn to stand on our own two feet, the fear of abandonment transforms into a spiritual security that may have nothing to do with religion. Then, we are not so sucked in by another’s manipulation.
See: Silent Treatment Abuse or Shunning page 2