[photo: Zena Holloway]
We’ve all been there: you need an answer from someone, or a favor, or a feedback, or you express feelings or thoughts, so you send a text or an email, or you leave them a voice message… and you get NO answer.
Nothing, zit, nada. Not even an acknowledgement.
You exposed your vulnerability, you need help, you gathered the courage to express yourself, you got out of the woods. And you are now facing the Void.
With the explosion of emails as the main mean to communicate, silence has become an accepted form of reply. The interaction is not happening face to face, so it is easy to ignore a message that sparks no special interest for us or triggers an uncomfortable feeling. Emails, texts and voice messages make it so easy to avoid confronting anything.
I believe that this form of silence is emotional abuse.
Don’t get me wrong, silence is a gem when it is about centering ourselves, gathering our thoughts, sharing a moment with a loved one, cooling down before saying words we can regret. The silence I am talking about is different. It is indifference and plain ignoring. Not acknowledging any form of personal communication coming your way makes the sender feel unimportant, not valued, not cared about and completely absent from the abuser’s thoughts.
We are all entitled to not want to deal with any topic, at any time, or to delay our response. But the decent way to handle it is to acknowledge the message sent to us, and explain that we will not respond, or that we will respond later on, and why.
Ignoring someone in this context is very much like the famous Silent Treatment: feigned apathy; cold-shoulder; silence; distance, and ignoring you. It is the worst form of emotional abuse. The Silent Treatment is a form of non-physical punishment and control. It is a form of banishing someone from the abuser’s existence without the benefit of closure or a good bye or a chance at reconciliation.
People who don’t want to confront any uncomfortable topics, issues in a relationship, or within themselves are masters at this technique. Narcissist perverts use and over-use silence. You are left there hanging, wondering what is going on, what the abuser is thinking or doing. It is a mean to progressively kill the victim’s psyche and integrity, destroy their self-esteem and dignity. It can lead to suicidal thoughts and it is extremely difficult and long to recover from that treatment.
That is why the Silent Treatment is one of the worst emotional abuse, and why I am appalled by how casual and normal silence has become in our digital communication every day.
Abuse is abuse. And abuse is never ok.