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As an OCD specialist, I know that avoidance can be a huge compulsion for some. The idea of not having to face a person or situation that triggers anxiety is very alluring. I also know that there are consequences for people who use avoidance. When a person runs away from certain environments, people, or situations every scenario starts to become more daunting. This is because when we engage in the behaviors of running away from something, or avoiding, it sends a “danger message” to our brains,
The consequences of avoidance behaviors
As humans, we are wired with an instinctual flight or fight response. This is a survival mechanism. In the caveman days, our ancestors might come into contact with a large grizzly bear and either freeze, fight it, or run as a way to not be killed by the bear. So, the behavior of running away from the bear signaled our brains that the bear is dangerous. This is a good thing, since grizzly bears are extremely dangerous,
In our modern day society, people use the instinctual fight or flight response for plenty of situations that are not actually dangerous or deadly. For example, a college student might avoid a party because he is afraid of crowds and interacting socially. He is using the exact same “run” response as his ancestors of him, but he is tricking his brain into assessing a college party as being as dangerous as a killer animal.
The more parties he avoids the more “dangerous” these parties seem. Eventually, he may start to grossly overestimate the amount of risk associated with typical college activities, and underestimate his ability to handle these common activities.
What is ghosting?
The term ghosting originated in 2014. It began as a catchphrase in the dating world to describe someone who just vanished into thin air after meeting or dating. Describing those who would block text messages, unfollow on social media, and just pretty much disappear.
Currently, ghosting seems to occur not just in the dating world, but in other contexts. For example, I had a client who became good friends with another mom from a Gymboree class. This other mother suddenly disappeared, did not return calls, completely ignored her text messages from her, and blocked her from her on social media. My client stated that she “got ghosted.”
My client explained that she felt extremely hurt, angry, and confused that the other mom would do that to her. She went on to say that she also felt embarrassed, and there was no necessity for her to be ignored. My client said that she had the other mother simply told her that she no longer wanted to be friends, she would have respected her wishes from her —as opposed to all the texts and calls she made wondering what happened to her friend from her.
I realized that ghosting is just a trendy way to say avoiding, which is a way to say flight instinct. Therefore, if this is what ghosting behavior is, then would the same consequences apply to the “ghosters” as would the above college boy avoiding parties?
The answer is yes. Of course the same consequences apply. If one’s coping mechanism is to avoid, run, and block, then they will be teaching their brains to believe that they can not handle uncomfortable situations.
How to handle uncomfortable situations without running away
Learning some simple and standard phrases to say to those you no longer wish to spend time with can be beneficial. It is a way of not only demonstrating compassion for the receiver, but it will help the “ghoster” feel more in control—and perceive the situation more realistically.
Here are example phrases to use:
“Hey, I really feel you deserve some sort of explanation. It’s so difficult when a spark or connection is just not there. You are a great person, and I genuinely do wish you the best, and I am really glad we had a chance.” to meet.”
Ultimately, phrases like these may help the other person move on immediately, as opposed to constantly texting and calling. The sudden manner in which ghosting occurs actually creates more texts and calls and inquiries from the ghosted.
This is because when people are confused or caught off guard, they will look for an answer or a resolution. It’s sort of like losing your novel when you are in the middle of the story. People tend to want to know the rest of the story.
Ghosting is a trendy term for using avoidance behaviors. Therefore, ghosting can send signals to your brain making you think that you are not resilient enough to handle the simple confrontation necessary to end a relationship, Additionally, using simple lines or catchphrases that will clarify what is happening to the ghosted will not only help the ghoster send improved messages to themselves but will also create less contact from the ghosted, So, if you don’t want to scare your brain, get rid of the ghost.