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Ghostlighting Red Flags & Tips: Where Ghosting Meets Gaslighting

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

ghost cutout

Ghosting With A Gaslighting Twist

You know when a kid gets caught sneakily eating the last cookie and, with crumbs all over their face, they claim the dog ate it? That's an example of gaslighting. Simply put, gaslighting is when someone tries to convince someone that their reality is imagined.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation, and when done well, it'll have you second-guessing your own memory, insights, and perception of things. When someone does this to you, their end game is to pull your puppet strings and make you dance to their tune by undermining your self-confidence, causing you to distrust your own perceptions.

But just like in a bad infomercial... "But wait, there's more!"

What Is Ghostlighting?

Imagine you're happily texting your sweetheart, sharing your favorite memes and Tiktoks, maybe even getting deep with your midnight 'Who am I and what does it all mean?' talks, and then—POOF! They've vanished and gone without a word. They've left you on read. You have been ghosted.

You're left tortured with all the 'what did I do wrong' scenarios in your brain. Time passes, you slowly try to heal, and perhaps you've even accepted your ghosting fate.

Then, they return out of nowhere, and yet they are not back with an "I'm sorry" or "I was in a coma." Nope. They're on a mission to gaslight you.

They start weaving a tale that you're just being too emotional in how they left things or how you have a terrible memory because they were never really gone. They claim they had told you they would be busy and out of touch for a bit, but you know it's a lie.

Essentially, ghostlighting is when someone vanishes from your life and, upon returning, claims they never left or tells you you're being too sensitive or misremembering how things occurred to control and manipulate you.

Why This Is A Huge Red Flag

Ghostlighting is a serious red flag as it deliberately attempts to manipulate you. It's essential for our well-being to be aware of such behavior because you will never be able to trust or receive respect from a partner who does this to you. When we put up with such toxic behavior, it can really chip away at our self-love.

Reasons People Ghostlight

So, why do people sometimes vanish like they’re auditioning for a magician’s assistant role and return with a lie? Let's explore four common reasons someone might resort to ghostlighting:

They Are Avoiding Responsibility

People who lack emotional courage often find it easier to avoid uncomfortable conversations, and ghostlighting offers an escape. It's like skipping the gym and claiming you never missed a workout. By gaslighting about their ghosting, they deflect responsibility for their behavior.

They Are Seeking Control Over You

Ghostlighting is a sneaky tactic to gain control over another person's reality and emotions. It's like they're trying to take the driver's seat in your brain to control you. 

They Are Insecure

People who lack the courage to be emotionally vulnerable often look for ways to avoid feeling threatened or insecure. Ultimately, they're afraid of getting hurt. But here's the tea: by being manipulative, they're missing out on the deep intimacy they crave by creating distrust in their relationship.

Some people are unaware of the damage they are causing by creating a false sense of superiority in themselves. But remember, acting superior by lying doesn't make you stronger; instead, it just shows a lack of emotional intelligence and weakness.

They Have Unhealed Trauma

Sometimes, unresolved traumas can lead people to put up walls by being manipulative to protect themselves. It's like they're trying to shield their hearts, so they inadvertently push away the real intimacy they deeply desire.

Simply put, they have not done the emotional work to heal their trauma to let love and trust into their lives. 

What To Do If You Are Ghostlighted

Imagine your emotions as your built-in navigation system, and trust them. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Your emotions are there to guide you, like a best friend who whispers, "Hey, something's off here," when you're feeling uneasy.

Never let someone else redefine what you know to be accurate by handing over the pen to someone else when writing your story. Trust your truth.

Seek Out Support

Manipulative people often try to isolate you from your circle of trust—your best friends, your family, etc. That's why it's vital to talk with people who've got your back and can give you a fresh take on things, ensuring that you see things clearly.

Consider sharing your story (anonymously if you prefer) in private groups or forums to see what others say about your situation, as it can also provide objective viewpoints that are not just sympathetic but often eye-opening. People in these forums aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. 

Establish Boundaries

It's essential for our well-being to speak our minds and establish boundaries. If someone continues to dismiss or belittle you, consider distancing yourself from them or cutting them out of your life. You deserve respect and understanding.

Seek Help

Think about giving therapy a try, as it can provide a nurturing environment, teach coping strategies, and help you gain perspective to make healthy choices for yourself. In that safe space, you can get needed support and practice the self-care you deserve. 

In Closing

Ghostlighting, like all forms of deception, keeps us from having genuine connections. When someone tries to make you question your reality, lean into your inner strength, seek support, and always trust your truth.

Those who ghostlight may be struggling themselves, but their self-growth is not your responsibility. You are, and the stories we tell ourselves matter. Let yours be one of resilience, self-worth, and authenticity. Hold onto your reality and ensure it reflects your truth, not someone else's fiction.

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