Extinction burst: Psychological reason we continuously text people who ignore us
Extinction burst: You make a solemn promise to yourself and anyone willing to listen that you will never call, write, or text your ex again.
You are aware that visiting them at their workplace or home is entirely out of the question.
Despite your efforts, you find yourself grappling with the urge to contact your ex, and it’s becoming a cause for concern among those around you.
Your friends are doing their best to help you remain resolute in avoiding any communication with your ex.
They intervene by taking your phone away during times when you might be tempted to reach out, such as when you’re drinking or feeling bored and nostalgic.
Despite your best intentions, you find yourself sending numerous texts to your ex, often in excess of 10, 20, or even 80 times.
This behavior is embarrassing and feels out of control, leaving you feeling somewhat irrational.
This psychological phenomenon is known as an “extinction burst.”
An extinction burst is defined as the temporary increase in a behavior that was previously reinforced or learned when the reinforcement is taken away.
In this case, the behavior is the act of incessantly texting your ex, while the reinforcement is the hope of receiving a response or maintaining the connection.
Study suggests that you increase the frequency of this behavior in a desperate attempt to regain the original reinforcement, even though your ex is no longer responding to your messages.
However, in the absence of any positive reinforcement, the behavior will eventually diminish and stop.
A similar example of an extinction burst can be seen when repeatedly pushing the button in an elevator that fails to respond.
You persist in trying different approaches, hoping for the familiar response.
The good news is that by continuing to reach out to your ex despite knowing you shouldn’t, you’re actually taking the first step towards extinguishing that behavior.
Once you no longer receive any response or positive reinforcement, you’ll naturally stop trying to contact them.
To facilitate this process, you can take additional steps like deleting your ex’s contact information and blocking them on social media platforms where you’re still connected.
Although it might be challenging, understanding the concept of extinction bursting can make the process less humiliating and help you move on without the burden of constant contact.
Also read: Attracting the right partner – Counselors