The Silent Treatment Plays on Your Fear of Abandonment

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Oct 27

Fear of abandonment.  It can destroy your life if left unchecked; especially so if you are in a relationship with a suspected Narcissist.

Narcissists use this fear to keep you in a perpetual cycle of anxiety, causing you to crave their return when they give you the Silent Treatment, knowing they can do whatever they please and you will take them back with little opposition.  You might verbalize your dislike of their choice and explain how hurtful it is, but take away words and the fact is that they insert themselves back into your life with barely a hitch.

What many victims of narcissistic abuse confuse for love is really a manifestation of their fear of abandonment, which has been magnified by frequent silent treatments, as well as the devalue and discard phases carried out by their abusive partner(s).  As a result, they remain in a constant state of fight-or-flight, with no seeming choice but to suffer through panic attacks, loss of appetite or binge-eating, rapid heartbeat, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and horrible, undying fear and obsessive thinking.

Persistent sadness and insecurity are the result of emotional conditioning. They are rooted in earlier losses, abandonments, and disappointments. You might be stuck in abandonment grief from past events you no longer even remember.

If you suffer from cripplingly low self-esteem and feel like you’re always on the verge of being abandoned, you were likely wounded during early episodes of perceived rejection from parents or other loved ones.  Perhaps your parents, or later a lover, dismissed you.  Since then it seems you are always involved with the emotionally unavailable, encountering losses and disappointment, which results in you questioning your worth.  When the Narcissist gives you the silent treatment, you doubt the reality of the situation, taking the blame for this inflicted punishment, vowing to do what it takes to hang onto your fickle partner.

Every time the narcissist gives you the Silent Treatment, you are diminished in small increments.  Over time, your sense of self is eroded and your fear of abandonment kicks into high gear.  In spite of your accomplishments, friendships, and compliments by other people, you cling to the narcissist’s approval, which always seems out of reach.

Finally, the narcissist leeches onto a new source of supply (new girlfriend or boyfriend), and discards you.  This can be sudden with little or no warning, or slow and insidious, keeping you strung along as they woo the new love interest.  You are left shattered, your sense of security and hopes for the future ripped from your grasp.  You may feel you will always be lonely and will never find love again.

Sadly, many victims of narcissistic abuse remain stuck in this stage.  Many experience the added loss of other important relationships as they withdraw or are rejected by friends and family due to their constant neediness.

What you may not realize is these are all normal symptoms after having been “rejected and abandoned” by the narcissist.  Every single person who has ever been the target of emotional abuse will endure these feelings that seem to take on a life of their own.  In fact, this fear is innate in everyone and stems from survival mechanisms in the amygdala.  Ever notice the baby who gets frantic when their mother leaves the room?  Fear of abandonment is our primary fear, and is why you experience a state of frenzy when the narcissist implements the Silent Treatment.  The reason it feels so horrid is that our brain cannot make the distinction between loss of a primary relationship and a threat to our physical survival.

And just like the baby who cries when their mother leaves the room, our Inner Child reacts in a similar manner when being rejected and abandoned by the narcissist.  Our survival instincts do not recognize the fact that we are now adults who are capable of ensuring our own survival.

The good news?  These are automatic responses that can be managed if we make the conscious effort to do so.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Breaking the pattern of attaching to the emotionally unavailable
  • Understanding the dynamics of emotional regression (Suggested Reading: Growing Yourself Back Up)
  • Realizing that most of the anguish experienced during this phase is mostly self-inflicted, meaning that your thoughts surrounding low self-worth are not grounded in reality, but due to your abusive partner’s conditioning
  • Understanding the importance of Inner Child healing and codependence recovery
  • Discovering if you are Highly Sensitive and how this may affect you inside of a toxic relationship
  • Understanding trauma repetition (or repetition compulsion) and how it keeps you hooked on the Narcissist

Let this be the last time you are abandoned by the narcissist.  If your partner uses the Silent Treatment to keep you in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety, it’s time to own up to it and make the promise to yourself to detach and move on.  Then, use your fear of abandonment as an opportunity to develop self-love and emotional self-reliance.

Does healing from Narcissistic abuse seem like a lot of work?  It is.  And it doesn’t happen quickly. Curiously, those who have experienced abandonment by the Narcissist spend hours researching the disorder, buying numerous books on the subject and dedicating all of their free time to understanding their abusive partner.  Chances are you know all you need to know about Narcissism.  Why not turn that focus onto you and your healing?

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