Those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, or S.A.D., feel they must hide from other people: “I can’t let other people see me.”
While the intensity of those feelings varies widely, those who suffer from social anxiety disorder share one common underlying premise: “There’s something wrong with me, and I can’t be fixed.”
Maybe not those exact words, but you get the idea. When you have S.A.D., you feel flawed and defective to the very core of your being. You feel ‘bad and wrong’ and nothing you can do will help.
So the only viable option- the only thing that makes sense- is to HIDE! Because the more you’re noticed, the more likely someone else will see your ‘defectiveness’.
You have two basic problems here.
1. The underlying shame that was dumped onto you. Usually it starts in childhood, but it can continue throughout your lifetime. Shame comes from mental, emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. It also comes from abandonment. Even if a parent dies when you are a child, you can feel shamed because of it.
Shame holds enormous complexity. There is nothing simple about it. Shame destroys many lives. Very few people truly overcome their shame.
Fortunately, it can be completely healed. In a nutshell, it involves ‘bundling up’ the shame- like collecting dirty smelly clothes into a burlap bag- and mentally returning the bundle to the offender, not once but many times.
It also involves healing the inner child, which means ‘returning to the scene of the crime’ in your imagination. Powerful, life-changing results can be achieved by working with these two steps. Reading the works of John Bradshaw- a pioneer in the field of shame- is an excellent place to start.
And as you work with healing your shame, it’s equally important to look at the shame you dump onto yourself. This often becomes more entrenched and more insideous than the shame dumped onto you by others.
Shame is like a hot potato. When someone dumps their shame onto you, your natural reaction is to dump it onto someone else. And especially, you start dumping it onto yourself.
You create a story to make sense of the abuse: “I must really be a bad person, or else they wouldn’t be doing this to me.”
You create a ‘little story’ to explain to yourself why you’re being abused. You start lying to yourself, and you start believing the lies. Not because you really are bad and wrong, but because that’s the nature of shame. Now we come to the second basic problem:
2. You create a faulty story to explain the abuse you’re enduring.Unfortunately you end up believing you’re ‘rotten to the core’, rather than telling yourself the truth:
“I’m like a brilliant, dazzling diamond , who’s beauty has been hidden by a paper-thin layer of crud. And I an the only one keeping that crud in place.”
I’ts not possible to be ‘rotten to the core’. It’s so far from the truth that you must keep repeating the lies or they would fall away on their own. You must keep lying to yourself.
It’s the only way to keep the shame in place. And out of this repetition, social anxiety disorder is born. It becomes part of the package of lies.
And the shame and the anxiety become habituated. It becomes ingrained, it becomes more and more internalized. It becomes ‘the way things are’. It becomes ‘the way Iam!
Shame and social anxiety disorder intertwine into a painful, tangled mess. Like being trapped in the middle of a briar patch; no matter what you do, it hurts. Life becomes more and more painful.
The first step to healing involved recognizing the complexity of the problem, and to be mindful of the shame you dump on yourself. Also look to any abusive relationships you may be involved in now.
(It may be time for drastic action!)
Once you’re in a place of safety, then you can start working to heal the shame and anxiety. I’ve laid out a complete, step-by-step plan to escape anxiety. It works, but to keep the anxiety from coming back, you’ll also want to end the shame- by returning it to the original offender, healing your inner child, and finally by stopping the shame you dump on yourself.
Shame won’t end in a day-or even a week- but it can start ending today.