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.

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

  1. blackcoffee30 says:

    HG what’s the shortest time period can a disengagement be?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Disengagement is instantaneous.

      1. blackcoffee30 says:

        I guess I was not disengaged from, which you have told me. It’s just difficult for me to reconcile the devaluation behavior, which I would have considered a disengagement.

        An absurd story in order to disappear after communication had dwindled only to pop up again a short time later seemed like disengagement. It is now I suppose, as the NC caused wounding, and I haven’t seen hide nor hair.

      2. blackcoffee30 says:

        HG —

        I’m reading this again. Does this mean there is a possibility that I have been disengaged, but I just don’t know it?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          If you mean with regard to your specific circumstances, I would need more information.
          If you mean as a general principle, i.e. can you be disengaged from and not realise, yes although you often find out pretty quickly this has happened.

          1. Humble Empath says:

            HG. But disengagement never happens if we left (escaped) them correct? We are just forever on the shelf in our cute little compartment. 🤮

          2. HG Tudor says:

            If you escape, there has been no disengagement. You have not been placed on the shelf because you escaped.

          3. blackcoffee30 says:

            Yes, this all makes sense if I think of them as terms of art. Once escaped, the N could think we are “on the shelf,” awaiting a hoover as always.

          4. HG Tudor says:


            You escape, the narcissist may not even notice because you are on the shelf. When the narcissist hoovers to take you off the shelf, the narcissist may find (dependent on how effective your NCR is) the hoover fails. Of course the narcissist does not recognise your escape owing to the sense of entitlement and will seek to hoover in accordance with the Hoover Trigger and the Hoover Execution Criteria. You escape but the narcissist will not “recognise” this.

  2. Kim e says:

    Asp emp
    He’s not clever enough to be able to think how he can try that. He would not want to be ‘wounded’ like that again.“

    You are wrong. Completely wrong. That is your emotional thinking. The wounding goes away. He is very clever in way you can’t imagine.

    1. Asp Emp says:

      He is not that clever. Believe me. There is something that you don’t know. He would not even try it. Let’s just say – the Law is there for a reason. I used it once and I can use it again. So, he will not try it.

  3. December Infinity says:

    I got lots of silent treatments. I rather enjoyed the peace and quiet while he wasn’t around me yelling all the time. He communicated with me very little when he was away on his so called ‘work’ trips, except when he was yelling for money or whatever. I was never able to reach him when I tried here and there. He never held up his end of calls or texts or whatever. Everything about him as usual. I figured there was someone else which he denied of course. And then he would come back and it was the same old situation. I dreaded his return. I began to communicate less with him and do less for him and ‘help him out’ less (as he had a few others for that apparently … ewww).

  4. Bubbles 🍾 says:

    Dear Mr Tudor,
    Our greater friend has been quiet of late
    We’ve sent him a couple of texts, no response
    Just received one from an ‘unknown’ number saying……. ‘my new temporary number’
    No name no nothing
    I asked if it was God or the Devil


    Luv Bubbles xx 😘

    1. lisk says:

      LOL That sound like an HG reply!

      1. Bubbles 🍾 says:

        Dear lisk,
        It does, doesn’t it
        I’m used to these one word answer brain teasers
        I know it’s him, it’s how he texts ( although I was momentarily perplexed when I first saw it)
        The weasel did the same
        They don’t exert too much energy
        I informed Mr Bubbles, he said ‘yes, that’s him’
        Normals generally don’t do this lisk
        I didn’t reply back
        Now we wait
        Luv Bubbles xx 😘

  5. Asp Emp says:

    The PST occurred many times with the Lesser (from many years ago). He was a stroppy b’tard. Eventually, after so many times of him being a right little s**t, I’d mirror his behaviour. So effectively, he did not always have it his ‘way’ – so if he had one of his tantrums, I’d ignore his messages and also when he did turn up at my home, I’d not answer the door – just because I could (and he’d be there outside & messaging me – again, responding as and when I liked). So, he thought he was always in control – I suppose I’d learned from him, how to treat him!

    2.5 years later – he crosses the street to talk to me. I saw him across the street but didn’t let him see that I saw him. He still tries the ’emotional’ route, when he realised it was not working, he then tries the ‘sympathy’ route. That didn’t work either. I remained ‘detached’ and gave him a business card with only an email address on it and 5 years on, he still hasn’t used it. I’d seen him around town a few times since but no engagement of any kind, no reaction, no eye contact, on my part. He’s red faced every time. LOL. Me = 1, him = 0.

    As for the last N, I’m not really ‘guessing’ whether I am subject to silent treatment, disengagement or discard.

    1. Violetta says:

      There can be problems mirroring them, although of course it’s tempting to “give them a taste of their own medicine.” Best to deny them any fuel at all.

      1. Asp Emp says:

        Thanks for that. He was nasty, really nasty & he deserved how I treated him last time he dared to approach me. He knows not to do it again.

        1. Violetta says:

          Asp Emp:


          1. Asp Emp says:

            He’s not clever enough to be able to think how he can try that. He would not want to be ‘wounded’ like that again.

          2. Violetta says:

            Depending on what happens with the rest of his fuel matrix, he might resort to you or anyone else in whatever has replaced the Little Black Book. I finally blasted an Upper Class Twit after months of his calling and leaving coke-fuelled messages of mingled pleading and threats when I wouldn’t pick up. I gave him a proper Freudian rundown of how his relationship with his mother was affecting his love life and said he wasn’t fooling anyone but himself. He called back a few minutes later pretending to be his own best friend, referring to himself in the 3rd person and admonishing me for saying such horrible things.

            I was living in an all-female hotel in NYC where security would never let him in, thank God, but whenever I came home, I didn’t relax until I was through the door. Every now and then, just when I figured he might have given up at last, he’d STILL call and leave increasingly incoherent messages until I finally moved to another borough and got not only a new number but a new area code.

            Here’s an example of the damage a narc can do even when you are not ensnared. I never thought I was in love with him, but he still managed to mess with my head.

          3. Asp Emp says:

            LOL….. Little Black Book

  6. Zena Gardner says:

    As much as I hate him I sort of wanted it to be the AST but he blocked me and my kids on social media and hasn’t interacted with me for two weeks. I haven’t contacted him at all either. So I guess that’s it. Ten years. Poof.

    1. lisk says:

      Yes, it is “Poof” as long as you ensure that it’s “Poof.”

    2. blackcoffee30 says:

      When people first told me that the day he walked out of my life* was the best day of my life, I didn’t get it. I get it now.

      *Technically he put me on the shelf, as I was displaced by someone else, but he pushed the silent treatment and mistreatment to far, so I escaped. The hoover was 3 weeks later. Now, he’s 100% blocked, so I don’t know if he’s tried to hoover. Not knowing whether you’ve been hoovered is the best way.

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