623
624

How Science Says You Should Overcome Social Anxiety (self.TheRedPill)

submitted by kibbehorh

Your mind races. Your palms sweat. The words don’t come out of your mouth right if they come at all. We’ve all been there at one time or another. And some of us get it worse than others, and more frequently. Social anxiety.

Nobody wants to look stupid or be embarrassed. But since it’s not like your life is on the line, why is social fear so bad? There’s an answer

While it’s hard to remember what a broken arm feels like, it’s quite easy to remember all the times you felt mortified in public. So it’s not surprising that research shows social pain is actually worse than physical pain — because you can relive it over and over again:

Individuals can relive and reexperience social pain more easily and more intensely than physical pain. Studies 1 and 2 showed that people reported higher levels of pain after reliving a past socially painful event than after reliving a past physically painful event.

And the old saying is true: often the fear itself is much worse than whatever you’re afraid of. Research shows being afraid you’re going to lose your job can be worse than actually losing your job:

…perceived job insecurity ranks as one of the most important factors in employees’ well-being and can be even more harmful than actual job loss with subsequent unemployment.

Epictetus, the ancient Stoic philosopher said this:

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.

And the advice you usually get on how to deal with fear is dead wrong. What happens when you suppress your feelings?

Your ability to experience positive feelings goes down — but not negative feelings. Stress soars. And your amygdala (a part of the brain closely associated with emotions) starts working overtime.

From Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

experimental studies have shown that suppression leads to decreased positive but not negative emotion experience (Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Stepper & Strack, 1993; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988), increased sympathetic nervous system responses (Demaree et al., 2006; Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Harris, 2001; Richards & Gross, 2000), and greater activation in emotion-generative brain regions such as the amygdala (Goldin, McRae, Ramel, & Gross, 2008).

But there’s a way to deal with fear and anxiety that neuroscientists, the ancient Stoics and mindfulness experts all agree on. And it’s not that hard. Let’s get to it…

Want to learn this faster and in more detail? Watch Video

How To Make Fear Less Scary

There are a number of specific techniques for reducing those awful anxious emotions:

  1. Mindfulness recommends “noting” troublesome thoughts like fear. Recognize and accept them to let them go.

  2. Neuroscience advocates “labeling.” (Frankly, this is a lot like noting but backed by some PhDs and an fMRI.)

  3. Stoicism has “premeditation.” That’s when you ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and realize it’s not that bad.

  4. Neuroscience also recommends “reappraisal.” This is reinterpreting your feelings with a new story that makes them less scary.

A random bunch of tips? Nope. So what do they all have in common?

You gotta use your brain. You gotta think. Some might reply, “I am thinking, I’m thinking about all the awful stuff that could happen if I embarrass myself. In fact, I can’t STOP thinking about it!”

But you’re not thinking. You’re reacting. Fight or flight. Like an animal would.

Look, our ancestors didn’t spend millions of years climbing to the top of the food chain so we could respond the same way a lizard does. We have this shiny new prefrontal cortex and can use it to fight fear.

In fact, you already have and you probably didn’t realize it…

Ever had so much going at once that something which would normally scare you just doesn’t? That’s not random. When your thinking brain — the prefrontal cortex — is highly engaged, it slams the brakes on feelings.

And you can use this trick deliberately. Anything that gets you thinking actively can smother anxiety:

…resources that are used to perform a cognitive task are no longer available for emotional processes. Accordingly, people can rid themselves from unwanted feelings by engaging in a cognitive activity, such as doing math equations (Van Dillen & Koole, 2007), playing a game of Tetris ( Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, & Deeprose , 2008), visualizing scenes such as sitting in a double-decker bus driving down the street (Rusting & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998), sorting cards ( Morrow & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990), responding to colored lights ( Christenfeld, 1997), or filling out bogus questionnaires ( Glynn et al., 2002).

Now we’re talking about social anxiety, and it’s not like you can start doing your taxes at a party to feel less anxious. That’s okay. We can do one better. What should you think about?

Your fears. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but it’s true. “Face your fears.” Actively. With your brain switched to “on.” Neuroscience research shows when we avoid scary things we become more scared. When you face your fears they become less frightening.

Brain imaging findings suggest that extinction may involve a strengthening of the capacity of the PFC to inhibit amygdala-based fear responses (Phelps et al., 2004). Several approaches to treating anxiety disorders such as PTSD and phobias have been shown to be effective in promoting extinction. In essence, these therapies encourage the patient to confront the fear and anxiety head on.

Stoic Premeditation

Observe your fear — and actually increase it. Imagine the worst that could happen. You are stripped naked in front of everyone and begin farting showtunes.

I know, this sounds terrifying. But imagining the worst is especially useful with social anxiety. Why?

Is someone going to stab you to death for saying something stupid? No. Do you live in a tribal society where social ostracism means you will be exiled and starve to death on the savannah? No.

So you’re not really afraid of what other people will do — you’re afraid of the feelings it will cause in you: embarrassment, shame, etc. News flash: you have control over the latter. They’re in your head. And nowhere else.

Visualize the worst and you’ll see it’s really not that bad. How do I know? You laugh about some of the embarrassing things you’ve been through in the past, right? So I recommend you just start laughing now.

You hit yourself with the worst possible scenario and you can handle it. Awesome. But you might be anxious that you’re still going to feel anxious. Fine, fine. We got another arrow left in the quiver.

And this one’s powerful. This guy is the tactical nuke when it comes to dealing with fear and anxiety…

Reappraisal

Most people think their feelings are realer than real because they’re so visceral. We have a hard time denying what we feel.

Well, that’s wrong. Just because you feel it doesn’t make it real. Feelings aren’t a satellite dish receiving signals of eternal truth. Feelings come from beliefs. Change the beliefs and the feelings change.

In one of Ochsner’s reappraisal experiments, participants are shown a photo of people crying outside a church, which naturally makes participants feel sad. They are then asked to imagine the scene is a wedding, that people are crying tears of joy. At the moment that participants change their appraisal of the event, their emotional response changes, and Ochsner is there to capture what is going on in their brain using an fMRI. As Ochsner explains, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.”

You say something at a party. Everyone starts laughing. You think they’re laughing at you. How do you feel?

Hold on, my bad, turns out their laughing with you. Now how do you feel?

See? Change the story and your feelings change. Harvard researcher Shawn Achor taught bankers to reappraise “stress” as a “challenge.” What happened? Here’s Shawn:

We watched those groups of people over the next three to six weeks, and what we found was if we could move people to view stress as enhancing, a challenge instead of as a threat, we saw a 23% drop in their stress-related symptoms. It produced a significant increase not only in levels of happiness, but a dramatic improvement in their levels of engagement at work as well.

Yay, we’re done… Actually, not yet. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Rather that treating your fear, wouldn’t it be better to not have it in the first place?

What’s one of the primary sources of this anxiety? And how can we nip that in the bud?

Don't Be An Opera Singer

hen you’re feeling anxious in a social situation a lot of thoughts are going through your head: Will I bore them? What do I say? What if I embarrass myself? How do I impress them?

See a pattern here? Your brain sounds like an opera singer warming up: ME ME ME.

When I spoke to Robin Dreeke, former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program, what did he say was key to connecting with people? Suspend your ego. Here’s Robin:

Ego suspension is putting your own needs, wants and opinions aside.

nd Robin’s right. Don’t worry about impressing or not-screwing-everything-up. Research shows when people are meeting someone new they don’t evaluate the interaction by what you said — they evaluate it based on how well they think they performed.

So do you see the problem here? Why so many conversations are awful? Because your brain is going ME ME ME and their brain is going ME ME ME. You need to break the cycle. So try: YOU YOU YOU.

When you’re focused on yourself, you are literally being self-conscious. And that breeds the fear and anxiety. So focus on the other person. It’s simple: listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

It will make the person you’re talking to happier. Studies show people get more pleasure from talking about themselves than they do from food or money:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money…

And it’ll probably make you happier:

Researchers… found that happy people are ten times more likely to be other-oriented than self-centered. This suggests that happiness is a by-product of helping others rather than the result of its pursuit.

Harvard Research Reveals a Fun Way To Be More Successful

https://youtu.be/nPCFviNl_Rc


[–]Senior EndorsedMattyAnon 20 points21 points  (5 children)

Suspend your ego / putting your own needs, wants and opinions aside / Don’t worry about impressing or not-screwing-everything-up. Research shows when people are meeting someone new they don’t evaluate the interaction by what you said — they evaluate it based on how well they think they performed / Because your brain is going ME ME ME and their brain is going ME ME ME. You need to break the cycle. So try: YOU YOU YOU.

Yes and no.

Certainly people are looking for what you think of them... but let's not conversationally submit here. You do as little for them as possible while being as high status and socially attractive as possible.

People don't like you for what you do for them, and you get zero points for putting other people first.

What you SHOULD be doing is talking at least half, dominating the conversation to a certain extent. Keep them on their toes and offer them occasional scraps of approval while being very fast to disapprove if they go against your best interests.

The "not your own needs" but is totally spot on though in terms of neediness: have none, show none, need nothing from the person you're speaking to.

[–][deleted] 13 points14 points  (2 children)

The one asking the questions is the one who controls a conversation.

I've almost never been asked questions about myself by anyone. My parents are incredibly ignorant, dysfunctional and delusional.

All I do is ask about others and give one to two sentence answers when I am (rarely) asked about myself. This makes it very easy to blend into social situations, especially if you mix it with a smile and confident body language. I'm most comfortable when I have someone doing 80-90% of the talking in a conversation, all I have to do is sit there and pretend to give a shit about whatever they are saying by actively listening (nodding, rephrasing something they said back to them, laughing at their jokes)

This gets me through social interactions as a very shy person. I end up finding out a lot about others and being well liked by everyone while barely having to say anything. Being tall and handsome also helps.

I'm starting a door to door sales job next week to further overcome my social anxiety. This is from someone who, less than 2 years ago, couldn't leave the house because of social anxiety. It's possible to overcome it. Meeting new people and realizing that most people aren't as horrible and hostile as my parents were is also a help.

[–]Senior EndorsedMattyAnon 4 points5 points  (1 child)

The one asking the questions is the one who controls a conversation

Asking questions sucks. Women love to talk about themselves, doesn't increase your perceived value. In fact it's just another trap to be a beta tampon: being interested in her.

I've almost never been asked questions about myself by anyone. My parents are incredibly ignorant, dysfunctional and delusional.

Women get asked question ALL THE TIME. "What's your name? what music do you like? would you like to go to the bar with me?"

All I do is ask about others and give one to two sentence answers when I am (rarely) asked about myself. This makes it very easy to blend into social situations, especially if you mix it with a smile and confident body language

Sure, if blending in is your goal then this works.

Look.... there's a big difference between being everybody's friend and fucking women. The strategies are very different.

[–]BanditandSnowman 0 points1 point  (1 child)

If you have no neediness, show none and need none WTF is the point of speaking to anyone ever? Everyone is communicating with someone else for a reason, and that is they need 'something' from them. Be it approval, sex, friendship, whatever. There is a need to communicate. If you have no need, there is no point conversing.

[–]Senior EndorsedMattyAnon 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Reason yes, need no.

If you have no need, there is no point conversing.

There is a difference between gain and need.

[–]dwarfishspy 233 points234 points  (12 children)

Your mind races. Your palms sweat. The words don’t come out of your mouth right if they come at all.

Knees feel weak too. Arms get heavy sometimes. Moms spaghetti too...

[–][deleted]  (9 children)

[removed]

    [–][deleted] 55 points56 points  (7 children)

    Yet you seem calm and ready.

    [–]YasserZe 33 points34 points  (6 children)

    To drop bombs but you keep forgetting what you wrote down

    [–][deleted]  (5 children)

    [deleted]

      [–]sir_Twinkletoes 33 points34 points  (3 children)

      Shes choking now, he had swallowed the redpill, wow

      [–][deleted]  (1 child)

      [deleted]

        [–]EPArt 25 points26 points  (0 children)

        Nope he won't have it, he knows his whole back's to land-whales. It don't matter, He's chad, ah not yet, but he's broke, he's got approach anxiety,he knows when he gets some more red pills, that's when it's back to the streets again.

        [–]4minutemilesss 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        It was there already, though.

        [–]Pope_Lucious 9 points10 points  (0 children)

        Knew someone was gonna go there

        [–]Pebble4Dunham -1 points0 points  (0 children)

        Your tummy starts rumbling and you end up releasing a wet fart. You then panic that it has bled through your underpants and onto your khakkis. You then have to shuffle across the room to the restroom to check yourself.

        [–]Repulsive_Impulse 15 points16 points  (1 child)

        I have social anxiety. Here's how I get rid of it. I remind myself that people ain't shit and all my fucks dissolve. Seriously

        [–]SaintHolland 10 points11 points  (5 children)

        Social anxiety is nothing more than your body signalling to other people that you're a low status loser. Nervous body language in social situations is like having a sign on your forehead saying "keep away! I'm unsuccessful and can only drag you down".

        The only way to achieve strong, confident body language is to be a high-status winner in life. You can't fool your body. It sees behind your mask and knows your secrets and will - yes WILL - broadcast them to the world.

        [–]projects_dude 6 points7 points  (1 child)

        Additionally some specifics that I noticed helped me.

        1. LIFT, its a TRP creed, but when you start noticing your physically stronger, and just in general better shape then those around you its no longer some abstract thought in your head,"am I good enough or am I not". You are. And better then most at least from your neck down. Which leads to the next point

        2. SAVE MONEY. Having 50k, 30k or even just 10k in the bank can go along way in getting your head straight. All the tiny little compromises one makes because their in a perpetual state of what if's and worrying about effects of bad interactions can cause slowly start to go away (i.e losing their job or place of residence).

        3. You've already been judged by the people around you. Learn to accept it and move on. This goes back to Saint's point. Whether you know it or not you instantly broadcast who you are the moment you walk in a room. Just because people aren't walking up to you and verbalizing what they think of you doesn't mean they still don't think it and behave in a certain way around you because of it.

        [–]blacklightsleaze 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        It's paragraph 22. You are loser, because of SA and you have SA, because you are loser lol.

        [–]BanditandSnowman 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        Go fuck yourself. Is that confident enough? You're a fucking dirtbag who has probably never faced a legitimate challenge in your life. You're a high status winner in life, 20 comments down on a reddit post? Yeah, keep patting yourself on the back, one day you'll eventually pat your way through to your alpha chest.

        [–]Kinbaku_enthusiast 32 points33 points  (9 children)

        I did the understandmyself / knowmyself test that jordan peterson recommended and it gave me some good insight in exactly this topic. I used to think that I was kinda an introvert. I Prefer small gatherings to large parties. I get crazy nervous about speaking in public. My nerves can really get in the way in a number of things that I do.

        According to the test though I was rather extraverted. Only i was also high in neuroticism.

        What's the best way to deal with neuroticism? You guessed it: lift. (or excercise in general).

        And then there is facing your fears. You don't actually start to feel less fear. Certainly I can't let go of fears in the way OP suggests (your mileage may vary). What i can do is accept, endure fear and try to see it as just another challenge on the path to personal excellence. And that works pretty well.

        Though i also need a little extra rest to unfray my nerves after. I don't like this special consideration, but it's what works best for me and it might be applicable to some of you high neurocitism people out there.

        Putting your attention on other people works really well and is good advice of OP. you often find out other people are as or more nervous than you are.

        Sometimes they're about half as nervous but also less capable of dealing with it, still giving me an edge. Worth developing.

        [–]SirReginaldWittberg 4 points5 points  (2 children)

        Just took it. Apparently I'm a piece of shit. Lol

        [–]Kinbaku_enthusiast 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        Heh, not bad for pulling women, probably. Let me guess, Highly disagreeable, low conscientiousness?

        [–]TehRedBirdCall 1 point2 points  (1 child)

        it say I have to buy it? Is that the right one?

        [–]Kinbaku_enthusiast 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        I think I paid 5 bucks or so, yeah.

        [–]vladtheinpaler 0 points1 point  (1 child)

        any source on exercising being the best way to deal with neuroticism?

        [–]Kinbaku_enthusiast 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        I don't recall the source exactly, but you should be able to find it with google scholar.

        It only worked for men, not for women.

        [–]LongElm 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        Will you link the test? Curious myself, bro.

        [–]Brewjo 26 points27 points  (4 children)

        Or just watch JBP lectures over and over till you can self JBP and conquer that damned elevator one step at a time, Bucko!

        [–]michaelkc03 5 points6 points  (0 children)

        “When you feel doubt or fear redirect your attention to the task at hand.” Conquering fear is a redirection of attention...profound truth.

        [–]blackierobinsun3 5 points6 points  (1 child)

        A man must face himself before he can face his fears

        [–]Chaddeus_Rex 3 points4 points  (3 children)

        Much of modern science on topics like 'fear' or 'anxiety' has a great deal of bluepill/liberal thought behind it and is tightly intertwined with politics and thus does not apply the same to people outside the West.

        If you want to deal with fear or anxiety, read the Ancients who fought in wars and learned to overcome the fear of death, a far more difficult fear to overcome than social anxiety.

        One place I would start is 'Meditations' by Marcus Aurelius.

        [–]kibbehorh[S] 2 points3 points  (2 children)

        Meditations is great. The main driver to starting my YouTube channel. In this post I talk about Stoicism (the philosophy Marcus Aurelius followed) and CBT (a type of therapy based HEAVILY on Stoicism). Neither of those things are blue pill.

        [–]Chaddeus_Rex 1 point2 points  (1 child)

        Meditations is definitely not bluepill.

        I was taking a psych course and we were told that there are currently doubts about the efficacy of CBT as it does not work well on young men and it doesn't work well on conservative people. In addition, its just a bunch of talking, its kinda dumb really.

        The best way to get through many psychological problems is to take responsibility for ones actions, follow through on your desire for change and to struggle every day to live the change they want to see and of course starting from simple to progressively more difficult exercises.

        [–]Shaman6624 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        " it's just a bunch of talking". I think you underestimate the power of language.

        [–][deleted]  (1 child)

        [deleted]

        [–]BanditandSnowman 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        What's the worst that could happen? Have you seen a YouTube clip lately. She accuses you of rape, molestation, beating her, whatever. All it takes a simple lie from a simple girl and your life is fucked. How's that for what's the worst that could happen?

        [–]1redhawkes 3 points4 points  (0 children)

        When you’re focused on yourself, you are literally being self-conscious. And that breeds the fear and anxiety. So focus on the other person. It’s simple: listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

        This is the core of charisma.

        Listen 70% of the time. Ask questions 20% of the time. Offer small input 10% of the time.

        [–][deleted]  (5 children)

        [deleted]

        [–]Shaman6624 1 point2 points  (2 children)

        Not true CBT works. You can destroy anxiety and depression with superior logic. In conjunction with exposure ofcourse.

        [–][deleted]  (1 child)

        [deleted]

          [–]Shaman6624 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Well it helped me to get like 30-50% better. I've also tried ssri for 2 days and have to say that that also helped me to see where I wanted to go with my mental state. All in all it's more of a combination of willpower, time and disciplined effort to conquer it.

          [–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

          Did something similar myself, dosage of Lexapro before I started the "exposure therapy". No shame in using drugs to get you started, I'm now fully functional and haven't touched Lexapro in over a year.

          [–]BanditandSnowman 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          I've tried many different meds and they are all placebo sugar pills as far as I'm concerned. Started on a dose, moved up to 15 times that first dosage and still barely feel anything. Change meds, repeat, same result. Might as well be popping M&Ms.

          [–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

          Yep. Focus on other people. They're often way more interesting than you'd think. When I'm high on pot all I want to do is just connect with people and focus on them and listen to them. And it helps create great relationships.

          [–]FuckRightOfff 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          Lmao, I'm not sure what I do exactly, not over thinking basically helps big time. I don't think about what i'm going to say, I just say it normally... Many of the things that TRP teaches come naturally overtime.

          [–]Codles 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          That was a spectacular write up! Your writing voice flows easily. I really enjoyed it. I feel like multiple subs could benefit from this post. Great job, OP!

          [–]meltboro 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          I didnt use to have social anxiety but i somehow got it from my ex after a 5 year relationship. After a beer or two and forcing myself to meet a few strangers it dissipates for the night though. Or i can skip it with a little xanax, but then the challenge is pretending i have a soul while on that shit.

          [–]NullIsUndefined 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          One thing that helped me a lot with approach anxiety was watching Johnny Berba on YouTube. He makes videos of him approaching on the street. Watching someone do it, seeing him fail and succeed and seeing the possible outcomes really helped me get over the fear of approaching. I also like his strategy of walking around public places on a nice day to talk to and meet women, I much prefer this path over the bars.

          https://www.youtube.com/user/Johnnyberba

          [–]BornShook 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          I can tell you how to overcome social anxiety: just don't give a fuck

          [–]Shaman6624 1 point2 points  (0 children)

          Get out of bed the same time every day and eat a big fat and protein rich breakfast without simple carbs.

          [–]SirReginaldWittberg 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Something like that lol Unfortunately also bad socially

          [–]JoeRogain0 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Dont be a opera singer? That's my dream, bro.

          [–]cali_rep 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Highly recommend everyone read the book "what to say when you talk to yourself" and check out the blogs "calm and courageous"

          [–]1mental_models 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          social anxiety boils down to process-oriented vs. outcome-oriented for me...

          gotta be doing the right things to progress on your path

          once you are in that habit, you tend to love yourself

          at that point you have to remain 'process oriented'. Doesn't matter if this specific act is a 'win'. You are on a hell of a ride along your path and this outcome is meaningless.

          This doesn't mean "be out of control" and/or "never do post-mortems", it just means that if you are really doing the right stuff you shouldn't be living and dying with each outcome. No one bats one thousand, no one shoots 100%, no one bowls 300 every game, no football team (American football or Global football/futbol/'soccer') scores every possession...

          [–]Hormander 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Very interesting read. Thanks

          [–]metallicdrama 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          There is no one way to not giving a fuck. Not giving a fuck is the way.

          [–]daffy_duck233 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Apparently reading about your approach and reasoning is all swell and i feel like i can do it the next time i see a girl. But oftentimes when put on the spot i would hesitate and then get into the grip of anxiety again. What cue word/mantra can i use to immediately trigger me into a mode of action rather than inaction?

          [–]Endorsed Contributorvandaalen 0 points1 point  (0 children)

          Go and train BJJ, then start competing as soon as possible. It will fix all of these issues over time.

          [–]VickVaseline -1 points0 points  (0 children)

          I would kill or die to be able to fart show tunes.

          [–]BanditandSnowman -1 points0 points  (1 child)

          Thanks for the bullshit. Now any actual help?