Public Confession Healed My Social Anxiety

Yes, I’m an introvert. In fact, on the Meyer’s Briggs I scored as high as you can get on the introversion scale.

Of course, being an introvert does not necessarily mean you are socially anxious. But I sport a healthy dose of social anxiety, too.

Yay me.

Oh, I’ve learned to manage it. But I swear if I believed in taking Xanax, I might have become a junkie at some point.

Anyway, you won’t find me bouncing around cocktail parties. I don’t even like going out to dinner with other couples. Part of the problem is that I am obsessed with psychology, philosophy, and religion (being an ex-Mormon). And I don’t follow sports – at all.

So, cross the vast majority of potential guy friends off the list. Maybe that’s just an elitist excuse….but I hate going out with people and talking about mundane stuff.

Anyway, my wife Hope and I met a cool new couple recently. Really great people. Our kids are in high school band together. We were invited to their house to listen to the kids prep for an upcoming performance.

As Hope and the other mom got to talking, they discovered that they grew up in the same area near L.A., both graduated from Cal State Fullerton. Both artists with their own paintings hung about the house, both into off-beat movies and music, etc…too many similarities!

And you know the NLP principle of rapport, right? People who are like each other tend to like each other. Watching the scene of similarity unfold, of course, I noticed that these two naturally began to mirror each other non-verbally. Similar postures, gestures, facial expressions, voice tonality. Red Alert! All the signs of rapport are present. Hope is going to want to do stuff with these people!

Now, that’s a rude, immature and narcissistic attitude. Yep.

Now, to make matters worse, the dad was way cool, too. He’s all into philosophy and comparative religion. And he’s a Deist. Deist? Wow, I’d never met a real, live Deist. I know many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were Deists, but I thought that school of thought died out a long time ago. Yet, here’s one of them. And he’s smart, too. I liked him.

Which, if you are bent on avoiding people socially, is a problem.

Now, you may be thinking something like, “You’re an NLP expert. You’ve got mad communication skills! What’s with all this namby-pamby social anxiety crap?”

Yeah, I know.

And, yes, I do have mad communication skills. In a few minutes of conversation, I learn truly wondrous things about people. In fact, I often know things about people within minutes that they will never know about themselves. This isn’t arrogance. It’s just a fact. Such is my gift and my training.

But not much of that stuff applies socially. You can’t really point out to people at parties that they have issues with their mother – and are over processing visually to avoid their feelings – and are setting themselves up for rejection – and are giving their power away  – and are approaching life with a great deal of inner passivity – and – see what I mean?

Not appropriate.

So when our new potential friends were on the way over to our house for dinner the following week, I was stressing out. I imagined sitting at the table with these nice folks and feeling….closed off and awkward.

“Just be yourself,” my wife advised. “You’re a super interesting guy. And you’re such a good man. Relax. You don’t have anything inside of you that you can’t share.”

Don’t be so sure of yourself.

Anyway – so there we are at dinner and I have totally decided to be myself. Nothing withheld. Take me or leave me as I am! And you know, just making that decision was very helpful. I settled in.

When the conversation turned toward what we all do for a living, I launched into the AHA Solution and self-sabotage. 30 minutes and a couple of glasses of wine later, we were all steeped in a discussion about how savagely we tend to get in our own way. We even logged into the AHA Solution program on our phones and started pinpointing each others’ attachment types.

Someone asked what my worst attachment was.

“At one point it was the Rebel, but I’ve worked through a lot of that one. Now, it is definitely the Self-Defeater,” I replied. “Of course, I do well and have worked hard to create a nice family environment, but on the inside, I still anticipate a lot of personal failures, especially socially. Even when you guys were on your way over tonight I was telling myself ‘They aren’t going to like me…’”

And so the evening went – four people sitting around talking about what self-sabotaging messes we are on the inside – and laughing about it all. My kind of evening.

Moral of the story?

You might fear to be yourself in some situations, as I do. It’s ok. Learn, as I am learning, to put yourself out there. Take a risk. You’ll most likely discover that the disapproval you were fearing is just another form of self-sabotage.

Am I healed? Am I magically going to become super comfortable in every social situation?

Ha! No. Hey folks, this isn’t magic. It’s personal growth. One step – one situation – one healing opportunity at a time. That’s how it happens. When you embrace the personal growth mindset, every obstacle transforms into an opportunity to develop as a person. Now, there’s your magic!

I am doing my personal development work one day at a time. How are you doing with yours?

Self-Sabotage OR Stealth-Sabotage?

by Hannah Rowanwood

It’s rather ironic.

Here I was studying the A-H-A model of self-sabotage for my NLP Life Coaching certification and feeling… perhaps not smug exactly, but certainly pleased with myself for having left all of that attachment stuff behind me.

I spent some time easily identifying several attachment types that had defined me in the past.  Martyr?  Check.  Numb?  Check. People Pleaser?  Yep, definite check.  Next, I had fun identifying those that seemed to fit various people I know (funny how it’s always so much easier to identify patterns in others than in ourselves).

That evening, after baking a batch of cookies and eating half of them in one sitting (did I mention I had quit sugar?), I sat down to do some writing.  Instead, I ended up watching another movie.  I say another because I had watched one the evening before, breaking my personal discipline rule of one movie night per week.

Afterwards, feeling enormously guilty and disappointed in myself, I pushed aside those unpleasant feelings by playing solitaire on the laptop for an hour – another broken rule.  Finally, I went upstairs to bed, feeling horrible, and tossed and turned for much of the night.

The next day, feeling tired and cranky from the post-cookie crash and lack of sleep, I moped about, delaying getting my studies underway.  I puttered on with other meaningless tasks, grazing on cookies to get my energy levels back up, knowing full well that I should have been eating all those vegetables languishing in my fridge.  I opened my laptop to write, but couldn’t seem to concentrate through the sugar fog, and instead spent the next two hours scrolling mindlessly through emails and blog posts.

All day I had the feeling of wanting something, but of not being able to identify what it was. That night, I lay awake in bed feeling… empty.  Unsatisfied.  Disappointed.

And then it dawned on me.  An A-H-A moment.  I was in the grips of self-sabotage, and hadn’t seen it!   After an incredible period of self-discipline and the resulting wonderful personal growth, motivation and great health it created, I had begun to slide back into old habits of distracting, numbing, and procrastinating.

My mind’s dusty old attachment to feeling deprived had seen the wonderful progress I was making, had noticed the creeping feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction, had detected my growing sense of purpose, and didn’t like it one bit.

These new feelings, though wonderful, were unfamiliar territory, and awakened a sense of discomfort and longing for something more familiar, even if that something would have eventually prevented me from reaching my goals and attaining my dreams.  In fact, especially because it would do just that.

An attachment to deprivation wants us to experience cravings, longings, guilt, dissatisfaction, emptiness, and lack of fulfillment.  In my case, what better way to accomplish all of that than to sabotage myself from eating well & enjoying good health, completing my NLP program, finding my purpose, and generally feeling great about myself?

The good news is that as soon as I realized what was happening and was able to name the thing I was craving (feeling deprived), the energy behind the attachment immediately lost much of its strength.  Simply bringing awareness to the self-sabotage pattern loosened the grip of the attachment, and allowed me to dissociate from it enough to be able to look at it objectively.

I can look back now and see how this pattern has woven through my life and my decisions, even determining the type of food I chose to indulge in!  I see now that my struggle with sugar mirrors the deprivation attachment pattern perfectly; what other food is so perfectly suited to feeling guilty, unsatisfied, & wanting more?

These deep-rooted attachments, formed most commonly in childhood, can be so challenging to our personal growth precisely because they act behind the scenes, unconsciously driving our thoughts, feelings and behaviors in ways that sabotage our best intentions and loftiest dreams.  But they can be identified and overcome with willingness, awareness and some keen investigative skills.

When looking to identify an unhealthy attachment in yourself or a client, don’t worry about trying to untangle and decipher all of the different behaviors or habits.  Simply look for the end result of that familiar, unwanted (and usually unpleasant) feeling, and work your way back.

And maybe follow the cookie crumbs…