Overcoming Social Anxiety

Surprisingly Symbolic
Hello Edahn.

I am a 23 yr old guy. I was always painfully shy. However I never faced a lot of problem with it due to my good academic records and my regular advancements in career. For some reason, two years ago I suddenly began to feel lonely and lost hope in life. My studies have been deteriorating since and right now I feel a kind of anaesthetized, detached from everything. I have no urge to fight. I even fear to talk to people I once knew. I fear as if they would know my shortcomings and weaknesses. I feel I would bore them. I can't respect the person I am.

Examples of my shyness--I fear to talk over phone. Whenever I am among a group of people, I hesitate to express myself and get embarrassed. I can't talk to my professors. Sometimes I feel dumb when I see others are talking spontaneously and I am left behind. I feel as if people are disgusted with my personality or simply ignore me. This way I am left so alone and isolated from others. Two years from now I will be a doctor and don't know whether I would really make it. Now my self esteem has hit the bottom. Six months from now, I will have to sit for a big exam and have to complete volumes of books. I don't know what I am doing.

I went to a psychologist. She told me that I have defeating personality. One psychiatrist told me I got dysthymia. I regular take antidepressants but it's not helping me anymore. If you can suggest what to do, how to take control of the situation by myself, I would be really grateful to you. Don't ignore it.

IT SOUNDS TO ME like you've gone through 3 separate stages. First, a shy phase; second, some type of depression; and third, a period where the social anxiety has been creeping into different parts of your social life and where you've practiced self-loathing. My best guess would be that you never learned how to trust that life would work out. In the beginning, this showed up mainly in your social relationships, where you predicted things would go bad. Eventually, this spread to other parts of your life and you started predicting they would go bad too. Over time you developed a sense of hopelessness, which together with the loneliness due to not being able to connect with people, made you feel depressed. Eventually, the feeling of doom kept spreading and now you expect it everywhere, so much that you probably cause it to happen. (See self-fulfilling prophecy.) If you want to read a little more about this, I'd suggest googling "scripts" and "transactional analysis." Erick Berne wrote a lot of interesting stuff about this.

But you actually don't need to read to work through this. As smart as you are, reading will only get you so far. The real work involves courage and understanding.

Here's what you gotta do. You have to be willing to endure the confusion and weirdness of this moment, whatever it is, without succumbing to the belief that there's something inherently wrong with you or with your experience that needs to be corrected. That takes balls and patience, but I would bet that deep down, you already know how to do it and what that looks like. 

Anything else you try to do to fix your situation will only fuck you up more. Any therapy or form of mental control or whatnot will reinforce the idea that something is wrong with THIS that needs to be corrected and fixed. Do you see how this is the theme that has been running through your life, robbing you of your opportunity to feel comfortable and safe, making you feel like you're defective? It's not just you. It's almost everyone. They're just playing games, hoping that if they reach their ideal (materially, socially, sexually) they'll finally fit in and everything will finally be okay. Guess what. That moment never comes, because as you acclimate to one level, your needs increase and there's a new goal to attain, and so on. The only way people ever get out of that is by facing the moment and facing themselves with all their supposed defects and unacceptable qualities, and just wait. They don't do anything, they just wait

What the fuck is the point of waiting? By waiting, you see that there is nothing actually wrong. This is fine. The thing you thought you needed was bullshit because the only thing that ever really mattered was your ability to be kind to yourself and to be kind in general. Sounds hokey? Too fucking bad. It's the truth. 

The secret is this, my friend: there's no secret. There's no technique, no special training you need, and there's no where you're ever going to go that will make you feel safe. The only place you will ever feel safe is right here, where you already are, with all the disappointment and mediocrity you already feel. You never go anywhere; you give up trying to get anywhere, and then you find yourself where you already are. You just don't have the urge to fight it anymore. You just experience it however it is. But in that moment, you stop being an asshole to yourself. Your heart loosens up and true wisdom blossoms inside you. You know what you have to do to make things right in your life and in this world. It's not a desperate kind of thing. It comes from a place of deep silence and intimacy. That's what intuition really is. It's very very sacred, and I say that as a non-religious person.

Sit with this a little, and sit with your experience. See what it's like without analyzing it and trying to gain the upper hand on it so you can erase it. Enough of that. You've been running to long. Face it like a fucking warrior. Be brave.

When you need more guidance, read some of my posts that are tagged with "Rest" like this one or this one or this one. Actually, just read them all. ;)