As Filipinos battled among other things, soaring prices of goods and the pandemic rut, a lawmaker filed a bill that sought to declare "ghosting"—the act of abruptly cuting off all forms of communication with another person—as an emotional offense.
Without specifying penalties, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves, who previously went viral for filing a bill that seeks to rename Ninoy Aquino International Airport after late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., cited the adverse effects of ghosting on a person's mental and emotional state in justifying why it needs state action.
"It can be likened to a form of emotional cruelty and should be punished as an emotional offense because of the trauma it causes to the 'ghosted' party," Teves had said.
Psychology confirms this: the grief one feels from being ghosted is valid, no matter if it's by a friend who stopped responding to your texts, a potential lover you were talking to on Telegram, or a boyfriend who left you without warning.
This is because the act threatens a person's need for love and belongingness, which is one of an individual's core needs in their quest for self actualization, said social psychologist James Flores, citing a prominent theory in psychology made by American psychologist Abraham Maslow.
"It becomes very concerning to yourself if you cannot satisfy those needs.. So kapag nagkaroon ka ng threat sa love and belongingness mo, which is right in the middle of the hierarchy of needs, it’s going to be a direct threat to your goal of becoming the best version of yourself that you can be," he said.
Humans also have cognitive needs, or the need to know. "Gusto natin na alam natin ang nangyayari at ano ang dahilan. Gusto lang natin may alam tayo, even if hindi 'yun yung gusto natin, ‘cause people would rather have any explanation rather than no explanation at all," he said, explaining why people become desperate for closure after they've been ghosted.
"They want to have that explanation even though sometimes, no explanation is the closure in itself. Ghinost ka, ano bang ibig sabihin nu'n? Most likely, wala na silang pakialam sayo, they didn’t feel about you as strongly as they did, or they no longer want to take responsibility for the relationship," Flores said.
"The context is there already, the basic information is there, but people who are victims of ghosting would rather hear it from the person themselves just for closure because they have that need to know, kaya invested 'yung mga tao sa ghosting," he added.
Ghosting may be a relatively new colloquial dating term popularized in the age of social media, but the act is not to be taken lightly.
Still, does it really have to go that far?
"We have to understand that emotional experiences are unique kasi iba’t-iba 'yung context ng bawat tao.. It's vague, and I don’t think the state can properly quantify it enough to be carried out.," said Flores.
In its current form, the bills defines ghosting as "a form of emotional abuse and happens once a person is engaged in a dating relationship with the opposite sex which affects the mental state of the victim."
Under this definition, casual acquaintances between two individuals in a business or social context are not considered alongside those in same-sex relationships.
Instead of involving the state, Flores said people who have been ghosted can instead address their grief better by coping with it properly through therapy for instance.
"Actual psychotheraphy can help address the grief and emotions felt during ghosting. It will help you reorrient yourself, and by the self, I mean, your feelings, behaviors, and thought processes," he said.
For instance, if you don't know how to make sense of your emotions, a therapist can teach you how to align your emotions with your behavior and thought process, or if the problem is that you can't stop thinking about the other person, "then you can reorrient your thinking in such a way na — ka miss-miss ba siya? Ka-miss miss ba yung ginawa niya?" Flores said.
"It can be reorriented in such a way that will enable you to understand and manage yourself accordingly," he added.
Understandably, seeking therapy is a costly undertaking. You may refer to these #ReportrExplainers for more tips and resources on dealing with tough separations and other mental health issues: