The other day I had a… “social interaction mishap”.
You know the type: you are interacting with someone and all of a sudden everything goes horribly, horribly wrong and they hate you and send you packing. Something like that.
Of course, my social anxiety showed up in full force. But this time, I “caught it”.
This was the thought / feeling going through my head:
“I can’t deal with people, I can’t deal, I can’t!!!”
Here it is. My stuff.
Then I applied the techniques and had a mini revelation, which I’m sharing with you here.
First: Acknowledge and allow
I talk a lot about “acknowledging and allowing” your pain, because that’s where it all starts.
(If you want to read more about this, (and really, you should, because “acknowledging and allowing” is the main step towards mental healing), you can read more about it on my e-book “Working with your Stuff” *points to top right-hand corner of website*)
I have been doing this work long enough that I was able to say to myself: “OK. So we can’t deal with people… That’s OK”.
Then I realised why “it wouldn’t be ok” to just say “it’s ok to not be able to deal with people”.
Because the thought that came after “I can’t deal with people” was: “HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY SAY THAT IT’S OK TO NO BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE??? NOT BEING ABLE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE WILL LEAD TO DOOM!!! HOW ON EARTH DO YOU EXPECT US TO MAKE A LIVING?!?! HUH!?!?eleventy!!!”
This is what gets in the way of us “acknowledging and allowing” our pain
Our mind cannot imagine a world where we “didn’t deal with people”.
And so saying to ourselves “it’s OK to feel the way we feel” gets translated into “if I just accept that I can’t deal with people, I’ll have to be homeless and live in a cardboard box and never achieve anything in my entire life”.
Here’s a question to make you think
If you, sincerely, honest to goodness, could not, in your heart of hearts, “deal with people”… Would there be any point in “forcing yourself”?
Think about it. Your first reaction may be “well of course I have to force myself! This is something we all have to learn how to do! I have to be a grown up, innit!!!”
But if you couldn’t… if you really, really couldn’t… would there be any point in forcing yourself?
Saying to yourself “I CANNOT be like this, I MUST force myself to change (damnit)”… is kinda self-abusive.
I know, I know, the part of you who wants you to change has your best intentions at heart. You probably got this “line of thought”, or “pattern”, from people who really cared about you when you were growing up, like parents and teachers.
They want us to be socially well adapted, don’t they? And they think that if you have social anxiety and you are just not “relating to others in the right way”, then they should force you to change.
Eventually you learn to force yourself to change… And that brings us to today: you probably go through life forcing yourself to change and not getting anywhere. And so you get anxious and force yourself even more.
This doesn’t work precisely because it’s violent. We don’t change through violence.
And self-inflicted violence is the worse kind of violence. And never works. Even if the changes you want to bring about are “good for you”.
Back to “Acknowledging and Allowing”
So what does work? Giving the mind a break and giving yourself reassurance.
Your mind may instantly launch into a frenzy of “I cannot conceive of a lifestyle where we didn’t deal with people”.
Here’s the thing: right after you have a “social interaction mishap” that triggers all your social anxiety IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOUR MIND TO BE IN CHARGE.
It’s the time for you to look after your emotions.
So this is what I said to myself:
“OK. So I feel like I can’t deal with people. That’s OK. Maybe I can’t deal with people. Maybe that’s how I am. And if I can’t change that about me, then I’m going to have to come up with alternatives to make this work.”
See? I’m accepting myself here, I’m accepting how I am, even if that means accepting I may be unable to interact with people.
Things are not as the mind thinks at first
As it turned out, this was just a temporary moment of crisis. Most of our crisis are temporary, it’s just that they don’t feel like that at the time.
After I gave myself space to feel like “I can’t deal with people” and to be “unable to deal with people”, I calmed down.
And I was able to resolve the social interaction mishap. (Kinda)
As with most things, it’s not “this one bad thing that happened” that makes us freak out, but our mind extrapolating it and thinking “all things that ever happened have been bad, omg!”.
THAT is what sends us into spiralling anxiety.
And that’s when we have to quiet down the mind.
And bring in understanding, compassion, acceptance… and a general feeling of “OK-ness” and “no big deal”.