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.


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

  1. Amelia says:

    Dear HG
    You are brilliant. It is a long time I am struggling what is my situation as a secondary source. I thought that he disengaged from me, but now I realise that he painted me black and put me on the shelf. This is strange because he was engaging with me everyday for years but now suddenly put me on the shelf, I resisted a lot so he just changed my colour from white to black and put me there again… Really painful.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Indeed I am and that is why you will get the answers here that nobody else provides.

  2. Jon says:


    I dated a woman I worked with. We only dated for 3 months before I dumped her. For the next year she stalked and harassed me. She vandalized my car several times and rubbed other guys in my face at work. She even moved to my neighborhood. I tried everything I could to expose her. I went to Management and told them about her. She even admitted to vandalizing my car and yet they didn’t fire her. Long story short, I eventually got let go under the guise of “Internal sales team restructuring”. They knew if they would have outright fired me they would have had a lawsuit because of everything this woman did to me. She still works there..and still lives right down the street from me.

    After I got fired I lit her up on social media (Instagram) for two weeks. I tried to expose her and trash her reputation with new people she was hanging out with in the neighborhood. What did she do? She blocked me. This was after a YEAR of her relentlessly stalking me and following me around my neighborhood. She blocked me and even changed her picture and name on Instagram. I was blasting her from fake accounts so even though she blocked me main Instagram page, I was still able to find her and I noticed several weeks later she changed her IG pic back to the one that was up when I was sending her mean comments.

    So what the hell is going on? Just knowing that she is right down the street from me now when she originally lived 40 minutes way makes me furious. How can she do all of that stuff to me over a the period of a year, when we only dated for 3 months, and then when I finally explode and give her a reaction, she blocks me.

    Is this over? Or will she hoover me? I wish she would just go away, but I’m so confused that I don’t know what is going to happen next. Can you shed some insight?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Hello Jon, since you posted your comment you took the correct step of organising an email consultation with me and I provided the answers through that for you.

  3. Michelle says:

    My live in boyfriend has had a history of flirting with other women online. A little over two weeks ago, I figured out that not only was he talking to this girl but had used my car and credit card to go visit her where she works and buy her lunch. Once I put it together, he immediately began calling me a cheater and he left and took most of his belongings. Since then, he’s flaunted the girl (and I say girl because she’s only 20, he’s almost 38) all over social media and has said all of these terrible things about me to try to make it seem like it’s my fault, I cheated and I drove him to be with her. What makes this so hard is that I am pregnant, our daughter is due in 6 weeks. Now he’s telling everyone he doesn’t know if she is his and has this girl and his family members convinced too. I am at such a loss over this. I can’t even call him if something were to happen because he’s got me blocked on the phone that I pay for but he still reaches out to me when he feels like it. His family won’t talk to me and they are in fact encouraging this new relationship. I can’t sleep or eat because I am so confused over this. I’ve lost 12 pounds which is not something me or my baby need right now. I am scared the stress is going to cause some sort of complication but he doesn’t care. The verbal and mental abuse has been relentless. I don’t know what to do moving forward. He knows I’m vulnerable right now because of the pregnancy and seems to fuel the damage he is causing.

  4. Kelly B says:

    We begin to stink like a bad smell. Its so hurtful to be treated like that. Banished to the island of misfit toys.

  5. Mona says:

    HG, did your mother use both kinds of silent treatment?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      She did, Mona.

  6. Kellie Mccoey says:

    Mr Tudor, why disengage from a secondary source who you have had in your life for years? Who poses no threat to your new appliance? Who you have kept through many other ipps?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      A narcissist disengages from a secondary source because that secondary source is not performing in the way that is required by the narcissist, which would include some form of major wounding or major exposure.

      1. Kellie Mccoey says:

        I did wound him. I wanted him to know that I’m no fool. I wanted to set terms. He didn’t want that. He wants a spotless, clueless lamb he bat around like a cat playing with a ball of yarn. I was fine playing the role for awhile. But my pride was proven to strong. Especially since he’s an idiot!

      2. Mercy says:

        There comes a time that performing tricks for treats become tiresome and the narc treats are no longer appealing.

        1. Bekah B says:

          Perfectly said, Mercy..

        2. Anm says:

          Tricks is my hooker name

  7. Kate says:

    Hi HG,

    Thank you not only for this site and all of your fantastic articles, but also your YouTube videos – I noticed that you recently added 3 new ones!!

    As far as this article’s subject matter, Silent Treatments goes.. an Empath can shame / scare away a nasty narc so they don’t dare show that face in our presence again! Ha ha ha. We cause the silent treatment. Well, their behavior is what actually initiates it.

    Directly related to the above, I hope you don’t mind my sharing a (what I consider to be) funny story – when my son and I shared a laugh at the expense of a nasty narc who I refer to as “Medusa” (not just on this site, but to his face). She is not called “Medusa” because her eyes possess any power to turn a man to stone – my son did not even know what color her eyes are (I wonder why??). Anyway, her name is not actually “Medusa”, but it does start with the letter “M” ..

    He was saying goodbye to me and said “I am going to “M’s house”, followed by him laughing a little. He is apparently now calling her “M” and not her name.

    “You were just there.”

    “Her parents are away, so it’s an open house.”

    “What, you mean that all sorts of people are coming and going?

    “No, it’s open to me.”

    “Well, it’s obvious that Medusa’s house is open for YOU.”

    Some mutual laughter, then I added, “the question is – why do you want to go to THAT house?? Why not find a BETTER house? If you looked, you would notice that there are a lot of girls who would open their house for you.”

    1. Renarde says:

      Yeah, I’ve read this a few times now and I still don’t understand. Am I having a brain fail? [Confused]

  8. veronicajones1969 says:

    Thank you HG Very informative

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are most welcome.

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