Reply To: Trouble in Social Situations

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Hi Emily

I’ve experienced this a lot, sometimes while driving home, I’m reviewing/reliving conversations in my head or out loud. I used to get really anxious nearly anytime I’d have to converse with someone, and in particular I remember thst if I were walking down a hallway, and I’d have to pass someone walking the other way, I’d get so anxious that my legs would go a little weak.

I think for me, this all stems from incidents when I was young of being publicly humiliated. Some of those incidents may actually have been reason to be embarrassed, others likely were due to my increasing sensitivity and fear of it causing me to feel humiliated by a small event, but either way, I internalized these as traumatic events. Honestly, I think the source of a lot of mine was bullying st an early age, but it can come from a lot of causes.

I think that social phobia is a good name for how I was, with a phobia being an irrational reaction to a stimulus. If I were to encounter a lion in the forest, such a tense reaction and rush of adrenaline would be justified and beneficial… Having to meet someone at a business meeting? No beneficial.

What I was able to do was to retrain my brain to not have that reaction. First of all, take notice of how many mistakes other people make, errors in speaking, choosing the wrong words, making bad conclusions, stumble on words, etc, etc. People make mistakes
Second, take note after you experience the situations in which you get tense, that afterwards nothing bad had happened to you. Maybe even build up to it with small practice sessions (Toastmasters clubs are great). It’s like how people with a snake phobia start by getting used to holding a stuffed snake doll, then a rubber snake, watching snake videos until they can hold a garter snake. Build up incidents of the anxiety inducing experiences a bit at a time, with each finishing with out incident, until your brain no longer is triggered to “fight or flight” by it.

Another thing that can help you here is a bit of the ole “fake it until you make it”. You can’t fake that you can pilot a plane, but confidence is something we can fake. Become like an actor on stage, play the part of the cool and confident person, after a while, that character of a confident you simply becomes you, and the casual confortable confidence is real.

Best of luck Emily. If I can get over it, anyone.can