Secret signs of anxiety part five: Today’s topics: Anxiety when he/she is not texting us back
In today’s age of digital interactions we have all experienced a partner, a spouse or even just a potential love interest not texting us back as fast as we’d like. The worry and the twang of anxiety waiting for the text back can begin subtly, but then build and build. It is not necessary to be on Tinder or in a new relationship for this to happen. Even waiting on an established and trusted partner to come back to us can cause that flicker of anxiety.
In years gone by perhaps people had less of this type of issue to contend with. Before messaging etc. new relationships and communication may have been in some ways simpler for the anxious lover. We arranged to meet over the landline and met face to face. Long distance we wrote each other letters. Hell, in some places in the world marriages were and still are arranged for us. Not anymore, today we seek out our partners, often online and nearly all relationships have a texting or online component.
Though isn’t it normal to be somewhat anxious texting someone I like ? To a certain extent yes, but there is also a point when it starts to become less about the other person and more about the anxiety which is drives us crazy.
Perils of texting for anxiety:
Texting has been around since the 90s and instant messaging around even less. Now though most of us will have more than one way to instant message whether that is through WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Instagram, Kik, Snapchat, email or through whatever dating app we are using.
Texting itself is an anxiety magnifier (will get it’s own post), because texts are so open to interpretation. Depending on our own mood and because the messages we read are meant for/about us we can misinterpret what they mean. We can read into the intended tone and place our own spin on them.
The very vagueness of texts, when out of context, allows for many of the cognitive distortions we mention in other blogs to play out such as filtering, polarized thinking and mind reading. The lack of facial expression, tone and body language robs us of a large part of what we get with person to person communication; although emojis can help ?!
Anxious in the silence:
The fact that we can interpret a text message also means that we can interpret the space between text messages. If we find ourselves anxious while waiting for someone to text us back it is very rarely because we are waiting for the content of a message such as a perfect pizza recipe or the score of the game. It is more likely because in the silence we can project our worst fears and anxieties. Double Blue Ticks on WhatsApp and Seen Icons on Facebook certainly don’t help us in not reading in too deep either.
In the silence we can review what else was said in the conversation and criticize ourselves, reaching for the negative. In that we can also place sinister reinterpretations on the other’s last responses. We can imagine that the person has stopped talking to us because they find us boring, unattractive, pathetic, uninteresting or any other hundreds of things that we worry about. We can imagine they don’t like what we said, are mad at us or do not love us.
For some of us this is about projections. In our blog on mindreading we spoke about how we can unconsciously project out things we think about ourselves, normally negative things. We project and see them in the world and in our interactions. We imagine what is going through the minds of others and we place our negative bias against ourselves into the silence between texts.
How our internal beliefs colour our view and cause anxiety:
We fear the worst or think that we have blown it by saying something that doesn’t get a response. Crucially if at some level we don’t think we deserve love or that something is wrong with us a silence can feel like we are being ignored/left or abandoned. This can become damaging when it is a feature of an already over dependant relationship.
No one wants to lose their chill and come on too strong at the start. But when we are already in a relationship or are falling for someone it can be hard to take the silences. This is because as we begin to become invested all our emotional baggage can flare up and come out.
By baggage I don’t mean only what happened with our EXs, but also how it was for us with our parents and with other significant care givers. When we begin to fall for someone we get excited, we hope, we try to trust, and we open up. The high of these feelings are exhilarating and delightful.
However, with this also comes insecurities from our past hurts as above. If we received inconstant parenting it can be hard to trust a new partner, then in a silence between messages we can feel abandoned. This can even happen to us if on the outside we show the world we are confident. Privately on the inside we are triggered and feel panicky. Feeling this way and not knowing why can lead to fights over texting, hurt feelings and of course even the classic checking the other persons phone to make sure they are not texting anyone else.
Normal vs Unhelpful:
While a touch of all these things is normal…. Getting extremely worked up over someone not texting us back can be a sign of a bad relationship with ourselves: lacking in trust, a deficit of self-value and a sign of depending on the other for our self worth. This can be very subtle and hard to even put words on, but if we feel anxious in the waiting for a response it tells us there is something to be curious about. Many people who get worked up over this only need a slight adjustment in their thinking and in reorganising how they interpret the silence.
Of course, we can be right, the silence can mean rejection, but how many times will we feel bad just to get told “oh I left my phone in my bag” or “I was busy in work and couldn’t text back until now”. Our imaginations would have us believing all sorts and what’s interesting is that this has little or nothing to do with the other person, but rather is all about us and our inner world.
If any reader would like to discuss more on this blog or to look at exploring how some sessions of CBT Psychotherapy might be of benefit to their relationships or their lives, please feel free to message the Facebook page. I am always more than happy to chat to people about how they can bring the anxiety in their lives under control.
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Anxiety is a merry-go-round, going no where fast, it’s ok to step off.
Team Anxiety Ireland
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