There is much discussion these days of active bully behavior but little, if anything, is said of passive bully behavior.
You may know it as the Silent Treatment.
I am not referring to ignoring phone calls/emails etc… That is choosing to not participate in an action and quite different from choosing not to acknowledge someone’s existence.
That’s what the silent treatment is, it is a total denial of another’s humanness. What it says is ‘You are so worthless I refuse to acknowledge your existence. You do not even deserve basic human courtesy because you are less than human.’
Parents do it to children, children do it to each other, husbands and wives engage in it, adults inflict this damage onto other adults every day.
This kind of behavior is considered non-violent and sure, it doesn’t leave physical scratches but quite often there is more violence in silence than there is in a kick to the gut or a word to the heart. At least with those things, you exist but perpetrators of the silent treatment want to erase you and everything that makes you human. And this is their intention, no matter the innocence they feign, the goal is to dehumanize at the core.
This is why I find the show Intervention so reprehensible. If you’ve never seen the show it’s about ‘helping’ addicts. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about shame. The hack psychologists on the show advocate telling addicts ‘If you don’t get better we refuse to acknowledge your existence.’
I am quite certain that if you got to the root of depression, addiction and suicide you would find it was due to feeling less than human. It’s all down to feeling like you matter and nothing says ‘you don’t matter’ like looking right through the person standing in front of you.
|Disappearing in plain sight:
Clea Duvall as Marcie dissolves in a classroom
People form addictions, succumb to depression and commit suicide because they feel less than human. They already feel worthless. When you engage in the silent treatment you are confirming their beliefs and throwing them further into the hole.
Let me be clear:
There is no violence greater than someone you love pretending you, your existence, your humanness isn’t worth acknowledging.
But of course, it doesn’t just have to come from people you love and I doubt that feelings of dehumanization come from one person’s behavior toward another. It is build up. It’s a slow burn but nothing lights it faster than violence through silence.
In 1997 the cult hit, and my favorite show ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer tackled this very thing in the episode ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight.’ Clea Duvall plays high schooler Marcie. The other kids aren’t overtly mean to her. She speaks, they don’t hear her. Despite her obvious intelligence, even the teachers ignore her in class. How many of us have experienced such things? The teachers, adults who are supposed to be above such games, flock to the pretty and popular children even if it is obvious they don’t care about their studies – while children of greater intelligence go unnoticed and unnurtured.
It is a quiet way of putting people in their place – their place of worthlessness.
In the episode, it’s posited that reality can be shaped and altered by the power of the mind. No one acknowledges this girl’s life. She is invalid to everyone in her life. She is invisible to everyone in her world and so she becomes invisible.
If you are the kind of person who engages in this behavior then this post isn’t for you because you already know what you’re doing and you do not care. In fact, you’re the kind of sub-human that relishes in making others feel less than human.
This is for those who feel invisible. This is for those who’ve been shown through silence that they mean nothing.
You mean something.
I don’t know you and you don’t know me but you matter to me. You matter simply because you are.
You have a story and a life, even if it’s one that no one in your immediate world wants to share with you. There are people out there who want to know simply because you are you.
You are vital and worthy of respect and love.
Don’t fade out.