The concept of ghosting is an established and frowned upon sort of behavior nowadays. The term “ghosting” seems to have been birthed from the digital dating world and typically associated with love scenarios. Rarely have I come across it in relation to friendships. In my humble opinion, I’d dare to claim being ghosted by a friend is equally (if not more!) painful. I also suspect ghosting occurs more frequently within friendships compared to in love situations. I’ve drawn this conclusion since collectively speaking, ghosting a friend has received more of a blind eye, coming nowhere close the sort of attention as when ghosted by a love interest. Could this be due to romantic situations being placed as “higher” than friendships? Or perhaps one could argue that because a (potential) partner typically revolves around one person the cut is sharper? With friends it’s assumed we have multiple options so if one ghosts, what’s the big deal? Either way, the severity of ghosting seems to lie on the label of a relationship rather than the quality of the connection. How strange…
Let us acknowledge that it’s natural for friendships to run their course. The involved can sense the ending, go their separate ways with no talk or formal closure being necessary. Other times however, only one party is done while the other is unknowing about the current friendship status. The one finished with the friendship has the choice to have an open and honest dialogue about the situation. Yet instead they pick ghosting as the means to terminate the friendship. Why is that? In this post I want to highlight examples of how friendship ghosting can express itself and what to do if you’ve been ghosted.
Sometimes friends disappear out of one’s life as a result of a energetic life shift or upgrade. Two friends can lose their compatibility because on an energetic level, the two have become a mismatch. This sort of “ghosting” does not occur consciously but is a mere side effect of differences in frequency. As an example, I recall a few years back, I made a vow to myself to release a certain toxic codependency behavior. Automatically, a close friend dropped from my radar (where the behavior often occurred) never to be heard from again.
When a life shift or upgrade is action oriented (not only energetic) it can set in motion an uncomfortable process for those watching causing them to vanish. I’ve witnessed two ways this can play out, I’ve namned them” the wake up call” and “the rival”.
The wake up call
When a person chooses to take steps towards an authentic expression of self, it can serve as a huge wake up call for others to do the same. This sort of upgrade always involves going outside the comfort zone into unknown territory. As you may know this can leave a person vulnerable and in a sensitive space, yet they’ll have much to gain. We’re talking about a move, career change, creative endeavors, relationship formings or anything else that is in line with an individual’s true self. Outsiders might be inspired and take necessary steps (however small or big) in their own life towards their authentic selves.
Others might not be compelled to make any changes because they’re content with life and it’s not needed. Or perhaps life changes aren’t presently possible. There will also be those feeling a great deal of emotional dissonance when observing someone close leaving their comfort zone. The distress has less to do with what type of change is being observed and more to do with the movement towards the authentic self . This means a change alone might not trigger anything for a potential ghost. The emphasis is on observing another being true towards themselves and acting accordingly.
The internal discomfort is the result of a deep buried knowing telling the ghost to also make a life transition towards their genuine expression. How come this triggers a negative reaction? I’d say because the ego has the upper hand in their life.
The ego is the aspect which doesn’t like changes, it needs to feel safe and remain in its little predictable bubble. A consequence of having a strong ego as a life navigator, is an unfulling yet comfortable life. Choosing life changes are avoided unless forced upon or in line with social expectations. But we all have another part yearning to burst out! Our true self. The authentic self is filled with dreams and desires wanting to come through and express itself. The devastating part is, when the ego rules an individual, the authentic aspect of self is smothered.
When a person walks their true path, they become a threat to the ghosts ego. The friend’s actions have set off an internal tug of war for the ghost: ego vs the authentic self. The battle is usually felt as anxiety or stress. Since the ghost has a dominant ego it will pull out a dirty trick from its sleeve to end the feud and get its own way. It will eliminate whatever or whoever in order to return to the status quo. Contrary to, resolving the inner war or attempting to reach internal common ground, ghosting the catalyst comes easy in hand. This way the ghost no longer feels bad and gets to lean back into the comfort zone, without reminders of their own true inner calling. “How great!”
A true friend is supportive regardless, as they watch their close one reach for the stars. But it can get tricky in situations when two friends have the same/ similar goals and one jumps ahead of the game. It’s completely normal for contradicting emotions to arise in this sort of situation. One can be glad for the friend while feeling negative emotions such as frustration, jealousy, hopelessness, anger etc. This is often the result of us humans being excellent at playing the comparison game, and not able to see the full picture. However, there are those who won’t let the murkeir feelings sabotage the friendship. They’re able to put those emotions aside and rejoice for their friend when needed while working through the conflicting emotions. This requires an individual who is self aware with a high level of emotional skills and maturity. There will be a realization that how they feel is their own process to heal. Perhaps they’ll express how they feel, seek out support or self soothe by realizing that the friend’s path isn’t a threat to them. In fact, maybe it’s a plus?
For others this is too big of an emotional task. Exhibiting a friend being a step ahead, is too uncomfortable to bear. This might be a person who is overall a ultra caring and supportive friend, except when one approaches “their territory”. The reason a friend will ghost in this situation is because they no longer perceive the friend as a friend, instead they’ve transformed into their rival or competition. In extreme cases: an enemy. This can often times emerge from a lack type of mentality (“if you have it I can’t”) or rooted in low self value. A friend being “further ahead” can lead the ghost feeling less worthy. Instead of looking into the hurting parts of self (which is a painful but valuable process) the ghost looks away.
Let’s move on to two other forms of ghosting..
The stand in
In some situations we’re a “stand in friend” without knowing so. Our so-called friend has a temporary opening in their life they want to fill. The “friend” might be on the outs with a friend/friends, newly or temporarily single, out of a job or anything else that’s left a gap in their life. They can come off very charismatic, take initiatives to hang out and be in touch. In exaggerated cases it might gradually spill over to neediness or 24/7 personal assistant vibes.
As soon as the ghost finds a “better” substitute to occupy their time, they’ll replace the “stand in” and move on without a trace. In my experience these sort of friendships are usually (not always) short lived. The effects can still be deeply felt. The two might have had intense continuous contact with one believing its a genuine connection while the other uses people to avoid being/feeling alone. These types of ghosts have no problems dumping people because it was never personal to begin with. It has more to do with the best option presently available to fulfill their needs alone. This can be a harsh reality check and understandably so.
And of course…
I can’t write about friendship ghosting without mentioning this classic vanishing act: ghosting when meeting a significant other. Obviously, coupling up can lead to changes in a friendship dynamic. Friendships change and evolve so it’s to be expected. The entrance of a partner doesn’t need to be a negative thing at all. Sure, there might need to be some adjustments. For example, the person might not be as available, fade away while in the honeymoon phase or the one-on-ones begin to include an additional person. However, in some cases the friend turns into a ghost completely. It’ll feel like they suddenly dropped from the face of the earth. I’m not going further into it now though. Instead, I’ll save it for a separate future post so I can dive deep into this specific scenario.
So far I’ve mentioned forms of ghosting that are pretty head on. As you’ll see, ghosting a friend can also be pulled off in a roundabout way. The indirect ghosting approaches force the friend to redraw by making them uncomfortable. So, it’s the friend (not the ghost) that leaves. I’m still categorizing it as ghosting due to the intention which is to end an ongoing friendship without explanation. This way the ghost has manipulatively pinned the whole ordeal on the one being ghosted, walking away with “clean hands”.
Emotional distancing is when a friend starts behaving drastically differently yet shows up in real life meetings with or without others being there. They might stay in touch with the person through phone calls and texts. However their vibe is off. Something in the interaction feels distant, short and cold. If in a room with other people this becomes extra apparent. They make it a point to act kindly, engaging and with a positive attitude towards any other but the person they want to release. When confronted they won’t fuss up and express how they really feel instead they leave the other party confused and hanging. When asked what the problem is they’ll reply with “nothing is wrong” when clearly something is.
It’s a passive aggressive tactic yet the message to the one facing this treatment is that they are being rejected emotionally and/or personally. The bond superficially is intact, the ghost is communicating and interacting yet at the same time the connection is absent. I’d classify this is a form of power play where the ghost is using a toxic approach to gain the upper hand (for whatever reason) by inducing unease in the other. This might make the ghost feel as if they are the one’s in control. Most likely something will have triggered the ghost. Often, the trigger isn’t anchored in real life only in the ghosts mind. This is especially true if the friend or common friends are confused regarding the ghosts conduct. Even if the friend had done something wrong, the way the ghosts goes about resolving the situation is a huge red flag to maintain quality relationships.
Initially, the person facing this will come up with plausible explanations for the behavior. Many instinctively assume they’ve done something wrong and spend time trying to figure out what that is so they can correct it. The ghost is not wasting time handing out clues so it will be up to the “ghosteé” to solve the riddle. During this phase the friend might even reach out to the ghost plenty of times, to get the relationship back on track or get to the bottom of the issue to mend the friendship. But it’s all in vain. Eventually, the person ends up exhausted attempting to mind read the ghost and calls it a day.
The fade out
This type of ghosting is highly popular in the dating scene and is equally applicable when friends ghost. The fade out is often used by those afraid of conflict or seeming as “the bad guy”. The fade out is when a person (the ghost) is really nice and friendly to your face and when you reach out, but never takes any initiatives of their own.
When in contact it seems like everything is normal and they appear to enjoy your company. Yet you can’t help but notice their lack of initiating. The friendship is clearly a one way street. If you were to unexpectedly bump into them in a place where typically they’d let you know beforehand or include you, they’ll quickly come up with the perfect excuse as to why they didn’t. Some take it a step further ensuring efforts will be made to better themselves if they’re sensing distress. A typical go to excuse by the ghost is being “too busy” and “not having enough time”. Thanks to social media though, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions…
The main goal of the sneaky “fade out” is that the lack of action on the ghosts’ part will drive the person tired of being the only one making an effort. Simultaneously, the ghost is off the hook because they’ve been nothing but “nice and courteous”.
What to do?
First and foremost if you’ve been ghosted by someone you’ve regarded as a good and close friend, I know it’s a hard blow. The non-closure doesn’t exactly help and can leave a person feeling hanging, unable to find resolution. My advice would be to genuinely mourn the loss. Be completely transparent with yourself about how you feel and find the right outlet for you to do so. It might be through writing, recording yourself, painting or speaking to someone. Vent all you need! This is not the time to be politically correct or hold back, get it out of your system. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, may it be: anger, sadness, feeling betrayed, replaceable , abandoned, tricked or wherever else might surface. At this stage leave the rational mind out of it and avoid attempting to view it from the ghosts perspective or coming up with excuses for their behavior.
While it’s crucial you get the time and space that you need, it’s equally as important to steer clear from the never ending loop of negative feelings and thoughts associated with the ghost. For your own sake, strive to neutralize the experience once you’ve acknowledged how you feel. A good way is by viewing the friendship in a nuanced manner. Ghosting as an ending can leave a sour taste but don’t let it color the overall experience. Remember the good too. Ghosting itself doesn’t need to define the entire relationship, balance it out with the positive sides. Even if the beneficial aspects only are the lessons learnt. Maybe (with time) you can stretch as far as feeling gratitude for the friendship that once was. A practice which has helped me greatly is, each time I’m reminded of a ghost from the past I send a chunk of love mentally to them and then move on to the next thought. With repetition their name won’t cause a slightest (emotional) budge, it loses its charge.
I strongly believe processing a ghosting situation is a personal one and should exclude the ghost. However, some might feel called to reach out. It could bring relief in feeling that one has done all they can or give a sense of taking back control. This could serve as closure (whether the ghost responds or not). If you decide to get in touch, I’d suggest you contemplate and clarify to yourself why and what are you hoping to achieve? I’m mentioning this to prevent additional hurt or reopening the wound. Is there any part of you wishing to rekindle the friendship? Or do you want to put an official end to the chapter? Either way I’d wait until in the neutral zone to keep a clear and honest tone without having any expectations. And I have to add, if you choose to contact the ghost it should be for your sake not the former friendship. If a friend has the ability to ghost, the basic trust is broken and would require quite a bit to repair. I’ll finish with “actions (and inactions!) speak louder than words”.
I hope this was helpful. Have you ever been ghosted by a friend? How did you deal with it and what advice would you give?
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