The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
"Ghosting" is what some people call it when a person just disappears from your life with no explanation. It isn't just narcissistic people who ghost others, but it is very common with them. Ghosting differs from the silent treatment because generally, the silent treatment refers to someone who is still in your life, and often still in your home. The intent of the silent treatment is also different than the intent of ghosting. The silent treatment is a form of punishment, and manipulation. Ghosting is more like the narcissist's way of going no contact. Their intent is to erase you. It's most often used as a way to discard and many people never see it coming.
Discard usually occurs when the narcissist does not need somebody anymore. Maybe they've found someone else to feed off of for a while. Narcissists cannot create or regulate their own self-worth or self-esteem. They need other people to do that for them by feeding them things they can turn into self-worth, such as attention, compliments, concern, etc. In a relationship, there always comes a time when you realize the other person is not perfect, that they have flaws, that they make mistakes and that they do things wrong. Nobody's perfect and everybody has flaws.
This is absolutely not acceptable to pathologically narcissistic people. To them, if you do not see them as perfect in every way, you obviously do not love them. How could you, when only perfect people deserve love? This is the way narcissists see it.
You recognizing them as a human being is taken as a betrayal, because they cannot accept they are not perfect. And because they can't accept this, they don't. They re-frame the situation in their minds in such a way that they can believe they are perfect but you are just denying it because you are unfair and abusive. Now you are no longer perfect, either. Your worth in their eyes becomes nothing, and therefore so does any self-worth you could give them. They are people who are very extreme, and there is no in-between. If you don't believe they are perfect, you must believe they are garbage. To them, this means you will abandon them soon, which they fear greatly. And because they have twisted and denied reality in their minds, and turned it to mean that you are abusive and evil, they don't believe anything you say anyway. How can they when you've seen through them and obviously despise them, even though you're obviously lying about it? Who believes a liar, or someone who has betrayed them? What value does a compliment have from someone who is worth nothing, and who believes you are worth nothing?
This is the relationship progression with a pathologically narcissistic person, and many times if they can find another person who believes they are perfect, they will leave or otherwise abandon the relationship. In the case of narcissistic parents, for example, the child who challenges the parent or expresses individuality may be written off or ghosted while the children who still buy into the parent's narrative will be acknowledged. It is the same with every type of narcissistic relationship. Your value to them is only what you can give them. The moment you become more trouble than what you are worth, many of them will disappear.
If a narcissistic person has ghosted you, you are likely very confused and very hurt. It's painful to be treated as if you don't matter and even worse, you might not even know why. There are many stories of people simply disappearing without a word. They never call, they never write, they never come back. Their loved ones may be frantic with worry, only to find out this person simply picked up and left to start a new life. We've all heard variations of the story of the parent or spouse who said they were going to the store and just never came back. Sadly, that's not an urban legend, and if you've dealt with pathologically narcissistic people, you know they are capable of that kind of callous cruelty.
Many people attribute ghosting to cowardice and while it might be, it's also likely that narcissists involved in these situations simply don't want to be bothered. They don't want to have to explain themselves because frankly, they don't care and they don't want to hear it. Your feelings or how this may affect you are not important.
Ghosting most often happens because the narcissist has moved on emotionally, but it can also happen out of fear. Narcissists are afraid of many things, but they may fear being exposed more than anything. They live their entire lives trying to deny what they believe they really are and they live in fear that this will be discovered. Their primitive and immature defense mechanisms cannot cope with the shame of this exposure. It represents death to them, sometimes literally. If they believe you are going to see through them or that you have, they may simply disappear in order to escape the shame. Their facade is for them, remember, not you. You are just a mirror to the narcissist. If they feel you've seen through their facade, you no longer reflect the perfect self they want to see, but the defective self they are trying to hide. You've become a reflection of their failure and they cannot face that. Many of them will simply run to avoid it.
You may have noticed that it has not been mentioned here what it is that someone might have done to cause a narcissist to ghost them. That's because this behavior isn't about anyone but the narcissist. It's their fear and need that cause this behavior, not things other people have done. That's the difference between ghosting and no contact. No contact is not done out of fear or indifference. No contact is asserting a boundary against abuse or toxicity. It usually involves a person telling the toxic person that they will not be speaking to them anymore and why, then cutting off contact, rather than simply ignoring this person. It doesn't always involve an explanation though, and you should not feel obligated to do so. If you would like to, a simple, "This relationship is toxic and I cannot participate in it anymore" is fine. They'll get the picture when you don't talk to them anymore.
Now, it should be said that just because a narcissist ghosts you doesn't mean they'll never contact you again in your life. They very well might when they need something from you, or in a weak moment when they feel there is no one else available. This is because negative attention is better than none at all. It is not out of the realm of possibility at all for a pathologically narcissistic person to go back to a former victim for attention when their current ones are not available or satisfactory anymore, even if it has been months or even years since they last had contact with this person.
In the end, ghosting leaves with people unresolved feelings, pain and many questions. You may have dodged a bullet though, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. Many people have reported that even though it was painful and confusing at the time, they later realized that the narcissist being out of their life was the best thing that could have happened to them. As hard as it is, try not to focus on why the narcissist is behaving the way they are. In many ways, their behavior defies understanding and in the end, it's not personal anyway, hard as that is to believe. Try to focus on what you can do to strengthen your boundaries so you can make sure you never become a victim of this kind of cruelty again. If you focus on what lessons you can learn from this situation, you will go a long way toward ensuring that this doesn't happen again.