You’ve probably heard by now that Charlize Theron pulled a big disappearing act on Sean Penn. It’s all over the internet on sites such as US Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Jezebel. The couple seemed to be the epitome of happiness in cozy beach photos, walking hand-in-hand on the red carpet, and getting engaged. It seemed they’d each met their match when suddenly, Charlize stopped answering his texts and phone calls.
She ghosted him.
To the general public, it may seem her decision to suddenly cut him out of her life was harsh. After all, how many people have been at the receiving end of ghosting – which is the act of not returning emails, calls, or text messages – and felt the humiliating sting of sudden rejection? Considering that brain scans have revealed that the same brain regions get activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain, ghosting someone would appear to be an act of ultimate cruelty.
Or is it? The answer lies in one word – intention.
Ghosting as a means of Silent Treatment
In the world of Narcissism, victims of emotional abuse get ghosted all the time. And while Narcissists are notorious for lying, cheating, and manipulating, they are absolute masters at issuing the Silent Treatment. What makes their “ghosting” so difficult to heal from is that often, just when their target of ghosting has begun to lick their wounds and move forward, the Narcissist pops back onto the scene, effectively repeating the whole abuse cycle from scratch.
Another narcissistic move, which is more uncommon – and in some cases, more difficult to heal from – is one in which the Narcissist seemingly disappears off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again.
In either scenario, the intention is the same. For Narcissists, creating emotional devastation is their way of demonstrating power. They know that the wound of abandonment is at the core of human experience. It’s a primal fear that’s been passed down to us by our ancestors when being ostracized from the tribe meant less access to critical resources such as food, shelter, and companionship. In most cases, it was a death sentence.
In today’s world, ostracism, endured for a long time, leaves people feeling depressed and worthless, resigned to loneliness or desperate for attention—in extreme cases, suicidal or homicidal. In healing from ostracism, there is a “coping” stage, when people try to figure out how to “improve their inclusionary status.” They pay attention to every social cue; they cooperate, conform, and obey.  Most Narcissists, especially of the overt ilk, take advantage of this phase by insisting their partner hasn’t tried hard enough, isn’t forgiving enough, isn’t attractive enough , and so on, in order to extract copious amounts of narcissistic supply. Their target, wanting desperately to avoid the emotional damage of ostracism – a.k.a silent treatment – complies with the Narcissist’s every demand.
Ghosting as a means of going No Contact
I doubt it’s mere speculation to deem that Sean had it coming to him. He made history after having beat the crap out of Madonna when the two of them were married. And let’s not forget what he does to those pesky paparazzi. According to Cracked.com,
“Penn was a rage head who dealt with annoying paparazzi by shooting at them, dangling them upside down from balconies, and smacking them with rocks”.
Imagine being in a romantic relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper, is insanely controlling and jealous, and flirts with other women to boot. Oh wait, you probably don’t have to imagine it, as most Narcissists fit that description.
I believe Miss Theron ‘went Casper’ on Sean because he got out of control and she’s too much of a lady to smear Sean’s name to Hollywood. Whether it was out of fear, we may never know – as I’m sure many of you can sadly relate to.
 Ostracism hurts—but how? Shedding light on a silent, invisible abuse. (2011, April 27). In Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved 6/28/2015