The most painful and surprising truth is that ‘the silent treatment’ is a way of protection.
It’s never intentional, it’s an automatic response from the subconscious, from the pain buried deep inside the person.
Even though it seems as emotional abuse sometimes, it is far away from that.
The person who gives ‘the silent treatment’ suddenly build walls of protection around her.
Why does the person gives you the Silent treatment ?
Something triggered the pain from the past and that her way to cope with the pain. It’s an automatic reaction, once it was a conscious decision to protect her, now is an automatic response.
As it happened to my friend Angela.
Something always triggered her and open up the pain from her past. A lot of emotions came up. It was a mix of anger or resentment, sadness, disappointment, helplessness, and fear.
Memories of being emotionally abused, yelled at, criticized and made small start to arise. Memories of standing in the living room or kitchen and being constantly criticized by her mother.
Memories of sitting at the desk in her room and being yelled at, her father calling her names, seeing her as worthless. His anger making her so small that she just want to disappear.
The only thing that she could do was to hide her pain and build an invisible wall of protection around her.
Now, years later, whenever her husband disagrees with her, she sees that as being criticized. She did something wrong. And her automatic reaction is to hide behind invisible wall around her
and just stop talking to him. Sometimes it seems as she is emotionally abusing him.
They are both in pain and they are both victims.
Both of them are in enormous pain.
And nobody knows how to build the bridge between them.
The love between them is still there but it’s hidden behind the walls of protection that Angela builds up.
All those painful emotions from the past suddenly open up and the only way she knows how to deal with them is to protect her, to hide, to disappear.
She will close down, to protect herself from being even more hurt. The pain is paralyzing and the only way that Angela knows how to deal with it is to move away from her husband.
‘Silent treatment’ is protection.
It is something that she did for her, not against her partner.
So many time we just generally misjudge that act like selfish behavior. It would seem like she is trying to punish him.
When in reality she is just trying to cope with her pain the best she can.
Here’s his description of feeling ignored by her
When Angela give him cold look or even ignore him or just disappear, he is confused.
For him it looks like she ignores him, give him ‘silent treatment’. And he doesn’t know how to react to that, how to reach to her. He gets upset too. He gets afraid of her reaction. For him is almost like he is walking on eggshells. He never knows when the simple comment will trigger her and she will give him ‘silent treatment’. And it hurt him when she is treating him like that.
He feels guilty and has no idea most of the time what he did wrong.
What is the solution for ‘silent treatment’?
For Angela, who is the one giving him the silent treatment, the first step would be to recognize this wounded child inside her. To see the reasons why she reacts the way she does. And then slowly start healing journey to release trapped emotions inside her body.
(Read more about ways to heal emotions HERE)
What are the best ways to respond if your spouse is ignoring you?
For her husband the first step, it would be to see what is going on with her and not feel guilty, seeing that her reaction is about her, not something that he did.
That will help booth of them to build a bridge between them instead of feeling like victims.
Simple process of 4 loving questions – solution for stepping out of silent treatment
Another way is to use a simple process of 4 loving questions to explore emotions and real reasons behind the silent treatment.
(When the emotional wounds are buried deep, the process will work just on surface level. If that is the case, the best way would be to use some of trauma release processes.)
Here is the example, what Angel discovered about giving her husband silent treatment.
Her story about her reaction to her husband asking her about bills that she forget to pay.
The thoughts that crossed her mind was He always critic me. No matter how hard I work to take care of kids and house along with having a full-time job, he always finds something to complain about me. He doesn’t appreciate me at all.
Is it true that he doesn’t appreciate me?
Her mind responded immediately with yes, of course.
Then she took a breath in and out and ask herself again Am I absolutely sure that he doesn’t appreciate me?
she wasn’t so sure about that anymore.
What happened inside her hearing his voice asking about bills that she forgot to pay?
She freeze, the voice of her mother, the critical voice in her head, her mother voice was there. In her head. She could clearly see her mother cold expression on her face,
criticism in her mother voice. The feeling of not being good enough and doing something wrong, again, raised in her chest.
She just wanted to disappear and protect herself. She felt again like she is 7 years old kid.
If she could just put the picture of her mother aside and look at her husband without the critical voice of her mother in her head, that she did something wrong again.
How would she saw her husband?
She would see the man that she loves, standing in front of her, asking her simple question.
Who would she be without the story of her mother and story about not being appreciated in the past, no matter what she did?
She wouldn’t feel like a little girl, accused of doing something wrong.
That would be such a relief.
What if the opposite story is truer: He doesn’t criticize me,
he is just checking if the bill needs to be paid.
Angela start wondering: What if he does appreciate me?
The reason that he asked me was, that he knew how hard I worked and he was checking if he needs to pay bills to help me.