Some people do not enjoy time with other people. In fact, the thought of it is enough to make their eyes glaze over and the blood pound in their ears. Can you relate? What do you feel when you think about the following:
- asking a question in public
- participating in a group job interview
- shopping among a mall of strangers
- talking to unknown people on the phone
- eating in public
- using public restrooms
Why does the thought of interaction with people inspire dread and panic?
You’re likely dealing with social anxiety.
Social anxiety occurs when you become extremely anxious and self-conscious around people in social situations. Also, you may fear being judged or worry that others will hold poor opinions of you. Embarrassment and a sense of shame are common symptoms.
You may also feel sweaty or nauseated, feel tongue-tied and shaky. Though many times others don’t notice your panic, your anxiety feels obvious and often fuels more worry.
But why is this happening to you?
While genetics or environmental factors may affect you, something else may be at play. Could it be that your difficulties dealing with social anxiety are linked to something in your personal history?
Research indicates that negative past experiences may contribute to unmanageable social fear. Understanding this possibility may be a key part of finding relief.
Is there anything particularly painful or traumatic in your past dealings with people that might be a clue to the anxiety you feel today? Have you had the following experiences
- School or workplace bullying?
- Ongoing or family conflict?
- Sexual or physical abuse?
If nothing readily comes to mind, however, spending time with a counselor is a good next step. He or she can help you explore your past relationships for anything you might be missing.
Past relational upset, communication difficulty or trauma may be fueling current social fear
Anxious thoughts are generally centered on the past or future. They are rarely centered on the realities of the current moment. Therefore, anxious thinking about the past is often difficult to overcome or clarify without help.
How often do you find yourself recalling past events? Perhaps those from your childhood were especially embarrassing or somehow significant. In what way do you feel they affected your thoughts about people or how you approached them afterward? Do you feel shame? Are you prone to avoidance or emotional shut down when you’re confronted with any situation that could lead to assessment, criticism, or rejection by others?
That event or series of events may have significant power in your current life. Experiencing an unsupportive social environment early on could easily make relationships feel unwelcoming or unsafe. Consider how past events may be shaping your perception. Observe and notice your responses to people. Are they based on what’s happening now or events of the past?
Pay attention to your automatic responses and assumptions about social gatherings. What do you say to yourself today? Do you berate yourself or experience low self-esteem? Acknowledge your self-talk. It may be similar to that of a past caregiver, classmate, co-worker, etc whose effect on you was negative or judgemental. Anything in the past that singled you out or made you feel unacceptable may be subconsciously keeping you stuck socially.
You can recover from the past and your social fear
Dealing with social anxiety is entirely possible. If you sense that you may be unduly affected by the past, Rapid Resolution Therapy may be a good option for “unlearning” your emotional reactions to social situations. This technique eliminates the negativity associated with social interaction. Essentially, you will still remember the past experiences that created the problematic response, but the painful emotions that surface when you think about the experience will be gone. Thus giving you the ability to respond in the moment rather than to past experiences. Finally, panic will subside as it will no longer be activated by unhappy memories.
Most of all, you’ll be able to let go of the past and embrace your future and the people in it.
Life is short. Why not be happy?
Give me a call. I can help. Ph: 303.949.3654