Brain: It’s just a text. Maybe he’ll text back—probably not, but what the hell.
Heart: I am sad and lonely and want validation. Text him.
I cannot tell you how many times my sister has told me, “Put the phone down.”
The phone is not the issue; it’s the messenger. But I’m not killing the messenger because iPhones are about a grand nowadays.
It seems simple to blame the phone and the generation. But it’s not the phone that types the texts. That’s me—human and vulnerable me.
In moments when I feel sad or alone, I reach out to see if anyone cares. And by anyone, I’m talking about men or people I have dated. You know the contact list I am referring to. It’s a temporary fix to an internal struggle. It’s like eating cake when you’ve had a bad day. You’re on a diet, but somehow you can’t help yourself. The luring allusion of fulfillment awaits you—but leaves you full of regret, just like that 1 a.m. text.
So why do it?
As a clinician, I’ve found there are two reasons why people cannot just put down the phone.
First, I think we are hoping for that validation. Even when it is unhealthy, we seek that temporary validation from others. Even when it is unhealthy, we are hoping to be an exception.
In that moment of vulnerability, we want to be proven wrong. In that moment of vulnerability, we hope the person will text back and give us the affirmation and feeling of worthiness we needed. This goes back to humans wanting their worth validated through attention from others. We’re all coming from a place of deficiency, and we’re looking for something to get our need met.
The second reason, which contradicts the first—so hold on tight—is that we subconsciously want to reinforce negative beliefs about ourselves.
Many of us still hold on to negative thoughts about ourselves from childhood, and we often reinforce those beliefs through our behavior. It’s the brain’s way of punishing itself, also know as self-sabotage. I feel unloved, so I text someone who does not love me. I am coming from a place of darkness and desperation for connection. So when that person does not text me back, my brain says, “I knew you were unlovable,” and, “No one will ever love you.”
Now I know this does not sound rational, but trauma impacts the brain in a way that often results in irrational behavior.
Then comes the aftermath of the text—brace yourself.
You feel like sh*t. Duh. He does not respond. Cue those negative thoughts. Or he requests some not-so-healthy nighttime activities (you know what I mean). Cue those negative thoughts. Either way, you lose.
You were already feeling bad about yourself, then you feel worse because you feel rejected (or, plug in the right feeling word). The cherry on top is that you’re mad at yourself for reaching out and feel worse than you did when the feeling first started. Let the shame cycle begin.
But it’s not worth it. Don’t keep punishing yourself. Don’t keep looking for relief where you’ve been hurt.
Respect yourself and your goals enough to choose not to send that text. There are so many nights I wish I had just gone to bed or given my phone to a friend, and so many negative emotions and experiences that could have been avoided.
I wonder how much we create our own heartbreak through our own unhealthy decisions. It’s that simple and that complicated.
Put down the phone.