As a recovering borderline, my emotions are generally kept in check, and my thoughts are pretty rational. But receiving the silent treatment is a deadly trigger for my fear of abandonment. Especially when it is given by someone I deeply care about.
Just a couple of days ago, I had an argument with a friend of mine who once abandoned me. Our argument, over a topic we have different opinions about, unleashed my rage. Which lead him to give me the silent treatment. It didn’t take long for me to realise I’d lost control of my anger, so I tried to apologise, but he kept ignoring me.
As a result, my mind reverted back to distant memories of abandonment. I kept replaying these memories over and over again, reliving them. All I could feel was this intense despair like someone was physically choking me. I was terrified of being abandoned again. I’d lost control of my thoughts; trying to rationalise the situation was impossible. I just felt this overwhelming emotional pain and fear.
But after an hour or so, I devalued our friendship. My fear transformed into rage. I hated my friend until he finally apologised for ignoring me.
Along with anxiety, irritability, and sad and angry thoughts; an individual suffering from BPD may have other thoughts and feelings when given the silent treatment.
A mentally healthy person would probably feel a little sad when given the silent treatment. In comparison, a borderline individual suffers from intense emotions due to their inability to regulate their emotions. So for them, this sadness is amplified into feelings of despair and depression.
2. Devaluation of a relationship
Many borderline individuals have a distorted way of thinking known as splitting. This “everything is all good or all bad” thought process can lead them to devalue a relationship when they feel hurt or angry. The person who has given them the silent treatment is viewed to be “all bad” in the moment.
3. Explosive Rage
Who isn’t a little angry when given the silent treatment? As stated in the first point, borderline individuals suffer from intense emotions. So naturally, anger is amplified into explosive rage which they have difficulty controlling.
4. Fear of abandonment
Due to childhood neglect and/or abandonment, many borderline individuals have an intense fear of real or imagined abandonment. Receiving the silent treatment can trigger this fear, causing them to do whatever they can to bring the perceived abandoner back to them.
5. Self harm or substance abuse
Self harm or substance abuse are negative coping mechanisms which many borderline individuals use to deal with events they cannot handle. Since they already struggle with interpersonal relationships, receiving the silent treatment can wreak havoc on their mind, leading them to partake in harmful behavior.
6. Stress induced paranoia or dissociation
Receiving prolonged silent treatment can be pretty stressful for a borderline individual. Through intense stress, they may obsess over the incident or believe that the person giving the silent treatment is “out to get them”. The stress of silent treatment can also result in a detachment from reality.
Regardless of whether you suffer from borderline personality disorder or not, receiving the silent treatment is pretty painful and unpleasant. Click here to read a blog post by MJ @slothspeedrecovery about the thoughts and feelings of a borderline, while giving the silent treatment.