The Ghosted and the Ghosters

Ghosting - ever heard of it? Ever experienced it? It can be extremely painful...

I've recently been introduced to the phenomenon of ghosting, which is the experience of a someone disappearing from a relationship, and is common to internet dating. Both men and women report that they may have built up a promising start to a relationship through messages and/or phone calls but that then the person disappears without trace. They appear to simply vanish whilst the other person is left confused and feeling less than good about themselves as they try to work out what went wrong. Ghosters might even disappear after actual dates and can occur after both successful and unsuccessful relationships. One can understand why someone might be a bit cowardly about admitting that they didn't have such a great date and want to silently retreat instead of having to admit that they didn't really enjoy their date. Alarmingly, however, some ghosters disappear after several successful dates. I personally know one ghoster who disappeared after dating a woman for 18 months (I have permission to report this). After meeting his children and spending two Christmases with his family, she was at a loss to understand how someone who became so close could simply disappear without a word. Needless to say, ghosting can be perceived as a form of rejection or abandonment, so might be especially difficult for a person with those particular issues to deal with.

But what about the ghoster? This can't be an easy thing to do to someone, especially when they have loved or had strong feelings for the person too. It can just as easily be born of rejection/abandonment issues for them too if they fear that someone is getting too close, and when that means that they fear being left. So, such a person may sabotage the relationship in order to avoid being left first. Often, people in these positions say things like, "I'm no good at relationships", or even refuse to acknowledge that they are in a relationship. For these people, being in a relationship is equated with pain through loss from rejection and abandonment. So, by denying the relationship exists, or leaving it when things become too close/serious, they can avoid all associated emotional pain. Usually this is achieved by getting into a brand new relationship in which they can anaesthetise themselves from the pain with a big dose of dopamine from the heady new romance. At the end of the day, though, they live with the ongoing emotional emptiness of not being able to be in a close, mutually loving relationship as they are too afraid to commit. Often associated with people with ambivalent/avoidant attachment issues, e.g., those who were neglected/abused as children or adopted persons, therapy can be a highly beneficial experience. Relational therapy, especially, can be a route to understanding how to trust that a serious long-term relationship might risk emotional pain if it ends, but without taking that risk, one might never know the incredible joy of mutual, long-term love and companionship.

Friday Night Group Therapy?

Today I was chatting to the lovely staff at The Helios Centre in London about who wants to come to therapy on a Friday and, especially on a Friday night. This topic arose in response to a poster I had taken in to the Centre to advertise a new therapy group that I am starting there. The conclusion about Fridays was that the majority of the population associate the last working day of the week as a day when people just want to go home or down the pub, or get away for the weekend. 

However, Friday night can also be a time of reflection and a time to evaluate the week just gone and consider the week ahead. Although it can be counterintuitive when all we want to do is leave the week in the past, we can help lessen this need or desire to escape by actively staying present in the here-and-now and embracing what is going on for us instead of running away from it. One of my clients that I see in London says that she likes coming to therapy on a Friday - early evening - as she likes to explore what she did well during her week, what she would like to have done differently, and what she might need to work on regarding self-care over the weekend so that she can be ready for the week ahead. How do you think that you might benefit from taking an hour's reflection on a Friday night rather than charging full steam ahead into the weekend?

The therapy group at the Helios Centre will run fortnightly 7-8.30pm every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month. If you're in this area (116 Judd St, Kings Cross, London WC1H 9NS) and wondering if you'd like to join, I would encourage you to think about this group as an opportunity to do your weekends differently. If, for example, you go down the pub every Friday night and usually drink to excess so that your weekends are ruined, why not come try out the group instead? It would be cheaper than a Friday night in London and you could, not only learn how to relate to others without the need for Dutch courage, but you'd also wake up without a hangover and be able to enjoy your weekend with renewed vigour. If you are single and don't want to be but are wondering why your relationships always go wrong, it could be of real benefit to you to explore your 'self' in relation to others and understand your impact on others. Relational forms of therapy can be usefully seen as a microcosm of clients' worlds as the dynamics in the therapeutic relationship are often repeated in other significant relationship. In group therapy, this also means that how you relate to others in the group will reflect how you relate to people more generally. Such a group can be an opportunity to ask for feedback about how people experience you. When do we ever get to receive open and honest feedback about how people experience us? Very rarely - it's so valuable. 

Group therapy at the Helios Centre costs only £45 per session and concessions are available.

Email me if you are interested in joining the therapy group starting at the Helios Centre after Easter and I look forward to meeting you very soon...   

Counselling for Relationship Problems

In my experience, almost all counselling involves some kind of work on relationship issues. No matter what a client's presenting issues are in the initial sessions - in some way the issues will be related to how they affect the person's relationships. 

A relational style of counselling helps because it constitutes the basic requirements of a healthy relationship. It recognises the need to make some psychological connection, for people to just be themselves, to accept others for who they are, and to dialogue in an open, honest and authentic way. 

Therapy can be seen to be a microcosm of a client's world outside of the therapy room and the counsellor can help a client to learn about themselves in the therapeutic relationship, which will be helpful for their relationships outside of counselling. Honest, deep and meaningful relationships are often established in the therapeutic space, which clients learn how to transfer to other, more significant relationships.  

A transformational process can occur in relational therapy whereby the client finds themselves more able to identify and feel their feelings, to accept themselves for who they really are, to take responsibility for themselves and let others take responsibility for themselves, to identify their own needs and wants and how to communicate these to others, and to locate their own valuing process within themselves instead of relying on others. 

Relational work is often difficult as clients try and work out who they are and what they really think and feel, especially when they have spent a lifetime of acting a certain way in order to please others or fit with others' agendas.

Sometimes things get worse before they get better as clients go through the pain of a realisation that they have been living a lie and they struggle to claim their own identity. Clients might even have to let go of relationships when they know they are unhealthy, harmful or toxic for them.

This kind of work on relational issues is worth the struggle so that we can learn how to be oneself in authentic relationships - where we are able to communicate openly and honestly about our thoughts and feelings and about what we need and want from another person. Only then can we have happy, healthy connections with other human beings - and that is priceless.