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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Silent treatment  (Read 118650 times)
JoannaK
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« on: December 29, 2007, 05:55:35 PM »

Verbal/Emotional Abuse - Silent Treatment

Verbal abuse, in general, is a means of maintaining control and Power Over. Verbal abuse is a violation, not a conflict. In describing verbal abuse it is a boundary violation, it is an intrusion upon another, or disregard of another in a relentless pursuit of Power Over, superiority and dominance by covert or overt means.

Silence a.k.a. Withholding is the most damaging and hurtful form of verbal abuse. One might think that in order for the behavior to be considered verbal abusive words need to be spoken. This misunderstanding of verbal abuse adds to the recipient’s confusion within the relationship. The recipient of silence/withholding may believe the relationship is functional because the abuser may communicate functional information, but refuses—through silence/ withholding (non-responsive)—to communicate on an intimate level.

There needs to be more than an exchange of information. Healthy relationships require intimacy. Intimacy requires empathy. To hear and be heard and to understand another’s feelings and experiences is empathetic comprehension.

Simply stated, silence/withholding is a choice to keep virtually all one’s thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams to oneself and to remain silent and aloof toward another, to reveal as little as possible, and to maintain an attitude of cool indifference, control and Power Over.

The consequences of any form of verbal abuse may vary in intensity, depth and breadth. However the outcome of any form of verbal abuse impacts the receiver’s self-perception, emotional well-being and spiritual vitality. Verbal abuse takes the joy and vitality out of life through the distortions of reality, because the abuser’s response does not coincide with the sender’s communication.

https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=70004.0

JoannaK


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m_in_pain
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2008, 09:05:53 PM »

It's a recognized form of emotional abuse, not limited to BPD.  

Is also employed in workplace bullying situations.  I had a boss who did this.  Sort of backfired b/c it was sweet relief when he'd go weeks without hovering or putting on his pathetic fake-tan N-show and digging out stories of his second-league sports career in days gone by.  Eventually he'd come out of his silences and berate me for not having gone to him for counsel, b/c he could have imparted so much wisdom upon me.  He was convinced he'd punished me, even though the project was completely outside of his competence and his best employees fed him diluted partial information.  Plus, the production people liked me and were bumping other work to get my stuff finished on schedule.  At some point, the office staff who had to suck up to the boss quit talking to me.  So I lost admin support, but by then I was on my way out.  I didn't like the side of me that "blossomed" in that job.

In private situations, silent treatment is just torture.  My NPD stbxH did this, with festering self-righteousness and accusatory woundedness.  At some point, I told him that if he hung up on me again, he'd have the nastiest divorce in all of history.  That's the only thing that kept him from doing it again.  A grown man who prided himself on manners but felt entitled to hang up if a conversation got uncomfortable.  What a jerk.  I'm not supposed to be at the anger stage yet but I just envisioned shoving his head down in a flushing toilet bowl.  

THAT SAID - in some cases, silence isn't always "silent treatment" - it can also be a defense.  In my early teens, I went over a year w/o talking to my mother.  I'd burnt out - everything I said, she'd use against me somehow.  Even my gestures drove her nuts.  She often got my father to punish me for my "bad attitude," when I'd been pretty sure I'd been just washing the dishes or whatever.  After 4 or 5 months, my father started trying to demand I speak to my mother and tried to conduct conversations for her, which they both twisted royally - so I quit talking to him.  Just out of despair, not as aggression.  Both of my parents still occasionally mention this time as evidence of how much I hurt them for no reason.  

As I wrote that, I wondered again - am I the crazy, vindictive one?

M.
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rileydog
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2008, 11:09:13 PM »

Silence/withholding speaks louder than words and creates as much emotional damage as hostile words. Simply stated, silence/withholding is a choice to keep virtually all one’s thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams to oneself and to remain silent and aloof toward another, to reveal as little as possible, and to maintain an attitude of cool indifference, control and Power Over.

The consequences of any form of verbal abuse may vary in intensity, depth and breadth. However the outcome of any form of verbal abuse impacts the receiver’s self-perception, emotional well-being and spiritual vitality. Verbal abuse takes the joy and vitality out of life through the distortions of reality, because the abuser’s response does not coincide with the sender’s communication.

Have you ever heard the term "passive aggressive" and wondered what it meant?

The "silent treatment" is a classic example. Pure torture disguised as nothingness.
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leo2000
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2008, 12:33:48 PM »

"Silent treatment" - that was the first scientific definition I learned from my T.

I wouldn't quilify it as an "internal rage". It is a clear punishment for you.

For where I'm coming from (Europe) - silent treatment is an excommunication mechanizm. Say, you are a scientist and steal some Nobel Prize idea from another researcher. You would be ostracized by your peers. They will not shake a hand with you, will not say hello, would cross on another side of the street when they meet you.

It is a punishment for some pretty immoral or unethical behaviour.

That is how your BPD partner is thinking - you commited an unthinkable crime towards them, so it is justified in their view to give you the "silent treatment". It is a demonstrative action.

At first, my BPD wife would do it a week in a row, then go back to normal without saying a word. After a few cicles of this - she will write me a multipage letter, leaving it on the table, explaining what I did "wrong" over the last year, with false accusations, delusions etc. She just couldn't talk about it because it was so illogical and an absolute nonsence - so that the delusuion would be easily broken when faced with the facts. And they can't handle the truth. The "show" must go on!

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JoannaK
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2008, 03:54:42 PM »

My exh was the king of the silent ragers... and I do believe that the silent treatment is often just raging gone inward.

Quote
How long have you put up with this type of behavior before you said, enough is enough?  For now, I'm willing to wait it out unless she really does something stupid or really pisses me off.   



The cold, silent stuff started early on in our relationship, perhaps when we knew each other less than a month.  At first, it was never for more than a few hours, but as the years went on, it did get longer, going on for weeks, then months.  I finally stopped begging him to "take me back", writing him long letters of apology, etc., and I just ignored him. 

The silent treatment stopped for good when I filed for divorce. 

Yes, partners do get mad at each other, and a few hours of anger isn't unusual...  but with a dysfunctional partner, it is usually about something really innocuous (I played with my salad; I talked about cats with his friend, the great artist.) and it lasts much longer than it should.  My bf (not a BPD) has gotten angry about stuff here and there, but he will say something like, "I don't want to talk now." and we will actually talk about whatever it was an hour or two later. 

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Baby Blue


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« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2008, 04:37:53 PM »

My BPD boyfriend does the silence thing. We live 300 miles apart so its worse as he turns off his mobile or won't answer it if its on so I do worry. We talked about this and he says the same things that Chili says.  He doesn't deal very well with negative emotions, feelings of anger, feeling hurt or being sad as in general he is a 'glass is half full' person, so he retreats into himself as a 'coping strategy' He builds a wall around himself until the feelings go away. Being a BPD he knows that these feelings wont be there forever and they often go as quick as they come. When he is like this he often just goes to bed to sleep his 'dark mood' off. Perhaps I am exceptional in the fact that I understand this and 99.9% of the time I don't blame myself for causing him to "start the silent act" and I know it is his way of coping.  I read one of the articles on this website that stated the following:

"One way of looking at borderline personality disorder is to look at them as being a two year old trapped in an adult body. The throwing of tantrums, oppositional defiance, black and white thinking and so forth that are normal in a two year old are in the arrested personality of many with borderline traits"

We all know children sulk when they are hurt or angry and the silent treatment is the same sort of thing in our BPD partners and relations.  I think we just have to get out of the mind set that it is our fault and either except it as one of their behaviours or, as I try to do when the dark mood is over, sit and talk to my parner and explain how I feel and that he has to try and trust me more (as trust is a difficult thing for them) and express his own feelings. Remember also BPDs don't learn from their mistakes or the error of their ways in the same way us non-BPDs do. It seems to be working as he is becoming more open with me and does try not to give me the silent treatment as much.

You make it sound like BPDs are just control freaks and this is not the case as they often don't know they are   reacting in the way we see it; it is a defence mechanism for them, not a deliberate act.             
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JoannaK
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2008, 05:16:41 PM »

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You make it sound like BPDs are just control freaks and this is not the case as they often don't know they are   reacting in the way we see it; it is a defence mechanism for them, not a deliberate act.              



The article does not talk about those with BPD in particular, it talks about abusive behaviors.  Yes, you are right, for many it is a defense mechanism; they aren't deliberately trying to be manipulative or abusive.  

But this is always an issue when the topic of abuse comes up:  Much abuse is not premeditated or manipulative... it is a defense mechanism...  true of physical abuse as well as verbal abuse.

Quote
I think we just have to get out of the mind set that it is our fault and either except it as one of their behaviours or, as I try to do when the dark mood is over, sit and talk to my parner and explain how I feel and that he has to try and trust me more (as trust is a difficult thing for them) and express his own feelings. Remember also BPDs don't learn from their mistakes or the error of their ways in the same way us non-BPDs do

You are also right here...   you either have to accept the silent treatment as one of their behaviors, and/or you can try talking to your partner, perhaps using the communication techniques that are listed in the Communication Workshop.    

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cornucopia


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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2008, 01:51:29 PM »

Is silence acceptable when one is trying to leave a toxic BP relationship with a BP?
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owdrs


« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2008, 02:45:46 PM »

Excellent article. We need to understand what is happening and the consequences. When there's no rage and verbal assault (or it's subsided temporarily) you may think it's OK, yet inside you know something's wrong. This silence article let's you know that it (abuse) can continue in all forms. Often I found the silence preceeded the rage; nice...silence...rage then nice again but only for a moment. I think many of us get into these relationships never thinking that someone can really be this bad, and that it will pass. Even in silence there can be damage. Thanks for the article.

owdrs

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A mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension; 'the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know, the more I realize I don't know,...the more I want to learn.'AE
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2008, 09:49:26 AM »

Is silence acceptable when one is trying to leave a toxic BP relationship with a BP?

If your silence is indicating that you are no longer interested in being in that relationship and was precluded with a "I'm sorry this isn't working, take care".

There is nothing wrong with being silent after you have disengaged... unless yo are doing it to make them change and see things your way.

There were several times where my ex ignored me for days and I was completely disheveled. But what fried me out more was when she would comeback after a certain amount of time. I was always discombobulated by that. I mean, I thought she must have moved on, it's been days now, perhaps she's just found someone else or has decided I am a bad person for her or something. THAT I COULD DEAL WITH. If her silence was ever an attempt and breaking contact with me for good because she realized it was not in the interest of our emotional health to engage anymore I would have respected that beyond imagination.

But when she would reengage at some later date and just start back up like two weeks hadn't passed since I last spoke to her it made me absolutely sick to my stomach.

That is the difference. Silence is not bad when it's the conclusion of a well addressed goodbye. Then it is simple the next natural step. But when there is every intention of reengaging later so that the silence served to keep their partner in circles then that is abusive.


Baby Blue, I really appreciate your malignant optimism. We need someone like you on this board to continually present a radically different frame of mind. Thank you for your contributions. With that out of the way let me say that rarely do abusive people do it for any other reason than a defense mechanism. That does not make it any less abusive for the person who is being ignored. But as you clearly point out it is our own interpretation and reaction to that abuse that determines so much. If we choose to see it as abusive then that's what it will be but we can also see it differently and that can allow us to be there in a way that no one else has for this partner and that's a special thing.

I personally choose to see it as abusive. I don't care what the underlying motive is, if my partner cannot communicate with me in healthy manner or cannot at least own their reaction when they do act out in an unhealthy way then I will take steps to move on because my own emotional integrity is at stake. I was able, as you have been, to see past it, to reframe it in my mind, quite a few different times. She was amazed at my ability to continue loving her in spite of her abuse. But at some point she just walked off like I didn't matter one single bit and that's when I realized all this "optimism" on my part was delusion.

But that's just my experience, thank you for sharing yours.

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