Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationships’

Ghosting – a cruel 21st-century phenomenon

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

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Ghosting is one of the sad phenomena that has evolved out of our 21st-century technology. I’m sure some of you reading this are regrettably acquainted with it. For those who aren’t, essentially, if I’m ghosted by someone — without any explanation he/she shuts down all form of communication. The ultimate “silent treatment,” it’s as though I no longer exist. As a psychotherapist, I find myself working with a number of clients experiencing being ghosted—usually but not always in the context of romantic relationships. Client statements include: “The pain is tangible and overwhelming. I feel discarded. It’s hard to trust my judgment of people after this.”

Sadly, “ghosting” has become a trending passive-aggressive and emotionally abusive tactic to avoid sitting face-to-face with someone or even speaking with them by telephone to end a friendship or romantic relationship. In a society that is increasingly pain phobic, by refusing the other party a chance to express emotion and to be heard we have found yet another way to avoid discomfort.

Since today so many relationships are dependent on technology via texting, phone, and social media, to find oneself blocked from contact from a person one deeply cares for can be devastating. Imagine if you showed up as usual at your place of employment and the doors were locked, your entry card no longer functioned, and your boss wouldn’t talk to you or give you an explanation as to why you were fired. The powerlessness, humiliation, fear, grief, and outrage you would feel is understandable. Ghosting someone isn’t much different from that.

Ghosting vs. Boundaries

I’d like to make clear that I’m all for having good boundaries. If someone is treating us in a way that feels abusive, overwhelming, or causes us to fear for our safety, and we feel that the only way to set a boundary is to prevent them from communicating with us, such action is reasonable and justifiable and I don’t believe falls into the definition of ghosting.

Why it Hurts so Much

Essentially, the victim of ghosting most frequently is left to work through a psychological grieving process similar to how we experience the death of a loved one. If they are not supported to process their experience, the “loss” can leave victims with emotional scars, injured self-esteem, and may affect them in future relationships. Clients I see state they feel disrespected, shamed, powerless, and a sense of having being abandoned.

How to recover from being Ghosted

People’s actions are always a reflection of their own emotional scars. Someone who ghosts is afraid of emotions—theirs and yours; furthermore, either they don’t understand how their behavior impacts you or they just don’t care. Whichever it is, know that the ghoster doesn’t have the ability to have a mature healthy relationship and nothing you do can change that. Find help to support yourself as you navigate the difficult task of letting that person go and learn more about yourself from the experience. Most importantly, don’t let someone’s poor treatment of you rob you of your vulnerability and desire for loving connection. Focus on things that make you happy and recognize you may feel angry, sad, and afraid – all normal reflections of mourning. Keep your heart open, surround yourself with people you trust to care about you, and know you have a respect and integrity that person did not. Most importantly, as you move forward in life, be mindful that the conversations required to end relationships will always be difficult and may provoke considerable anxiety. However, speaking our truth builds important strengths that we as human beings can nurture—honor, self-respect, kindness, and courage—values we need now more than at any time in our history.

 

What’s the #1 Thing that Sabotages Relationships?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

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For those of us who have courageously sat on the therapist’s couch, terms such as “co-dependency,” “differentiation,” “individuation,” and “holding on to yourself” may be all too familiar. The important point is, did we understand these terms and that they’re all essentially ways to describe aspects of emotional dependence? Did we identify how they’re operating in our lives? And did we take away tools to incorporate positive change in our relationships? If your response is, “somewhat” or “I’m still confused,” read on.

Am I emotionally dependent?

Many factors from childhood and adolescence play a part in promoting emotional dependence or inhibiting it. Some examples that interfere with our ability to foster a strong sense of self may include: needy parents, helicopter parents, instability in the family, trauma/loss in the family, low personal resilience, and high personal sensitivity. These factors all play a role in our ability or inability to foster healthy relationships and our degree of emotional dependence.

What emotional dependency looks like:

1. Wanting to constantly please others.
2. Putting others’ needs before my own.
3. Difficulty asking for what I need or want.
4. A pattern of taking what another person says to me as personal criticism.
5. Not being able to tolerate anxiety in relationships (often resulting in “giving in,” trying to control the other, or running away–literally or metaphorically)

Sound familiar? The price we pay for these learned behaviors is that we’re caught in a “catch 22.” Maintaining these patterns leads to communication breakdown, resentment, and anger with those we wish to be close to—especially those people who mean the most to us, like our romantic partners and family members. On the other hand, we may not know how to change, and we may fear our changing will result in the loss of relationships that are incredibly important to us.

The gift of close relationships is that they force us to confront our degree of emotional dependence. The greater my emotional dependence on another, the more I’m going to take everything personally, become defensive, and “lose myself” when I connect with those most important to me. The lesser my emotional dependence, the more I can stay connected to people I care most about while holding my ground—and not “run away,” try to control the other person, or people please.

A critical key to lowering our emotional dependence requires that we become aware of our anxiety and learn skills to soothe that emotion when it arises. This is the only way we can stand on our own two feet and bring more of our real selves to our relationships. Learning to do this isn’t an event; it’s a process we have to learn and practice every day, just like if we wanted to learn a new hobby. Getting support from someone who can identify our particular unhealthy patterns and help us to learn new skills is important.

As a marriage and family therapist, struggles with aspects of emotional dependence and the way it sabotages relationships are the most common issues I see. So the next time you need space or your partner or friend needs time alone, try to view it as the need to take care of oneself. As Gestalt therapist Walter Kempler said, paradoxically, if we want to get more personal, we must stop taking things personally.

I invite you to take the first step on a new path to healthier relating and the freedom to be who you were meant to be while staying deeply connected to those you love.