Don’t do it. Just don’t.
Most of us have experienced that anxious, icky feeling when we suspect we’ve been ghosted. We’re also familiar with what follows: the incessant checking of our messages and social media, creating far-fetched stories about why they haven’t texted, going over everything we did or said that might have scared them off, and the subsequent self-loathing at how much mental and emotional energy we’re wasting on this person who’s causing us pain.
Ghosting – when someone cuts off communication without warning or explanation – has become an inevitable part of the modern relationship landscape. Whether in dating or friendship, ghosting leaves us stressed out and unmoored because it threatens several fundamental needs, like 1., our sense of control, and 2., our self-esteem.
Whenever we experience perceived threats to fundamental needs, our survival brain kicks in and goes into overdrive to try and neutralize these threats and restore our sense of safety and well-being. So this means that we’re probably not obsessing because we like them so much; it’s actually our body’s biological survival process detecting threats and subsequently trying to keep us safe.
1. Regaining Our Sense Of Control
When we find ourselves ruminating over the reason someone disconnected without an explanation, it’s our anxious brains telling us that if we keep on thinking about this problem, we will finally come up with the answer that will provide a suitable explanation and make this feeling of uncertainty and uncontrollability go away. For example, when we check their social media, we are looking for clues that will help us solve this mystery, whether seeing them post about a new partner or discovering that they unexpectedly moved to Mongolia. But remember that our brains don’t want to accept that any situation is out of our hands and there isn’t much we can do about it. That’s why the search process is almost always unproductive; it’s not practical, it’s just our anxious brains needing to do something to create an illusion of control to make us feel better.
2. Regaining Our Self-Esteem
Someone ghosting hits any insecurities we have about our worth and value, big or small. That’s why we have such a drive to get the person to re-engage – it gives us validation and external proof that we are worthy after all. The drive can be so strong that we assume we must really like this person, because why else would we so desperately want them to contact us? But when we give in and text them, or check our messages for the thousandth time that day, or look at whether they’ve viewed our stories on Instagram, it’s our survival brains jonesing for an ego hit so we can fulfill the fundamental need to feel good about ourselves.
All of this means that our temptation to text, or call, or DM our ghoster can have little to do with how much we actually liked them; it’s simply our brain looking to make those really uncomfortable feelings of rejection and uncertainty go away.
So next time you’re tempted to contact someone who ghosted you, recognize where that temptation is coming from and get your fix for love and certainty somewhere else. Because, my friend, they are not worth it, and, ultimately, they won’t give you what you want. So do yourself a favor and move on.