This post originated on a blog, Everyone Needs Therapy, by therapydoc, who has been blogging for almost nine years. She's been a therapist much longer than that.
That someone 'needs me,' or 'loves me,' explains why we find it so difficult to ignore our phones, either while driving or anywhere else, even in the shower. It just feels good, being the object of someone's communication, being in someone else's thoughts.
But here, in the car, we're talking a matter of life or death. The latest statistics reveal that texting is the new drunk-driving. Texting causes more accidents on the road, more fatalities, than alcohol.
And yet, replying right away is what we want to do, conditioned robots that we are. Even while driving the kids to school we'll try to peer at the phone with one eye, look over the windshield with another.
So let's not. A few strategies from those of us who don't like to do grief counseling if we can avoid it, even if it is what we're paid to do.
1. Think: I'm actually not that important. If I don't answer the text, the sender will have to think more independently, live without me. Think of a text as a writer's first draft. Wait for the second, the better one. Even the third.
2. Think: It is good to work the brain, to try to remember what we want to say, text it later when we're not trying to control a two-ton vehicle. Find a mnemonic, like some of us do grocery lists. Pasta, Eggs, Tomatoes, PET. Or just try to remember words. We apparently can remember 7 key words without that much difficulty. Certainly five. Or three. How many depends upon a lot of things, actually, including how much pot we smoke.
3. Ask yourself, Is this making me happy, being at the world's beck and call? Try seeing life in three dimensions, not two. Use windshield washer, see the world beyond the wheel, especially when traffic is slow or you're at a stop. In many places (Chicago comes to mind) construction never stops. Check out the clothing on flag-wavers. Notice the sign warning you not to hit one,
4. Sing. Before texting became the number one thing to do when we're bored, people responded to a survey to say that they sang while alone in the car, probably because singing makes us happy. Number two had something having to do with one's nose.
5. Think: Taking a mental health break when I stop the car will do me good. I can text then and nobody gets hurt.. Rather than bolting off to work, take a full twenty seconds at the end of the trip to breathe, just chill awhile. This is empowering, unless you are late for work, in which case you should have read that post about being late for appointments.
6. Think: I'm really not a gambler, not when it comes to life. Texting and gambling are associated, or will be in someone's PhD thesis one day.
7. Listen: Literally, turn on the radio. Listen to music, give classical a try, or an audiobook or podcast, anything. We still can listen and drive simultaneously, most of us.
8. Think: I am being rude if I'm holding up traffic, especially at an intersection, sitting on a green light. Everyone else wants to get through. Why wouldn't I want to help them, make that happen?
9. Think: There's a law against this in many states. Our electorate, the good people who make laws, suffered through hundreds of more-than-sad testimonies from people who lost loved ones to texting-behind-the-wheel accidents. That couldn't have been fun. The laws are interventions to spare us the same
10. Understand: It is normal to want to respond, to want to feel the love, to want to return it right away. But this is one deadly gamble, and more than mild codependence. Scoffing off this particular law might just come down to two primitive psychological constructs that none of us want to own:
(a) egocentrism: thinking, I'm good at this! The laws shouldn't apply to people as talented as me, and
(b) denial, not thinking, ignoring the reality that texting is dangerous. You can think, Nothing bad is going to happen to me, or anyone I know. . ..
But it could.
Bottom line: Let them wait. Because honestly. If you're so important, why don't you have a chauffeur?