January 30 – February 4, 2020
In hours three and four of the second week, we learned about complementarity—the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. We discussed exposure situations and analyzed how the symptoms of SAD generate our fears and apprehensions towards any number of situations.
All of this leads up to ANT’s—the automatic anxiety-provoked thoughts that impact us just as we’re about to encounter an exposure situation. Automatic negative thoughts drive our anxiety and depression and, especially, social anxiety disorder.
The following graph outlines the trajectory of an ANT better than any description I can come up with.
To understand the week’s work at home, I’m providing the following definitions. It’s not a complex exercise but it does take its fair share of mindfulness—recognizing and accepting the symptoms and impact of anxiety as well as the thoughts and behaviors generated by our fears and apprehensions. Hopefully, the following will help clarify the various components that go into the development of a solid and comprehensive plan to counteract any anxiety-provoked difficulties that could potentially arise during an exposure situation.
ANTs. Automatic negative thoughts are our conscious or subconscious anxiety-provoking thoughts that occur in response to everyday events. They are unpleasant expressions of our fears and apprehensions, automatically triggered by a particular exposure situation. These thoughts are irrational, self-defeating, and impact and are impacted by social anxiety disorder.
Coping Skills. A self-empowering statement, e.g. I’m going to be fine. I’m going to calm myself and stick to the plan; I will not let my anxiety control me. I will not let my anxiety win!
Core Beliefs. Our most central ideas about ourselves, others, and the world—our self-image as defined by social anxiety disorder.
Diversion. a distraction; a deliberate rechanneling of an ANT. When we focus on a diversion, for that moment we stop worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. (These are temporary safety behaviors or tools that will become unnecessary as we become mindful there isn’t anything inherently fearful about the situation.)
Exposure Situation. An event or situation that generates apprehension, fear, anxiety, and discomfort (e.g., speaking in front of a group, or socializing with strangers. Feeling anxious or apprehensive in certain situations is normal; most individuals are nervous speaking in front of a group and anxious when pulled over on the freeway. The SAD person anticipates these situations, dramatizes them, cognitively distorts them, and obsesses on their negative implications. The quality and degree of our anxiety is determined by the interaction between events and situations, and our interpretations of these events and situations.
Persona. The social face we present to our exposure situations—designed to make a positive impression upon others while concealing the true nature of our social anxiety (fears and ANTs). The development of a viable social persona is a vital part of adapting to and preparing for, our multiple exposure situations. A strong sense of self-esteem relates to the outside world through a flexible persona—one adaptable to different situations. A specific persona (i.e., our SAD persona) inhibits psychological development. A Persona is not an individual other than yourself, it is just a presentation of the strengths and attributes already inherent in your character subverting your social anxiety with another aspect of your personality. You choose an outfit from a closet of clothes. (Analogy: All the clothes in the closet are yours. You’re just wearing an outfit that appeals to your sense of self and to the situation). This is not a novel concept. It’s called the Social Psychology of Dress, which is concerned with how an individual’s dress affects the behavior of self as well as the behavior of others toward the self.
Personality. We’re a conglomerate of personalities―distinct phenomena generated by everything and anything experienced in our lifetime. Every teaching, opinion, belief, and influence facilitates our personality development. It’s our current and immediate being and the expression of that being. It forms itself by core beliefs and is developed by social, cultural, and environmental experiences. It’s constant yet fluid, singular yet multiple. It’s our inimitable way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It’s who we are, who we think we are, and who we believe we’re destined to become. It’s expressed by the simultaneous mutual interaction of our mind, body, spirit, and emotions working in concert.
THE WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT
We’re given an exposure situation common to all of us in the group—the dreaded social event. Mindful of our core beliefs and relevant SAD symptoms, our assignment is to design a plan to counteract our fears and ANTs a week before the hypothetical event.
(Note: my second round of ATMs was far less severe than those of my original practicum, personal confirmation that I’ve come a long way, baby, in the months following my first practicum. Deliberate plasticity or neural restructuring is the key.)
The hypothetical exposure situation is the first attendance at a post-covid, men’s social Meetup. 45 people signed up to attend the event. There’s a buffet in the room, and drinks can be purchased at a bar located just outside the room. Our first item of business is to project three personal ANT’s that could potentially impact us before and during the event.
The plan includes (a) creating a persona, (b) choosing three coping skills, (c) planning three diversions, and (d) creating three icebreakers. Sound confusing? Good. That’s exactly the position the group was in we began the exercise.
The saying, 90% of success is just showing up doesn’t cut it because if you show up without preparation, your chances of success are severely diminished. Since we’re all fond of tossing around quotes to justify our belief systems, here’s a choice few:.
By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail—Ben Franklin.
Motivational guru, Goldratt wrote Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.
(If you’re a fan, here’s Oprah’s version:. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.
Of course, the most relevant quote is the 2500-hundred-year-old Sun Tzu quote Mullen drives home as a prerequisite tool for recovery. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles, meaning, to succeed in recovery you must know your dysfunction (its origins, symptoms, and characteristics) and yourself (how it impacts who you’re). You’d be amazed at the number of SAD persons who choose to remain ignorant of how their dysfunction operates in the inane hope they don’t exist or will go away. Read Recovery and the Willful Pursuit of Ignorance.
Our exposure situation exercise further asks that we outline our preparation for some potential outcomes (successes and failures). What if some of our ANTs come true? What will we do if we perspire profusely and hyperventilate, what if our icebreakers bomb, what if we accidentally spill our drink or choke on a chicken wing? What if someone is attracted to us or desires our companionship?
Once we have mastered a functional plan it can be easily modified for other exposure situations, and it will evolve and change and many of the techniques will become less necessary as we progress in our recovery. The plan will be further modified and strengthened as we utilize it in real-world situations in due course.
But wait … there’s more. It’s time to begin the recovery and reinvigoration of our Self-Esteem
In the third hour, we reviewed Maslow’s hierarchy which claims that our natural development was disrupted by SAD which onset during our adolescence, negatively impacting the self-properties that make up our self-esteem.
Healthy philautia is an integrative platform specifically designed to address the deficit of self-esteem caused by our dysfunction or discomfort, and the disruption in human development. It achieves this through an integration of historically and clinically practical approaches that serve as focused revitalization tools for self-esteem by recognizing and replacing negative self-perspectives and behavior.
Self-esteem is mindfulness (recognition and acceptance) of our value to our self, society, and the world. Self-esteem can be further understood as a complex interrelationship between how we think about ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how we process or present that information. Our negative self-image is facilitated by our deficit of self-esteem.
Part of our immersion into self-esteem tools and techniques is a trio of Forms where we learn to embrace our character strengths as well as deficits. Positive psychologies recognize that an individual’s holism is comprised of our strengths, virtues, and attributes as well as the negative baggage we saddle ourselves with. Our efforts are supported by our work with positive affirmations, positive autobiography, and the recovery memory process of emotional retroelement and retention which evolved from Mullen’s years teaching Stanislavski’s method.
A lot more to follow regarding our work with self-esteem
Again, the caveat: I continue to provide media and graphic support for ReChanneling, and admit to a healthy bias towards its work in recovery and personal motivation.
Next Blog: Week Three, The Fifth Hour