Ghosting is a relatively new term that is applied primarily to dating. However, it is applicable to many areas of life including families.
Ghosting is actually a complex subject which means it can be easy to oversimplify it. This is the Urban Dictionary definition:
The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels.
This is an additional definition:
1.) The act of disappering on your friends without notice.
2.) Cancelling plans with little or no notice.
Essentially it is a form of abandonment. It used to be called abandonment and also shunning and is not actually a new phenomenon among humans. However, the term is an interesting one and I thought it could be a useful one for exploring taking our place in the world. Note: when we discuss abandonment here it is not referring to the self-protection of leaving an abusive relationship.
Can You Ghost A Trait?
Human societies have been encouraging individuals to behave a certain way or conform for as long as we have been around. In order to encourage conformity, cultures reward some behaviors and discourage others. Each culture will elevate some behaviors as desirable and others as undesirable. They then reward the behaviors they seek which means that there is a direct correlation between conforming and your survival and quality of life. This has been a successful process for thousands of years.
As a result, men have been taught to ghost their feelings except for anger for the most part, and women to ghost their strength and sensitive people their sensitivity. It is fair to say that we are all encouraged to ghost certain aspects of ourselves.
Ghosting Is Not Always Innocent
One of the most difficult challenges in dealing with stereotypes is that in fact some of the truth about a group of people is hidden. You can usually tell because ghosting often is presented as a simple generalization which is a tip-off that some ghosting is going on. It is one thing not to know, but persisting in ghosting the attributes of others is harmful to them and a loss to all of us. Being female, I have had the experience many times.
When a group is ghosted they live with the perceptions that ghosting creates including the incorrect ones. That can be quite a burden and the damage can be hard to repair. The burden of repair usually falls to those being ghosted but if perceptions are considered true or the facts then one can feel like one is fighting a never-ending uphill battle. What a difficult burden to carry! It is difficult to convince people to change their perceptions.
Ghosting And Marginalization
One of the challenges of ghosting for groups is that when marginalized people in those groups often miss out on experiences that can help them become more effective in life. As a result, there can be a need to “catch up” in some areas and with some skills. Furthermore, when you have the experience of being ghosted, you can lose confidence in yourself. Your own perceptions that you are defective or that there is something wrong with you can grow.
That is why when you want to make changes from being marginalized to taking your place in the world, it is helpful to do so gradually with full understanding about what you are doing. It is important to learn what is valued and devalued in different cultures so that you do not take personally the misperceptions of others. It helps to take your place in the world intentionally. We take you on that journey in The Emerging Sensitive Program starting in January 2018. You can learn more about it here. It may help you as it has helped others.