Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick in my use of screen time. I’ve never considered myself someone who can get “lost” in their screen, but I guess I have the same propensity for this as I’ve seen in other people. I have always been someone who has a reaction when I am out in public and I look around and see people buried in their phones, rather than sharing time together.
Last night: this was me. My partner and I were sitting in the same room, fully engrossed in our phones and not interacting with each other and if this was not enough disconnection, we also had the television on, too, for good measure. Whew. What has my world become?
To be honest, some of this uptick in screen time for me is due to an increase in my social marketing efforts for my business, which is a conscious choice of mine to use some of my time to work on building an engaged audience and increased online presence. If I am really being fully honest though, some of this uptick isn’t about business practices or digital marketing campaigns.
What some of this uptick is about is dissociating inside and managing my emotional experiences. Some of the time. Some of it is about me having finally succumbed to the glorious benefit that screen time can provide in terms of dissociating and numbing out when feelings are coming up that feel like more than what I want to deal with in the moment. Or when I feel bored and dissatisfied, I am finding that picking up the phone and scrolling through social media is a nice distraction from having to feel these unpleasant feelings.
As I have been living into this experience, I recognize that there are two opposing experiences happening inside of me around this experience. Part of me is full of negativity and judgment towards myself for having finally become “one of those people” who I have often hurled judgment and negativity towards, under my breath, of course, because to do otherwise would sully my external reputation as having it “all together” and “being above the fray”.
This negativity, I realize at this point in my healing process, is absolutely 100% about my childhood and the energy I grew up in about always appearing to “have it together”. I continually work with this part of me to grow, heal, deepen and bring love and compassion to this negativity or “shadow side”. It is an ongoing process and wouldn’t it make sense that this is embedded deeply given the bonding that I got and how embedded this was in the energy of my family.
The other experience that I am having, which doesn’t quite yet feel as constant or strong as the negativity, is one of compassion and gentleness towards this part of my humanness. Wouldn’t it also make sense that some times I might be past my own emotional supports and need some kind of refuge, some kind of “numbing out” even if it is old safety? You know…the question is not “I wonder if I need emotional safety”, rather the question is “I wonder what kind of emotional safety I am in right now?”.
We need emotional safety ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t matter if we are 4, 44 or 94 years old. Even in the moments where we are feeling “pretty good” and hitting all the green lights on the road, we still need safety. In fact, the only reason that everything feels like it is coming together for us is BECAUSE we’ve achieved some kind of experience of new, satisfying emotional safety inside.
Safety is a necessary given. Just like oxygen. Without oxygen, we will not thrive, and if we go too long, we will eventually die. Such is the case with safety. Without emotional safety of some kind (old or new), our spirit will also eventually go underground and disappear, sometimes even dying. The task is not how to learn how to live without safety, it’s to learn how to create more satisfying safety inside and bring loving compassion to all the various ways we’ve learned to achieve some kind of relief, in satisfying or dissatisfying ways.
To do anything less, would be like beating the kid inside of us who learned how to do whatever it took to survive. Unthinkable.
As I sat there last night in this place of disconnection with my partner, I was able to detach long enough to observe how my partner and I were completely engrossed in our phones and how much I wanted a connection with her and could feel my old bonding getting energized around feeling abandoned, lonely and insignificant.
I could also feel myself start to shift into my “Plan B approach” (also an old childhood strategy) which was to make her “wrong and bad” and unworthy of me. Queue the condescension and righteousness. (Two things I am quite good at, thank you very much!)
I just breathed into this, and instead of giving myself a hard time inwardly, I gently began to think of the kid inside and what it was that she needed and was feeling. Believe me, this is a newer strategy for me: to feel separate enough from my old bonding to be able to even take a step back and observe the situation from my heart. And then to focus on me and what I needed. BRAND. SPANKING. NEW-ISH. Lots of years of therapy invested to get here folks…
So, I sat down and talked to the kid inside of me, and here’s what she had to say…this feels important to share and she said it was ok to share, so I will:
I wish you would look at me like you do your phone, touch me like you touch your phone and keep track of me just like you always keep track of your phone. You keep your phone closer to you than you do me and I don’t like that. Sometimes, you don’t even know where I am or what I am doing, but you always seem to know where your phone is and what other people around the world are doing.
When we are driving in the car and are at a stoplight and you pull out your phone to check it, I wish you would talk to me or even just look at me. That way, I would know that I was there. When we are sitting in the room together and you are focused only on your phone, I feel sad and lonely. And when I leave the room and you put your phone down, that hurts my feelings. You know how your phone works better than you know how I work. You never forget to charge your phone, sometimes you forget that I am even in the same room. I wonder why you don’t pay attention to me like you do your phone.
I know that I need things and that sometimes you are tired or upset and that it is easier to just disappear into your phone. Your phone doesn’t need anything from you. But I do. I need you to pay attention to me. I need you to look at me. I need you to touch me and hold me and keep me close to you everywhere you go. When I go away for a little bit, I need you to still be there when I come back and pick me up and look in my eyes and laugh with me- not get lost in your phone.
I need you to know how I work and ask me when you don’t know, not just check out and disappear into your phone, I need you to “google” a user manual for me sometimes too. Sometimes I wonder who you love more, me or your phone? It sure seems like you cannot live without your phone and sometimes I even think you’d be happier if I wasn’t around."
After writing this letter from the kid inside of me, I was able to really feel in my body that what was happening for me was that it was old relationship trauma inside of me getting energized in this situation with my partner, as we both sat glued to our screens.
What feels true is that I do need more connection sometimes in my here and now relationship, this is the part of the experience that felt quite simple and clear.
It is also true that as humans, we often project any unmet childhood needs for deep and meaningful connection onto our adult relationships, especially our intimate and significant connections. This is the part of the experience that often feels sticky, complicated, convoluted and unclear. It also tends to be a human thing to project like this onto significant others in our life.
What also feels true is that my partner has every right in the world to exist exactly how she needs to exist in any given moment. It is not her job to meet my unmet childhood needs just because I need her to in any given moment.
All of these experiences are true.
The difference is that one part (the majority) is about my childhood and another unfinished piece of unmet need that is coming forward to be healed, and the other part is about a current, present day adult need. Past and present need intersecting in the here and now.
Without doing deep healing work, it’s hard sometimes, if not impossible, to know which part is which. And even with deep healing work, it’s still difficult sometimes to discern which is which and what is really happening present day and what is a projection coming up from the past.
Here’s what I do know though, all parts (the “there and then part” and the “here and now” part) of all of our experiences and feelings are important and true. And all parts deserve love, gentleness, compassion and consciousness. All the time.
Go gently forward.
Kate Schroeder is a psychotherapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as experiential body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. To learn how to communicate more effectively and start changing your life, download her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or join Kate’s Visual Journaling Group on Facebook for more support in finding your true self. To sign up for her newsletter click here.
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