Ghosting and gaslighting are both phrases we’ve all heard before. In the modern era of dating, they’re frequently discussed and, unfortunately, experienced. They can open deep emotional wounds that we thought were closed. Or they could confirm our internal biases that we hold about ourselves. Too many people see ghosting and gaslighting as their fault.
But when we dive into it, what do they actually mean? Why do they have such a hold on us? And what do you do if you find yourself experiencing either of them first-hand?
What is ghosting?
Ghosting happens when someone can’t be authentic about what’s going on for them. They don’t know how to deliver bad or uncomfortable news. Such as they don’t want to see you any more or they’ve met someone else they’d like to pursue. And rather than just saying it how it is, they say nothing at all. They disappear without a trace.
Unfortunately for those of us on the receiving end, this happens a lot. We’re messy, complicated people, and sometimes, we just don’t know what to do with all our mess. So we choose to do nothing.
What should be done about it?
First of all, remember that being ghosted says absolutely nothing about you. But it also doesn’t say much about the other person. Just that they’re dealing with something and probably have more going on than meets the eye. In some way, they’re dealing with their own inadequacy. At some point, they’ll have made themselves wrong and it will have been too uncomfortable to deal with. So they didn’t deal with it.
In terms of being ghosted, should you give this person the opportunity to rectify the situation or just cut your losses and leave?
My choice of action is to call it out. Give them permission to speak their truth and acknowledge that they might be struggling. Be empathetic, respect that it might be difficult, but call out the elephant in the room if you feel inclined to do so. If they still don’t want to engage or respond, that’s their choice. It’s their journey and their growth. And it doesn’t have to involve you if they’d rather it didn’t.
And the reverse is also true. If you’re guilty of ghosting someone, question what your own motivations were. What was too uncomfortable for you to deal with? How did you feel wrong, inadequate, or avoidant?
What is gaslighting?
The term ‘gaslighting’ comes from the 1944 film Gaslight. It’s a psychological thriller in which a husband slowly manipulates his wife into believing she’s insane in the hopes of robbing her.
It’s making another person believe they have a problem they don’t have to cover up for the fact you’re behaving badly. And this behaving badly could be anything. From having an affair to a secret gambling addiction. You dodge being caught by turning everything around on the other person. You pretend the problem is on their end, not yours.
What can be done?
This can be difficult as someone behaving in this way will be very keen to insist the problem does not live with them, even if there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. Their identity needs to be right. And this works the other way too – if you’re doing it yourself. Your identity will not want to admit you’re doing it.
If you’re doing the gaslighting, recognising it is step one. Understanding what behaviour you’re trying to cover up, why this behaviour is wrong, and owning it. Catching yourself when you deflect and slowly reversing the habit.
When you’re the one being treated in this way, remember that it’s not about you. Everything being thrown at you is how they feel about themselves deep down. And stay confident in your version of events. Don’t allow them to call into doubt your own strength, self-awareness, or understanding. This goes for both ghosting and gaslighting.
With gaslighting, boundaries slip. And if you don’t nip it in the bud straight away, the boundaries can blur and it becomes increasingly difficult to recognise and reverse. The damage is already done.
Similarly to above, if you’re being gaslighted by a partner, recognise if there’s potential for change. If someone is treating you in this way and isn’t open to hearing a different perspective, it’s likely a lost cause. But if there’s open communication and a genuine want to do better, it’s possible to come out in a stronger relationship for it.
Ghosting and gaslighting are never fun things to experience or deal with. And as much as someone can say it’s not a reflection on you, it’s all too easy to succumb to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy when on the receiving end.
But by starting to unpack where these behaviours stem from, you can show greater understanding and empathy for the other party, removing your own worth and value from the equation.
As a mindset coach, I help my clients take ownership of their lives. By unpacking your past and unlocking future growth, we work together to create the successful, fulfilling life you’ve always wanted. Get in touch with me here to find out more.