By Nancy Black
Ghosting. If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s the definition from Psychology Today: “Ghosting is abruptly ending communication with someone without explanation. The concept most often refers to romantic relationships but can also describe disappearances from friendships and the workplace.”
I was ghosted recently, and it really hurt. I hadn’t spoken with my boyfriend from when I was 19 years old for more than 30 years.
We reconnected via Facebook, messaged each other, switched to texting and then actually had a lovely, almost two-hour conversation on the phone. We caught up on each other’s lives, made plans to possibly see each other in the future and ended the conversation saying we’d talk again soon. When I did go to text him again, there was no response. OK, maybe he didn’t get it. So, I messaged him via Facebook. Still no response. What the heck? He was the one who seemed more excited than me to reconnect. “Maybe he died,” my son suggested, hoping to ease my worried heart. Maybe he did. People die every day, right? So, I went to his actual Facebook page and found he had unfriended me. Not only had he not died, but he also purposefully removed me from “seeing” his page. How rude.
As for the psychology of ghosting? “Ghosting is emotionally troubling given that it offers no sense of closure.”
If my long-lost love had no desire to communicate with me in any way, I wish he had just had the guts (insert another word I really want to use) to tell me so. I’ve lived more than 30 years without him in my life and I can continue on that way just fine, thank you very much. But at least communicate!
“The reason for being ghosted often has a lot to do with the ghoster, rather than with the ghostee,” the review by the Psychology Today staff wrote. “Cutting off communication spares the individual from confrontation, taking responsibility or engaging in the emotional labor of empathy — despite the benefit a conversation can provide. In effect, it is much more convenient to vanish.”
The “emotional labor of empathy”? I didn’t realize it was hard for some people to be empathetic. You learn something new every day.
All the articles I read mentioned the ease of ghosting in the 21st Century. Electronics make it easy to just delete someone from your life. Not so in the olden days. People had to send a Dear John or Dear Jane letter.
I wondered about the history of those written rejections. Some historians believe “Dear John” letters got their name during World War II. A large number of American troops were stationed overseas for months or years, and many of their wives or girlfriends decided to move on with new men, rather than to wait for the soldiers to return home. Another website linked the origin of Dear John to a poem written in 1862 entitled, “No thank you, John,” by Victorian poet Christini Rossetti.
According to Wikipedia, ghosting became popular in 2015 through many articles on high-profile celebrity relationship dissolutions. I also found out that “Caspering” is a “friendly” alternative to ghosting. Instead of ignoring someone, you’re honest about how you feel, and let them down gently before disappearing from their lives.
“Casper the Friendly Ghost” was one of my favorite comic books to read and TV shows to watch growing up. And “Gus Was a Friendly Ghost,” by Jane Thayer, is still one of my all-time favorite children’s books. I am certain both of those friendly ghosts would not appreciate one little bit their names being drawn into such controversy.
Healing from being ghosted isn’t easy. The psychologists stress that “no one can make you feel low self-worth unless you allow it.” They also add, it is totally fine to feel hurt. Self-care is the recipe for overcoming ghosting. Eating right, sleeping well and being physically active are important always, but especially when you’re feeling down. And if you need help, contact a professional therapist. I know talking with mine helped me recognize that I had not done anything wrong to bring about the hurtful ghosting I received.
“People who ghost must conduct a degree of emotional gymnastics,” Psychology Today concluded. “In cognitive dissonance, a person’s actions may be inconsistent with their beliefs and values; they must therefore convince themselves that their actions are right and just. They also convince themselves that the other person would prefer to avoid a tangled and difficult conversation as well. Otherwise, feelings of guilt and cowardice may plague them.”
I may never know why said former flame disappeared from my life as quickly as he had returned. I do believe everything is for a reason. But it was still no fun.
So, if you’ve been ghosted, be kind to yourself and know it’s not about you. And if you’re thinking of ghosting someone — don’t. It’s hurtful and cowardly. And we see right through you.