Using Systematic De-Sensitization to Overcome Social Anxiety...
Systematic De-Sensitization is a fairly well known psychological process for overcoming anxiety related problems which, in the form it’s taught, in my opinion has been vastly superseded by other more modern methods (NLP, CBT, hypnosis to name a few)…
Having said that I do still think it has its uses and, in conjunction with these modern methods, can form a package that can dramatically improve your levels of social confidence and skill in a relatively short period of time…
Because when you really get down to it, once you have made some changes on the inside, you still have to actually do something about it. You have to go out into the world and start socializing and interacting with people to really start noticing the benefits…Letting go of limiting beliefs and making changes to your internal thought patterns is essential but what seals the deal is going out and speaking to people and systematic de-sensitization is a pretty good method for doing this…
Systematic de-sensitization, in its traditional sense, is the process of gradually introducing yourself to something that you feel anxious about, bit by bit, so that you eventually experience it in its entirety over a period of time. The reasoning behind the method is that people normally feel anxious about something because they experience the full situation at the one time or over a very short period of time (e.g. suddenly being thrust into speaking to a large group of strangers) so by expanding the exposure time and gradually introducing them to it, small chunks at a time, it is not as overwhelming and they relax because the situation becomes more and more familiar and they build confidence with each step.
In my opinion, the logic and reality behind this is sound. My problem with it is that the way it is often used takes a lot longer than is necessary. That to get fast, dramatic change that lasts you need to combine systematic desensitization with some of the more modern methods of psychological change like Neuro Linguistic Programming, CBT, visualization or hypnosis. It’s not the only way to overcome social anxiety but it’s certainly the one I’ve found to be most useful in the shortest possible time.
For the purpose of this article, though, let’s concentrate on how you can use the systematic de-sensitization approach to get yourself out there socializing, making new friends, connecting with the ones you’ve already got and overcome social anxiety. If you want to find out how to combine this with some of the more modern methods then check out either the Social Confidence CD Kit or the Social Confidence Boot camp.
Like I explained before systematic desensitization is where you take something that you feel anxious about and then, either gradually introduce yourself to it bit by bit, or break it down to small manageable chunks and concentrate on each of these one at a time.
For example, say you’ve been invited to a party and just the mere thought of it scares the crap out of you…Chances are it’s because you are thinking about the party as a whole interaction and it’s just too overwhelming. So instead think of it as just a series of small interactions. Once you have had one you move onto the next and the next and so on so forth and every now and again you can take a break. When you think about it this way it’s no where near as overwhelming as walking in and thinking you have to socialize with everybody at the party…
Another alternative is to set yourself a time limit for having a conversation with someone and then stay that little bit longer each time. Start off with say 1 minute and then make some excuse to leave or do something else. Then the next time you speak with someone raise this time limit to 2 minutes and so on so forth.
Of course you don’t have to just use this at a party, you can use it anywhere you come in contact with someone and a conversation is started. It’s a great way of gradually becoming more and more comfortable with people and developing relationships with them.
Obviously if the conversation is going really well then you don’t have to stick to the time limit but just setting yourself these little mini goals will help a lot and bring your attention to a much more useful place.
You can also use systematic de-sensitization when dealing with your whole Social anxiety problem. To do this, start by making a list of all the social situations where you feel anxious, nervous or shy. Then put them into a hierarchy starting with least scary up to the scariest. Then spend some time each week (each day if possible) doing the things on this list starting with the one that scares you the least.
To find out more about how you can let go of social fears and turbo charge you levels of confidence and skill around people check out the Guide to Social Confidence CD Kit available on digital download.
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