Archives for Social Anxiety
It's morning. I try to open my eyes as I lay in bed, but really I just want to leave them closed. Merely trying to peel open my eyelids feels like it takes a supreme amount of energy that I just can't find anywhere in my body. So I'll leave them closed. And my bed is so comfortable, I just want to sink deeper into the mattress and pull the covers over me. Sleep feels so good. I can get up later. Maybe I'll call in sick today, I just need a day.
Starting a relationship with a therapist is very personal and can be nerve-racking for many. It's hard to know who's going to be a good fit without taking the time to meet a few. There are many posts out there that offer tips on how to find a good therapist. However, each time someone releases a "how to" for choosing a good therapist, it always seems key points are overlooked. There are many schools of theoretical approaches in the therapy world, and it's important to remember that the therapist you choose is practicing from her/his theoretical perspective -- there isn't one universal form of therapy. Here are some suggestions that, in my experience both as a therapist and as a patient, will help narrow the search to locate a therapist who will hopefully be effective for you.
I know, clinical word, right? -- "Sucks". But it does. Depression sucks. I've seen many people in my practice who struggle with depression, and there's nothing easy about it. One day you feel pretty okay, and another day you're suddenly having a hard time getting out of bed again. Or you may feel like you're just going through the daily motions, even if you're out of bed. It can last for days, weeks, months, or years. It is not a fun condition, nor is it something any person should take lightly. People who are depressed tend to share some things in common: They often tend to feel like an outsider, not good enough, not likable, like they are always doing something wrong, like they will fail or be rejected if they try.
Please click on either of the following links if you haven't read part 1 or part 2 of this social anxiety series. With social anxiety, people can get caught up in trying to be agreeable. For example: "That sounds good!", "How nice!", "How neat!", That's really cool!", "That's awesome!", etc. (There are reasons for this agreeability, such as fear of rejection, fear of being negative or critical, or of overtaking the conversation, but we'll save that discussion for another time). While obviously there's nothing wrong with being supportive or validating to another person, these comments generally don't do much to help to open a conversation without adding something with it. Genuine interest in the other person helps creates a more fluid conversation because it adds an element of real curiosity that can open the conversation.
This post is part 2 of a 3 part social anxiety series. Please click here if you'd like to read part 1 before continuing. Otherwise, read on. There is something that I call the "Social Anxiety Window". This is the amount of space and leeway where people feel comfortable when having a social conversation. For example, some people feel that they can engage in light small talk, and prefer to keep the conversation focused on the other person. This keeps the topics on the surface, and avoids bringing oneself (or even both) into the conversation. This is representative of a fairly tight window. For a socially anxious person, having a tight window for acceptable conversation tends to reinforce the anxiety because once the other person has said their part, it leads to conversation jumping. Searching for different topics in a conversation tends to be a more difficult mental exercise, as opposed to expanding a topic into broader conversation. As mentioned in the previous post, what often happens with social anxiety is there is more focus on thinking of the next question to ask to keep the other person talking, rather than trying to find a way in to engage with what is present.
Some people look forward to social situations and seem to thrive off of them. Many others have a more difficult time with social situations, leading people to cancel plans, skip out on social events, or attend, but find themselves uncomfortable and looking for ways out the whole time. In my practice as a psychotherapist and coach, one of the main issues I've seen with social anxiety is that people who are socially anxious tend to overthink what they are going to say in a social situation, and don't spend enough time actively listening. This causes them to miss the cues that can open a broader or deeper conversation (unconsciously, this probably happens out of a fear of connecting on a deeper level, as well as fear of vulnerability, even if there is also a conscious desire to connect -- this topic on its own could generate many books of discussion).
Chronic migraines are life-changing. It is a lonely struggle that family and friends don't tend to understand without experiencing it for themselves (and migraines are a very individual experience, so even those who have had a migraine don't necessarily know the struggle of another). With chronic migraines, the fear of the next attack always looms. In fact, the fear itself can even become debilitating. People have often relied on medical and alternative practices to try to relieve themselves from chronic migraine attacks. These methods can all be helpful, and it's especially important that people have a neurologist following the progression of their migraines. However, what isn't focused on enough is the role mental health plays in chronic migraines, and how much certain types of therapy can help with relieving migraines.
I have to admit, as a therapist with many years of training, and still aiming to improve my work every day, it always frustrates me when I hear people equate the delicate and challenging nature of psychotherapy with talking to a friend. Sure, therapy can at times involve a venting quality, and this is completely welcome as part of the process. However, this isn't the extent of what therapy is about. Therapy isn't simply an ear and a supportive voice, even if listening and support are part of the picture (and sometimes listening and support is what a person needs; and it's also important to hold in mind that not everybody has an ear or a supportive person in their lives).
Based on my previous post about the usefulness and necessity of anger at one's therapist in the treatment -- rather than abandoning the treatment in these moments -- it was brought to my attention that a follow-up could be helpful to explore when switching therapists may be a good decision. It can't be overstated how complicated of an issue this really is. What makes changing therapists so complicated is understanding the greater picture of what's triggering the urge to leave. Is it something the therapist is specifically doing? Is a pattern being re-enacted by the client -- with the therapist --that happens in their own lives outside therapy as well (a very common phenomenon that can actually enhance the treatment)? Is it a dynamic that's triggering past emotional states that could actually be useful to understand in the treatment? Is the client wanting to leave the therapist for actually not being a good therapist, or is it more about the difficulty of facing the negative emotions within an overall good treatment? And so on. Basically, how does a person determine when the therapist is problematic, versus when the difficult emotions of an otherwise positive treatment are triggering a desire to leave?
Happiness is quite complicated, yet at the same time it really doesn't have to be. The problem with happiness is that there are certain fantasies that people hold onto that really distort a healthy sense of happiness. That being said, when it comes down to it, "happiness" is whatever it means for each person. However, movies, tv, media, and others have strongly influenced unrealistic expectations for what some people expect happiness to be.