People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel. The lack of mutual social connections for people who met online also means there are fewer social consequences of dropping out of another’s life. The more it happens, either to themselves or their friends, the more people become desensitised to it, and the more likely they are to do it to someone else.
“Ghosting” is a relatively modern dating term. The Urban Dictionary defines it as the shutdown or ceasing of communication with someone without notice. It can be done through blocking of phone numbers, social media profiles, and dating accounts; or, the one doing the ghosting will just leave the other person on “read” and never answer. In a 2017 HuffPost article ghosting was described as the “ultimate silent treatment”
The act of ghosting reflects on key traits of a narcissist, particularly low-self-esteem, obsession with perceived power and being in control, and lack of concern for others. The reason narcissists can walk away without a final goodbye is due to the fact they lack crucial human components of caring how their actions affect others. As long as they are comfortable, it doesn’t matter how others feel.
The act of ghosting reflects on key traits of a narcissist, particularly low-self-esteem, obsession with perceived power and being in control, and lack of concern for others.
Narcissists often form friendships, partnerships, and alliances to strictly benefit themselves. They consider themselves to be incredibly unique and special and project an extravagant exterior to protect their fragile self-esteem. By being the one doing the leaving in a relationship, they are maintaining the power and preventing the blow that comes with “being dumped.” Individuals with narcissistic traits are described as emotionally cold and cannot tolerate or respect the emotions of other people (APA, 2013). Expressing emotions is considered to be a sign of weakness, not strength, and narcissists view these people with disgust. Ghosting cuts out the emotions from a breakup and leaves them with a trail free of tears, pleading, or arguments.
Breakups are always harder during the early stage of a romantic relationship. It’s devastating to be ghosted during this romantic phase, but that’s usually when it occurs. You don’t know your partner that well and are still in a blissful haze of idealization. Yet without warning, your hopes for the future may be abruptly and inexplicably dashed. Normally, a relationship progresses from the romantic “ideal” stage into the “ordeal” period when couples struggle with ambivalence and conflicts. If that ends the relationship, at least you have an understanding of why it didn’t work and perhaps you agree.
If couples can communicate and accommodate each others’ needs and personalities, they get to the “real deal—a solid relationship based on mutual understanding and acceptance. This takes two people compatible and committed to making the relationship work. They must also have enough self-esteem and autonomy to give without feeling unappreciated or robbed and to receive without feeling unworthy or smothered.
Ghosting might start with an unanswered text or call or long silences between replies until there are none. Here are some reasons why a person might ghost instead of communicating directly:
They’re depressed or overwhelmed.
They’re seeking safety.
The responsibility of picking up the pieces of the narcissistic mess falls on the shoulders of the living, or the one who was ghosted. “Ghosting is the cruelest form of rejection”. Although ghosting is usually the means-of-choice for ending a connection. When dating a narcissist, even long-term relationships can be vulnerable to ghosting of empathy, compassion, and respect. Ghosting can have a devastating effect on the living’s self-esteem and mental health.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
If you’ve been ghosted, the main thing to realise is that in the vast majority of cases, ghosting behaviour reflects on the other person, not you. It’s time to let go.
There is power in realising your worth as the living. Narcissists are truly ghosts; they are just shadows of humans, lacking any depth or emotion. Ghosting is painful and can make you feel worthless, but it has nothing to do with the living: ghosting has everything to do with the dead.
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