Probably at one time or another you have been either on the giving or receiving end of a silent treatment, otherwise known as the cold shoulder. What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism like the cold shoulder. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?
The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.
The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say. I’d hate anyone to confuse what I’m saying with my own divorce.
Cooling Off And Ostracizing Are Two Very Different Things
Let’s not confuse the silent treatment with something known as “the cooling off period”. The cooling off period is where one person is so angry or disgusted by the other person that they just cannot deal with the situation in that state need time to calm down before they begin to speak to this person. That’s fine and actually that’s probably better than sitting and screaming at each other.
There is a big difference between taking some time to cool down and outright ignoring the existence of the other person. Resulting in someone or both letting go of the relationship. The silent treatment would be more along the lines of you doing something that pisses someone off, they clue you in on it (or not), and then they don’t speak to you, acknowledge you or even make eye contact with you for sometimes days. No good.
To me, this is a form of torture. Nothing positive comes from this type of behavior. What makes more sense…blowing up about something, cooling off a little and then talking about how to resolve it OR not blowing up about something, staying completely pissed and not doing anything to help resolve the situation? If you said the latter… you’re a dick.
When someone is administering the silent treatment they are trying to show that they are dominant over you. The silent treatment (when it becomes a mutual one) is a power struggle in pain tolerance…whomever the winner is, cares less. Hopefully it will never get physical or involve bullying.
When You Are On The Receiving End Of The Silent Treatment
It’s interesting to me that research has shown that woman and men respond to the silent treatment very differently. Woman who are on the receiving end of the silent treatment seem to try anything in their power to win back their good grace with the ostracize where men…don’t. They just deal with it.
But what exactly are the men just dealing with and the woman trying to avoid? The emotional pain associated with being ostracized. Those who have been treated to the silent treatment have reported as sense of loss, of not belonging, of lower self-esteem and a feeling of unworthiness. All of these feelings are the result of someone just not acknowledging them or ignoring them. I find that pretty interesting.
I can say that I honestly don’t ever remember giving someone the silent treatment…not anyone that it would matter to anyway. I don’t think I have it in me to do that to someone. Not even in a passive aggressive silent treatment kind of way either. Why you ask? Because I’ve had it done to me, I know what it feels like and it totally sucks. My friend Micky Ward knows this all too well. I’m more the type of person that would like to blow up about something, probably say some things I don’t really mean, apologize for saying the things I don’t really mean and then move towards resolution. But hey…that’s just me.