Roberto Selbach

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Avoiding Avoidance Behaviour

I am currently trying a new approach to deal with my social phobia. Basically it involves avoiding avoidance behaviours. You see, people with social anxiety tend to avoid problematic situations and run to metaphorical safe places. After a while, the avoidance behaviours become almost automatic, almost imperceptible.

Almost but not quite.

We behave so without thinking but we recognize the behaviour while we’re doing it. And that’s exactly when we have to force ourselves to avoid avoidance. It is very difficult and the temptation of avoidance is almost irresistible. The problem, of course, is the more we avoid things, the harder it is to stop doing it later in life.

Last night I posted something to Facebook —

The voices of social anxiety immediately started working in my head. “FriendA will mock at you,” they shout. “FriendB will think you’re pathetic.” And so they went. I came this close to deleting the post before stopping and forcing myself to ignore the voices.

It is not easy. It is so not easy that I am writing a blog post about it. Social phobia makes my mind work against me: it constantly attacks me, my self-esteem, and my confidence. It would be so much easier to just delete the post.

Dealing with social anxiety involves many counter-intuitive measures: it forces socially anxious people to go against what our own brains tell us is not the safest route.

I need to keep working on it. I’ll need to continue to force myself into doing more of what I desperately want to avoid. Let’s see how it goes.