Mental Wellness and Self Improvement Blog
For those who fear rejection, one mantra to keep in mind is this, “You are not entitled to be liked.” This may seem harsh at first, but when explained with the fact that there will always be others available to you, who like you, the mantra becomes soothing.
According Eric Berne’s transactional analysis model, in which he asserts that people operate in one of three ego states, the adult ego state, the parental ego state and the child ego state, exploring the nature of one’s child ego state will provide insight into his childhood experiences with rejection.
First, to summarize the three ego states of transactional analysis, the adult ego state, refers to a person’s ability to be objective and make decisions based on what he is currently observing in his reality. The parental ego state refers to how a person perceives the world from a place of morals and values learned from his parents or guardians. For example, if you encountered a man in a clown costume in the grocery store, from a place of objectivity (which is hard) you will simply acknowledge that he is a man in a clown costume, and not claim to know why he is wearing the clown costume. From a place of the parental ego state, you might assume with confidence that the man in the clown costume is either going to perform or just arrived from performing at a children’s birthday party.
Now consider the clown costume scenario at the grocery store from the perspective of the child ego state. From the child ego state the sight of the clown will likely provoke pleasant or not so pleasant feelings associated with childhood memories from your experiences with clowns. This is because the child ego state is associated with feelings from a person’s overall childhood experiences and biological instincts.
For people who struggle with social anxiety, it all comes down to an instinctual fear of being ousted by the group, heighted by childhood experiences where they responded poorly to episodes of rejection. Biologically, we all have an instinctual desire to be accepted by the group we live with. This boils right down to our ability to get our basic needs met. A wilderness dwelling tribesman who has been ousted by his tribe, is going to have a more challenging time, getting his needs met by himself. This desire to be accepted and approved by the group is also most pronounced in children. How children are treated by the group and their family plays a big role in their development of confidence.
In cases where the child responds poorly to rejection, which often leads to more incidents of being rejected, not only does the child grow into an adult with low self-confidence, the child grows into an adult who develops a knee jerk reaction of avoidance to any situations where he perceives that he might experience rejection.
Using Eric Berne’s three ego states, for people who can investigate their experiences with rejection as children and change their childhood perception of these incidences, these people experience the true liberation of being able to appreciate the mantra, “You are not entitled to be liked.”
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
I was recently discussing optimistic thinking with a client regarding an upcoming job interview he was set to attend. I explained to him that going to the job interview would be a win, win situation. It would be a win if he gets hired by the company, and it would also be a win if he does not get hired by the company.
So, the first part regarding why it would be a win if he gets hired by the company, does not need explanation. It is the rejection that you are most likely interested in reading about. The rejection means that the working environment is not the right fit for him. Which affords him to take the company off his list of potential employers and dedicate his time and efforts applying elsewhere. Furthermore, the rule of averages dictates that eventually he will get hired.
When treating those who suffer from social anxiety, one of the concepts I introduce to them is the thinking errors of using should, must and ought. These are rigid verbs which dramatically change the nature of any thought to thoughts that becomes anxiety provoking. The reason for this is because verbs like must and should imply that an endeavor can only have one favorably outcome, and that in the absence of that favorably outcome, that things will be bad. The nature and severity of said bad outcome is entirely up to the imagination of the owner of the thoughts. While there are circumstances in life in which an endeavor can only yield one favorable outcome, most endeavors in life present with too many possible outcomes and subsequently, multiple favorable outcomes.
For example, a patient who goes into emergency surgery to save his life, is going through a situation where there can be only one favorable outcome. With the favorable outcome being that his life is saved. Compare this to a situation where a person sets about the process of applying for multiple jobs and gets invited to a few job interviews. In this situation, there are multiple outcomes. People who chronically engage in anxiety provoking thoughts unnaturally convince themselves that most of the situations or endeavors they participate in everyday life must or should go a certain way. This then activates the primal mind, or the fight or flight system in the brain into mistaking everyday potential inconveniences in life to potential life or death situations.
So, a rejection, is merely an inconvenience, and on an advanced level, a good thing. As rejection simply means that you are not compatible with the person or entity engaged in the rejection of you. To convince yourself that you should, or you must not get rejected, or that you ought to be accepted because you have met or exceeded certain standards, is to set yourself up for unhealthy and recurring conflicts, most of which will not go your way.
One of the most effective ways to heal past anxiety is to embrace the practice of optimistic thoughts. Practice considering other possibilities that you once rejected, avoid putting yourself into corners which trap you. This does not imply that you cannot adopt, and practice healthy boundaries in your life. Boundaries in your life are healthy and important, but when dealing with other people and situations outside of your control, it is important to practice flexibility and open mindedness within your personal boundaries
This allows you to often envision things going your way or at the very least working out for the best. This also dramatically decreases your experiences with anxiety.
A primary reason, people find themselves emotionally upset is confusion. Confusion that comes from their consistent resistance towards contradictions to their belief systems. Take for example, social anxiety. The socially anxious persons are at war within themselves regarding their expectations and outcomes for their interactions with other people.
The socially anxious person expects all social interaction to proceed and end peacefully, with the other party or parties always seeing him or her in a positive view. Subsequently, the socially anxious person finds it difficult to cope with an interaction that does not proceed peacefully. Regardless of whether the socially anxious person blames himself for the outcome of the interaction or the other party, the solution to this dilemma comes down to being able to accept people, places and things as they are. Which leads to you responding to the situation as the situation presents itself.
For example, a co worker who is habitually hostile towards you, is a co worker who has a predetermined bias against you. There is really nothing you can do to change the mindset of that coworker, so going about seeking to resolve your differences with the coworker is irrational, as there was never a “real” conflict between you two to begin with. However you choose to respond to the coworker’s dislike towards you, (be it to simple ignore him, or acquire another job) will have to be consistent with the fact that your coworker’s dislike towards you, was not caused by you.
This means that your experiences with social anxiety comes about when you convince yourself that you have some type of control over people, places and things and your feelings of anxiety are triggered when you struggle to come up with ways to control an unfavorable situation.
There is nothing to control.
Even if you really did something to upset your coworker, maybe you didn’t give them a report on time, or you parked in their parking spot, the reality is that the best you can do is make amends for your wrong doing and move on with your life. In truth, if you have done something egregious to your coworker, it disqualifies you as someone who struggles with social anxiety, and places you in the category of having sociopathic tendencies. People who struggle with social anxiety tend to be overly empathetic and behavioral inhibitive by nature, so the likelihood of going out of your way to upset another person is slim to none.
In short, it helps your case to always be honest with yourself, because most of the time when you accept difficult situations as they are, it turns out that you don’t have to do much to remedy the situation, except to take care of yourself. Being honest with yourself can be a difficult process, because it involves you challenging previously held beliefs, which might now prove to be untrue. Commonly held beliefs people who struggle with social anxiety tend to run with the themes of I can’t cope with quarrels, so therefore I must be a peacemaker. I must be liked by all, so I must always be agreeable, I am a failure, so I must hide my flaws. I can’t trust others and the list goes on.
When working with clients who struggle with these types of beliefs, I will often ask them to imagine what their lives would be like, if they genuinely came to see and believe themselves as being okay, regardless of the opinions of others. The process of identifying and practicing new and healthier beliefs is easier said than done but is well worth it.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
For some people who struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety, being able to identify their feelings of anxiety might seem like an impossible task. They have become so focused on their coping strategies for dealing with anxiety that over time they have forgotten what type of situations they find anxiety provoking. It is important to note that by coping strategies for anxiety, I mean coping strategies that don’t work, which can also be described as unhealthy coping strategies.
There are three steps to take towards identifying your triggers for anxiety. The first step is to identify what behaviors you are engaging in, when you become anxious. The second step is to identify the specific anxiety related feelings which influenced the behavior, and the third step is to identify the anxiety related thoughts which influenced the feelings. Ultimately, your behaviors reveal what you truly believe. For example, take someone who dropped out of school because he was faced with multiple class presentations during that semester and up until the time he dropped out of school, he was making good grades. His behavior of dropping out of school in lieu of the presentations indicated that he did not have the confidence to successfully deliver the presentations. It is also important to note that his slide show presentations were well done and above standard. Further, the fact that he followed through with dropping out of school, indicated that not only did he not have the confidence to deliver the presentation, he was willing to go out of his way to avoid the situation which he considered to be too anxiety provoking.
Now, you are probably reading this and thinking to yourself, that the above given example was obvious. You would be right, it is obvious, although the initial reason he gave for quitting school was that school had become too expensive (true) and that he was not learning anything, (debatable). It wasn’t until he experienced a panic attack on the job that he was able to finally identify one of his core triggers for anxiety.
You see, he had started experiencing panic attacks on the job, but according to him, he had no idea why he was having these panic attacks, especially since he had just gotten a raise accompanying his promotion to a leadership position. It wasn’t until he was able to connect the dots that he would often experience a panic attack when he was tasked with leading meetings with his supervisees, and that the attacks had become more frequent once his boss picked him to give a presentation at a work related conference, that he brought up what he believed was the real reasons he quit school. At the end of the day he was able to identify his triggers for anxiety as being any situation that challenged him to present himself before an audience where he would be judged or evaluated. From that moment on, he was able to see how most of his episodes with anxiety, were related to him finding himself in a position where others where evaluating his level of competency.
So, what does he do about it?
Well the first thing he does, is to identify how he would like to perceive situations where he would be judged or evaluated by others. This is then followed by intensive work where he steadily exposes himself in small steps to situations where he perceives he is being evaluated. Until he is desensitized from the dread and he has internalized his new perception, these evaluations and challenges only help to make him more competent.
I have covered the topic of helplessness several times on this blog and will do so again with this post. This time I will be addressing it from a different position. Why do people experience feelings of helplessness?
Consider a simple analogy, you purchase a piece of furniture from the store, which requires assembly. You open the box and carefully sort through the pieces of wood. You find that there are no instructions and besides the various sizes of wood, included in the box is a bag of screws. This is a problem because you only equipped yourself with a hammer. Now, say (for some odd reason) you have no experience with using screwdrivers and screws and when it comes to fixing furniture, you only know about hammer and nails. In this case, your instinct will most likely be to hammer the screws in, while assembling the furniture. This will lead to you damaging your new furniture before you ever get to use it. Leading to an overall frustrating experience. Even if you go back to the store to repeat the process again, you will likely feel helpless and hopeless about the situation until someone introduces you to the screwdriver.
Feelings of helplessness are common when you are doing your best with what you think you know, and yet things continue to not go your way. Instinctively you continue to dig deeper and repeat the same pattern of behaviors, that are most likely making the situation worse. When it comes to anxiety, your feelings of helplessness are there because your coping strategies have run their respective courses. They no longer work, and you know it. But, they are all you have come to know since you became cognizant of your struggle with anxiety and now you feel defenseless without them.
It at this point, some people will resort to mind numbing substances like marijuana and alcohol to help numb their symptoms of anxiety. Even then, they find themselves back at the root issues when they reach the point of diminishing returns with these substances.
The solution is to move past feelings of helplessness to face and engage with the root issue you have always avoided. In this case it would be your experiences with anxiety. The fact that your coping strategies which you used to avoid dealing with your triggers for anxiety, no longer work is a good thing. It means that your mind is now open to learning and practicing new coping strategies. With this being written, it only makes sense for you to embrace new strategies to help you move past your experiences with anxiety.
While it would be a difficult process, your struggle with anxiety has always been a difficult experience, so dealing with and experience ing difficulty is nothing new for you. Further, by embarking on a new journey to move past your experience with anxiety, you will no longer feel helpless. Your feelings of helplessness would be replaced by a healthy dose of fear and excitement, while you will also feel more hopeful. You would now have transitioned from a place of timidity where you habitually nursed and managed your fears to a place of optimism where you look forward to a life where you are often at peace with yourself and the world around you.
Like the simple analogy where you attempted to hammer in the screws, your world view, of furniture building and assembly would be now expanded by knowledge of the screwdriver.
In the absence of chronic pain, sickness or a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, the most common cause for poor sleep is anxiety. For most people, how it usually works is that people ruminate over anxious thoughts throughout the day. The thoughts that they find bothersome are situations that range from financial difficulties to troubled personal relationships.
Regardless, the person finds his or herself obsessed over these thoughts throughout the day, where they go over in their heads the worst-case scenarios regarding their fears about things that could go wrong in their lives. This often will produce feelings being overwhelmed which makes the feelings of anxiety even worse. When nighttime falls and the person is ready to go to bed, he or she will find it especially difficult to fall asleep as their brains are still very much active with the ruminating thoughts of worse case scenarios.
The person lays down, but it is a difficult night as he or she often tosses and turns most of night, seldom able to achieve true REM (rapid eye movement) or deep sleep. Then the morning comes. In severe cases the person, after a restless night might find him or herself too exhausted to begin the day and attend to his or her activities of daily living. Feeling exhausted, while still caught in a cycle of ruminating anxiety provoking thoughts, the person, feeling overwhelmed might opt to withdraw from the day’s activities and catch up on sleep. As most people can imagine, this now leads to a negative cycle of unwanted consequences.
So how does a person caught up in this negative cycle, break the cycle and begin the process of turning things around for the better. Well it is important to remember that the people, places and things that you have come to find anxiety provoking in your daily life, aren’t going to go away anytime soon. This means that when it comes to our triggers for stress and anxiety, we have very little control over these external factors, however we have plenty of control over ourselves. The first objective is to resume getting a good night’s rest, which leads to the second objective of using renewed energy to appropriately engage with your identified triggers for anxiety. However, for you to successful respond differently to your triggers for anxiety, you need to transition your thought processes from worst-case scenarios to best case scenarios.
All these objectives can only come after you genuinely feel well rested with restored energy. So, here’s what you do when you are having trouble sleeping at night. You take out a sheet of paper, and you begin writing the first thing that comes to your mind. You see, there is power in writing things down, I will say that writing things down is the equivalent of being on the ground amidst the trees and then finding yourself in a helicopter and having a aerial view of the trees and landscape. In short, writing things down helps you adopt a more objective and less overwhelming view of the situation.
The main goal for writing down what’s on your mind is to assure yourself that things can wait, while you sleep peacefully. This is a very impactful exercise, you write the first thing that comes to your mind and you keep writing until the last. A more advanced version of this exercise is for you to write things down that you find bothersome, your feelings about these things and what you believe the outcome of the situation will be. Then you repeat the process again, except this time, you write down what you would like the best-case outcome or scenario to be. Lastly, you then outline the series of steps you are willing to take to achieve the best-case scenario.
This more advanced exercise is best done during the day, as it will require a lot of energy for focusing and managing your emotions. For now, simply writing down thought after thought on paper, is enough to calm your nerves, mentally put things on hold until the next day and get some much-needed sleep.
Do you struggle with anxiety? If you do, then you also struggle with recurring thoughts that cause you anxiety. These thoughts are often related to your fears and worries regarding the things that could possibly go wrong in your life. In this post, I will share with you one technique designed to help you reduce the frequency of your anxious thoughts and increase the frequency of healthier thoughts.
Take for example, one day at work you hear a rumor that the company you work for will be making budget cuts in the form of layoffs in the coming months. Coincideing with this rumor, you were recently pulled into the office of your supervisor, who brought to your attention aspects of your job performance which needed improvement.
Now you are feeling anxious, you are thinking about the money you have in your checking and savings and if you are on the chopping block to get laid off. The problem with your anxiety related feelings is that it is causing you to feel restless, your concentration at work is hindered and you are not sleeping very well either. But an argument could be made that your concerns about becoming unemployed is a very real possibility and given the financial consequences of suddenly losing your job, you should take your worries very seriously.
So, what do you do?
First, ruminating on your fears about the possibility of losing your job does not help your case, instead it causes you excessive stress from prolonged anxiety. Maybe the company is indeed planning on laying off employees, and maybe your supervisor calling you into the office was the first stage of the inevitable. On the other hand, maybe your supervisor calling you into the office is a sign that the immediate leadership truly values the work you put in, to the extent that they are willing to invest extra time in addressing issues with you to ensure consistency with the work you do.
Regardless, you should make peace with the fact that you and any other employee could be laid off without advanced notice. The question would be, what would you do if you were indeed laid off?
In this technique, you play out the worst-case scenario to the end, on paper. You write down in detail the actions you would take to resume bringing in income if your main source of income where to suddenly cease. Just by focusing on this exercise, you start to feel better about your situation, as you now have realistic possibilities towards addressing a sudden interruption of income in your life. Further, this technique is applicable to all scenarios where you find yourself obsessively worrying about negative possibilities and turning your attention to positive possibilities.
An important thing to remember with this technique, is that it is not just important for you to write down how you will effectively respond to negative situations, you are also required to do some research to learn if your proposed responses are feasible. Once you have written down a well thought out plan for how you plan to respond to a potential negative situation, and you have also done the research on the effectiveness of your plan, you will find yourself more comfortable and tolerant of your current situation.
Your perception of an experience is going to produce a set of feelings which are consistent with your perception. So, if your perception of social experiences is terrifying and upsetting, you are going to experience feelings that are consistent with your terrifying and upsetting perception.
This is good news, because it means that your condition of social anxiety is not permanent and that it is going to take some courage for you to explore if your perceptions are accurate. Which brings me to the real purpose of this post, what if your issues with social anxiety are based on real fears? Another way to put it, what if your perception that an experience is terrifying, is real? Then what? Does this mean that it is okay to live a life of fear? Does this mean that it is healthy to become habitually anxious and withdrawn from the potential to engage in new experiences?
This calls to mind the thinking error (aka, cognitive distortion) overgeneralization, which is where we come to a general conclusion based on a single or handful of experiences. It’s like we tell ourselves that if something negative happens once, it then becomes the norm. While we are wired to remember negative experiences more often, it is important to know that the reason we are neurologically wired to remember negative experiences more often, is for learning from the misfortune so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that helped make the experience negative for us in the first place.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where your fears in regard to a social situation are real, it is a call to action for you to learn what you can about that situation, so you can thrive in the future and similar circumstances. A social situation that results in a negative experience can mean that you were in a place where you were not welcome. It could mean that you unknowingly associated with a person or persons who did not care for you nor did they have the best of intentions towards you. Or it could mean that you unintentionally acted in ways that the group considered inappropriate.
Regardless, if you have had a negative experience with a social situation, taking a break from that situation or similar types of the situation does not mean that you take this attitude to all social experiences. Understandably, for people who have struggled with social anxiety for most, if not all their lives, they will not have other frames of reference for which to compare to new social experiences which they find to be negative. From their perspective it will just be a continuation of a series of bad social experiences in their lives. In such circumstances they would benefit from the objectivity of a therapist who can help them analyze these experiences, learn the lessons they need to learn from these experiences and help them forge new healthier and happier social experiences.
If you find that your fears are real, your goal will be to understand the specifics that made these fears real and focus on using your thoughts and behaviors to create specifics that make social experiences more pleasant for you.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
With the discoveries made in neuroscience in recent years it has become common to come across theories and opinions about how human behavior is governed by biochemicals. Biochemicals such as neurotransmitters and hormones.
There is some truth to this, after all, in human development, personalities and attitudes are known to change due to the body’s production of new hormones. A good example would be the difference between your average fourteen-year-old and your average twelve-year-old. So yes, to a significant degree, we are subject to the influences of the chemicals interacting with each other in our bodies. But does this mean we truly have no control over our desires and instincts which are influenced by these chemicals?
The answer is that we do. Regardless of your biochemical makeup, at the end of the day, it’s the thoughts we believe in and subsequently pay the most attention to, that becomes a reliable predictor for our behaviors.
From the foods we choose to eat, to our levels of motivation in engaging in certain activities, to being affiliated with mental health issues, once you get past the labels and roles hormones and bio chemicals play within us, you will find that our thinking has a great deal of influence in how we respond to the production of hormones and chemicals within us.
It is important to note, that when it comes to the feelings of anxiety, anxiety provoking experiences will elicit the same cocktail of biochemical reactions within all human beings. For example, a novice parachute jumper and an experienced parachute jumper are all experiencing the same types and states of emotional arousal, brought about their body’s response that they are jumping out of an airplane several feet above ground. The difference in the experience comes from how each jumper responds to his emotional state of arousal. One jumper may be focused on drawing from his knowledge, skill and experience in executing the perfect jump and landing, while the other jumper maybe experiencing feelings of doubt, regret and fear as he thinks about newly acquired knowledge on how to jump and land properly.
This is good news for those who struggle with social anxiety because it means that you can heal from your experiences with social anxiety. Specifically, you can learn to respond differently to your experiences of emotional arousal in social situations. As a therapist, when treating clients for social anxiety, I find cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to be the most effective approaches for helping clients with social anxiety.
With cognitive behavioral therapy, clients learn to identify specific circumstances in social situations which trigger their experiences with anxiety. They learn about core beliefs which make these circumstances triggering for them, then they learn evidence-based strategies for adopting healthier beliefs which eliminates their triggers. Then through exposure therapy, they gain familiarity with triggering situations which they previously avoided while practicing cognitive behavioral strategies.
So, the good news is that people who struggle with social anxiety and other anxiety related disorders can learn to change their perceptions regarding their experiences with anxiety for the better.
The constant worry, tightening of the chest. Desire to control external circumstances so as to ensure a beneficial outcome, restlessness and poor sleep are some of the common symptoms people who struggle with anxiety experience. So, what does life without anxiety look like?
Most people who struggle with all forms of anxiety have a surprisingly difficult time in answering this question. The reason for this is because their experience with anxiety is a symptom of a deeper issue. The anxiety be it social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder has become a by product of a coping strategy. Often the anxiety could be a maladaptive attempt to fit into a sick familiar milieu or macro culture. In which the attitudes, cultural beliefs and values, are contradictory to the person’s personality and overall character.
A former client would describe himself initially as a pretzel, in which he felt he had to repeatedly mold and adjust himself to fit into ever changing shapes, for his primary goal of love and acceptance. He experienced this with his family, his friends and acquittances. He was often on edge, cautiously watching how others would perceive or react to his words and actions.
A life without anxiety is liberation from actively pursuing acceptance and belonging from anyone. It is coming to a place of peace with whom you are and what you are about and abandoning prescribed roles which have never worked for you. Ultimately, a life without anxiety is a consistency of feeling peaceful within you and having a true sense of confidence regarding your feelings of peace within yourself.
So how does a person get to this place? The process is straightforward, begin by identifying all your known triggers for anxiety. Your triggers for anxiety are typically going to be people, places and things, specifically regarding your expected roles when engaging with these people, places and things. For simplicity, we are going to use the example of people.
Be it in a personal, professional or causal relationship, people who experience chronic anxiety regarding their interactions with others suffer from social anxiety. All social anxiety boils down to is a person’s fear of an inability to successfully meet his socially assigned tasks and duties during engagements with specific persons or people. While most people who struggle with social anxiety are often not able to identify specific consequences they fear will they will experience if their social engagements fail, they often do relate their anxiety to a fear of not being approved of or accepted.
The answer lies in starting the practice of engaging with others from a genuine place. This means that if there is an identified role which no longer suits you, or you feel dishonest about engaging in it, abandon that role. Now you have forced yourself into a position where you are honest about whom you are and what you want. Will you likely experience some rejection or push back? Yes. However, this now opens the door towards you establishing relationships with others whom are like minded. The more like-minded people you attract, the more confidence you have in being your authentic self and this is where your consistency in being peaceful comes from.
The absence of anxiety is not arrogance or recklessness, it’s accepting life on life’s terms thereby achieving a genuine peace of mind within one’s mind.