How To Deal With Social Anxiety

After having a conversation and giving some advice on social anxiety recenty, I thought I would share a few things that came up…

1. It’s Not Your Fault.

So many people carry around a secret or very obvious sense of resentment or self-hatred because they think they are DOING the anxiety. It can be as if an energy inside wants to take credit for every thought and feeling that arises, and says:

These are my feelings. I am feeling like this. I am doing this. If I create these feelings, I should be able to stop or control them. But I can’t. I’m useless. Why can’t I stop? I hate myself for this.
— Ego

But the whole time, the anxiety arises by itself, before you can even have an opinion about it. It is not something you sit down and decide to create, so should it be something you feel you need to be totally responsible for?…

2. Relax The Control

When discomfort, anxiety or fear comes, we usually want to control it to make it go away, or at least keep it at bay. The more we try, the harder it seems to get. Anxiety can be a control-based energy. We want to prevent something bad happening, in any way, and anxiety comes up as if it will help.

It can be as if the anxiety says:

The more anxious I feel, or the more I worry about what I don’t want to happen, the more likely I am to avoid the pain or diminishment, and so I can be free…
— - Anxiety

Notice the anxiety starts by itself. If we stop trying to control it by no longer believing we SHOULD be able to control it, then our relationship with it will begin to change…

The need to control the anxiety, or the belief that we should control it, makes it suddenly seem dense and heavy and problematic. If you don't have any interest in trying to control it, then it is experienced as just energy. It may intensify at first, but then it begins to burn itself out, without being able to stick to a victim-energy inside that wants to grapple with it.

3. It Is Trying To Help You. Thank It.

Social anxiety can arise in an attempt to avoid diminishment. It can be a way to try to steer us clear of anything that threatens our ego, which is interpreted as a threat to our very survival. It can be a way to avoid pain - the pain of being embarrassed or ridiculed or criticised can be such an ordeal of suffering that the anxiety rises to help us to avoid a similar situation. 

Whether or not it’s actually helping us at all, notice that the arising of it is some kind of self-protection mechanism. Perhaps it has lost its way and become counter-productive, but notice that the intention of the energy is somehow good - it is trying to promote safety in some way, even if it is now confused about what’s safe and what isn't.

Once you start to notice that anxiety is not an enemy that is just trying to harass you, that it is in some way trying to help, doing what it thinks is best, then the relationship with it can begin to change…

Shift The Relationship

This is huge, and follows on from the last point. Our society tends to dismiss or resist fear and anxiety, as if they are unnatural or bad things. Spiritual communities or ways of thinking can sometimes do the same - fear is bad, fearlessness is good. Nonsense. These are natural things. See that even though the body/mind reflex might be slightly confused or over-reactive, that it is still doing its best. Thank it for trying, see that it is trying to help.

4. Give People Some Freedom

Social anxiety can be an unconscious attempt to control what people think. We have a habit of looking for safety in the approval of others. If we are seeking approval, needing something else from someone, we will always feel as if our power is away from us and we have to get it back through our emotional demands being met. See how it feels to demand nothing from no one - no need for approval, no need for understanding, no need for any agreement at all. When you give someone freedom to have their own mind, you get your power back.

5. Be Diminished

No one wants to feel smaller, or be made to feel less from a social interaction. We fight being embarrassed or ignored or ridiculed. But be playful. If you fear embarrassment, for example, when alone in your room, experiment with how it would feel to be completely, totally, ridiculously embarrassed, and to let that happen without objection. Test it out. See how embarrassed you can possibly feel, just to see what happens to YOU. Does it change you? Does it make you smaller? Perhaps you feel a part of yourself shrinking, a small part dissolving or diminishing, but what is left behind that? If your ego disappears, what remains? If your self-image dissolves through being insulted or criticised, then what remains? Something more powerful, something impersonal, which is more you than any self-image.

It is the fear of embarrassment, the resistance to it that makes it seem like such a dominant force or dictator of our lives. Become used to feeling embarrassed, enjoy the feeling, get used to being nothing, and enjoying it. Then all of the anxiety around “trying to be someone” no longer has any meaning for you.

6. Notice Your Own Self-Judgements

If we fear being seen in a certain way by someone, it usually means that this is how we see ourselves, and we haven’t accepted it. What we fear others will think about us, is what we think about ourselves but still resist. Notice what you think about yourself. If it is dark or negative, start by just accepting that these feelings or beliefs are there, rather than trying to expel them from your system. When they are accepted, welcomed, then they lose their denseness, they lose their power.

Our hidden, resented, unaccepted beliefs about ourself make us scared of that same uncomfortable energy inside being triggered by someone else saying or thinking something on the same energy level. Before we can let go of self-judgement, we have to accept it in all of its forms. Then we see it is just judgement, not reality.

Perhaps there is more I can reflect on and say, but that is probably enough for now, I hope that can help someone.

If you would like to have any personal guidance for resolving issues like social anxiety or anything else in the inner world, then please get in touch with me here, and we can work through it.

All the best,