Why Does the Silent Treatment from a Narcissist Hurt So Much?

Why Does the Silent Treatment from a Narcissist Hurt So Much? why does the silent treatment from a narcissist hurt so much?

When you’re dealing with a narcissist or an abusive person, be it in a relationship, or when you’re co-parenting together or even in a workplace, you should expect some form of silent treatment once in a while. When they give you silent treatment, they may choose to go quiet and desist from engaging in any form of direct communication with you. It may look like a sigh of relief not having to engage with the narcissist because most of your conversations with them turn out to be arguments where you just end up being put down.

They may scream at you, call you all kinds of names, falsely accuse you or verbally abuse you in a couple of ways. No one would want to be on the receiving end of their wrath and vile tongue and logically speaking, it’s better if they’d just keep quiet. Then they keep ‘quiet’ by giving you silent treatment with no screams, no arguments, no blame, no verbal abuse but just utter silence.

You then realize that actually, this is more painful than even when they were calling you those names especially when you’re still in that relationship. So, the silence of the abuser can be more painful than their yells and screams. This may push you to the point of begging them to talk to you with you even making promises of how you’re going to ‘behave’ or please them simply because the pain of being given silent treatment is unbearable. So, why is silent treatment so painful?


The main reason why silent treatment is so painful is because it triggers some of the unhealed wounds deep within you. An abusive person does hurtful things to you but they’re also more of a dirty band-aid to your unhealed wounds (rejection and abandonment wounds). One thing about a dirty band-aid is, it is still a band-aid and it provides a temporary relief from the painful emotions you’re bottling deep inside you.

The band-aid of course will be continually re-infecting the wound but it will also be covering it from your awareness (or from you feeling them). Their arguments, yells and verbally abusive ways are more of unhealthy distractions which keep you busy and engaged. When you’re busy, you’re covering up those unhealed parts within yourself and it even provides a false sense of stability and security.

Your body stores all those painful unprocessed emotions from the past just below the surface. You also pile up more and more when you’re dealing with the narcissist. Their silent treatment then exposes those painful experiences and emotions you had even forgotten and it’s like a rough and abrupt scratch to a wound (look at it literally even).

The mind will also use it as a justification of your deep unworthiness. You will have thoughts like, “Even an abusive person doesn’t want me, I must be really that bad or unworthy.” Your negative belief system which you have because of your past experiences will be working really hard and giving you evidence to support them by just feeding you with negative thoughts courtesy of your current experiences.

When all those traumatic memories and past hurts come to the surface, it is not the best place to be because those wounds will look fresh and you’ll be reliving them when they give you that silent treatment. You will prefer the yells and the screams because at least it shows you’re worthy of a ‘relationship’ (even a toxic relationship) and it helps you avoid facing those inner ‘demons’ which need processing.

The second thing which makes silent treatment painful is it creates a feeling of uncertainty and confusion. You don’t know what you’ve done, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know what’s in their minds or you don’t know if they’re leaving.

Unlike a discard where they leave you, silent treatment is a mixed kind of signal which looks like being stranded in the middle of a desert with no clear roads or footpaths. When you’re in a relationship with them and they give you silent treatment, it will drive you crazy and you will blame yourself for things they even did or even apologize for something you did a couple of years back.

The silence is just too awkward and you’re willing to go to extra heights just to as to have some sense of surety on what’s going in the relationship. When they scream and yell, it means they are still there but when they go quiet the mind is filled with endless and unanswerable questions on what’s really happening in that relationship. When you don’t know what someone is up to or what they’re thinking inside themselves, it will be scary and you may think that they’re even having sinister motives (like hurting you or hurting themselves).

Silent treatment is one of the most dangerous weapons a manipulator can use. It’s the kind of weapon which uses the least kind of effort from the manipulator because the only thing they have to do is go silent and they have your attention.


If you’re still in a relationship with a narcissist, look at silent treatment as a short break from dealing with their constant verbal torture and use it as any opportunity to plan your exit in that relationship (read how to break up with a narcissist here). You deserve better than being with someone who loves toying with your emotions and your life.

You can also see silent treatment as an invitation to really go inwards and deal with those unhealed wounds for good. See those distractions as just band-aids which will never really bring you freedom in life and will even make those wounds worse.

Use those hurt people who’ve hurt you to help you in your own journey of personal growth. When something is triggered deep within you, it simply means it’s there and no amount of distraction will keep it away. The only solution is to show yourself some grace, acknowledge they’re there and work on processing them to the point where silent treatment or not doesn’t define who you are as a person.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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