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.