I was awakened the other morning by a girlfriend in tears and very distressed by something I can relate to. The silent treatment.
We discussed that while we can understand taking time to cool off and walk away, just not addressing the issue and ignoring the other person involved just didn't make any sense to us. And well... its just plain cruel.
I decided to look into literature about it and came across a great article out of Purdue University by a Social Psychologist named Kipling William. He says "Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, are used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realize the emotional or physical harm that is being done."
He speaks of ostracism in the animal kingdom, the workplace and in families. He also describes what it does to the brain in saying "When a person is ostracized for even a brief period of time, the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects pain, is activated and people experience the same initial pain when excluded by strangers or close friends, or even enemies. He says that thats why 'time outs' work so well while disciplining children. But in adults? Its bullying basically. Passive aggressive, manipulative, unnecessary bullying.
As much as I don't recall ever really giving anyone the silent treatment for more than a day/hours etc (although I've certainly been tempted to) I always decided that if I loved/cared for the person and the relationship mattered to me I'd try and work it out, and if I didn't it might just be better all the way around to end the relationship/break the ties. Anyways, I think most people out there have experienced either giving, or getting the silent treatment at some point, and by now I hope that my gal pal has dried her tears because life goes on! And I am sure that whoever was giving her the silent treatment is in pain as well, as we are all experiencing our own reality in each moment. And relationships are tricky for all of us, and sometimes we just don't know what to do, or how to respond. I don't think that everyone who gives the cold shoulder does so to purposefully hurt others. I think that it might be a way of protecting themselves as well, but maybe learning what it actually does to the brain might make someone go about things a little differently. Or I hope.
Its my long held belief that a little kindness goes a long long way, and most situations (no matter how crappy) can be worked out among people who love truly one another. In spite of everything is a really beautiful world. Namaste.