Text Lag Melts Otherwise Robust Brain
December 2, 2019 8:56 AM   Subscribe

People who have done therapy/12-step/philosophical reading/somatic stuff/anything: What methods or exercises or slogans would you use for addressing profound distress when not receiving prompt text responses?

I know the source of this overreaction, I dont feel sheepish about it, etc. Its just a nervous system response at this point. But I need a literal list of ideas, exercises, distractions, philosophical concepts, meditations, specific yoga poses, anything that anyone has come across that seems helpful for this seemingly intractable issue. You dont have to have experience with it specifically, but what have you come across that you feel might be helpful to add to this list?
posted by thegreatfleecircus to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If that kind of thing starts getting to me, I literally put my phone on silent, put it face down, and walk away to do something else (laundry, load the dishwasher, actual work emails, etc). I also tell myself, whenever I get weird about it, that their response time is not about me. It's about 100 different things but it's 100% not about me, it's about them, their work demands, they could be driving, etc.

It also helps to acknowledge the feelings and then kind of tell them to go sit in the corner. They get to exist but they don't get to dominate.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Imagine the other person working very diligently on a project. Try to empathize by thinking of your own projects that you focus on to the exclusion of all else, or important work that if paused would cause you to lose concentration.

Go for a walk outside and find one object in each color of the rainbow.

Do burpees! Or any other high intensity exercise. Anxiety is a trigger for you nervous system to prepare for a fight or flight response. Brief but strenuous physical activity will help your body process the chemicals released and tick the box in your nervous system that says 'ok, the danger was escaped, back to normal now.' Meditation and yoga dont always do that.
posted by ananci at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Danny Lavery (fka Danny Ortberg) said something on the Dear Prudence podcast the other week about letting the emotions be in the passenger seat but not letting them drive. I found this useful.
posted by matildaben at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Mostly what Medieval Maiden said, but I just reiterate to myself over and over that they aren't going to respond. I get mad, but what can you do? This is the Age of Ghosting and most people will blow you off. Consider it a pleasant surprise if anyone actually gets back to you about anything.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:18 AM on December 2, 2019

I'd hesitate to replace the reward (i.e. getting a text back) with some other reward-like activity, because you wouldn't really be extinguishing the lizard brain association that expects a reward in that time slot.

When I have anxiety (panic attacks, agoraphobia, c-ptsd), I just sit with the emotion and name it and accept that I can't tell my emotions what to do, but they can't tell me what to do either. It's not a catastrophe, and it's not my job to make an anxiety attack stop. It will do that on its own.

It's pretty much the most uncomfortable, and yet by a wide margin the most effective method I've found to reduce the frequency and severity of my anxiety and panic attacks.
posted by Horkus at 10:34 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Part of the problem, for me, is that not getting a response leaves the issue (or "issue") open, with no way for me to close it without them. If I know it's going to be something like that, I'll literally put "text X" ("e-mail X," etc.) on a to-do list so I can later check it off and assure my brain that my part is complete. If I've not done that and/or am impatiently/anxiously waiting around anyway, I'll look at what I sent and say out loud something to the effect of, "My part is done and now it's on them to reply." Somehow actually articulating it with words makes it truer, and generally allows me to let go.
posted by teremala at 10:53 AM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is there a way to avoid the texting part of it, since that's so immediate? Is there a way to make some of those messages into things that aren't required to have an immediate response, like an email, or something that you can get immediate answers on, like a phone call? Texting often feels like a real intrusion to me when I'm not expecting a text, while an email doesn't have that effect, even though they're essentially just electronic messages.
posted by xingcat at 10:58 AM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you're flooded with various negative/scary thoughts about what the absence of a text from them means, you can go in one of two directions.

1) Create different imaginary reasons about why they're not responding. These should be fantasies about the other person's circumstances, not fantasies about their thoughts about you. For example, their phone is lost! They have a relative in the hospital! etc.

2) You're looking for a text message to help manage your internal state (which sounds like anxiety). You have had the experience, that the messages will make the scary thoughts go away. However, as you've learned, this is only a very temporary fix. The scary thoughts will come back!

The more you try to fight your feelings, the larger and more scary they become. According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), let it go. Stop trying to fight your thoughts - in fact, you can welcome them, even lean into them. Thank your brain for sending you those messages. Ask if it has any more. You don't have to let your thoughts control you. Treat them like some unwanted crazy uncle you're stuck sitting next to at a holiday party - you can't get rid of him, so just listen, nod, and keep doing what's important to you. If you're not trying to fight them, at some point, these thoughts will fade into part of the background noise.
posted by jasper411 at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2019

One trick is to treat the part of you that's freaking out like a kid having a tantrum. You love it. It's just being a pain in the ass right now.

So: Can you do something to reassure it? Can you give it some of what it wants? Can you listen to it so it knows it's not being ignored? This feels kind of goofy but it can work pretty well — usually not by making the feelings go away entirely, but by helping you figure out what kind of coping or distraction or reflection skills will be useful. Today, Inner Tantrum Kid is lonely? Go find someone else to talk to. Today, Inner Tantrum Kid is scared of rejection? Think of some reassuring times when this person made you a priority. Today, Inner Tantrum Kid is melting down for no fucking reason? Blankets and hot cocoa it is.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:29 PM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Have you tried progressive muscle relaxation? There are a bunch of YouTube videos you can follow. Or, these instructions seem pretty legit.
posted by tinymegalo at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2019

Similar to Medieval Maven, I put my phone into Airplane mode. Then the control is back in my court as to when I choose to check for messages. The other person could text me back immediately but I am now busy doing X and I will get back to them later.

Of course, you need to have the control to not just switch your phone back on right away. But once I mastered that, I found it to be very relaxing and easier to get away from the frantic waiting and checking to see if I had a reply.
posted by twilightlost at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2019

I basically have this tweet memorized: https://twitter.com/abbycohenwl/status/991106814530895872

I iterate through the options listed there when I don't get a text back. Somehow the mix of facetious and scary/uncomfortable possibilities takes the venom out of the latter and I can find humor in the whole situation.
posted by BeginAgain at 2:44 PM on December 2, 2019

A major goal would be to mediate for yourself whether texting is the best way to communicate with this person. If it causes you anxiety, it is probably anxiety about a number of cases where texting caused the same feelings. Would it be easier and more final to call and leave a message, or even send a voice recording?

Smaller goal would be to write down how it makes you feel to wait in anticipation and how it makes you feel to lose patience. Look for similarities in your writing. Reflect on what causes you to need information "right now" and why you think you can't afford to wait for a response as you would if you were sending a letter or even an email.
posted by parmanparman at 4:23 AM on December 3, 2019

What does it say about me that I am not getting a prompt response?

Is it true?

How do I know it's true?

Could there be an alternative explanation?

Do I want to believe what my anxiety is telling me?

If I could choose a different thought what would it be?

I also agree with vigorous exercise to discharge the adrenaline.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:11 AM on December 3, 2019

I just come to the conclusion that the worst case scenario is true unless someone actually responds and proves me wrong, which sadly rarely happens. You can always forgive them and be happy if they ever respond, but I feel like I need to learn to deal with the shit reality of "They're blowing me off!" (which I am doing AGAIN tonight), so might as well fast forward to the truth.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:16 PM on December 3, 2019

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