What I Learned from Casper About “Ghosting”

 Comic Book Cover, Paramount Pictures,  Casper the Friendly Ghost  #1, September 1949.

Comic Book Cover, Paramount Pictures, Casper the Friendly Ghost #1, September 1949.

“Ghosting” — I don’t like that Casper the Friendly Ghost’s profession has been given a bad name. I mean what did the friendliest ghost you know do to you? When I was a kid the Casper of my childhood cartoons, Golden Books and comic books wasn’t like all the other ghosts, he was different, he made friends with people and rejected haunting people. Again the friendliest ghost you know. He would never modern day “ghost” anyone.

But alas, words get taken and used all the time and people’s name to have alternate meanings.

Oh, ghosting.

Oh, indifference.

Oh, the awkward silence.

Oh, the ends of things.

Oh, the act of disappearing from contact with no explanation.

Listen, these kinds of disappearing acts have been happening for a long time, though we didn’t have a name for it besides being a jerk. (this bad behavior is gender neutral and an equal opportunity boring tactic to be clear)

It doesn’t have to be a love interest for one to be ghosted it can be a family member, friend, colleague or someone who you think cares about you.

Almost worse than the big dramatic Houdini exit disappearing act is the long kiss goodnight ghosting of dribs and drabs over a period inside a relationship, or when you are with someone at a vacation, event, festival or place where you are spending time with someone or planning to connect. Multiple numbers of cuts rather than one big gaping one but both types of rejection are terrible.

Why Do People Ghost Us?

This kind of thing comes from fear, avoiding emotional discomfort and not realizing how this makes someone else feel. It’s part of a toxic culture of disconnection, disrespect and acting like people are disposable. And at the tip of the iceberg, dealing with people who have (NPD) Narcissistic Personality Disorder and take great pleasure in this behavior. Energy vampires love to suck out intimacy from our souls but are not very good on the return bit or bite as it were.

We can blame social media and our digital landscape when it is often easier to connect and get intimate or vulnerable much easier behind screens, but it’s not the electronics fault. The culprit is the person who happens to be the ghost in this situation. No matter what the intent of the ghost-er, this act is a straight up passive-aggressive tactic that at worst a form of emotional cruelty.

Our nature is to care about people and to worry about them when we don’t hear from them. It is fairly basic psychology as our brains are wired to stay connected to others (safety in numbers from when we ran from saber-toothed tigers) from millions of years ago; ghosting messes with that natural inclination and throws us off our game and starts the questioning train in our lizard brains/negative inner voice. Did I make a mistake? What’s wrong with me? What did I do? How did I pick someone again who doesn’t see me? Why did I spend a year and a half talking to this person to have them treat me like I’m not important or worth their time? Why can’t this person talk to me, be honest with me? Why? Why? Why? Questions that may never be answered and shouldn’t have needed to be asked in the first place.

Time (besides good health), is something so precious, we never get it back and I believe a gift we give to each other. So when our time and energy spent into building a relationship and that time and energy is thrown out the door, or back in our faces, it burns us to the core.

Self-worth and self-esteem are such HUGE parts of our everyday moments, and it does not take much to shake them, but being ghosted does this. Rejection in all forms hurts so this activity is sometimes applied when one person thinks things are going south, doesn’t know how to deal with their feelings, is afraid and wants to be the one to do the rejection or I’m not that into you first, a protection mechanism. Ghosting can also be applied when someone won’t take no for an answer and the only way to get them to stop contacting you is to ignore the person until they get the hint.

An Alternative

I bring up Casper because, well, he’s the only ghost’s name I know. Well, truth be told I could name a couple of other “ghosts” here but I won’t, not worth the ink.

Like I said above, Casper was in a cartoon from my childhood that I loved and what was different about him is that he wouldn’t haunt people. He didn’t like it; he was a “friendly” ghost that made friends with people. In doing a little research on the term, “ghosting,” I found that this term came into play in about 2011 and more popular in 2015 regarding some celebrity relationship fizzles.

A few others are related to this topic.

The term “ghostbusting” is “when you force them to reply” (I kinda love this one) — who ya gonna call? A billboard on a busy street in the middle of town is expensive but effective, just sayin.

“Marleying” is when an ex gets in touch with you at Christmas out of nowhere. Random. Happens on birthdays, that day you met, etc…

And here is where my cartoon fella Casper the Friendly Ghost comes in…

Caspering” is a friendly alternative to ghosting. Instead of ignoring someone, you’re honest about how you feel, and let them down gently before disappearing from their lives. In IMHO it is also called being an adult.

(I told you I loved Casper, and he had it going on)

Getting Past The Ghost

Earlier this week I wrote a piece about What Burning Man Taught Me About Belonging and ghosting fits into the belonging conversation.

When you belong to a group or in a relationship (family, friends, work, love, a community) you feel like you belong, that you are seen for who you are and what you bring to the table. With any relationship, friendship, you choose to open up to people, to possibly let them see who you are, to bring them into your inner circle, to form a intimate bond with them whether it is emotional or physical. When that trust (and this is all about TRUST) is broken, and you feel disrespected it is very hard ever to get that back.

Ghosting messes with our ability to be open, brave and vulnerable with ourselves, humanity as a whole and the next person that comes into our lives be it a colleague, friend or lover.

Calling out the behavior is difficult since most likely all contact by the ghost-er has been severed, and there probably isn’t a need to try. When people don’t have the time, heart, gumption, strength, emotional maturity or desire to deal with their emotions, feelings and be a grownup, they aren’t worth your time.

I’d rather cut bait sooner than be dragged on and on with a hook in my mouth in a gruesome game of catch, wriggle, and release over years and years. And don’t beat yourself up this happens to everyone. I work hard to be honest and not do this myself. Personally, I think I’m quicker to identify this sort of thing sooner, but if it isn’t easy to let a shiny, slippery, sexy lure into your world, they are yummy especially when tell you everything you want to hear. See post on How to Smother a Narcissist it is a lesson that I keep learning.

Hearts Are Wild Animals, That’s Why Ribs Have Cages

So the next time, you need to end something, redefine something, decide that you want to take something another direction and THEN when you are contemplating “ghosting” someone, think of Casper who was friendly and wouldn’t haunt people. He cared for others. And that if you ghost someone — YOU ARE HURTING them, deeply. Even if you do not mean to do so.

Adulting and a short rant: Grow up, show up, deal with your feelings and treat other people how you want to be treated. Stop lying to people to feed your ego. Anyone’s time, energy and love isn’t your food. Though if we all aren’t the tastiest dish or the brightest lovely light.

And to those that have been ghosted — you lovelies, don’t close yourself off, don’t lose your vulnerability, don’t stop being brave — the next cool person to come into your life is around the corner.

We all deserve people who show up, that treat us with respect and that are honest with us.

And something we all need to do for each other. Full stop.


Written by Head Maven & CEO, Heather (hedda) Newman, Creative Maven

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