Have you ever been ghosted?
Oh man. The open imagination when someone is giving you the silent “treatment” is strange and difficult, if you don’t have inquiry to question your thoughts.
Your mind races in so many tangents. You wonder if that person who isn’t responding to you, or who is not making eye contact, or who isn’t saying anything….
….is scheming against you, or angry with you, or hating you, or thinking you’re unworthy and stupid and too boring or undeserving to care about.
I mean, wow.
I’ve had two people “ghost” me in my life. Talk about going off on a tangent! Even though I already KNEW I didn’t KNOW what it fully meant.
How could I?
The response I was getting was…..silence.
In childhood psychological development studies, researchers have observed sometimes children prefer negative, violent or critical communication over NO communication.
“Give me something….anything. What’s wrong? What’d I do?”
Let’s take a look today at this very painful belief when it runs in the mind: that person should communicate with me.
I have an amazing friend who I’ve known only for about two years. We’ve had long conversations about human psychology and development. We share graduate studies in human behavior.
Our connection builds over time, with walks and dinners and attending a fabulous women’s retreat together (which is where we met). We talk into the night.
She comes to my wedding, but I don’t see her much. I notice her absence, but the days of the wedding festivities are so full and so fabulous, I hardly pay attention.
It never crossed my mind something was wrong.
She said she didn’t feel well, and she didn’t attend the rehearsal dinner. I assumed she was taking care of herself.
A week after the wedding, once I was settled back at home with my husband (we were postponing our honeymoon adventure for the following summer) I called her.
I left a message, bubbling with enthusiasm and questions “Did you get to talk with my cousin? Did you meet my aunt and uncle? How are you feeling? So sorry you were sick during all the celebrations. Call me ASAP!”
I receive an email back “I’m sooooo busy. Sorry! Didn’t want to bother YOU after your wedding. Off to another wedding, will make contact in a few weeks once my schedule relaxes.”
A month goes by.
I email again.
“Is everything OK?”
I didn’t ask “Are you upset with me?” because I genuinely didn’t have the slightest thought she could be.
So funny, when I know now what she was upset about. She was disturbed by something that never happened, but I can see completely how she was mistaken because of my dry sense of humor when writing.
Or who knows. She saw me through her glasses, and it was someone dangerous. Someone doing something wrong. Someone to be critical of.
I didn’t know it yet, though.
I just felt uneasy.
She should communicate with me.
Is it true?
Yes. This is weird. I love her. We are super close. She’s like a sister to me.
Can I absolutely know that it’s true, she should communicate?
No. I really can’t know this. And I am very happy, without the communication. My life was especially fun and sweet at that moment, post wedding.
How did I react when believing she should communicate?
I begin to review my behavior, or try to guess what’s going on, and I cannot find anything, so I let it go…..over and over again. I compulsively think I must have missed something. I begin to think she just didn’t like something about the wedding? She was uncomfortable with the non-traditional character of it? She didn’t like the people. Something?
I even think “Fine. Be that way” and find benefits for not being her friend. I call her names in my head. I create a list of faults. I’m better off without her.
But it bothers me, like a splinter that won’t come out.
I talk with other friends about it.
I realize I haven’t been fully, completely honest. If I really opened up my heart and spoke freely, I’d call her again and ask her some questions and tell her how I feel.
First, I do The Work. I feel clear.
My living turnaround is “I should communicate with her”.
I call her.
I say “I really love and miss you. I’m wondering if something happened. Did I do something to trouble you? You mean so much to me. I just really wanted you to know, I love you.”
I say this with a lot of words, I share some events, I’m trying to stay casual and not make a big dramatic thing out of it. The voice mail even cuts me off and I go ahead and call back and finish my message and say “Goodbye! I hope we get the chance to talk, if you’re able!”
She emails back thanking me for the sweet phone messages and apologizing for all the time gone by and she’s incredibly busy and just can’t talk right now.
I listen a think “huh.”
Maybe the intimate connection was not as I thought.
Who would I be without the belief “she should communicate with me”?
I’d notice she DID communicate with me.
Maybe this is a friendly universe, telling me who not to talk with.
I am indeed an extremely introverted person who adores spending time alone.
I turn the thought around every way possible:
She should not communicate with me. I should communicate with her. I should communicate with myself.
One at a time, I look at these turned around statements.
Given what I learned several months later, I realize she definitely couldn’t communicate with me. Not given what she mistakenly thought I did. But without knowing this yet, in that moment, the way it was good for me that she shouldn’t communicate was where I found my examples: I didn’t have to plan long drives to meet her at an expensive restaurant somewhere, spend a lot of money, feel sleepy the following morning after our binge-conversations. I didn’t have to say “no” to too-frequent invites to get together.
I should communicate with her. Yes, it was so powerful to feel the vulnerability of calling and leaving two messages in a row and saying I loved her. It felt like I exposed the full truth, no matter what she thought of me or what was going on. In the end, there was love.
I should communicate with myself in this situation. Yes, I should enjoy my own thoughts, my own mind trying to sort things out. I should notice what an interesting person I find myself to be, and how much I love, and how good it feels to be a lover of what is.
How could it be good news that person doesn’t communicate with you as you like? What if their communication level is just perfect, not too little, not too much?
“And it appears that I always have a preference for the thing happening now. I prefer the sun in the morning, and I prefer the moon at night. And I prefer to be with the person in front of me now.” ~ Byron Katie
If YOU are the one in front of you now….oh boy. What a treat, what a treat.
Thank you to everyone who gave me the incredible gift of silence, thank you. It’s not always easy.
Or maybe….I could question that.
Much love, Grace
P.S. I’m offering a masterclass webinar next week (you can choose August 4th or August 9th) addressing places we get stuck in inquiry. This concept that someone should communicate differently, or at all, is often one of those sticky, painful concepts, especially if you think badly of yourself because of the silence of someone else. Join me to learn about ways to help yourself get un-stuck with your work. We’ll have an awesome time. To reserve your seat, visit here.