“Social anxiety Disorder” is defined as the discomfort one experiences from the fear of being judged, and yet the label “Social anxiety disorder” is a judgment in and of itself since the definition for “disorder” is “not normal.”
As with all psychiatric “disorders”, “Social anxiety disorder” is the labeling of a “state of mind.” In order to best understand the development of the state of mind labelled “Social anxiety disorder,” it is best to go back to the very beginning.
When we are born, we come into the world, not as our thoughts or belief systems within our minds, but as our intrinsic existence as complete beings. Our minds (which resides within our being) start off as a “blank slate” with not even a single acquired thought or belief system. As our minds become exposed to stimuli (including language) via our senses from the external world, they begin to acquire and store this information. Over time, our minds begin to form belief systems which is very much dependent on the environment of where we grow up.
Although modern science (psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, etc.) labels the societally acquired core belief system as our identity, this core belief system is not our identity. This is because the human being has an intrinsic “physical” existence with or without this acquired core belief system that is stored as thoughts within the mind of the human being.
Therefore, rather than the acquired belief system defining who we are, our true identity is our “intrinsic existence” or “being.” All humans beings (regardless of their acquired belief systems) have this intrinsic existence in common. So, we humans beings are not “who we think we are,” but rather, we are the “being that thinks.” In other words, we are the “intrinsic existence” or “being” that is doing the thinking. Our true existence is behind the thoughts of our thinking minds since thoughts are coming from this “physical” intrinsic existence (that we humans have recently labelled as a “brain” or a “mind”.) Modern science proves that our thinking minds (brains) are composed of elements that have been forged in the very “existence” or “universe” that we are physically woven into. Furthermore, even in our “nameless state” (with the complete absence of any mental acquisition of science or language), our “intrinsic existence” or “being” remains completely intact.
At the core of a human being is the need for acceptance from the world around which all beings are a part of. As early as infants, we have the innate ability to cry as a means of gaining the attention, acceptance and affection of our caregivers. If a child is repeatedly ignored or verbally or physically reprimanded for behavior judged as “not in accordance with” or “not up to standards of” the rules and expectations of society, their mind’s will perceive rejection.
If the developing child’s mind perceives being repeatedly ignored, judged or rejected, they may resort to physical behaviors such as yelling, hitting or acting out in some way in order to gain attention from society in their quest for acceptance. Certain members of society may be intolerant to this acting out behavior of the child and react with verbal threats and/or physical punishment. These members of society (those administering the verbal judgements and/or physical punishments) likely learned their own belief/behavior system from their parents when it was enforced upon them to “fit into” to society when they themselves were growing up.
If a child’s “acting out” behavior is continually punished, over time, the child’s mind will learn to repress its body (being) from “acting out”. The child’s mind may instruct its “being” to stop talking, crying or “throwing tantrums” since these behaviors are at risk to be verbally and/or physically punished by the society around them. The child will gradually modify both their thoughts and behaviors in an attempt to “fit into” society.
Since their minds are now acquiring a perception that they are in continuous judgement from the outside world, and if they act out on their thoughts, they will be punished, they will eventually choose an avoidant behavior to keep their “being” safe from their mind’s perceived threat from society. Since many of these mind/behavior patterns are formed very early in childhood, they are embedded deep within the subconscious portion of the mind of the individual (Including the treating mental health professionals.)
As verbal language is acquired within the mind of the individual, verbal thoughts begin to accompany their mind’s perceived threat from the outside world. Some of these thoughts may be rather disturbing to the individual and may include violent thoughts such as “wishing harm” upon others. The developing mind of the affected individual will be reluctant to share their disturbing or violent thoughts “out loud” with others (mental health professionals included) secondary to a fear that telling another person may lead to further punishment by society. It is indeed true that the divulgence of their thoughts to society carries real risks to the individual such as medication, institutionalization or just a general perceived mistrust by the belief systems stored within the collective minds of the society that surrounds them. If the individual verbally expresses themselves (divulges their thoughts “out loud”), they run the risk of being subjected to further judgement by the mind’s of others (health providers included), e.g. “That person is crazy”; “That person is a killer”; “That person has a mental disorder”; etc…
The mind of the individual therefore keeps its being (mind and body) in a state of repression since the human being has learned from past experience that acting out or voicing their opinions will result in punishment. They therefore will likely continue to hold onto their thought processes and avoidant behavior.
The thought processes (both auditory and visual) eventually become more cyclical, to the point where the individual’s mind can no longer escape the “disturbing” thoughts (for example, a thought of wishing harm upon another.) At the same time, an inner conflict will persist in their mind that if they harm another, they will be punished by society.
The individual now becomes locked into a cyclical “state of mind” since they have continuous thoughts of “acting out” on their “violent” or “disturbing” thoughts combined with thoughts of the “consequences of acting out” on these thoughts.
This perpetual thought cycle will have an effect on the complete human being since their mind has now created a constant internal state of perceived threat that will keep the entire body in a state of fear thus resulting in diffuse sympathetic overdrive. The sympathetic overdrive will lead to physical symptoms throughout the being of the individual such as sweating, blushing, trembling, gastrointestinal disturbances, etc.
An effective therapy for the state of mind “Social anxiety disorder” may be to teach the act of “internal forgiveness” which will allow the suffering individual’s mind to begin to break the chain of the offending internal cyclical thought process. It may be taught that holding onto and responding to disturbing or violent thoughts will only result in endless self-induced suffering. These cyclical thought patterns (that persist with or without a “real” threat from the outside world) create a persistent state of sympathetic overdrive that has an effect throughout the entire being (mind and body) of the individual.
Additional therapy may be to teach the suffering individual to “internally feel” the area of “discomfort” within their body. They can learn to bring their mind’s attention away from repetitive thoughts within their mind and redirect their mind’s attention towards feeling these areas of “discomfort” within their bodies. By learning the process of “internal feeling,” they will start to lose their fear of feeling any “unfamiliar” sensations within their body. This therapy of “internal feeling” will also help break the cyclical thought processes that are confined to their mind since the mind’s attention will now be directed to the perceived “discomfort” area of the body (outside of the mind.)
These acts of “internal forgiveness” and “internal feeling” address the core etiology of the acquired state of mind labeled “Social anxiety disorder.” If treatment avoids the core etiology, these individuals will likely remain in their own thought cycle/sympathetic overdrive state. They will remain trapped in their own mental perception of being surrounded by a threatening society, and will therefore likely continue to employ avoidant behavior and/or take drugs to numb their mind.
As health care providers, we can serve as a guide so that the individual’s may safely conduct their own “inner healing” in an accepting and understanding environment.
In the end, no matter what scientists decide to label a state of mind, it is the individual’s identification with and their response to their own thoughts that cause their suffering. The choice is ultimately up to the suffering individual to perform their own “internal forgiveness” and “internal feeling.” As health providers, we can assist suffering individuals to commence their own journey of “inner healing” which occurs both inside and outside of the confines of the thinking mind.
Irving Schattner says
Excellent, thought-provoking article that minimizes the stigma of what many consider to be a defect or disorder.