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Healing Social PhobiaBy Dr. Margaret Paul
October 19, 2009
Do you suffer from social phobia? You don't need to stay isolated or go your whole life suffering from this debilitating anxiety. There is a way to heal!
What is Social Phobia?
Social phobia - or social anxiety - is the fear of interacting with others in various situations: groups, work, school, parties, on the telephone, in a market or store, and so on. People with social phobia experience extreme anxiety or panic when they know that they have to talk or interact with others. They often find themselves isolating rather than risk the rejection or ridicule that they fear.
People with social phobia may be saying things to themselves such as:
- What if I make a fool of myself?
- What if I can't think of anything to say?
- What if I say something stupid?
- What if people think I'm weird?
- What if no one wants to talk with me?
- What if everyone can see how nervous I am?
- What if I blush?
Social phobia comes from an extreme fear of being judged and rejected by others. The fear may turn to panic when in the presence of an authority figure.
What Causes Social Phobia?
Imagine that you have a small child whom you are taking to a birthday party of peers. Imagine that you tell the child before the party, "You must make sure that you do everything right so that the people at the party like you, because if they don't like you, then you are unlovable and worthless." Do you think this would cause the child to be very anxious?
You would probably never say this to an actual child, yet this is what you are saying to yourself - to the child within you, which is your feeling self. You are telling yourself that your worth is determined by others liking you or rejecting you: if they like you, you are okay, and if they don't, you are worthless.
This is self-abandonment, and is the root cause of social phobia.
You are abandoning yourself when you refuse to define your own worth and lovability and instead make others responsible for your sense of worth. You are abandoning yourself when you refuse to take responsibility for your own feelings and instead make others responsible for your feelings of anxiety or safety. Once you make others responsible - especially authority figures whose acceptance you desperately want - there is no way you will not be anxious when with them.
Once you hand away to others the responsibility for making you feel okay, then you have to try to control how they feel about you by doing everything "right." Trying to control how others feel about you always causes anxiety. Your anxiety is letting you know that you have abandoned yourself and that you are trying to do something you cannot do - which is to control whether or not others accept you or reject you.
When you are not giving to yourself the acceptance, approval, and attention you need to feel lovable and worthy, then you will invariably try to get approval, acceptance and attention from others, which creates much anxiety.
Healing Social Phobia
Healing social phobia is about learning to love yourself - to accept and value yourself and to take responsibility for your own feelings. People who love themselves go into social situations to share their caring with others. When you feel good about yourself, you want to offer your smile, your interest, your attention, and your caring to others. You are far more concerned with what you want go GIVE to others than with what you want to GET or what you want to AVOID.
If you want to heal your social phobia, then you need to do the Inner Bonding work necessary to stop judging yourself and start loving yourself.
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