When a child is learning to sleep by herself, a teddy bear helps. The parents give the child a cuddly sleep companion to remind her she is safe and cared for even when alone in the dark. Her bear becomes an important friend, and a kind of stand-in for her parents. She sleeps with her bear for a few years until she has fully transitioned to independent sleep. We call teddy bears a transitional object.
These days, adults have their own transitional object: a cell phone. More and more people sleep with their phones by their bedside. Its the first thing most Americans check when they wake in the mornings. Using the teddy bear metaphor, people sleep with their phones because they have yet to transition to greater independence. Yet ironically, your cell phone may be the exact thing holding you back.
Take texting. Most texting is like communication junk food. Not much of substance there, but it keeps you coming back for more. What you really need is true quality human contact, communication “nutrition”–but instead you sleep with an electronic device at your side. Maybe you even check it throughout the night, making sure something important isn’t happening while you’re “offline.” It’s like a child gripping her bear tight during a thunderstorm.
Here is my challenge: Sleep without your cell phone nearby. Leave it in the kitchen where you can check it after breakfast. The point of teddy bears is to eventually outgrow teddy bears. The point of cell phones is to make communication more convenient, more efficient, thereby allowing you more time to focus on other things. Like sleeping. Like going to the grocery store, the gym. Like going on a date. If your phone isn’t helping you during these activities–and I can almost guarantee you it isn’t–it’s holding you back. This is why you let your child sleep with her teddy bear, but not bring it to school.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.