Ghosted: Lessons in Phantom Connection & Apparitional Attachment.
Ghosting, I guess, is a new reality. I don’t like it but it is one of those social progressions that accompany progress. Although, I am completely positive it is not progress. In fact, the more time I spend in the digital age, the more I feel like I am going to end up like good old Ralph. Alone in the woods, having eschewed all my friends and family and worldly possessions. My previous life as a social butterfly quickly metamorphosing into just a butterfly: delicate and quietly seeking serenity and a little nectar.
I am a contradiction because as I write this on my MacBook Pro while drinking my perfectly temperature controlled coffee from my Ember mug, evidence suggests that I certainly afford myself the luxury of technology. I shop online, keep an online journal, dated online (in fact most of my significant relationships from the last 20 years came from online encounters which is just fucking sad), I dial into the cloud every day at work. I have an Orbi at home to extend my wifi...well, everywhere.
So it feels just a bit disingenuous to say that I do not like technology. In truth, I love technology, I just hate what it is doing to personal relationships. The cyber world enables people to connect in real time despite time zones, great distances and language barriers. While I recognize that amazing fact, I see that allowing so many people access to your little corner of the world, it seems that the pleasantries of social interaction are being killed off one by one.
Ghosting seems to me the most damaging to lasting human relationships. Because it is so easy to connect and I mean CONNECT online. It affords us all the ability to connect, sometimes deeply, with a person that we really don’t know. We may think that we know but really we are limited to what we are told and what google can tell us. We do not know if they are an asshole in traffic, sarcastic with their children in the morning, crabby when they get home for work, do they open doors for people, do they cheat on their taxes, are they slobs, do they care for their aging parents, save for a rainy day? Knowledge of those topic areas comes from observation which requires two people to be in close physical proximity to each other.
Ghosting is really just an outgrowth to the much more common social cyber convention: I am calling it "phantom connection". It is this type of connection that is all one can really obtain online. It is the illusion of connection. It comes from being able to share deep and intimate details of your life with someone you have never met and will likely, never meet. You can have cyber sex with someone millions of miles away from you and know what positions, fetishes and style of sex they like to have but not have a fucking clue about whether they take cream in their coffee. Maybe it is just me, but that feels a little fucked up.
Oh, I am speaking from no moral high ground here. NONE! I will fully confess to knowing all of the above about several men and I will fully admit that I don’t have a clue how they take their coffee. Hell, I don’t even know if they drink coffee!
Ghosting is what happens when two people who do not really know each other decide it is time to move on. We used to spend time getting into relationships and then take a similar amount of time ending those relationships. Today, because it is so easy to form relationships with no real skin in the game, we have adopted a exiting strategy that resembles that of a specter. When it is time to move on, words do not need to be said, feelings considered; just move the fuck on because whatever it was that was happening wasn't really real to begin with.
So what the hell is going on? How is it that it is acceptable to become sexually intimate with someone while that same person's daily life remains a complete mystery? Phantom connection (the result of cybernetic dating or apparitional attachment). If I may be so bold as to coin a phrase. We have this connection that is apparent to our senses but that has no substantial existence. The apparition of attachment is hollow, elusive and a mirage. What we are experiencing isn’t really real. But God does it feel real and good, did I mention good?
Phantasmic connection is pretty fucking powerful because you are risking little and seemingly gaining much. There you are on your computer in your bed after your kids are asleep and you are connecting with this other person who may or may not be real. You can share sexy words, laughter, photos, videos and even face time to make this apparitional association feel like it has depth and weight.
But even if the person is really a person, chances are they are not really being intimate. There are likely ten other people that they are doing the exact same thing, sometimes simultaneously. The connection felt is delusional: a fantasy. And hey, there is nothing wrong with fantasy...except when one person believes that the fantasy is real. That is why this whole thing falls apart. There is always one person that believes that the instant cyber connection is real. It is what they have been waiting for for their whole life. The intense, physical connection provides a level of false security and an arrogance that gets people into some pretty awful situations. Marriages ended, partners gone, divorces filed.
I don’t know why so many people are investing so much time, energy and heart into these apparitional associations? I think I have done it because I am vulnerable - deep inside me I have this longing to be loved. For some reason, that longing is based on a need for someone to fall for me instantly. I do not know why my particular script is written like this, it just is. Any love story I have ever told has always and forever started with me just being me and him seeing me or talking to me and falling madly in love with me from the word go. In truth, that has only happened once. It ended badly and left some scars that are seemingly never going to heal. The rest were just follies into a feigned bond designed to get us both out of the moment and into a world that felt better than our reality. I do not know if what is true for me is also true for others.
So I have to go back to the script. It is this script that has gotten me into these fucked up situations over and over again. The most disturbing aspect of apparitional attachment is that other people, men in particular, seem to be ok with these types of entanglements. I know other women that are super disappointed and saddened by these ghostly encounters. Men, not so much. Perhaps it goes back to our love script that we are handed as children. Women my age were told stories of princesses and princes. Women were always cast in the role of needing to be rescued from some evil force that they bore no fault in their own peril. The princes always fell in love with the princess upon first sight and were possessed. The prince’s entire life is then reoriented to saving and loving this princess who seems to embody all that is holy and good. She can talk to fucking forest animals for crying out loud! Oh and she is beautiful, inside and out.
When I review the crap that I was read as a child, my current love script makes total sense. I have this idea that I am this lovely princess, whole and good and beautiful, and all the negative circumstances of my life are the result of an evil queen, an evil step mother, a sorcerer, never my fault at all. I am just the hapless victim of someone else’s karma. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, and wholly not my own doing, I am in peril. My life is hanging in the balance and someone is either waiting to hurt me or is actively hurting me and I am powerless to do anything about it.
If I look at my backstory, I can see why the above seemed to fit for me. My childhood was punctuated with abuse and some horrific shit. It is easy for me to see that most of it was not my fault. I was just a hapless victim of other’s karma. In a word, I did need to be rescued. So it makes total fucking sense that I was vulnerable to believing that a prince was going to come and save me. In fact, I developed some pretty maladaptive living skills waiting for that man to show up in my life and save me. The most revolting result was my belief that I was not capable of rescuing myself. The belief that my well being rested in the hands of a man really caused me to be vulnerable to being a victim of many other men. I was just sitting their waiting for my prince to show up - because he could and would do so at any moment. This "hang time" allowed me to grant access to my life and heart to many that were not worthy, noble or true.
In many ways, I am still taking my cues and lines from this ancient script that has never, ever served me well. I am not some princess caught in some plight that will all be set straight the moment a man shows up and signs up to take care of me. In fact, upon reflection, it is usually when the guy shows up that all the trouble begins.
So why don’t I dump the script? I am 49 and I have never, ever put it down. I just keep walking around like a young writer in Hollywood trying to peddle my script to everyone I meet in the hope that someday I will get my big break. It has never occurred to me, until right now, that perhaps the script I am peddling is crap. Perhaps, no one has bought it because it isn’t worthy buying. The market is flooded with the storyline and this particular love story has been so over acted that it has become clique.
My path, script in hand, has taken me to the land of cyber love and there is where it has imploded. The script was shitty to begin with but my access to volumes of people was limited until technology gave me access to the masses all from the comfort of my couch. Somehow, this endless parade of possible prince charmings, made the script seem sellable. Nope, still just a shitty script that now has a ghost for a leading man.
I am done with selling that particular script. I am burning it and doing a major rewrite. I have decided to stop believing that I need to be saved and that any man will ever be up to that job. I will see that ghosting is just the natural consequence of me thinking, one more time, that my fairytale will be a success in the online venue. It wasn’t a success in the real world, why would cyberspace get me a different result?
I think that I have to be willing to be lonely and face the consequences of my life head on. I am not some hapless princess in need of rescue, I am a grown ass woman with a mortgage and kids and a job. I have done a rad job of raising myself up out of and through a great deal of life shit and not one fucking time has a man been there to hold my hand while I struggled to keep my head above water. In fact, most of the time, men were the cause of me being in rushing water to begin with (of course almost always by my invitation, insistence or inability to say no). If there was a man close by when I started to go under, my experience has been that he doesn’t jump in after me to help, he stands on the shore and gives me all sorts of excuses why he can’t possibly jump in and help. Then he ends up walking away while I struggle to reach the shore. There I am in the water, in peril of drowning, and I am waving that fucking script at him while he turns and walks away.
Ghosting is just the online version of that. It is the logical result of me attempting to peddle my outdated and overcast script in the virtual world. It results in instant connection that is wholly apparitional. The fact that real people are involved only makes the association sadder.
I see my part when I push aside my delusion and can allow for some clarity to take hold. I need a new fucking script that has me cast as a badass who is completely ok living her life. Bad things happen and she deals with them. Good things happen and she deals with them. She doesn’t need to be rescued and she doesn’t need to be loved. The next guy that walks into her life isn’t going to be THE ONE anymore than the lottery ticket sitting in my wallet has the winning numbers. She loves herself and wants the script to be written as she goes, allowing for the odd jog in random directions and less well traveled paths. When she decides to live this way she is no longer in peril, in the real world or online. She is no longer susceptible to being ghosted because she is no longer investing anymore of her time in apparitional associations or phantom connections. She is out there in her real life, living the life that unfolds daily in front of her. She is scriptless, brave and unrelenting in her pursuit of mad, authentic connection with actual people who are bona fide in their similar quest to see and be seen. She has no time for imaginary spirits that require instant connection to chain her to the shadows. She walks out into the light and says, Bring. It. On.