perjantai 29. elokuuta 2014

Day 410: Social anxiety - introversion as a learned quality


Yesterday evening I went to visit a friend's commune for the first time. The preceding few days had been very stressful and tiresome for me and I felt stretched, tense and exhausted.

When I got to the place and sat down with the people, I noticed that a calm came over me. I noticed that as compared to the other social situations where I had been for example during the same day, these people appeared to have no expectations of me. We didn't know each other, and the activities that people were engaged in didn't require anything of me unless I wanted to contribute. As I realized that I was in a space where I didn't have to strain myself, I started relaxing myself by allowing myself to focus on myself and my well-being only. I was in dire need of my own attention (i.e. I really needed to rest my body) and so I allowed myself to simply be and let others construct the situation.

I eventually slowed myself down more than I have in a long while. I was simply in breath, observing myself and my motions. I realized how much I stress about social situations and what a relief it was to be in one where I didn't require anything of myself. The keywords that night were: “I don't need to” (“ei mun tartte”). Whenever a thought came saying I “should” do something, I released it with the realization that no, I shouldn't, as these requirements are not practical but ones that serve to build and uphold my self-image and self-ideal. I was forgiving myself for setting myself standards striving for perfectionism.

This state of peace continued on to this morning, and because it was in such contrast with most of my experiences from the entire summer, I noticed when it started to crumble. I went out of the house with my partner to have lunch with some of his friends whom I hadn't met before. After the lunch I had become withdrawn, anxious and tense (or “weird” as my partner expressed it – the contrast was pretty noticeable). After writing about it now I realized that after we left the house, a series of “I should” -thoughts had been triggered by different situations, which brought up stress as I attempted to attain to these thoughts and judged myself when I didn't.

  • “I should keep up with him” / “I should be able to keep up with him”
  • “I should make a good impression on these people”
  • “I should be able to pay for my own expenses”
  • “I should talk with these people”
  • “I should participate in the discussion”
  • “I should be more independent” / “I should make an initiative to ...”
  • “I will look stupid if I do that – I should look impressive”

The thing is, I'm starting to see what my social difficulties consist of: these lines of code containing the words “I should” - or rather, the thoughts or lines of code as experiences and not so much as words spoken in my mind. I've been what one might call an “introvert” ever since some time in elementary school when I started being bullied, and the thing is, I remember the time before that: I know I haven't always found social situations difficult, and that introversion at least for me is not an inherent quality. It is something that got created somewhere along the way when I learned that there were unwritten rules to socializing that could be broken with dire consequences. I didn't know how to cope, so my response was to withdraw.

I'll continue with specific self-forgiveness on the “I should” -statements above.

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