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WKND Read: The fine art of disappearance

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A young adult novel by a UAE-based clinical hypnotherapist deep dives into the grief of being ghosted.

You think you know them well… very well, in fact. That is until one day, they disappear from your life. You have questions – the ‘why’ of it being the most pressing one. But the answers never come. A lot has been said about the impact ghosting can have on one’s emotional well-being, but a new novel by 25-year-old clinical hypnotherapist Mai Elsayed deep dives into the psychological impact of ghosting through her debut work of fiction, Disappeared, published by Young Author Academy. The young-adult novel revolves around a protagonist who is ghosted by the ‘love of her life’, but delves into the trauma such disappearing act can have on a person.

Almost all of us have experienced what it feels like being ‘ghosted’. And yet, many of us tend to assume it’s natural course because people would ultimately behave the way they do, and often, not wanting to confront is what leads people to ghost others. Elsayed says while the concept of grieving due to death of a dear one is widely discussed in psychology, people barely, if ever, talk about grieving because of being ghosted. “Imagine losing a person to void, you are unable to contact or reach them in any way. Yet, somehow you know they are still alive. It can be detrimental, especially in long-distance relationships. It is one of those taboo topics that the world does not discuss because we don’t know how painful it is for an individual to get ghosted and not be able to get the closure needed to move on,” she says.

There are many reasons why people ghost each other. It boils down to the fear of confrontation. “They don’t have the courage to break up with their companion and find it easier to leave in silence with the assumption that their partner will eventually move on. This behaviour could very much come from a good place and with good intentions, such as not wanting to hurt their partner’s feelings and, therefore, they believe that the best course of action is to avoid the situation altogether. They may feel embarrassed and uncomfortable to explain themselves or express why they want to end the relationship. They may also be worried about how their companion might react, especially if family and friends are involved and it is a serious relationship,” she says. “In extreme cases, the ghosted can be dangerous, narcissistic and toxic and, therefore, the ghoster prefers to leave in silence to avoid the vicious cycle of drama and pain. In all cases, the way a person chooses to exit the relationship is a reflection of who they are. In no way does it necessarily define the value and worth of the ghosted individual.”

Her novel, insists Elsayed, shows how thoughts, feelings and behaviours are often interlinked. “The way we think affects the way we feel and the actions we take. Similarly, the conversations we have with ourselves are extremely important,” says Elsayed. She also emphasises on how much negative self-talk can damage a person and adds that her novel weaves in those elements by exploring different types of realities and how one’s perception of events creates their points of view. “We may not have control over what happens to us, but we always have the choice of how to react. The story also emphasises on how positivity is not about butterflies and rainbows but rather about finding the good in the bad and transforming every challenge into an opportunity. Simply put, we can never see the light if we don’t know what darkness feels like.”

Elsayed has meticulously woven aspects of her work as a therapist into the story she’s set out to tell. “The various monologues in the manuscript show the thought process of the main character (Rose), how she ruminates over the past, compares herself to other people and engages in negative self-talk. The novel walks the reader through different stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – through conversations that Rose has with herself, the things she does and the way she speaks and engages with the people around her. On the other hand, dialogues with family members and friends convey how they are trying to shift her focus on the positive aspects of her life.”

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