Has The Narcissist Disengaged Or Is It A Silent Treatment?


I am often asked how somebody is able to distinguish between being subjected to a silent treatment or whether they have been disengaged from (discarded in old money) ?  There are clear similarities between the two and of course, they are both instances which are common in respect of the narcissistic dynamic between our kind and the intimate partner primary source.

Silent treatments come essentially in two forms. There is the Present Silent Treatment (“PST”) and the Absent Silent Treatment (“AST”). The PST manifests as us standing and glaring at you but not saying anything, or walking away from you every time you come near us so we go to a different room or we just sit in a chair and watch television acting as if you are not there, even though we may speak to other people. Whilst the PST is unpleasant to the recipient, it is often used because it is a manifestation of cold fury. The PST is used by all three schools of narcissist, but is heavily used by the Mid-Rangers as part of their passive-aggressive repertoire. The advantage to us of the PST is that we can deploy it with very little effort (thus conserving energy) and also because you are either in the same room as us or nearby we gain significant Proximate Fuel from your upset, anger or irritation. A PST’s duration is less than that of an AST. This is because the fuel drawn from its application is strong and therefore any wounding that has been caused will be addressed sooner. Accordingly, the PST may only last half an hour and at most until the next morning after you have endured a night in bed alone as we slept in the spare room or on the settee.

The short duration of the PST and the very fact that we are in the same room as you or same building means that it is clear that it is a silent treatment and there is no discard. Indeed, the PST will not even be the precursor to discard. The PST has one function and one function alone; to draw fuel from you and it is very effective in that respect.

Turning to the AST. This occurs when we disappear and you do not know where we have gone. We may head to a local bar for the night, book into a hotel, stay at a friend’s, leave town, return to our own property or head to the Intimate Partner Secondary Source that we are cultivating. The key components of an AST are as follows:-

  1. We are not proximate to you;
  2. You do not know where we have gone;
  3. You are desperate to find us (be that because you are worried, upset, concerned or angry); and
  4. You will try to contact us.

The AST allows us to draw two types of fuel initially. The first is Proximate Fuel. Although we are not next to you, if we receive anxious voicemail messages from you, we read angry text messages demanding to know where the hell we are,  mutual friends get in touch explaining how you have contacted them worried sick as to where we are and/or we see you stood on our doorstep banging on our front door as we watch with a grin from behind the curtains, then we draw Proximate Fuel at ‘witnessing’ your emotional reaction.

Secondly, knowing that we have left you in a state of anxiety or annoyance provides us with Thought Fuel. Even if we do not answer the ‘phone, pick up the text messages or voicemails, the fact we see you are calling us will provide us with this Thought Fuel as well. Accordingly, the AST is a low-energy/high potency method of gaining fuel from you.

We revel in knowing you will be pacing up and down concerned as to where we have gone to, you will be ringing around friends and relatives to try to track us down and alternating between anger and upset. We have caused this in you and this makes us feel powerful.

There is a third fuel line to the AST as well. The reason we opt for an AST and not a PST is also because we use the time away from you to either spend time with Non-Intimate Secondary Sources (our friends and family- quite probably smearing you at the same time) and thus we gain fuel from them but more often we use it to cultivate the Intimate Partner Secondary Source that we are considering for promotion to Primary Source.

The attention from this person or these people gives us additional fuel. We are therefore edified by this triple supply of fuel. No wonder the AST is so tempting. We gain fuel and we are also progressing the seduction of the prospective primary source, working on embedding them.

How long might an AST last? It could be an afternoon, it might be a month, it might be three months. However, as the time period lengthens this is when people begin to wonder if this is now a discard. The question arises, when is this behaviour no longer a silent treatment and when does it become a disengagement?

Would it be a discard after one day? One week? One month? Three months? Six months?

The answer is that you may have ASTs which last those periods of time and an absence of just one day may be the start of the disengagement.

If we are drawing fuel from you then it remains a silent treatment. Keep in mind that the potency of the Thought Fuel will only last so long, so we will need some Proximate Fuel which means we need you to keep knocking at our door and ringing our telephone. Of course, since we are not engaging with you, how do you know that we are still drawing fuel from you and it is not in fact a disengagement? You could be calling us and it is actually a discard, so how then could you tell the difference?

As you know, we will often not tell you that the Formal Relationship is over. We just disengage without telling you. If you are trying to get in touch with us and you find that you have been blocked from our mobile number, we have blocked you on social media and none of our friends can shed any light on where we are, then you should realise that this is not a silent treatment but you have been disengaged from.

Since we need fuel during a silent treatment we keep the avenues of communication open but we do not respond. Thus we let you text, ring, drop notes round, send messages through friends and knock at our door. This gives us the fuel. If you have been disengaged from, we have no need for your fuel anymore (indeed you may not actually be providing it – see below) because we are drinking up delicious fresh positive fuel from the new primary source. Accordingly, we do not need to or want to hear from you.

if you turn up at our door, you may be ignored but more likely you will be confronted and be told in no uncertain terms to go away and leave us alone. You will be threatened with the police and restraining orders or our lieutenants will turn up to warn you off. We don’t need your fuel anymore and we do not want you hanging around like a bad smell and posing a risk to our harmonious new relationship with the new primary source.

Accordingly, a chief determinant between a silent treatment and a disengagement is whether you can contact us (albeit not actually get a response) if you can it is silent treatment. If not, it is a disengagement.

There will also be occasions where the absence starts as a silent treatment and then becomes a disengagement. This is where we have doled out a silent treatment to obtain fuel and bed in the person we are seducing and that seduction has been deemed to be successful, hence we install them as primary source, you are disengaged from and the blocking will begin. The silent treatment shifts to become a disengagement through the period of absence.

A further way of determining whether this period of absence is a silent treatment or a disengagement  is to consider what has happened in the run up to the period of absence. As I wrote in 5 Reasons We Discard You there are five primary reasons  which bring about your discard. If you can ascertain that this has happened (admittedly it is not always obvious) prior to the period of disengagement, you will have a greater idea that you have been disengaged from rather than being subjected to a silent treatment.

Accordingly if you have

  1. Worked us out and reduced your fuel provision considerably;
  2. Realised that there is a new primary source;
  3. Become broken and numb so you are not functioning;
  4. Caused a major exposure of our behaviour; or
  5. Intentionally wounded us repeatedly through fuel free criticism

then these are reasons for you to be disengaged from.

For those who wonder why I state disengage rather than discard, well,  the reality is that there is no such thing as a discard. It is instead a dis-engagement. If you are the primary source we are no longer interested in you and it is as if you have ceased to exist and we have (at the point of disengagement) no desire to interact with you ever again (of course this attitude changes at a later point when we commence our hoovering of you when we start our devaluation of your replacement). If you are an intimate partner secondary source, you will be placed on the shelf as we focus on the primary source or another intimate partner secondary source who we think will make a better prospect for promotion than you.

We eventually come knocking and therefore this dis-engagement ought to be treated as a long period of silence whereby you can recover and build you defences. Of course, it is more usually the case that you have no idea why we have departed and in your confused and emotional state you do not know the difference between a silent treatment and a discard.

Now you do.


31 thoughts on “Has The Narcissist Disengaged Or Is It A Silent Treatment?

  1. Mag says:

    ok… I need to understand. Dear HG ? can you help ? I ve got a colleague i met at a formation… he tried to seduce met intensively. I guesse he wanted me as a dirty little secret or a potential primary source. any way… we had to do a project together… i discovered he is a passiv agressiv… he started to slow the project on purpose en not being involved in it anymore. as well as in our relation… now i understand he was testing me with many little silent treatment. I became mad ( negativ fuel ) and wrote him an emotional e-mail about our work an his disengagement…. i know that i wounded him. than he decided to stop the project with me… impossible to have a talk with him about it. Since three months now I know he reads my e-mails because sometimes he answers a nasty thing… but most of the time he just doesn t answer. He didn’t blocked me on his cell… he is starting a discard ? will he hoover me ? etc ? unfortunately i ll have to meet him till many times….
    thank you !!!!!

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Hello Mag, I need more information to be able to assist you and therefore you should organise a consultation with me.

  2. Wondering says:

    So…. what if you are unfriended by not blocked on Messenger and you have exchanged a few angry messages, BUT you ARE blocked on cell. There is still an avenue to communicate, however this was after a major exposure which would indicate disengagement. Still, there are elements of silent treatment.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are receiving a silent treatment.

  3. K says:

    If I didn’t share a child with my MMRN, I would be working in a gas station selling lotto tickets and cigarettes in New Mexico right now. My AST would have been my escape/disengagement. Sonofabitch! No fucking way would I have come back. Fuck him!

  4. Alexissmith2016 says:

    After a few of his corrective ST (the new one) I thought I’d lead him on as much as I could without anything physically happening. So I discarded him, in a fuel filled way of course, so as not to piss him off. But I couldn’t help but put in all the things I’d learned from you Hg. So I re engaged. Confiding in him indirectly about my ‘fears of abandonment’. He’s so desperate to sleep with me, he is reassuring me now of course he would always reply to me and he is – instantly, each and every time 😂😂

    1. gabbanzobean says:

      Alexismith, I never confided in my narc about my fear of abandonment….he already knew about it. When he threw his “I will never abandon you” comment at me my first thought was “who the F told you?” And that was a lie by the way because he DID abandon me.

      1. narc affair says:

        Hi gabs…the more i read about your narc he sounds like an upper midrange or a lower greater bc he knows full well the psychology behind what hes doing to you.

        1. Jasmine says:

          Narc affair,
          This is what stumps me about my own encounter. But I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) they tend to be firmly rooted in one class, or on the cusp. But they can also mimic traits of another class. Thereby, a narc may appear to be lessor, mid, or even great at times.
          I think they also operate on instinct (the lessor 2 classes certainly) so honing in on our weaknesses would come naturally, I suspect. Mine certainly did, and used those things -in-particular – to cause me the greatest amount of pain.

        2. gabbanzobean says:

          Everyone has been saying “who cares what kind of narc he is, he’s still a narc”….and yeah I guess so. I can over analyze it all until the cows come home. Somatic or cerebral? Mid range or upper mid? Who knows. I doubt he is a lower greater. He is either a mid or upper mid since he fits all the other criteria for it. I know having the answers will help me make sense even though I still cannot make sense of it. He was not real and he never will be. And that is the part that hurts the most. That I fell in love with and gave myself and gave my all to a lie.

          “I love you and I am goddamned real” = biggest lie. I realize I just gave away my identity from my “letter to the narc” by posting that but ehhh people knew it was me anyway.

  5. Meredith Kitz says:

    What if you are trying to help the Narcissist complete a full disengagement? So that they have no reason to contact you (silly hoovers aside), and I won’t have reason to speak to him again. As for instance, he has a new primary source, I do not live in the same state, however, I am his only partner in the Articles of Incorporation on a company I helped him start that has gone nowhere. She is very rich and has given him heavy capital injection, now. Once I found this out, I said, I’d like to be removed from the company so that we can be done for good and you will never hear from me again. Let us proceed. He says he doesn’t want me to leave the company, and that I’m deciding this based on my attachment to the past and that I should just be happy for him and that the company is going to be functioning soon. I don’t care if it makes millions, I just want to cut this last tie. Why won’t he fully disengage? I really just see myself as a thorn in his side, and would think he’d be happy to get rid of me for good.

    (yes, he cheated on the new girlfriend with me for months when I would come to town, so I’d like to let them ride off into bliss together)

    1. HG Tudor says:

      He is not trying to disengage with you. There are various potential permutations here and in order to answer the situation accurately I would need more information. A consultation would be the appropriate forum for addressing this.

  6. Hurt&Confused says:

    I met someone online 9 months ago on a dating site. We never met in person. We talked on the phone, had a few video chats. Communicated every day for hours and hours for about 7 months. It’s a very long story with lots of lies, blowing hot and cold, wanting to meet me, not wanting to meet me, wanting to be friends, to wanting to have a relationship and back to wanting to be just friends. All the way back to we are just internet acquaintances (after I exposed his lies, and I’m sure he was putting someone else into place). Back to we are friends. And then to “We need to cool this off until you get over your feelings. What’s the point? We cannot get along?” (Said to me the other night)

    I haven’t been blocked but he is ignoring the last few messages I sent, and he is not logging in to any of the messaging apps. I think this is maybe the 4th or 5th time he has done this to me. The ignoring/silent treatment/stonewalling. The length of time has increased every time. From one day, to one week, to ten days.

    After the last one (5 weeks of silence) I went back on my word of not contacting him. I was angry at the time because of all the lies and hurtful insults. I sent him a message saying so. He responded with an apology. But nothing more. That was just before Christmas. I then contacted him again on Christmas Day to wish him a merry Christmas (I was feeling down and missed him). He responded to that with a brief “merry Christmas, happy new year”.
    There was a bit more communication from me expressing my hurt feelings and saying goodbye. He wished me luck.
    I then broke my promise again, and messaged him on New Year’s Eve because I saw a comment he posted somewhere on someone’s video. (won’t go into the details). This triggered a bit more communication and I started getting my hopes up. That perhaps he Is not a narcissist. Just someone who has some of the traits. Nonetheless, he did some blame shifting (after apologising and acknowledging his cruel behaviour and dishonesty ) and trivialised everything between us (it doesn’t really count,according to him, because we never met in person. Despite this not being the case a few months ago ). He was angry with me for always being on his case and for always accusing him of things. I even apologised if any of my “accusations” were wrong (I’m pretty sure I was spot on about most of it). I even expressed my wish and willingness to fix it. That I still liked him after all the lies and cruel behaviour. I thought we were getting somewhere because he was actually talking to me and discussing some of the issues. But at the same time he was shooting down all of it. Was not willing to try and fix anything. He said I should get over it. Our feelings were exaggerated because we never met in person. That I don’t really know him. I need someone stable. These were all his words. And now silence. As i mentioned, he is not logging on to any of the messaging apps we used.
    I know some of his usernames (I found lots of info on him online, I think he was rather surprised how I was able to connect the dots, accused me of stalking. I saw it as finding out the truth and verifying that he had been lying about certain things.) I could try contacting him through some of these other avenues, but I won’t.
    Now what? Is he a narcissist with no hope of redemption? Or just very troubled? Will he come back? Or is this the final discard/disengagement?
    Why does it still hurt when he gives me the silent treatment? Why can’t I just forget him? After all, we never met. Never kissed. Never held hands. Yet I am still attached. I still have hope that this was the start of something special. Emotional thinking, right? Cognitive dissonance. Trauma bonding, etc.
    But it still hurts.

  7. confused says:

    What about when they appear to get angry rather suddenly in the middle of conversation that actually started out as them flirting with you and being lovey dovey, because you refuse to do something their way; so then they accuse you of being a bad person and say it is over, but then offer you eternal friendship after you calmly accept the break up and act happy about it, and then you when refuse their ‘generous’ friendship, they go silent but don’t block you on anything – you can still see them active on all of their social media/messaging apps but you also aren’t contacting them? What,if anything, are they playing at then?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      It is a silent treatment.

  8. Jasmine says:

    The silent treatments drove me nuts. Both kinds. When they each started, I couldn’t figure out what to do. Eventually though I gave up. He didn’t want to talk..HIS choice. He was leaving, lying, whatever.. also his choice.
    The best thing to do then is get away. I don’t want anyone that doesn’t want me. We deserve better

  9. Gabrielle says:

    So if I’m not blocked at all then it’s just silent treatment?

    What about if I am threatened with being blocked but not actually blocked? 🤔

    1. HG Tudor says:

      That is purely a threat which is a manipulation in itself as part of the ongoing interaction.

    2. SuperXena says:

      Hello Gabrielle,
      I can see that you are still struggling with moving on from your (ex) narc.
      I will ask you a very straight forward question if you feel like sharing:

      What stops you from YOU blocking him everywhere instead of trying to figure out what and why he is doing as he does?
      If you identify what is keeping you stuck…you can then start working with what you need to cut the cords.
      It is not easy, I know..but what do YOU need to take the step over the fence?

      1. gabbanzobean says:

        What stops me from blocking him is that it is too final. And the mere thought of that hurts like hell. The finality.

        I am sure that makes zero sense to most of you but that is my thought process at the moment.

        1. MLA - Clarece says:

          What you need to realize is this limbo he keeps you in is his final offer. This is as good as it gets. So the silence that would come with blocking, will just take some getting used to with what already is in place for finality. There is no future, no friendship or anything with this guy.

        2. SuperXena says:

          Hello Gabrielle,

          What you say makes perfect sense to me. Whoever says that an entanglement with a narcissist and its aftermath is/has been/was easy is not saying entirely the truth.

          We have been in your position somewhere a long the way.

          You identifying and expressing what keeps you stuck is a good step.

          I think you have just said the key word: pain.

          Your fear for feeling the pain of finally letting it go is immense. I can assure that many had experienced that fear.

          If you do not face , tackle ,go through and endure the pain, it will stay there and will come back sooner or later.
          Do not be afraid of facing it!

          Have you thought about the incredible ability you (non-narc) have to endure the pain and build yourself up again?As opposed to a narcissist that depends entirely on others to be able to do that?

          I do believe that what you feel now is the expectation of the high again that he once made you feel after putting you very low by inflicting in you pain. That same high you once felt with him is never going to happen again.
          That is just the addiction he created in you by giving you very high peaks ( of extreme but ephemeral happiness) and then putting you down.
          You can create your own “highs” finding things that you like to do, meeting friends you enjoy being with.etc.
          Do not be afraid of enduring the pain…you won’t die of enduring it and after that you will feel invigorated ,strong, having control on yourself again , liberated…and happy..

          1. MLA - Clarece says:

            A big part of choosing to want to move past the Narc though is accepting you may never get that high again. (When it’s in a romantic scenario). The problem is during the five years on and off with JN, I did try to date a few others. It never worked. No one holds a candle to the high he gave and how I responded to him. And getting to a place where you can accept just your own solitude for the long haul isn’t always a very appealing option. Takes a long time to get there.

          2. SuperXena says:

            Hello Clarece,
            I understand what you mean.

            That is exactly the fear you have to defeat : thinking that by leaving the narc you will never feel that high again and that you will be left in solitude.

            Defeating that fear, specially when you realise that you have moved from one narcissistic relationship to the other requires empowering yourself first, feeling you have control of your mind, your emotions ,your life, winning your power back.

            It is not a scenario of permanent solitude ,quite the contrary, once you reach that point ( of self-empowerment) , it opens a wide spectrum for you to meet healthy partners for a healthy romantic relationship.

            It takes time to reach that point but it is achievable and very giving, rewarding and healthy.There are of course highs and lows on those relationships as well being the main difference :
            there is no abuse

          3. Jasmine says:

            That would be lovely SuperXena: no abuse

          4. MLA - Clarece says:

            Hi SuperXena!! Thank you for your encouragement. I definitely see your points and don’t dispute them at all. For me, I had to reach that plateau though of accepting the solitude and all if the other issues that come to the forefront when you’re not distracted by the Narc relationship. And part of accepting that solitude is embracing that this could be it though… for the long haul. Although emotional strength is resuming and some say that will attract new and different into my life, I honestly don’t have many outlets for that to happen. I work with a small family owned company (my best friend’s family). No walk in traffic. Everything we do is by phone / email. In 8 years, I have no potential to meet anyone thru work. My latest schedule with my now pre-teen daughter is switching hats between dance mom or Volleyball mom 6 days / week. And I live in a smaller area that is mainly college town surrounded by corn and soybean fields. That leaves a lot of the hunting, fishing, camping, 3-wheeling crowd in the online dating sites mixed in with frat boys looking for a cougar experience. No to those. I seriously had to face eternal solitude to get over a hump in moving on from JN. Lol

          5. SuperXena says:

            Hello Clarece,
            Your welcome. I can see that you have made a huge progress.
            “Although emotional strength is resuming and some say that will attract new and different into my life, I honestly don’t have many outlets for that to happen. ”
            As you describe it, you feel you have limited options but how about trying to step out your “comfort zone”? Not easy with children, I know…but i.ex.travelling( with or without children)
            courses abroad in whatever your interests are , seminars, training camps ,concerts etc. Try new different territories!!
            You will be surprised how many interesting people you can meet ( obviously will narcissists be around but now we know how to repel them right?)

            You really made me laugh with : ” That leaves a lot of the hunting, fishing, camping, 3-wheeling crowd in the online dating sites mixed in with frat boys looking for a cougar experience”. No, those are definitely unwanted!
            Best wishes!

          6. MLA - Clarece says:

            Hi Superxena!
            I’m glad the cold, hard reality of the dating scene in Central IL gave you a good laugh! Plus, it’s true.
            I’ve been divorced for a little over 6 years and have done all of those things you suggested. Traveled on some fun vacations. Took a college class one semester. I get up to Chicago often with friends. Been to 3-4 concerts in the last few years. What I have found though, is people stick with their little huddle they come with and I never experienced any co-mingling. If there is someone flying solo, their nose is glued to their phone and they don’t come up for air.
            JN was the only time, out with friends, that I met him, felt a cosmic explosion and had someone pursue me so hard right out of the gate which he did.
            My daughter’s extracurriculars make a bigger dent in my disposable income now, so I really don’t have that freedom to do some of the things I was even a couple of years ago. This single mom on a budget isn’t going to be traveling abroad any time soon. Just my reality. So when I say I partly hung on to JN for as long as I did because facing absolute solitude, possibly for the long haul, was too crushing to cope with for a long time, it really is what I have to deal with and no options. I don’t like wishful thinking or false hope. Romantic love is not in my life and may never be again and I had to accept that to push past JN.

          7. SuperXena says:

            Hello Clarece,

            Thank you for your long comment and for sharing.

            Try not to see it as false hope but instead a belief that it can happen. Not good ( in my opinion) to continue comparing with how it was/felt with your ex-narc.

            I am sure you will find with time the way of turning it from false hope to a belief.

      2. narc affair says:

        Hi gabs….oh do i relate to what you said…the finality and pain associated with letting go. Yes this is it in a nutshell. Superxena said it so very right but i want to point out chemically in the brain you have to realise the oxytocin is super high with regards to him vs the highs you will create for yourself that will be healthier but at first wont feel good enough. I think detox eventually breaks that need for huge spikes of oxytocin.
        I just watched a great vid on the oxytocin highs ill post it. I do know how you feel bc im going thru it too.


        I hope this link is ok to post HG.

      3. Catherine says:

        Hi Gabrielle,
        I feel your pain; we’ve been there all of us. I understand your fear of finality; the desperate urge to cling onto something that gave you those incredible highs, and through creating the devastating lows that must follow, heightens every emotion in your body, every nerve cell, every part of your being. It’s a drug and it’s dangerous because like all addictions it erases your identity, it replaces valuable and healthy connections to other human beings; it devastates and it turns your emotional life into a desert where nothing can grow after awhile.

        I spent almost three years of my life with my narcissist. He was an ULN and as such he couldn’t keep the golden period up for long. His façade cracked quite early; and I started early on to see signs of a person that in my book wasn’t acting normal. I remember thinking that I could handle it; and then I just couldn’t anymore. He subjected me to golden periods quickly layered with devaluation only to start from the beginning again. It was intense, macabre, a rollercoaster I tried to hold onto for dear life. He punished, he praised, he isolated, he doled out pain; he controlled and seized power, he silence treated me; he played awful and ugly mind games with me, he objectified me, dehumanised me, blamed me and accused me, dragged me through the dirt; provoked me into being someone I am not. He erased me. And through all this I did know that it amounted to emotional abuse through my haze of confusion and bewilderment. Somewhere inside I knew. I used all my defense mechanisms not to know though; how could I live with myself otherwise? I interpreted his abuse as vulnerability; I thought I could protect him from his own destructiveness. I thought it was love. I’ve never felt that strongly and fiercely before.

        But it wasn’t love and yours isn’t either. Love should be mutual. You’re erasing yourself this way. I got away from my hell when emotional abuse turned into physical abuse. So I had this point of no return; otherwise I don’t know what would’ve have happened. I found HG a few months after my breakup in my quest for closure; I wish I found him earlier; you’re here, you’ve all the advantages of using the tools that are provided here; please do. And I know my relationship was different from yours but it still amounts to a man whose finality you already know. Abandonment hurts; it’s the scariest thing in the world to me, but you grow from facing it. Don’t lose yourself to someone who doesn’t deserve you!

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