It’s time to examine the mental inbox. Have you been getting messages from yourself, read them and ignored them? Are you set permanently to ‘do not disturb’? Have you actually blocked your own number?
The feeling of waiting for a text from someone we very much want to hear from — when we’re in an insecure relationship, or maybe a new, fledgling one, or one in which we are extremely emotionally invested and dependent — can be exquisitely uncomfortable and completely attention-absorbing. It turns into an obsession, we check the phone compulsively all day and jump at the sound of any alert with a massive shot of dopamine.
When the text comes the relief is like a reprieve, and we feel everything is alright with the world. Some of us are more vulnerable to this than others, but most of us can relate to the experience to some degree. The time lag in receiving a response to our message, and the expectation that the recipient will read it as soon as we send it combined with not knowing whether this is the case, lead to a huge amount of anxiety which would not be present had we simply spoken to them face to face. The response then would be obvious. As it is, we are left with a vast field of unknowns: is the phone switched off, or are they busy? Have they blocked your number? Are they mulling endlessly over how to reply? Have they just ignored it because they don’t care?
We’re waiting for certainty and for validation. We said something and we need to know it was heard. Not knowing if it was seen and not getting a response is anxiety-provoking and naturally so. This can then feed into all kinds of other feelings of needing validation or of fears of abandonment.
It struck me the other day, during a session with a client, that many of us are waiting for a text from ourselves.
We need our feelings and our experience to be validated, we need to be heard and seen and responded to. Through a simple lack of attention to our own feelings, to our more fragile or fleeting experiences, or to those which have been denied or not allowed or shut away for a variety of reasons, be it a trauma mechanism or disapproval from others, we can end up feeling really anxious, abandoned, and lost.
Free-floating feelings of being anxious, disconnected, abandoned or lost may be signs that there’s something within you that’s waiting for a sign of life, that’s sent you some kind of a message, but hasn’t received a reply yet. Maybe you’ve genuinely been too busy, maybe you’ve switched the phone off completely so as not to be disturbed, maybe the message has been received but is inconvenient. Maybe you intend to never reply to that uncomfortable feeling or experience, and hope it will go away and not hound you with repeated pleas for attention. Maybe the phone has actually been lost or broken — there’s simply no mechanism with which you can communicate with yourself, hold something difficult within awareness, and respond. Maybe, to the contrary, you’re thinking about how best to respond, actively learning about the topic or working on strategies, or going to therapy and talking about it, but not turning directly to the thing itself. Time goes by, while the abandoned part of your experience inside is slowly losing hope of ever knowing that it has been heard.
It’s time to examine the inbox honestly. Have you been getting messages from yourself, read them and ignored them? Have you heard the alert — an ache or a fear you couldn’t explain, or an inconvenient desire — and refused to open the message? Is your phone set permanently to ‘do not disturb’? If so, when you finally switch it on there is going to be a flood of messages to respond to. Have you actually blocked your own number?
Send the text. Let that feeling or that memory inside know that you’re there and you have heard, and respond honestly. The feeling of relief and validation will flood you. It will be better than when the other person whose text you are ostensibly waiting for, finally gets round to writing a reply. In fact, you may find you don’t need so much validation from that person at all.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by