How To Overcome Your Social Anxiety Disorder?

Do you often feel emotionally overwhelmed, nervous and anxious, when you're socializing? 

Does your mind constantly frustrate you and annoy you, by endlessly anticipating and replaying those anxious what if thoughts, imaginings and scenarios, causing you persistent stress and anxiety?

Would you like to quieten your anxious mind and feel more calmer and relaxed socially?

As you know only to well. Social anxiety is a major problem, that can cause you endless misery and emotional suffering, to a point where it ruins your ability to feel relaxed socially.

If you constantly feel tense, shy and anxious socially, then it can destroy your self confidence and prevent you from being yourself and putting your point of view across.

There is nothing worse and more soul destroying, than knowing that from the moment you wake up, until the moment you go to bed.

That you're going to spend the majority of your day, worrying and feeling anxious, fearful and stressed.

There is some good news however.

Social anxiety, is a physical, mental and emotional state and all states can be changed.

Just like a surgeon or fighter pilot. You too, can train yourself to keep your mind and body calm and relaxed socially.

Even though, you will have created many bad neural social memories, that are causing you to react with fear, tension and stress.

It is not just your negative social memories or your social external situations that are your only problem.

It is the way you have come to perceive and react to these social trigger situations that you need to change.

If you want to overcome your social anxiety, there are a few important things that you need to understand.

  1. You cannot force yourself to not feel anxious
  2. You cannot fight with it or try to defeat your social anxiety
  3. The more you focus on your anxiety, the worse it gets
  4. The more you want to avoid feeling anxious, the more anxious you will feel
  5. The more you want to avoid and social situations or trigger stimuli, the more you will react with fear

Why it is not your fault you feel socially anxious

Did you know that it is not your fault that you feel anxious or negative. Evolution, has hardwired us to think the worst and you have been hardwired to imagine the negative scenario first.

This is how early man/woman had to evolve in order to give them the best possible chance for survival, back then, when they lived in a hostile and dangerous environment.

Today, for most of us. Our environment is a lot safer. However, our minds and bodies still sometimes respond as if we are about to be attacked by a wild tiger.

And even though, socializing is totally safe. Because your mind has attached your fight or flight response to certain social situations and triggers, your emotionally mind, thinks the dangers are real.

For humans to be able survive and reproduce. The brain has had to learn how to try and avoid danger.

Over many thousands of years. Our brain has developed an early warning and safety mechanism and fear center within the brain.

The part of your brain that controls your fight, flight, freeze response (The amygdala) is connected to all your emotional memories.

This is where your social insecurities, fears and negative emotional memories are stored.

Everytime you face one of your feared social situations, everytime you think about them or everytime you learn you have to face one of them.

This is passed through the emotional center in your brain. If your emotional brain finds a previous negative match or perceived danger to the information being relayed by your senses or what you're thinking about or imagining.

Then your emotional brain, will activate your fight, flight, freeze response. 

Your emotional brain, will look for and find, anything from your past programming or bad memories, that it remotely associates with danger.

Because your brain is trying to protect you from any social embarrassment, shame, or emotional pain, it will bring into your consciousness, many types of imagined social dangers or peceived external threats.

And because, your brain, reacts before logic, to be in the safe side, it will react with sensations of fear and anxiety.

Giving up the urge to fight, escape or avoid

This may sound a bit strange, but it is highly important. 

The less you care about feeling anxious, and the more you embrace, feel it,  and make no effort to try and avoid or stop the feelings, the less trouble you will have with it.

You see. Not many people know this. But it is the not wanting to feel uncomfortable that makes it more intense, more frequent and longer in duration.

If a wasp approached you, and you freaked out and panicked, and you try to slay and fight the wasp, it will keep coming back at you.

But if you remain calm, and do nothing, the wasp will soon leave you alone and it will then disappear.

Fear attracts and cultivates even more fear.

Scientist have revealed that. Those who have a fear of dogs, are more likely to be attacked by a dog.

The same sort of principles apply with social anxiety. 

The more you fear social situations, the more anxious you will feel and the more will go wrong for you and the more you will react with fear in those situations for real

There are other factors that come into the equation.

If you're feeling stressed or your muscles are tense. 

Then because of the mind body connection, you mind will interpret these feelings, which are associated with your fight, flight freeze response, as, something bad is about to happen.

Your mind, uses your body as feedback, and it becomes afraid, whenever it recognizes, symptoms that it knows are linked to your fight, flight, freeze response.

Fear and anxiety are also a physical state. Therefore, your main priority, should not be, to try and not feel anxious.

What you should really be focusing on is. 

Teaching yourself how to remain, cool, calm and composed, and that is impossible to do, if you continue to try and fight with or you attempt to defeat your feelings and emotions.

Although it is not your fault that your mind, always thinks the worse and always reacts with danger first.

If you want to overcome your social anxiety. Then, it is your responsibility to teach your brain new and better ways to react.

There is a program called the Shyness And Social Anxiety System. That will teach you how to change the way you react, allowing you to feel more calmer and socially confident.

Changing your negative beliefs

All of a sudden, you're in a social situation, and you start to have on of those fight or flight moments. 

Your heartbeat quickens, your breathing becomes shallow, your muscles tightens, your throat might tighten, your face may go red. And your mind will be flooded with all those what if thoughts and imagings.

This puts you in a heightened state of alertness to danger, Perhaps, you fear being embarrassed, made fun of, humiliated or made the center of attention.

Anxiety is, your fight, flight and freeze mechanism, which becomes triggered, if your mind perceives a threat. 

When you fight, flight or freeze response is activated, your whole system and physiology, switches over to survival mode.

And even though you know, logically, you're in no danger, your emotional brain, has no idea that the threat is not real

Although it is important to learn how to reduce and manage your symptoms of anxiety. 

You also need to train a reprogram your mind, to accept, that there is no real threat in all those social situations, where your fight or flight response is prone to go off.

After a while. Your mind can come to associate, your symptoms of anxiety as being the threat.

To prevent your anxiety response from going off. You need to begin condition your subconscious mind, to perceive you as being safe, in those threatening social situations.

Behind your social fears, you will have, some negative and limiting beliefs, that are driving some of your social fears.

Some typical negative beliefs, could be

  1. I am not good enough 
  2. Others are better than me
  3. People don't like me
  4. There must be something wrong with me
  5. I am not a very confident person  

Begin changing any negative or limiting beliefs to ones that will support you

  1. I am more than good enough 
  2. I accept myself for whom I am
  3. I am equal to others
  4. Many people like me
  5. I am perfectly normal and worthy
  6. I am becoming more confident

Managing those fear, provoking, anxious thoughts

One part of social anxiety is because people worry, dread about what might happen or they will feel anxious because they don't want something to happen.

The what if thoughts and imagings, are your mind performing a kind of risk assessment, because it perceives a social situation you're currently in, or a forthcoming situation as being dangerous.

The thing to do, is to try and stop the emotional arousal, from turning into full out panic or high levels of anxiety.

Reassuring your anxious mind, with safety messages can help to lower your anxiety levels. Below are a few, typical type of examples

  • "What, ever happens, I'll be OK" 
  • "If that happens, I can handle it"
  • "It's safe for me, to be the center of attention"
  • "Even, when I am the center of attention, I feel calm and at ease" 
  • "It's OK If I feel anxious

Confidence Trigger


You can also answer those what if thoughts, with positive or reassuring statements or positive reply's like.

  • "What if things go well" 
  • "What if I stay calm and relaxed"

If you start to feel a bit anxious. Acknowledge how you feel, and then tell your mind, how you would like to feel, like.

" I am feeling anxious right now, how I would like to be, is peaceful and calm"

People who suffer with social anxiety, will also be bombarded by those anxious and fearful thoughts, which evoke feelings of stress and anxiety.

You know all those thoughts that cause you to worry or react with anxiety. 

Do not try and stop your anxious thoughts, as that will just increase the emotional arousal and stress.

Once an anxious thought has been activated, you cannot stop it and you must not try to resist them, fight them or suppress them.

You may ask the question, what can you do?

Leave your mind alone, to think the anxious thoughts.

Rather that trying to stop them. Allow them to continue, even encourage your mind to carry on. There is no real danger, so, there is no reason to do anything.

Just, observe, feel the feelings, and let your mind think the thoughts. Do not react, become sensitive or annoyed.

The secret to overcoming your social anxiety, is to learn how to manage and quickly change your state.

Everybody, has moments when they feel a bit uncomfortable. The trick is, to keep those moments of discomfort as quick and brief, as possible.

The video below, which I highly recommend you watch. Will show you a technique, that can quickly change your state, when you're having those anxious thoughts and feelings.


Altering your perceptions

You're having those fearful imaginings and responses, because your mind is perceiving, what you're anticipating happening, is dangerous and threatening or they is a consequence to be had.

This happens, because, your mind is drawing off, your past negative and embarrassing, social experiences.

But, you can use your imagination, to change the feelings and to perceive the social situation differently. 

Instead of trying to release or resist your anxiety, because it is not something that you can release or force away.

In fact, the more you focus on your anxiety, in any capacity, the worse it will become.

A far better approach would be, to find something better to focus on, and begin as soon as you wake up, the more you do it, the easier it will become, and the less anxious you will feel.

You can begin to, hijack those fearful imaginings, and see yourself being, cool, calm and confident, and feel yourself, feeling calm, cool and comfortable, imagine, everything working out great. 

Imagine yourself, in that stressful situation, enjoying things and having fun. Start to look forwards, to all those, previous, stressful and challenging social situations.

When you feel anxious, it is often because you fear a negative outcome or consequence or you feel that you cannot cope with or handle the feared social situation. 

You feel anxious, when your belief systems are not in alignment, with reality and yourself and a habit of perceiving and responding. 

A belief, is a thought, that you have been thinking. It is important, to try and work on feeling different and try to soften the fearful response.

It can help, to try and chip away and change the logical belief, behind your fear or worry. If others can do it, you can do it.

Ask, yourself, what are the consequence, worse case scenario or logical belief, behind that fear, and then try and find a positive alternative.

Change your feelings and responses

It is far better to work on changing your feelings, rather than trying to change your thoughts, when you feel anxious.

Your emotional and physical responses, occur before the fearful thoughts. This means, the quickest way to reduce your anxiety, is to change your feelings. 

Although positive thinking and saying positive statements can help. Thinking, positive, will not be so effective, when you're having one of those fight or flight, panic moments.

In evolutionary terms, your mind responds to feelings and stimuli, and in the case of an immediate threat or danger to you, your mind's number one priority, is to keep you safe, so is not going to listen to what you have to say.

To overcome your social fears and your fear of the fear itself. At some point, you're going to have to start to face those feared social situations, and go through a bit of mild discomfort.

When you avoid a social situation, it is not because you're logically scared, what you're really trying to avoid, is the unpleasant feelings and sensations.

The trouble is, the more you avoid a social situation, the stronger you will make the feelings of discomfort.

This means, you first have to accept that you're going to feel a bit uncomfortable at times to begin with, the goal is for you to keep these feelings of discomfort as brief as possible, so you can still function efficiently.

The worse thing that you can do is to try and fight or want to stop your feelings of anxiety and discomfort.

Most people who suffer with social anxiety, want to avoid the stressful social situation, or remove themselves from it, to avoid the feelings of discomfort or the consequences that they're worried about.

Before you enter a stressful social situation, get into the habit of doing a bit of preparation work. Do, you know, that you have been, preparing yourself to feel scared?

Don't fight with your feelings and emotions, accept your feelings and emotions. Let you know, it is OK for you to feel anxious.

Then, before you enter the stressful situation, take some slow, deep, controlled breaths. 

Breathe in for the count of five, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly breathe out for the count of seven.

As this will teach you to associate the forthcoming social situation as being safe.

Our emotional responses are an inbuilt safety mechanism, that acts at lightening fast speeds. 

Sometimes you can have a fight or flight response, with thoughts, but sometimes, it can be activated without the fearful thoughts.

Once this response has been activated, you cannot de-activate it. What you can do, is to quickly change your state and stop the momentum from turning into full out panic and high levels of anxiety.

Eventually, you will also be teaching your mind, not to react with fear.

The less you focus on your anxiety, and the less attention and respect you give it the better, including thinking about it and wanting or trying to stop it.

The reason why you feel anxious, is because your mind is perceiving, that something bad will happen or something bad is about to happen.

Wanting to avoid or escape from the situation, will make you fear it even more and trying to fight with your feelings, will increase the anxiety and panic.

The best thing to do is to act as if everything is OK, and your main objective is to return back to a relaxed and balanced state as quickly as possible.

When you feel anxiety, make it clear that it is not going to stop you from doing what you want.

On the onset of the anxiety, focus on relaxing your body.

  • Accept the feelings and smile
  • Observe, embrace and feel the sensation, without reacting or judging 
  • Relax your shoulders and gently open up your body
  • Take some slow, deep breaths 
  • Carry on with what you're doing

Anxiety is not all in the mind

Although people who suffer with social anxiety, have their own collection of social trigger fears and bad memory associations.

Anxiety is not all in the mind. 

Because of, your mind and body connection, your mind and body work as one whole system that affects each other.

Social anxiety and any other form of anxiety. Can be made worse, if your bodies basic needs and requirements are not being met.

So if you're suffering with social anxiety. Then you may need to try and identify, which of your basic needs are not being met.

Some of your body's basic requirements are

  • Adequate amount of good quality, restful sleep
  • Around twenty minutes a day, deep relaxation
  • Keeping active
  • The essential amount of vitamins and minerals 

Fear and anxiety are an emotional and physical state of being. And again, because of the mind body connection.

When you react with fear and anxiety, it will trigger physical and chemical changes in your body. 

And, if you're experiencing symptoms of stress or your muscles are tight or tense. Then this can make you feel more anxious and cause more tense and anxiety related thoughts.

Your physiology will play a major role in your anxiety levels. Learning how to relax, slow down and reduce your stress. Will help to bring down your anxiety levels.

Standing and sitting in tense postures, can also raise your anxiety levels. Muscle tightness and tension, linked to and a part of your fight or flight response mechanism.

If you are anxious a lot. Then this can cause emotional tension, where your muscles tighten. Prolonged social anxiety, can also cause a shrinking of the posture, in some cases.

When we feel threatened or intimidated by certain people or social situations. 

Our body's natural defense mechanism, is to shorten in stature. This causes the head to be pulled down, at the back of the neck, at the head protrudes forwards.

The shoulders become hunched, and the arms and legs become stiffened. This is sometimes referred to as the startled mode or guarded posture.

Along with shortening of the body. The breathing becomes shallow, and the stress activator, adrenaline is pumped into the body.

When this process gets repeated often, such as in the case of social anxiety, it can become and habitual response.

When this happens, it can induce thoughts and feelings of insecurity.

Some people, in their attempt to be more confident. Try and stand or sit up too tall. Where they pull themselves up, unnaturally and they lift up their chest and chin.

Avoid, pulling yourself up by your head, lifting up your chest, lifting up your chin or elevating your shoulders too high up or forced too far back/forwards. 

Your shoulders should be relaxed, down by your sides.

Doing this will cause muscle stiffness. Which can, also, make you feel more anxious and very uncomfortable.

Although, you don't want to slouch or collapse, it is equally as important, to stand, move and sit. With the least amount of tension and stiffness.

I highly recommend, watching the video below, on how to naturally sit and stand with poise and ease.


Letting go of tension

If you find that your social anxiety is causing you muscle stiffness. Then it is a good idea to start to practice, letting go and releasing any tension.

Standing and sitting comfortably, with the least amount of tension is a good place to start. Another thing that you can do. Is to exercise and keep active.

Other things that can help are. Progressive muscle relaxation, reduction techniques.

This is a whole body exercise which will involve the tensing and relaxing of your muscles. To perform this technique. You will tense, hold and then relax, each muscle groups, one at a time.

This can help you let go of any tension in your body as well as training your body to relax on command.

It will take about ten minutes to do this exercise, and the ideal time is to do it, when you're on your own, so no one can disturb you.

It is best to wear loose clothing when you are performing this exercise. The technique can be performed whilst you're sitting or lying down.

If you do perform it whilst you are sitting down. Be sure to be sitting upright, but comfortable and relaxed.

  1. Close your eyes and tighten the muscles in your forehead and face, breathe in deeply, hold the tension for a few seconds, then release the tension slowly, 9Think the word relax and do this on each muscle group), as you take a long slow breath out
  2. Then move down to your shoulders, breathe in, tense all your shoulder and neck muscles, hold and, breathe out and release the tension
  3. Next, concentrate on your arms, with your elbows bent. Breathe in and clench your fists and arm muscles. Again, hold for a few seconds. (Think the word relax) and breathe out slowly as you release the tension
  4. Next, breathe in deeply, tense your stomach muscles, hold for a few seconds and as you breathe out, release the tension
  5. Then, take a deep breath in, tense your legs and lift the back of your feet up, hold and again release the tension slowly, as you breathe out

The excellent video below will demonstrate how, to do the progressive muscle relaxation technique. 

If at any time you notice your muscles tensing, when you're talking to someone or you're in a stressful social situation.

You can discretely, breathe in deeply, tense your fist, hold for a few seconds. (Think the word relax) and then slowly release the tension as you breathe out, and repeat if necessary.

Also, be aware of your body, if you feel anxious.

  • Check your shoulders, if you are holding any tension, and slowly release it and let your neck and shoulders relax
  • Check your arms and legs for any tension, and release any tension you're holding on to
  • Check your breathing. If you are breathing rapidly or slowly, take control of your breathing, and take some slow deep breaths, making sure the out breath is longer than the in one.


Love and approve of yourself

Try not to judge yourself negatively or compare yourself to others, instead work on your weaknesses and build on your strengths.

People with social anxiety tend to feel undervalued and insecure when they are around others.

It is a human flaw to want to be approved of by others or they care a bit too much about what others think about them, we all too easily accept what others say about us to be true, or we even make things up.

However, if you're waiting for the approval of others to feel valued or better about you then you may be waiting a long time, because others are more interested with their own issues than they are about you.

If you're seeking positive feedback from others, then you're asking for trouble, because if other people are going through difficult times or they are experiencing a bad mood.

Because people think and speak with their emotions, then you cannot rely on what they say about you on any given day, so what this means is, you cannot control what people say about you, but you have total control of your own self talk.

Although you should not worry too much about what others think, it might be a better option to try not to judge people or focus all your efforts to train yourself not to care what they think, and instead try not to allow what they think to upset you.

Because you cannot control what they say or how they react, but the more you try, then the more of that side that person's character may be shown to you.

But, if you can put more effort into how you feel and getting yourself into a good feeling place, then you will find that you will see more of the good side of others and they will tend to treat you better.

Try not to get in competition with others, you cannot please others all the time, so focus more on enjoying yourself more, and worry less about others and appreciate yourself and all the good in your life more.

Far too often we are dependant on others for how we feel, when you do this then you give all our powers to everybody else.

When you decide how great, powerful, capable and good you are, and you admire and adore you, then you will, take back control of how you feel, act and what you become, and no one will be able to diminish you.

Accept yourself

Insecurity is linked to social anxiety and one of the root causes of insecurity is when you don't think that you're good enough or you don't accept and love yourself for who you are.

We would all like to have the looks and body of a model. We would all like to be super confident and outgoing.

Attractiveness is not all about having the perfect body and perfect looks. Many people with social tend to put themselves down or they are unhappy with certain aspects of themselves.

Rather than putting yourself down, start to build yourself up and once you begin to get that positive momentum going, keep it going and don't look back.

Sometimes you just have to accept yourself for who you are, and instead of focusing on your perceived weaknesses, start to focus on all the good and positive things about you, and milk them for all there worth.

Only focus and work on the things that you can change and let of or forget about all the things that you cannot change or control.

Instead of worrying about what people say or might say about you. Change the way you react to, your trigger fearful situations.

The more you give your attention to the things that you don't like about yourself or the things that make you feel bad, the worse you will feel.

Use your imagination to work for you instead of against you, imagine yourself in the situations which cause you to react with fear.

Vividly imagine yourself handling the situation calm and composed, imagine yourself, even though you're the center of attention, feeling calm and at peace and feeling safe and insecure.

Reduce the intensity of those fearful responses

The way to cure your social anxiety is to start to reduce the emotional attachment and break the link to the fight or flight physical stressful response.

There are several ways and techniques that you can apply to start to reduce the intensity of your fearful emotional associations and physical reactions.

Thoughts Field Therapy is one technique that will help you to reduce the intensity of the fear away from the situation.

All you have to do is, either.

Return to the bad memory or stressful experience in your mind, and whilst you're focused on the fearful and stressful experience you can apply this technique.

You can also use it if you find yourself worrying about a forthcoming stressful social situation or when you're in or about to face that challenging situation for real.

Focus on what it is you're scared of happening and perform the tapping technique.

The video will demonstrate the Thought Field Therapy Exercise

 

Changing the way you respond

The secret to social confidence is knowing how to manage and control your state. Everybody will feel a bit uncomfortable socially from time to time, the trick is, to know how to stop the emotional arousal from gaining too much momentum.

When you learn how to change your state quickly, then you will begin to feel more relaxed and comfortable in those previous stressful social situations.

Everything has to do with feelings and emotions, and when you learn to become the master of your feelings and emotions you will become a winner in life.

Never create a negative memory

We all make mistakes, feel embarrassed, blush, feel humiliated or show ourselves up. After this type of thing has happened, it is easy to feel sorry for ourselves.

Perhaps this has happened to you. If it does, do you dwell on it and beat yourself up, feel frustrated or vow to yourself that it must not happen to you again.

If you have blushed, felt embarrassed or ashamed. Learn to immediately let it go.

Never allow your mind to create a negative neural fearful memory, or you will create a fear of that type of situation, which will cause to worry and feel anxious about it happening again.

Do not try and hide or deny it. If you have been embarrassed, you've gone red, you've made a mistake or you have had a negative emotional experience.

Always, acknowledge it.

Say to yourself something like.

Yes, I did go red.

Then let yourself know something soothing. It is OK. I am happy with the way I handled it, it is no big deal.

Afterwards. Find somewhere quiet and either, use the Thought Field Therapy, technique to run through the memory.

Or you can, change the memory, by imaging the whole event, but this time imaging yourself feeling cool, calm and composed.

Take a look beyond the stressful situation

Anxiety is your mind projecting ahead a situation that it thinks is going to cause you harm, either physically or emotionally.

In the case of social anxiety there is not real threat that can hurt you, so the pain your mind is trying to get you to avoid is emotional pain.

The anxiety only, exist up to the point of the situation or thing that you're worried might happen, the good news is, your mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.

If you find yourself worrying about a social event or occasion that you know that you have to attend, then there is a visualizing exercise that you can do to bring down your anxiety levels.

Imagine it is ten or more minutes after the social event and you have come through the stressful situation and your safe and secure and it was not as bad as you had been imagining.

Then imagine that you're looking back at the situation and notice how well it went, see yourself looking calm and composed and feeling great, with everything going smoothly and imagine things went just as you would have liked them to go.

If you have had any bad social experiences or you have been through a stressful and challenging social situation where you felt anxious, embarrassed or uncomfortable, then this can create a bad memory and you can attach the fight or flight response to these kind of bad memories.

Once these associations have been formed then they will fire off your fight or flight response automatically every time you have to face that situation or a similar type of social situation.

Because of these neural connections, even if you think about or learn that you have to face that social situation or person/s again, then this will activate your fight or flight response.

Below is an article that is written by Hypnosis Downloads who are the worlds largest online therapists and hypnosis experts.

If you read their article, then you will see them mention the rewind technique which is a highly effective technique that will teach you how to strip away the strong emotion that is attached to your bad social experiences.

Once you detach the emotion, the memory will become neutralized and you will stop the fight or flight response from being activated in that situation.

Once you have got this session, just go through each social situation that causes you to react with fear and anxiety and then use it after any new bad social experience.

Why hypnosis can cure social anxiety

Why do you think we have emotions? Wouldn't live be simpler without them? Do we have emotions to give middle class people something to talk about or to provide soap opera writers with script material?

Of course not. As with everything else in human makeup, emotions exist to keep us safe and alive and able to thrive.

Emotions motivate movement

Embedded in the word "emotion" is another word: "motion". Emotions are there to make us move. Either towards something or away from it.

We all have deep basic needs - for warmth, security, love and connection and, of course, food and shelter. We have needs for status, significance, attention and to feel safe in our lives. We need stimulation, to exercise our creativity to learn and produce in the world. 

Some emotions drive us toward experiences that would help meet these needs and ensure our survival. And other emotions serve to drive us away from experiences or situations which, we feel, would prevent us meeting our essential needs.

But what happens when we get directed the wrong way by our feelings?

You are pulled towards social contact by your needs, and away from it by social anxiety

The "motion" in "emotion" has us moving either towards what we feel we need or away from what we feel we don't want. 

Think lust, love, anger, greed, hunger - all feelings that motivate us towards an experience. And think about feelings that drive us away from something - fear, terror, disgust.

Hopefully, our emotions get it right and drive us toward what is good for us and away from what is bad for us. But sometimes they don't.

The social phobic both wants and doesn't want social contact. They are pulled and pushed in different directions by their feelings. 

If social contact was bad for us, it would be great to be terrified of social events because it would be life saving. 

But a socially anxious person instinctively knows they need social contact at the same time as fearing it; they are pulled and pushed at the same time by their emotions... tricky! And it gets worse.

We avoid what we fear - but also fear what we avoid

One problem is that the more you avoid something, the more the fear around it increases. It's as if your "emotional brain" draws conclusions from your behaviour:

"She's avoiding this situation all the time, so it must be genuinely dangerous. So I'll ramp up her fear of this situation even more to make sure she won't go near it."

On the other hand, people can switch off their fear around stuff they should fear simply because they have made themselves go towards it. 

I'm thinking of the old-time circus lion-tamer calmly putting his head in a lion's mouth, and of those perennial favourites, the human cannonballs, getting themselves fired from a cannon. 

Not hobbies I'd recommend. The point is that even dangerous acts like these can start to feel "normal" to your emotional brain if you voluntarily and repeatedly do them (the "emotional brain" concludes "This must be safe, else why are we doing it?").

So yes, we avoid what we fear, but we can also come to fear something just because we avoid it so much.

A number of approaches have been tried over the centuries to overcome the difficulties this presents. 

None are as successful as hypnotic therapy. Consider, for instance, what happens with "exposure therapy" and "cognitive therapy" in the context of dealing with fears like shyness and social anxiety.

Exposure therapy: A step too far?

The understanding that emotions are physical drivers away from or towards something is extensively used in exposure therapy. 

(1) This approach typically has you gradually having more and more contact with what scares you.

 So the spider phobic might on week one see a drawing of a spider, on week two see a photo of a spider, on week three, see a toy spider, on week four touch the toy spider, week five has them seeing a movie of a spider and week six an actual live spider.

This can be very effective if the person can be induced to remain calm through the gradual exposure (sometimes known as "systematic desensitisation"). (It would be easier and faster to use hypnosis and the rewind technique.)

The idea is that spiders need to start to feel a "normal" part of experience, and this is done through forcing oneself to go towards rather than away from; classic behavioural therapy, and probably what the lion-tamer did to get the nerve he needed.

Another kind of exposure therapy takes a less gradual approach and is known as "flooding". Yikes! 

This might see the spider phobic being put straight in a room full of spiders, with the idea that fully experiencing your worst fear - and surviving it - will put an end to that fear.

So does it work?

Therapy for the therapy

Yes, it can work - provided the person undergoing the therapy is taught to relax deeply. But (you knew there was a "but") I can't tell you how many clients I've had to treat to help them recover from the effects of this kind of therapy when it's gone wrong. 

These are the ones who didn't get better, the ones who couldn't get past the photo of the spider on week two, the ones who were deeply traumatised by being thrown in at the deep end of having to speak in front of a hundred people when they were still chronically shy.

There has to be, and fortunately is, another way.

The beauty of hypnosis when treating fears

Hypnosis, used sensibly, is the perfect way to expose someone in a safe and relaxed way to a situation they had been avoiding. 

As far as your emotional brain is concerned, if you have relaxed deeply and felt spontaneous at a party a few times while in hypnosis, this is a sufficiently strong indication that this situation is not dangerous, and that this kind of social event can now be "retagged" as something you can potentially go safely towards - before you've even been to an actual party. 

Someone who hasn't left the house for years can "leave their house" in hypnosis and "experience it" before they go out the door in real life. The exposure therapy is fully within their own control, in sync with a relaxed mind and body.

When they then "do it for real", it will already feel more familiar and therefore not as threatening. The previously dreaded social event may even, dare I say it, turn out to be relaxing and fun.

It's important to understand here that we are talking about more than just what a person believes.

Feelings and thoughts can be at odds

You can fully believe something is good for you and still fearfully flee from it. You can fully believe something (or someone) is bad for you but still be emotionally driven towards it (or them). 

Cognitive approaches to dealing with fears often come unstuck over this, as fears aren't driven so much by "faulty thinking" as by more primitive emotional conditioning geared towards survival. It is much easier to access, and modify, these primitive drivers through the use of hypnosis than through reasoning.

When we help someone with social phobia, it's generally obvious the phobia has gone the moment they open their eyes, because calm, disassociated hypnotic exposure to the previously feared trigger while feeling completely relaxed has transformed their response. 

They know it wasn't "real" - but nonetheless a new positive blueprint for responding with calm and being in flow when in social situations has become established in their subconscious. Being socially relaxed is the new "normal".

The new 10 steps to overcome social anxiety course, like all the ten steps courses, has a hypnotic download for each step of the way. 

This is partly because social skills can be developed and honed during hypnotic rehearsal, but also because we want people to experience hypnotic "safe" social experiences before they go into these situations for real. 

In this way the horrible away from feelings of fear can gently be replaced with the happier toward feelings of pleasure and positive expectation when it comes to socializing and meeting new people.

Notes

  1. See: Wikipedia entry: Exposure therapy
  2. See: Wikipedia entry: Flooding

Nutritional deficiency 

If you have been experiencing long periods of worry, stress and anxiety as most social anxiety sufferers do.

Then this can deplete your body of the natural vitamins and nutrients that it requires to keep your mind and body in its peak and most optimum balance and performance efficiency.

A deficiency in the key important nutrients nutrients can affect your mood and emotions including anxiety and depression.

A balanced diet of healthy foods and nutrients can help to relax you, improve your mood and help you feel less anxious. 

Consult your doctor or nutritionist to determine your nutritional needs and daily dosage requirements.

One of the most powerful nutrients that can help reduce stress and anxiety is magnesium, which is often described as the calming mineral, because of its natural power to calm you.


Other studies have shown that there is a link between moods and the B vitamin range, again if you're thinking about taking supplements, it may pay you to check with your doctor or dietician about the correct daily dosage.

Vitamin D has also been linked with being able to help with anxiety and stress.

Fear of being rejected

There may be many root causes of people's social anxiety, but one of these can be the fear of being rejected.

During early evolutionary times, because our environment was full of dangers, it was important for us humans to be a part of a group.

This is why it can be important for us to be accepted by a group, because if you were rejected from the group back then, there was a chance that you would have to face your dangerous environment all by yourself.

On top of all this, the food was not so plentiful, so if you did not work with a group or have the added protection of the group, then your chances of surviving alone, were quite slim.

This can leave you feeling insecure if you feel like you have been rejected or you don't fit in, and again, feeling as if you're not good enough can leave you feeling as if you're being rejected.


Some of the limiting beliefs that might be preventing you from overcoming your social anxiety are

  • There is something wrong with you 
  • You're not good enough 
  • You're not a confident person
  • It is a part of you and you are stuck with it for the rest of your life 
  • You do not believe that you can overcome it or you think that you don't have the ability to overcome it

If any of the above apply to you, then you need to ask yourself, are they fact or are they just a belief, and the truth is, they are beliefs and not facts, and as they are beliefs they can be changed.

The biggest thing that will stop you from overcoming your social anxiety is, playing the victim role, because when you label yourself as the victim or you are somehow different to everybody else, then you are throwing away all your true powers and capabilities.

Develop your social skills

Improving your social skills can also help with your confidence building.

If you're quiet and shy, make it a habit to join in more.

Many people who suffer with social anxiety, lack social skills, this does not mean that they are not confident, it just means that you sometimes have to force yourself through the uncomfortable barrier to grow and better your social skills.

This will require you to step outside of your comfort zone, because sometimes you have to go through it to get to the other side.

There will be times when your feelings and emotions will try to get the better of you, so again, you have to just bite the bullet and do it, despite how you feel, otherwise you will always be at the mercy of your fear.

So embrace the fear, let you know that it is not going to prevent you from saying or doing what you want, take a deep breath, relax your body and go for it.

If you want to break the silence when you're with people, practice the art of small talk.

Ask them questions, and take your attention off how your feeling and put it on what they are saying and what you're saying.

Read and learn more about many subjects so you will have plenty to say, and learn more about the interests of the people you socialize with as again this will give you something to talk about.

Sometimes you have to do more of the things that scare you, if you want to expand and grow in social confidence.

Another cause of social anxiety and social awkwardness, is feeling as if you're inferior to others or allowing others to intimidate you.

This can leave you feeling clumsy, embarrassed and uncomfortable, you may also feel like you have to please and do what they person wants you to do.

Learn to face the people and situations that you used to fear.



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