The purpose of my blog is to write about what I like. This essay is about something I don’t like; thus, it has an unavoidably negative tone.
Last night, I was reading a Cognitive Behavior Therapy book. I remember some blurb about how the smartest man in the world (Aaron Temkin Beck) invented the cognitive behavior branch of psychology in the 1930s. I thought the CBT approach might be something that could help a friend of mine overcome depression and assorted dysfunctional behaviors. I chose a book titled, The Everything Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, by Ellen Bowers, PhD. It sounded authoritative enough to teach me about CBT.
As I was reading, I came to the following passage:
“Popular literature is full of helpful information about ending romantic relationships or marriages, but how do you manage a friendship that, as far as you are concerned, is definitely on the skids?
One method is to take it in increments, increasing levels of subtlety. Become somewhat vague in your answers to e-mails and phone calls. Be a little evasive when the other person wants to make a specific plan to get together for a concert or an outing. If he doesn’t see that you are tapering off in your investment, it may be necessary to simple not respond to communications. Then, you may want to have a face-to-face meeting and briefly state that your life has changed and you find you no longer have time to nurture your friendship. No lengthy explanation is needed, because if he didn’t “get it” with your more polite attempts, he will not get it now. It will make you feel bad on explanations that fall on deaf ears.
If the former friend morphs into a stalker, you may have to block him from your e-mail, phone, and social media sites. This is drastic, but sometimes it happens. This final level of protection in no way makes you a bad person. You are simply protecting your sacred inner essence from the Negative Nellies and Energy Vampires who enjoyed feeding off of you in the past. They will find other prey.”
Bowers. P 71.
Wow! Bower’s guide is a formula for ghosting!
This is how we treat people who considered themselves to be our friends?
A brief definition is in order: My definition of a friend is someone who is concerned about your well-being, and who supports your efforts to live an effective and productive life through companionship.
I immediately thought of a “friend” who ghosted me in January, and then reached out to me via social media in April to assure me that we were still friends, and then ghosted me again after my wife’s death. She could have read this text from this book and followed it to the letter. Or maybe, her therapist taught her this strategy based on the therapist’s understanding of CBT.
Trust me, if you have ever been the object of ghosting, you know the humiliation of wondering what exactly you did wrong to deserve to be ghosted,then reinstated into friendship, only to be ghosted a second time.
Is this a civil way to treat people? Does anyone like being manipulated like an object? Would Bower’s strategy for ending friendships pass the WWJD test? Would a normal person really feel that ghosting someone is treating them humanely? Does this even come close to the “Golden Rule” that our parents and churches advocated for us to use in building and maintaining our friendships?
My answer is “No” to all the questions.
Bower’s strategy sounds like a page right out of the high school drama culture. It is not a guide for learning “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors,” as the book purports to be. Quite the opposite.
I take exception to the steps Bowers describes to end a friendship. Ghosting is cruel. Ghosting is not a effective, or humane way to end a relationship.
Bowers is coaching duplicity. She is not coaching for positive relationships and mindfulness in our relationship with others.
She suggests meeting with a person face to face after ghosting the him? Can anyone besides me see the potential for a violent encounter using that strategy?
What is the matter with just telling someone from the moment you decide to end a friendship: “I can no longer be friends with you. Do not contact me again. Ever.”
One shot to the right temple lobe. End of friendship.
No doubt will exist in your former friend’s mind: the relationship is dead; your friendship is dead.
A piece of your soul will die with that shot; you can never do just one thing: there is always a cost associated with changing relationships.
Why is this more humane?
Easy. It is honest. It is unequivocal. It respects the person’s dignity by not allowing them to linger in hopes that the friendship might be salvaged if they can only figure out what they did wrong. It saves that person time and emotional energy by letting him, or her, know that you are no longer a “friend” right up front. In all probability, your friend was deluded that you were ever a friend in the first place; it is important to clear up misunderstandings as quickly as possible.
People can move on if you don’t resort to subterfuge, impeding their understanding of their new relationship to you.
Ghosting is subterfuge. Ghosting is inhumane. Ghosting is gutless.
Bower’s should review her advice on how to end a friendship. Her method calls into question her authority to teach “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors.”
I was brought up by my parents, and my teachers, and my friends to treat people with dignity and respect. I don’t treat the people I don’t care for with Bower’s level of disdain.
How others treat you is their karma; how you treat them is your karma.
Bower’s, and my former “friend” have bad karma.
Good luck to both of them: they will need it.
Click the following and listen to why Sarah Hepola learned not to ghost boyfriends.
13 thoughts on “Ghosting: The Gutless Goodbye.”
All these new terms…’ghosting’. Guess I’ve been ghosted but never knew what it was called until just now. Now that I know the term, I think sometimes it’s the cowardly and mean way out, but then maybe it’s the ‘polite’ thing to do, and leaves room to be ‘unghosted’ in the future…maybe.
But here’s the thing: If you didn’t know the term was ‘ghosting’, then were you ‘ghosted’??? LOL…moving on….
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Actually, it isn’t a nomenclature issue, Cheryl. Ghosting is real to the people who have been ghosted. The term just gives us a handle to think about the impact of being “ghosted.” I guess an analogous situation is if you were flying your Piper Super Cub into a cloud bank and couldn’t see Pioneer Peak for the clouds and you augured into the mountain that you didn’t know about, would you still be dead? Ghosting is like that. Shakespeare once had Romeo say, “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” Same difference.
“Ghosting” seems like the cowards way out. Just like in a romantic relationship, if someone has put time and effort into you, and you reciprocated, they deserve to be told the truth.
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Trust me on this one, it isn’t about nomenclature, Cheryl; long after I forget the word, I will remember how I was treated. It “feels” like being bullied. I know, I am too old for this drama, on the other hand, are we ever too old to be bullied? I’ll move on soon; I just wanted to challenge Bower’s BS. Some people are too stupid to breathe; sometimes they have PhDs are they write books. I feel better now. Thinking about the R2R even as I write this!
Jamie. Your understanding of friendship is why you and I have always been friends and why we will always be friends until my last breath. We are talking a long, long time, friend. Even though you live on the other side of the planet from me, we will be friends.
Ghosting is s new term to me but certainly not a new concept. Actually, I may even be a professional ghoster having never actually ended a relationship in my entire life. I would need to give that more thought to be sure, but no person comes to mind. I think of relationships like streams; during some seasons they rush full with water, taking down the banks that once held them as they course to the sea. Sometimes they apparently dry up and dissipate along the way. I could go on but instead I’ll stop to pontificate on whether or not my choice to just allow relationships to run their course was unkind, or dishonest, or maybe even a total cop out.
Actually, Amber. If you look at the word “friend,” you will see that it has the word “end” in it. I am not doing wordplay here: everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Friendships end. Some end badly. If ever a person was my friend, I would hope that I would honor the end of the friendship with the same respect I engaged in it.
This blog really wasn’t about friendship at all; it is about our misunderstanding and miss-defining of a relationship by calling it a friendship when it is really just a way to conveniently fill time.
The person who ghosted me can’t even define friendship. There was really no friendship between us, just a few walks and talks, five years of FB phatic exchanges, and a big bunch of roses, and some carrot soup.
My point is that how we treat people says more about us than it ever says about the other person. Bowers should know that, she’s a PhD, after all.
Ghosters don’t have friends; they have objects. I would suggest that they are like hungry ghosts who can never satisfy their needs for friendship because they don’t know what real friendship is. They walk around mumbling about their lack of abundance when they should be focused on gratitude.
But I digress.
When these blog responses settle down, I will take a vow never to give any more real estate of my mind to this person. I will silently thank her for excluding me from her life, and ghost her out of my soul: greatness awaits my every breath: time to move on. Writing helps the process. Thanks Amber for helping me realize that idea. You could be a friend in the wings.
Exactly, Jamie! Good morning and Happy Mother’s Day. Have a great day!
Kensie. Not to be trite, but friends don’t ghost friends. Ghosting is manipulative and insensitive and self-centered behavior that is unacceptable regardless or the intent of the “ghost.” It comes down to a question of intent versus impact. It is irrelevant in effective human relationships what the ghost intended. The only relevant issue is the impact on the person who has been injured. Put in terms of rape: does anyone really care about what goes on in the mind of a rapist or his intent compared to the impact of the rape victim? Ghosting isn’t rape, but rape and ghosting share the same intent/impact dynamic when we care enough to consider the impact of the victim.
Kenzie, Let.s just agree to disagree on this issue. You seem to make sense to yourself and I feel that I make sense to myself, but we are never going to agree about this issue. I think we are talking past each other.
The core of modern humanity is our connection to other humans. Jeff, your blog struck a chord. As I wrote my thoughts after reading it, I had to stop at a couple of pages. What I condensed out was extraneous or duplicitous. Here’s the Cliff notes:
Ghosting … a new term for me. Perhaps it is a patently evil conscious act. Perhaps it is simply a lack of manners, exacerbated by chronological incompetence.
I’ve occasionally wondered, for quite a long time, about fading friendships. Do friendships drop like a light switch? Or, do they fade like the embers of a campfire, lingering until every coal is exhausted? Or is it in between, cycling on and off for a bit then remaining dark? Why is it humans don’t remain lifelong friends with each and every friend they ever had? Are the intersecting interests too few to maintain connection, or is it that those change with the passing of time? Is the right approach (towards someone we’re no longer well connected with) to tell them: “You’ve changed. Go away.”? Or is it more humane to let them down easy, and just not pick up or answer the texts? Will the hard landing help them grow? What is the right frequency of contact? Can people be friends when one needs weekly contact and the other needs twice a year at most? What happens when people find new friends? Do we go without sleep or do we let a different friendship slide down in priority? Is it that they cannot bring themselves to be cold and just say : “I’ve found a new friend who is taking up my time.”? Is it possible they are fighting some new demons of their own, ones they aren’t yet comfortable sharing?
Could it be that some people who want to be a friend and then disappear and then re-appear still wanting to be a friend have simply forgotten time management and prioritization?
Then again, maybe there really are those ghosts whose social interaction is limited to calling … but never meeting up … those who collect names and numbers but don’t maintain connections and run out of friendship to offer. Are there chameleons who only cast an apparition of friendship, not to be discovered until much later?
I often wonder about all that. I wish I had studied more psychology (even though Laplace transforms paid better). However, I’m not sure having such knowledge would have helped me be a better friend to those I have misplaced over the years. As you can see, I have many questions and few answers.
It seems to me this is why dog is man’s best friend, they’ll always make time for you !
Jeff, YOU didn’t do anything wrong.
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Oh Donna! Of course you are biased! You’ve been my best friend for twenty years! Glad you read it!