What happens when you want to connect with others but your nervous system finds connection a threat?
This is a dichotomy that many people face as they long for connection but also find it difficult [enter social anxiety].
Let’s start at the beginning. Why might someone feel this?
If we’ve had adverse relational experiences in childhood or adulthood (either through abuse, neglect or enmeshment) we may find it difficult to trust that others will be able to meet our needs.
Maybe we’ll feel that...
We’ll be judged for who we are.
Our needs won’t beacknowledge.
We’ll be ignored.
We’ll be taken advantage of.
Boundaries will be overstepped.
We’ll be scrutinised and those observations will be used against us.
It's not a co-incidence that we worry about these things. Somewhere in our past we had a very good reason to worry about them.
For many, these concerns are paralysing because when you have these beliefs AND a desire to form connections, you’re in conflict (or cognitive dissonance) and you cannot move forward from there.
So what’s the solution?
Recognise what threat you're feeling and why. This requires peeling back the layers of awareness in and around social situations (talking it through with a therapist or friend can often help).
Begin to deconstruct past conditioning that might have lead to social anxiety. Acknowledge the memories, understand the messages you attached to them and reframe them (again working with a therapist can help).
Find out what the social anxiety is giving you and ask yourself who are you giving your power away to.
Commit to small changes going forward. Expose yourself to social situations in a way that feels a safe enough challenge and make a conscious decision to see the ‘safety’ on people’s faces.
Practice healthy communication. State your needs.
Try not to over analyse the aftermath, recognise the old conditioning popping up and have compassion for it.
So, for those of us who have experienced relational trauma and who are wanting to recover healthy connection and relationships, forming a practice, just like a yoga practice could be a very helpful thing…. And if you need a little support along the way, always work with a therapist.
If you're interested in have some Rapid Transformational Therapy [RTT] for social anxiety, you can learn more here.