Always Late? Find Out Why
By Keith Ablow, M.D.
It’s high time to figure out what’s making you perpetually behind. Here,
strategies to help you get out of the lateness rut.
Some years ago when I was chief resident in psychiatry at the New England
Medical Center, I decided it was finally time to enter therapy myself. I was
dating the woman who would later become my wife and I wanted to explore why I
hadn’t yet committed to her.
So I booked an appointment with a noted psychiatrist, about 10 miles from my
home, and left early enough to get there on time. But 35 minutes later, I was
lost amid curving backstreets — and already 15 minutes late.
I called the psychiatrist, apologized, and suggested we reschedule for
another day. “Haven’t you been avoiding therapy long enough?” he asked me.
I thought about it. Part of me wanted to dismiss the idea that my
ambivalence could have turned me round and round until I was too late for my
session. It seemed almost comical to think that I couldn’t even commit to
figuring out why I couldn’t commit in a relationship. But I’d learned enough
about the mind’s defenses to know it was possible. It was also true that I had
waited until my final year of psychiatric training to start out on the road to
“Yes,” I said. “It’s been long enough.”
“Then keep trying to find me,” he said. “I’ll wait for you, no matter how
much you wish I wouldn’t.”
Now, with the benefit of that therapy and 15 years spent treating my own
patients, I know that being late is a way many of us express a range of hidden
emotions — including avoidance of uncomfortable situations. Here’s what your
lack of punctuality might be saying about you — or someone you care about — and
the keys to making a change.
1. “I feel anxious”
Many people make themselves late, whether once or repeatedly, when heading
to a job or to meet friends, because they feel apprehensive or stressed. It’s
as if deep, unresolved emotions are acting as resistors in the mind’s
circuitry, redirecting us away from the source of our discomfort.