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.


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

  1. alexissmith2016 says:

    That is very interesting. I always considered myself to be poor fuel for an N as my long-term partner is not an N. But when I think back to my first few bf’s, all of them were Ns.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You cannot alter your potency.
      You can alter your fuel provision by amount and frequency through robust no contact and thus become a F.R.E.E.

      Many people provide fuel when they think they do not, the article about Why Grey Rock Does Not Work addresses this in part.

      1. alexissmith2016 says:

        Thanks HG. I have learned very well from you when to limit my fuel provision and never give negative fuel (except to you of course, because you’re special!), unless I see it is to my advantage (rarely, but sometimes it is, and I make sure it is complete LT/ET, it is planned and not reactive). But I do give copious amounts positive fuel as it pays dividends for me personally. And I could not care two shits if they are fuelled by it as long as I’m getting what I want. However, when engaging in a ‘bitch off’, I control all ET and there is no provision of fuel whatsoever, neither positive of negative. Everything is very much calculated and well planned out. Again. I could never have achieved this without you.

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Despite what you may think, you are being led by your ET, but you are an adult and you make your own decisions. I give you the right information and tools, it is upto you whether you wish to wield them.

          1. alexissmith2016 says:

            Thanks. I know there is still some ET/addiction, there is no denying that. As much as I’d like to. But I keep it under wraps as much as possible.

            Unfortunately we also have to live among these people and it is about getting that balance right. My sister for example, I have had to reengage with her due to external influences. I give her the praise she so desires, allow her to believe she is better than me etc but it is completely at the forefront of my mind that she is always up to something and I cannot trust her whatsoever.
            I have no choice about when I interact with her at present (for reasons I won’t go in to), but that will soon come to an end and I’m very much looking forward to that day. Until then, I have to manage my behaviour towards her in the way which works best.

            You kind of did tell me off though lol, but in a nice way.

          2. HG Tudor says:

            Ha ha, I gave you guidance not admonishment AS2016.

            Your response does show that largely logic is prevailing. As you know, the counsel of perfection is to GOSO.

          3. alexissmith2016 says:

            I fully accept that and I know you’re right. When I book my consult – I think you’ll be proud of what I have done. Not proud of me because I am of course nothing more than a mere extension of you – you own me. hahaha Therefore proud of yourself for weaponising an empath.

          4. HG Tudor says:

            Making HG proud of his charges is to be applauded. Book that consult and demonstrate to me what you have done.

          5. alexissmith2016 says:

            Yes. I have one final hurdle to get through with her. I’d like to try and do this myself and then book the NDT. But I may well need your assistance to achieve this. And it would make sense to do it altogether.

      2. Please don’t tell me off!

        1. Caroline R says:

          Hi Alexis,
          Two things…..
          #1 I just read your comment about your N-sister.
          Sweetie, you have my deepest respect. And sympathy.

          #2 you made me laugh!
          HG admonished you…
          I couldn’t help remembering on Big Bang Theory (season 10?) when Amy was away at Princeton and speaking to Sheldon via Skype.
          She made a deliberate grammatical error to bait him, and he said that he would admonish her.
          She fixed her eyes on him, her desire rising, and asked “will you admonish me… vigorously?”


          (It’s 1am. That joke seems hilarious right now).

          1. alexissmith2016 says:

            Awww thank you Caroline R. Yes, I think there are many people on this site who have N family. I can honestly say though, that I feel nothing for her any more. That stopped a long time ago. But as stated, I’ve had no choice but to reengage, thank goodness it is a temporary thing. I’ve got used to it now, but it was so hard in the beginning. She really expected to be able to walk all over me like she used to when we were children/teens. She had no idea what I’ve become thanks to HG and how I see through and have halted all of her manipulation attempts. Doesn’t stop her trying though (definite laughing emojis). My husband even said exactly that too!

            I love your joke about Amy and Sheldon! It’s almost 6pm here and still hilarious! thank you for sharing.

          2. NarcAngel says:

            Caroline R
            Still funny.

      3. MB says:

        I know it’s not the intent and should feel the total opposite, but becoming a F.R.E.E. feels synonymous with being a failure. Emotional thinking, HG?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          It is. Why do you regard is as a failure MB, it should be regarded as a triumph.

          1. MB says:

            HG, I don’t normally strive to fail. I’m already flawed enough. TRYING to be bad at something is counterintuitive. I spend every day of my life WANTING people to want me, to validate me. Like you, my validation comes from outside myself. This is why I fell prey in the first place. Incentivizing somebody reject me as not “making the grade” doesn’t feel like a triumph. I know it’s not a popular stance and makes no sense to most people. I have co-d traits and they manifest when I hear “flawed” and MB in the same sentence. It’s rejection. Plain and simple. Even if it’s healthy rejection.

        2. FYC says:

          MB, You are not a failure. If your objective was to love the narcissism out of the narcissist your objective is to blame for your sense of failure. If you ‘borrowed’ self-esteem from the Ns golden behavior and now feel failure due to his absence, then know your gained self-esteem at that time was real–you simply borrowed his mirror to discover it–so keep it for yourself ongoing. I suspect whatever you gave to your N was real and what you allowed yourself to feel freely was as well–these are both a success.

          To overcome core shame, when you feel harsh self-judgement seeping in, hit the pause button and ask yourself, “Where is the evidence?” Talk back to your fears of failure. I think you will find so much compassion and fair judgement from the actual *evidence*, your fears of failure or being ‘less’ will truly vanish. Congratulations on being FREE! Now on to the challenge of finding ways to fill the gaps you feel with your own acknowledgment and self-empowerment. I see great things in you. You have many options. Hugs to you (if you like hugs).

          1. MB says:

            Thank you FYC, I always find so much value in your responses to me. It really sucks to have to look for validation outside yourself. The N gave it in spades (except when I was shelved of course). The bank of the feels would overflow and feel really good, but get overdrawn very quickly with the rejection. Pull and push. Up and down.

            You hit the nail on the head when you said I borrowed self esteem from N. I liked the person I was with him. I felt beautiful and sexy. I was somebody I’d never been and may never be again. There was no *real* abuse so it’s easy to only see the good. I’m 6+mos NC and was only a long distance IPSS. Yay me! My fuel isn’t worth the effort.

            Triumphant never felt so bad. It’s all ET and makes no logical sense. I know!That’s just where am at this moment. Don’t get sucked into my pity party. I’m nowhere near making contact. My resolution is strong. No worries.

            Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for the hugs and the validation. See? I’m perking up already 😊

  2. Joanne says:

    HG, I have a question for you. Many of us have mentioned on here that we are bad fuel sources based on the lengths we will go (or not go) in these narc scenarios. By way of your interactions with us on the blog and via consults, are you able to tell which of us would be a fountain of fuel and which of us would be just a trickle? Hypothetically speaking, of course. I know you would never target someone from here.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Some stand out more than others but you have to remember this , fuel depends on three factors

      1. Potency – position in the fuel hierarchy.
      2. Amount – dependent on the method of delivery
      3. Frequency

      Comments on the blog are poor fuel because whist they are frequent many are not directed towards me (thus they are not fuel) and if they are they are the lowest potency (tertiary) and the smallest amount (in writing). In your own personal situations many of you were IPPSs therefore high potency and I can determine that certain readers will have been frequent and large amount providers of fuel allied with this high potency. It is often the case that people think they are a poor fuel source when actually they are not and they are once again being blinded by their emotional thinking.

      1. Joanne says:

        Fair play. I am always looking for an easy answer but there are usually multiple variables to consider. I like to think of myself as poor fuel but must remember that things would likely have been vastly different if: a) I was not married, b) I was fully embedded as IPPS, c) his mask stayed on longer. I guess in actuality, my ability to “control” my fuel output was directly related to the superficial nature of our very brief relationship.

        Thank you for answering. I’m always learning 🙂

        1. HG Tudor says:

          You are welcome Joanne.

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