24 Feb Ghosting: An Understanding and Why it’s Harmful
In a world where technology has the power to connect so many people, it has also created a new culture of ghosting. Ghosting is the modern term for ignoring someone; it is when a person cuts off all communication without any explanation. Phones and apps have allowed individuals the ability to talk with others in different states and countries and share images, stories, and experiences. However, these same phones and apps have also generated a desensitization to the person on the other end. So often people will ignore a phone call or a text message without thinking of the other person, their emotions, or how it may affect them. Studies have shown that social rejection of any kind activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain.
Why People Ghost
An individual may feel that avoiding a conversation is the easy thing to do, however, avoidance only creates more undesired feelings. Avoidance is a maladaptive form of coping that involves changing our behavior to try to avoid thinking or feeling things that are uncomfortable. Ghosting has a lot to do with how a person handles their emotions. A person’s avoidance truly has everything to do with them and not the person they are avoiding. It’s about their discomfort.
Sure, the person who they are avoiding may remind them of someone or they may represent something that brings on their discomfort, but they are not the source of their avoidance. Psychologist Jennice Vilhauer said, “A lot of people anticipate that talking about how they feel is going to be a confrontation. That mental expectation makes people want to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.”
How to Avoid Avoidance
- Understand what it is and why it doesn’t work. Now that you have a greater understanding of why avoidance coping is self-defeating in most instances, you’ll be more able to talk yourself out of it and into more proactive and effective ways of managing stress when you face it.
- Recognize when you’re doing it. Take a minute to think of common times you tend to use avoidance coping. Do you procrastinate? Do you avoid discussing problems or facing issues? Make a note of these times and make it a point to notice when you avoid things in the future.
- Practice emotional coping techniques. Journaling and meditation have been found to be highly effective for managing emotional stress. Strategies to soothe your emotions can help you to feel less desire to escape when stressed and more able to face stress head-on.
- Learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings Once you become more used to being uncomfortable, you’ll be more comfortable with the feelings you usually run from. This can help immeasurably because you’ll have more of a choice in how you face problems; you won’t have a knee-jerk avoidance response and facing problems head-on won’t bring as much anxiety once you’re more used to it.
- Practice communication skills. Interpersonal Effectiveness allows an individual to communicate effectively while maintaining their own self-respect effectiveness. By learning how to communicate in a healthy way, you’ll find yourself less tempted to avoid conflict and more empowered to resolve it in a way that strengthens your relationships.
- Have someone hold you accountable. It’s much harder to run from your problems when you have someone you have to explain this to. Use this reality to your advantage and enlist a buddy in your efforts to stamp out avoidance. Sometimes you just need a nudge in the right direction from someone outside yourself. Sometimes you just need some extra support.
- Find help. Speaking of extra support, you can always speak to a therapist about avoidance tendencies, particularly if it’s affecting your life in negative ways or you feel unable to tackle the problem on your own to the extent that you’d like.
Ghosting: What Happens When You’re the Victim?
When a person gets ghosted, there’s no closure, so they question themselves and their choices, which sabotages self-worth and self-esteem. We all feel the same emotions even if some people are more verbal about them than others. Change and letting go means engaging in true acceptance – meaning that we must not wish to change, negotiate, or engage I “should/could” thinking.
We may say we accept something new/different, and then we fall into the trap of personalizing what has happened. “Why would they do this to me?” “They’re just upset, and they’ll be back.” When we personalize our pain, we hold onto it. We focus on all the meaningful events/conversations that have taken place and hold onto hope for our losses to not be real.
We must learn to loosen our grip on personalizing our pain so that we can be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that, once again, another person’s actions have so much more to do with them, then it has to do with us.
At some point, we must realize that we have been chasing, and whatever or whoever it is that we are chasing hasn’t even turned around to check on us or think about us, even though we’ve been running behind them the whole time. THAT is NOT on you. You are worthy. You deserve better than what you were given, and you gave all you had. Be proud of that. Be proud that you showed up and verbalized how you feel. That you allowed yourself to be vulnerable so that you can feel seen and heard. Do not shame yourself for someone else’s inability to show up for you in return.
Sit with your emotions, experience them in the moment, process them, and then put all of your energy, intentions, and hope into yourself! Allow the process of letting go to become a journey towards new beginnings with yourself.
North Shore Family Services is a team of skilled and approachable therapists that help parents, children, teens, adults, and couples reduce anxiety and stress, learn effective problem-solving techniques, and manage emotions and behaviors that inhibit personal, school, family, and relationship success. We make therapy a productive, engaging and relaxing place for everyone to work hard and make the improvements they desire. To find the right-fit therapist for you and your family, visit our clinician’s page.