The First Step in Overcoming Social Anxiety

Like I've mentioned in a previous article feeling unnecessarily anxious, nervous or scared around people is a much more common problem than people like to admit. There are a wide variety of thoughts and theories as to where this phenomenon originates. Genetics, child development, chemical imbalance and nutrition have all been cited at some stage as playing their part in the make-up of what can often, on the surface, appear a complex problem…

With my own background being in NLP (Neuro linguistic programming), change psychology and hypnosis I am hugely biased towards the belief that feeling unnecessarily anxious or phobic around people is a neurological pattern that is learned and re-enforced through time and, as such, can also be un-learned through time. I’m not making the bold claim that everyone who experiences it can be cured almost instantly with a few techniques. While most have their similarities each case is obviously unique and it can often take a bit of exploration to find what works with each particular person.

I have, however, seen far too many examples of people who have made incredible improvements in a short space of time to believe anything other than change happens fast. It may sometimes take a bit of time to dig and figure out what will make the greatest difference but once you do, change certainly doesn’t hang about. It’s kind of like the game domino rally. Once you’ve set the game up and knocked over the first domino, the rest follow suit in dynamic and inevitable fashion.

This belief that social anxiety is simply a pattern that is learned, repeated and re-enforced over time is for me the crucial distinction that someone who is trained (and experienced) in NLP makes in comparison to someone who is not. From the initial diagnosis by a GP to the numerous sessions with a psychiatrist the language that is almost always used creates and re-enforces the in accurate and dangerous assumption in the patients mind that ‘they have got something’, like a cold or some sort of illness or virus.

Not only does this operate from the belief that you are in some way broken it also implies that social anxiety is ‘a thing’ and not a process. This, in my opinion, is one of the most in-accurate and dangerous belief systems that you can buy into and unfortunately the one that most health care services in the western world create and re-enforce.

Let me be blunt about this…Social anxiety is not a thing! You cannot go down to the shops and buy a lump of social anxiety…It may feel like a thing but it’s not so stop talking about it like it is a thing as this seriously hinders your ability to relax and be comfortable around people.

When you really get down to it, it is a group of limiting beliefs/mis-informed opinions that you have created (usually with good intentions and out with conscious awareness) about your relationship with people that have left you with a hugely un-helpful pattern or patterns that you play through way too often.

These patterns, in the form of internal pictures, movies, sounds, internal critical voices and feelings can often cause havoc to the quality of your life but at the end of the day it’s not a thing but rather just your own going experience heading in an un-useful direction.

You are not broken…your brain is like a well oiled machine, a finely tuned instrument…It may be playing the wrong tune but it’s playing it damm well...

Just knowing these two distinctions is such a powerful first step for those who feel unnecessarily anxious around people. The distinctions that:

  1. Social Anxiety is not a thing it is a collection of limiting beliefs/mis-informed opinions that were created with good intentions but now have left you with some destructive neurological patterns that you keep playing through.
  2. You are not broken you work perfectly…You may be working perfectly in the wrong direction but your brain is doing what it feels it should be based on the inaccurate limiting beliefs you bought into at some stage in your life.

So here's my invitation to you...if you have been viewing social anxiety as 'a thing that you suffer from' or some form of 'illness', suspend those old beliefs for a moment and become open to these two new important distinctions...because it’s from this position that you can start to make some serious progress.

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