"Thanks for a great date. I’d love to see you again. Are you free Friday?”
“Great meeting yesterday. Here’s my proposal based on our conversation. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!”
Sound familiar? Nearly everyone has encountered one, or both, of these exchanges at some point.
Ghosting — or a sudden disappearance with no reply and no explanation — has been on the rise for years, and shows no signs of waning. We do it in our personal lives, after a first (or several) dates, but it has seeped into our professional lives, as well. Even after multiple meetings and customized proposals and pitches, responsible professionals will just completely disappear, without the courtesy to simply say, "Thank you, but we’re not a fit," or, "The timing isn't great." Instead, they leave the other party to pursue them incessantly.
Technology is the easy scapegoat, and it certainly is at the root of the problem. Technology makes communication easier than ever, which collectively lowers our value of the individual interactions. It also overwhelms us with the volume of pings and messages nagging for a reply each day. So we mentally block and prioritize, and, inevitably, there are winners and losers in that hierarchy of exchange.
But technology does not excuse this bad behavior, and not holding ourselves accountable is a lose-lose approach. Here are two main reasons why we continue to ghost and what we can do about it:
1) We have a false sense of our networks.
We value numbers over the quality of connection, and think that just because someone is a Linkedin contact or a Facebook friend, that that relationship doesn't need to be nurtured. But relationships are not a “one and done” operation. The digital point of connection is merely the springboard for the actual meat of the relationship. We’ve all had someone fail to respond to our personal correspondence, but continue to “like” our posts on social media. It’s maddening, to say the least.
Research indicates that both close and loose ties are important in building a valuable network, but we forget that close connections and loose ties alike require ongoing effort to continue to deliver value. Relationships, just like everything else worth having, are hard work. And laziness — however appealing in the short-term — yields an equally disappointing outcome over time.
2) We want to be wanted.
In business and in pleasure, we like the feeling of being pursued. Someone might reach out 2, 3, or more times, and yet we still don’t take a moment to respond and give them clarity. The time it takes to say “no thank you” is far less than the time and mental energy spent processing the on-going requests and pursuit. And yet, we continue to let others chase us. It feels good to be wanted.
Social media does us no favors in this department. Likes and follows fuel our ego, and we wrongly think that relationships are one-directional or can be turned on and off when beneficial to us. But relationships are two-sided enterprises. Valuable intros, time spent mentoring or consulting, or merely showing up to an event or always responding to a note — the cumulative effect of these small acts matters in the life of a relationship, but when only one party consistently holds up their side of the bargain, an imbalance ensues.
Sure, there are moments of great hardship or times when we simply can’t rise to the occasion — but most of the time, it’s not an emergency that fuels the ghosting. We all know people who perpetually embrace the “I’m busy” excuse and disappear, but don’t hesitate to ask for what they need when it’s beneficial.
So what's the solution?
For years I mused that I wanted a life sponsor — someone to help bankroll all my creative pursuits. A patron of sorts. Then I realized I had many, albeit in a slightly different format. Entrepreneurs seek funding from venture capitalists (VCs), but everyday people have investors, too. In my new book,Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, I talk about the value of creating "life VCs" — people in whom you mutually invest, over time, to create reciprocal relationship returns. But rather than check writers, they are our strategic advisors and unofficial mentors. They’re the individuals who make time to share life lessons and dole out advice. They include us in their lives and make introductions — or just counsel us when we’re down.
This isn’t just everyday networking. Enlisting life VCs involves relationship building that goes far beyond a business card exchange or a Linkedin request. These relationships evolve and experience varying degrees of intimacy over time, but for them to really work, the investment must be mutual, even if each party fulfills a different function at different points in time. It is a feedback loop of value in which everyone benefits — but only if they continue to participate.
And fair warning: Life VCs aren’t always obvious. The intro that leads to your dream job or life partner could come from a connection you least expect, when you least expect it. Which makes ghosting dangerous and myopic.
So as you navigate an already complicated 2017, put an end to ghosting. If not out of courtesy for others, then out of a selfish desire to maximize the human capital in your life. You’re far richer than you think you are, but cashing in isn’t free.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."