“Wow, he left her on read!” was said loudly and with a strong tone of bewilderment.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means he read her messages, but never replied. Its literally the worst thing you can do to someone-leave them on read.”
I went away and really pondered on this brief finding.
Without knowing, what she was referring to was connected to a well-known counselling concept, especially when working with narcissistic personality disorders -Ghosting.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”
Whilst “leaving on read” does imply some level of further responding, more of a Silent treatment characteristic- ghosting refers to a much more -cut off-from the person level of ending.
Ghosting is sudden, abrupt and completely unexpected.
Streamlined by online dating, where users can come and go as they please, chat and interact, change and edit profiles, block and unblock -leaving without explanation can come easier to some people than to others.
You might be chatting to someone, meeting them even, spending time together, thinking all is well; one day, all of a sudden, they just disappear; they stop messaging, calling, they are unreachable.
You are starring down at your phone wondering-What has just happened?
Hours, days, weeks and months pass and the person simply disappears-you never hear back from them.
Though sometimes-“ghosts” do reappear…
There can be many psychological reasons why someone simply disappears, but at its essence, ghosting is pure avoidance and can appear due to a fear of conflict. It may be because someone is choosing to avoid difficult conversations, avoid confrontations, avoiding hurting someone’s feelings, avoiding responsibility.
This is different from ghosting someone in order to escape from an abusive relationship-and this can be done in whichever way will keep you safe.
It is also different from the narcissistic trait of ghosting (where the term has come from before becoming mainstream).
Ghosting-in this context is much more meaningful to the person doing-and their personal lack of empathy makes it quite simple as they are only concerned with their own discomfort.
You may have had a long-term relationship with someone, there are promises of future events/dates (known as future faking)-and one day, you get blocked from all platforms, emails don’t get returned, calls do not go through-the person just disappears and you do not hear from them again.
Boredom, lack of supply, moving onto other relationships-may all be reasons for ghosting.
If you are at the receiving end, it can lead to rumination over what you said or done, feeling unsettled and experiencing abandonment. It can also uncover old wounds connected to other relationships and open an unwanted door to past trauma.
Often, you may want to reach out and ask what happened-wanting to know “Why?”-ask yourself whether you would like to play an endless game of ‘hide and seek”-where the person you are playing with does not want to be found.
In many cases like this, the ghost may or may not reappear-it will be dictated by their desire to reconnect with an old supply and see if more can be gained from it.
In essence, ghosting puts all the emotional responsibility of a breakup on the person being ghosted whilst the ghost decides to remove themselves from any liability by washing their hands on that entire relationship.
If you are looking for an ending, be prepared not to receive it from this relationship, but instead create your own ending by working on your well-being and processing the fact that sometimes, other people are not able to offer you one.
If you are at the receiving end of ghosting-please be kind to yourself. It can take quite a bit of emotional work to recover (especially if it comes from a longer relationship).Give yourself space and time to process what happened healing takes time.
If you are doing the ghosting-you may have your reasons.
Try, as you might, to communicate one way or another that you are ending-it will make a huge difference to the person at the receiving end.
For more info on NPD please see World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day
If you would like some tips on managing Anxiety please see https://www.counsellinginsight.co.uk/anxiety-help/