The use of withdrawal and refusal is a coping mechanism and learned behavior by someone who was not permitted to experience his or her feelings in safety, likely beginning in childhood. It is a damage response. It is also what these emotionally crippled people employ as a defensive, damage control device.
The person who uses this control technique does so often out of a feeling of hopelessness; they feel they have no other recourse. And many do not as they simply lack the emotional skills necessary to use two-way, emotionally open communication. They are terrified of being open because that is where they’re vulnerable. Chances are, as kids, the parental environment was one of emotional instability, covert retaliation, and continued manipulation and diminishing (which causes a hypersensitivity to it in the future).
The resulting adult will avoid these abuses, even if only perceived, using the only method of control they were able to generate as children: Silence and withdrawal (read internalizing). In this state, the emotional abuser can’t keep getting to them and the tables are turned. The trouble is, this behavior becomes a conditioned response that outlives its usefulness and is continued into the adult’s future relationships, where he or she then perpetrates the damdge instead of being the victim of it. And in all honesty, they self damage, but will rarely become aware of it.
Understand me clearly, the person who believes themself to be whole and fully functional but then employs this control technique is not whole, they are damaged. Internal scars and survival techniques are at play, deep beneath the surface. These people often live with partners who rountinely feel as though they must be crazy, because along with the harm done to the receiving end of the silent treatment is often a distortion of reality by the one who has withdrawn. The act of withdrawal is often accompanied by a very covert shift of blame. This can occur in situations where there was not even reasonable cause for any blame to exist in the eyes of the partner who doesn’t employ the technique. There is a cycle going here.
If you rountinely find yourself using the withdrawal and internalization method, you know that all the stuff you shovel down inside just stays there, piling up. Just like it did as a child. The difference now is that you could be on a level playing field emotionally with those you love and/or live with. You could choose to seek help in gaining healthy coping mechanisms and helpful methods of interaction at such intimate and vulnerable states as are created in committed relationships. You could choose to save yourself future hurt, spare your partner the anguish you cause them, and prevent any future generation you create from the damage. You can choose to stop the cycle of pain and harm, for all involved, including you. But chances are without that pain, conflict, it whatever causes the weight of your burden to remain, you would be lost. It would be foreign and therefore not safe for you to experience these sort of interactions with freedom to feel, security to explore, and trust that your partner doesn’t want to harm you. Fear of being hurt and harmed drives your reluctance, and for good reason, your fear is a learned response.
But you can change your responses. You can change perceptions and understanding. There is another option. An entirely other world that you could exist in that is safe and makes conflict useful. Where love and compassion are the ulterior motives. Trouble is that as long as you keep yourself securely in your hole, back against the wall, where you think you are safe, there is a huge likelihood you’ll never realize the love and compassion staring you in the face.
And the reason they will never see it is because they are indeed damaged souls. Deeply hurt during a time when they could not prevent it (childhood, naive first relationship, illness, etc). These people can change, but need help from an outside source that can teach them and help them develop the the tools they lack.
In the mean time, it you suffer the effects of another imposing their rejection, withdrawal, and/or isolation the best thing you can do is turn to education. Inform yourself of the patterns, the cycles, the experience of life through their eyes. If you can part ways, do so. If you are not in a position to separate and sever your relationship, find an educated source to talk to and locate your unending supply of inner strength. Most importantly, define your boundaries and set them at the place just in front of allowing yourself to become a victim.