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.

15 thoughts on “Has the Narcissist Disengaged Or Is It a Silent Treatment

  1. Toni says:

    Hi HG, So… the guy and I work together. We had pleasant exchanges, things have become a bit distant, but pleasant, then yestday out of w blue, i see that i’m blocked on WhatsApp and social media. I’m confused whether this is an ST or Disengagement, b/c the avenues are technically still open due to our working together. I haven’t tested if Text messaging is still open. This kind of thing has happened before and he weaseled his way back in; on other occasions I’ve been blocked on social media but not WhatsApp. That one was clear to me: DT
    Can anybody shed light on what I’m dealing with now? No contact is obviously not an option, I just need to know what this game is… ST or disengagement? Thanks!!!

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You need to determine first of all whether you are dealing with a narcissist and therefore you should use the Narc Detector. Thereafter, if he is, his behaviour can be assessed through the correct prism of behaviour, i.e. narcissism.

  2. Annie says:

    well when mine finally disengaged after a previous disengagent six years earlier, he just went nuts. Paranoia spewed, he never loved me, he wasn’t in love with me, he never wanted to speak to me again. I supposedly knew what I did? I did? No I didn’t so I asked. This made a bigger round of craziness. He was a dervish. Then he doesn’t have a phone so he says he is going to messenger video his daughter to call the police and why doesn’t that make me leave and be spared further embarrassment? I say go ahead , I am dead sober, tell the cops I came over to get some of my stuff and I haven’t yelled or screamed (he was ). I new he cwouldn’t call the cops they hate him way more than they hate me, and everybody knows it.So then in is underwear, little old man style, he puts on his hoodie and really wants to leave and say something loudly, like I guess I am a prisoner in my own home thanks to you. But he is afraid he will get caught if I check out the grody underage shit on his computer. Some goth Lolita seems his style, so he can’t leave. Trapped. He crawls into bed with the hoodie hiding his face and pulls blankey over his nose and smokes out hole in the quilt. He is in the fetal position facing. the wall. It was hysterical. I looked at him standing really close over his head. Towering over the little toothless troll. I say okay yu can’t even answer a question. You are a moron I guess. You certainly are not a man cowering beneath me afraid to come or go, or let you daughter refuse to call the cops on me?You are pathetic. a ridiculous excuse of a man. You are no man just a scared and paranoid little troll. I think that qualifies as a nice wound..Him all fetal beneath me afraid to get up , move or look at me? But I was already done, so I knew I the non narc was going to disengage. We haven’t spoken at all in three weeks but walking out that door spewing pathetic over my shoulder was bliss. Fetal position for him. On my own two feet for me. He is paranoid and an alcoholic too. He is never going to evolve, and I am tired of his shit. He hadn’t cheated on me up to that point but made abee line to the bar-maybe he was working on the cute barmaid. We she kicked his ass out in record time. Two more 86es after that. the in the third bar he runs into the man who is with one of his exes who he had an affair with before me. He goes up to him (they guy is strong, crazy and big) and my ex guy 5′ 3″and scrawny and he says loudly in the bar, I know you slept with Annie (didn’t ever happen) but thats okay because I fu*ked your woman years ago. How true to script is that fishing expedition? But he got nothing , they guy could have eaten his lunch, maybe he wanted that, then jail, IDK, but I feel like a got a good hit with him all fetal and cowering when I left. Hehas alientated all his friends except girls who knew him before he lost all his teeth and most of his hair and is a cystic acned mess. then I blocked him on social media so he shut down his group page and thinks he is being sneaky on an old page where we had been friends. smearing me as a slut I guess all over town. Only everyone who knows him detests him even his brother. so I am not that worried.But I am discarding. Over and out. Pathetic to king fetal position. hahahaha

  3. NarcAngel says:

    K mac
    It’s not a matter of it being hard for them. You only find it hard to understand because you are looking at it from a non-narcissist perspective. You are looking for fairness and reasoning in the disengagement so everyone can leave on a good note, and they have no such concerns. They are looking for fuel, which they extract in the form of emotional output from your resulting behaviours and reactions. You will come to understand from reading Fuel that negative fuel is more potent than positive and why.

    You have answered your own question about hoovers. Crushing you into dust is part of the extraction of fuel. They don’t need to make it easier to hoover you later because as you demonstrate with your own experience – you said you were hoovered back even though you had been “destroyed”. All the sweeter for them.

    As HG says: You do not have to like it, but you must understand it (if you want to escape).
    You must know your opponent. Read Fuel.

  4. FYC says:

    HG, This is such an excellent post that I have returned to again and again. I have never seen anything like it, and find it to be perfectly accurate for any N interaction. Silent treatments are painful and abusive (or economical instruments of control and punishment from the N view), but your posts on silent treatments truly demystify them. Knowing whether an AST is a ST or a disengagement is very important and this brings great clarity and insight as to how to move forward. Thank you for all you do at KTN.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

      1. Duchessbea says:

        I very much agree.

  5. A Victor says:

    Oh, wow. It just hit me, my ex did the AST on many occasions early on, they shifted a bit as time went on but were still the same thing. The day he disengaged, that was different, very much so. We both knew it. Huh, don’t know why I didn’t connect this earlier.

  6. k mac says:

    I was not blocked from anything at this cycle. He just stopped contacting me. Stop responding to my calls and texts. He acted like he had never seen before and day in his life should we pass in person. I did nothing to deserve this! There were no clues!
    I worked out he had purposed to his then on again of again gf. He even invited my kids to his engagement party! Whyyyyyyy! What is the point of putting me through that? So unnecessary. So cruel. 🥺

    1. A Victor says:

      To them it’s not cruel, it’s just meeting their needs. To me, crazy, this thinking. I spent 10 years trying to wrap my head around it after he left. So cruel.

    2. FYC says:

      HI k mac, Just so you get your answer, of course in our eyes you did nothing to deserve this, but in his eyes you did everything to deserve this. There was a shift he felt in your fuel provision. Non-Ns typically relax and enjoy the deepening of a relationship. N’s require more stimulation/fuel over time. Happy relaxed love is wonderful to you, and boring at the least for the N. The reason he invited your kids to his engagement party is either or both 1) if they are his kids also he would see them as extensions of himself and therefore necessary, 2) if not his kids, it would be a provocation and provide thought fuel (and possibly other fuel if you contacted him). You best bet is not not react at all. Deprive him of what he seeks and he will focus on a better provider of fuel (something you do not want to be). So sorry for your pain.

      1. k mac says:

        He is just mean 😔

  7. k mac says:

    I will never ever understand disengagement. It’s so damn cruel. Just say “hey Ive gotten engaged,(again) and I’m going the straight and narrow, (for now)? How hard is that? Wouldn’t it be easier to hoover later if you didn’t crush the other person into dust? I was hovered back after disengagement even though it destroyed me. Another thing I will never understand.

    1. A Victor says:

      Hi K Mac,
      I have come to accept that some things I will not understand from a personal experience perspective, even like trying to “walk in their shoes”. But rather I can understand that they think and function differently than I do and their way is what it is to them, and the results of their way to me must be limited, very low to none. By way of being in NC, or ANC. It’s a matter of acceptance more than actual understanding, with certain aspects, for me at this time. I think the understanding may grow as we’re here longer though.

    2. FYC says:

      Again, in our view, yes that would be kinder. But in the N view, he seeks contrast, as contrast provides greater fuel. The missing component between what you are seeing and what he is experiencing is that you presume he wants to re-engage in a relationship. He does not. He may call is such during the hoover, but what he really wants and needs is fuel by any means he deems satisfying. Very different mindsets. Please do let go of trying to make sense in your view and instead, see it from the N view. It may be painful and disappointing to the extreme, but it will protect you going forward so you never have to feel that pain again. That is the gift of HG and KTN.

Vent Your Spleen! (Please see the Rules in Formal Info)

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