Empath & Sensitives: ‘Withholding’ as a Toxic Tactic

Here’s a helpful article from Jamie at Sophia’s Children. I would just add the following observations:

Not that this applies to Jamie’s clients, but it may be relevant for some people reading — that in cases of narcissism, withholding “narcissistic supply” is not abusive. It’s a necessary coping mechanism and way out of toxic relationships.

Because narcissists don’t believe they have (ever) done anything wrong, someone’s withholding may seem like some kind of emotional blackmail, when, in fact, they have removed themselves from continuing an unhealthy, one-way relationship that will never return on investment. I think it’s important to include this topic here, because narcissists will often use any and all guilt maneuvers and trigger buttons to lure their supply back to them for another feast. People having courage to step away from that kind of dysfunction need to know that there’s a difference not only between being innocently “inconsiderate” or maliciously “manipulative,” but also the possibility that withholding represents a necessary step in the liberation process.

On the flip side, in these times of increased awareness, if a person finds him or herself suddenly surrounded by people withholding contact, praise, etc., it is worth at least a conscious look inside to make sure that the withholding isn’t in response to narcissistic behaviors on our own part. Things continue to rebalance, and since most narcissists don’t recognize themselves as being any part of problem relationships, taking an objective look at this possibility (or getting help doing so) can bring peace. If the other person turns out to be exhibiting narcissistic behaviors, then one need not feel guilty for withholding; if the person experiencing withholding recognizes areas where s/he has been too demanding or draining, then s/he has the opportunity to change patterns and make restitution.

Just wanted to add that to Jamie’s important insights, since the narcissism piece complicates an otherwise simpler issue. 🙂

Sophia's Children

Confidences, 1869, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Confidences, 1869, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

I always know that when a topic or theme comes up three or more times in less than a week that it’s an issue that’s ‘up’ at the moment. And I often put it on my writing roster, or bump it up in priority if it’s already on the list.

So after receiving emails from three clients in as many days about this particular, frustrating topic, and having it come up in a recent client session, it seems to be an ‘up’ issue.

It’s also a  perfect addition to the ongoing Empaths & Sensitives Series (which is also handy intel for interpersonal communication dynamics).

What’s the topic or theme at the moment? Withholding.

That’s right. The proverbial silent treatment or cold shoulder that leaves us (or others) wondering what the heck happened, and feeling confused and off-kilter as a result.

Interestingly, withholding is…

View original post 1,159 more words

4 responses to this post.

  1. […] (or many, as is the case with many of these topics!). For now, you can read a bit more about it in Laura Bruno’s reblog and expansion on this blog […]



  2. Posted by manyhahama1955 on January 22, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Most excellent insight, Laura, on this subject. Thank you! Hugs, Sophia

    Liked by 1 person


  3. The post came on my radar at the same time, but I like what Laura’s added. I was drawn to the topic because I’ve been in that withholding position, but it was also times I was dealing with challenging people, one of whom I feel is borderline narcissist (is there such a thing?) and the other who had grown up in her shadow and normalised it (my ex husband, actually). I was a newb to these issues at the time but realised that I just couldn’t contribute to the fantasy-building around the in-law; when I decided to stop playing, things got more fun, let’s just put it that way! I’m also learning which bad habits I use when I’m feeling threatened or disrespected. There seem to be people who just bring out those parts the way no one else can. I’ve come to realise some people play communication/hierarchical games because they honestly feel that’s how everyone operates per normal.



    • Thanks for the additional sharing, Janet! I think when people share their stories, others realize they are not alone and that change really can happen. The new normal need not resemble what passes for normal in some people’s minds. 🙂



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