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.



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

  2. Dear HG.First of all. Thank you thank you thank you so much. Yesterday i could resist to my natc colleague cause of all your advices et good articles. Can you tell me ? I tried this week to be nice with him saying we could make peace together etc. Well it was useless.. He send me an a mail saying that i wrote messages and it was too much. That he doesn t want to speak any more etc.. Well silence treatment. Again. Again trying to extract fuel from me. The more i m nice and sorry the more he will be nasty. Any way. Cause of you i didn t answer emotionnaly. And i ve blocked him on what s ap. How will he react ? He s a midrange.. I need to be prepared.

  3. My ex told me he has someone new then after I said I thought he should’ve told me sooner, rather than string me along hoping we’d get back together, he blocked me on Facebook and phone. He later unblocked my phone (I know this because I sent him a text after a few days saying I thought we shouldn’t contact each other again – it delivered – he ignored it though). So, five weeks of silence. But I’ve had daily views on my business page which started after he blocked my personal account. It may be a coincidence but I think it’s likely to be him.
    Is this a disengagement? A silent treatment? Is he trying to provoke me to contact him?

    1. Claire
      It appears that he has disengaged and it could be a passive hoover. Ignore it. If possible, block him from your business page.

  4. Hi Christine. I had similar experience. I had told my ex I was done with him so many times, he never believed it. Also my ex really believes he owns me.

    Being nice didn’t work. No Contact is the best one can do, in my opinion. I tried being nice, reasonale, logical, etc. Narcs don’t think like empaths. No comprehension. I tried a Restraining Order, denied by Judge. He’s blocked. I no longer remember his cell. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t care. I avoid all the places I think he may show up. I don’t talk to mutual friends anymore as I changed my cell number. I don’t trust anyone who associated. Someone told me he has a new girlfriend (already??) but having learned from this site, the ‘new girlfriend has probably been around since December.

    The last time I told my ex we were finished, he went into automatic Hoover, tried another golden period so I’d stay . . . I say don’t fall for it.

    He would not leave me alone. I quit my job. My entire life has changed. Right now I have no goals or aspirations.

    If he is a lesser, tell him goodbye in public. I know how serious the escape can be. My neighbor’s friend just buried her only daughter because she tried to break up with him. He stabbed her to death over and over. Gruesome. And she was trying to be nice about.

    1. Dragonfly2
      Good job on the no contact. There really is no point in trying to be nice, and its sad, but what happened to that girl is a reminder of what can happen if one doesnt get out and stay out.

  5. Dear Mr Tudor, this is a timely post…thank you. I sense the beginning of a second disengagement not because of an alternative source of supply from another person but because my fuel is no longer of interest as he puts all his energy into saving his business and battling his fears ( presently and AST although he will answer a text if telegraphic in the response) after a successful initial grand Hoover i have sincerely wished him well and quietly walked away as he is pulling away. Does lack of resistance to his disengagement ensure that a second Hoover will be less likely.

    Thanks for your time, Echo

  6. I told my narcissist that I am moving on. Now he sends messages calling me sweetheart. Why is it that I don’t want to hurt his feelings? He certainly hurt mine enough times.

    1. Hi Christine, sorry for butting in but I just wanted to say him calling you sweetheart is nothing but another manipulation to ensure you are hanging on, trying to decipher what he means, keeping your emotional thinking going. It is not sincere or means he cares. Speaking from personal experience. This is just another way to cause an emotional response in you. They know if they control our emotions, they can control us. Wishing you peace and healing.

      1. Christine
        They also call you these names you take as affection in some cases because its easier to have a generic tag for all of their fuel sources (less chance of getting caught calling you the wrong name if we are all hon or babe or sweetheart) in addition to not seeing you as a person. Use the search function to find the article Pet.

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