The Mental Effects of Ghosting

Ghosting (noun)
1. When a person does not respond to you after you have been talking to them for a certain period of time (either online or meeting in person).
2. Said person sheds all responsibility for your relationship (whether you are friends, partners, or just dating).
3. A type of “ignoring” that comes with a shirking of responsibility or commitment.
4. Time length: usually after 72 hours (3 days) of no response/no talking, you’ll know if you’ve been ghosted (depending on context/scenario).

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Imagine this: You’ve been on a few dates with someone, and everything seems to be going well. You’re interested in seeing this person again, but all of a sudden….they’re gone. Disappeared. POOF! Presto/Change-O…GONE! It’s as if you never had a connection, as if you never went out in the first place. As if you are “nothing.”

The first thing you’ll think about is what YOU could have done wrong. Things will go through your mind, and you’ll question both sides and try to figure out how to fix it. Since humans are natural born problem-solvers, we are inclined to have things our way…to “fix” things when we don’t have control over a situation. This becomes problematic in SO many ways. Sometimes we’ll even go so far to chase after the person who left us. Ghosting can really leave a person feeling lost and confused, twisted and used (Shoutout to Crazy Town’s Butterfly lyrics – come maaa lady, come come maaa lady, you’re my butterfly, sugar, babyyy).

First off, no matter how many dates you’ve been on with the person, or even if you have just been talking online for a long time, ghosting is wrong and it is MEAN. Odds are it means that the person is too scared of commitment or afraid of confrontation. It has NOTHING to do with you and more to do with the person’s problems. Anonymity and hiding behind a phone is a generational thing. Back in the day, before the Millennial generation, since cell phones did not exist, people got in touch in different ways. They made every attempt to call, to be a part of a person’s life. Maybe ghosting existed in a different way back then, but right now, today, in our lives, ghosting is even more prevalent due to technology.

Second, ghosting actually affects the same brain regions as “rejection.” They say that you can feel better after taking a Tylenol because of the pain it causes (Psychology Today, 2015). The brain treats rejection like physical pain, specifically in the somatosensory cortex and in the amygdala, processor of emotions and fear (Independent News, 2014). It initiates the same feelings, the same emotions and the same amount of confusion. It causes a process of self-doubt and reduces one’s self-esteem. We blame ourselves for what another person does to us. In fact, we blame ourselves because we think that WE are the problem here.

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Third, if someone ghosts, we are inclined to try to text them even more, to get in touch with them…because the mind works that way. We always want what we can’t have, right? If a person is unavailable, it makes them even more “catchy” to our eyes. This really plays with our brains in all of the wrong ways for all of the wrong reasons.

I have interviewed 6 people in the last few days, all of whom have spoken to me about their feelings with regard to ghosting. Some have even told me that they’ve been in situations where their friends did this to them. Others have explained that they have been in relationships for months at a time and the partner decided to just “ditch,” without any explanation, without any text, email or phone call. This is unacceptable in any kind of relationship, even without a commitment. People NEED to start communicating better. If we don’t, this could get much worse. Even if a person is genuinely uninterested, I know I, myself, and many others would much more appreciate a text that SAYS that, rather than a disappearing act altogether.

We live in a generation where people of all ages, of all genders, think it is OKAY to be a ghost. It isn’t. It is wrong. It is disgusting. Psychologically, it can make a person re-think their entire dating process, and question their social lives. Ghosting isn’t just a noun or a verb, it’s a continuous disaster.

So, how do we “fix” this? How do we get people to recognize that ghosting isn’t fun? That it isn’t alright in any way, shape or form? Well…sadly, we can’t. The only thing we can do is to try to communicate as clearly and effectively as possible to the person we are with. Whether this person is your friend, your date, your partner, or anyone else, we need to be upfront. The more we communicate fairly and properly, the more other people will be inclined to do the same. Speak your mind in an appropriate manner. Just remember, if someone “ghosts” you, it says a lot more about that person than it does about you…and you wouldn’t want someone in your life who does that anyway! You deserve so much more respect than that in any relationship. If someone ghosts you, you just won the lottery, because no one needs a Ghoster in their life! (The only good ghosts are Casper [because he’s friendly], animated emoticons, ghosts in novels and in movies, and Patrick Swayze).

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Always bring it back to YOU and YOUR needs. If someone does this to you, then you pick yourself up, you get that dirt off your shoulder, and you recognize your own strength. Time heals all wounds (mostly)…Remember who YOU are. You are not a Ghoster. You are better than that. The other person wasn’t and doesn’t deserve your time or energy. Here’s a piece of advice: never run after someone who has made it clear to you that they don’t want you. If someone ghosts you, you have the complete right to do the same. Remain silent. Silence can often speak louder than any text, snap, phone call or email. Silence sends a message without having to actually send a message to reach out.

To sum up: Ghosting sucks. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t run after Ghosts. Keep communicating, people. That’s all you really CAN do.

P.S. Here’s a terrible joke: What’s the only way to get rid of Ghosts?  Just “Casperate” them! (Casper the Ghost + the verb ‘castrate’). Urgh. Terrible.

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