How SPA Helps to Overcome Blocks To Social Anxiety Recovery: For Those Who Have Tried Other Approaches To Help Their Social Anxiety (even other 12 Step Programs) with Limited Success
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Many of us come to SPA / SocAA after having unsuccessfully tried many other approaches to overcoming our social anxiety problems: We may have tried seeking help for our social anxiety from therapists of different schools, various self help methods for social anxiety and even other 12 Step programs with little success. We may be frustrated, depressed or even cynical about various methods as the result. In SPA / SocAA we are not opposed to any of the above-mentioned approaches. They do work for some people, but not everybody and we are happy to share that our approach offers an adapted 12 Step method that many have found to be very helpful—
What’s different about our approach: SPA (Social Phobics Anonymous) is a non-pressuring 12 Step Program specifically focused to help social anxiety problems backed up by extensive experience and good results. Emotions Anonymous, a more general 12 Step program, also has a strong record of success in helping people with social anxiety problems and we recommend their program literature and their groups as well—
Our primary mission is to help our fellow social anxiety sufferer learn now to use the 12 Steps to recover from social anxiety. We recognize that what we have to offer is not going to be for everybody. Nevertheless what’s exciting about SPA / SocAA is that spiritual tools of recovery can empower and amplify the effectiveness of other therapies that previously may not have been working—
‘Spirituality’, as is found in the 12 Step approach, can be a lubricant that unblocks and frees up the effectiveness of many other self-help techniques for social anxiety: loosening control issues that previously sabotaged our efforts, lifting the mind out of negative outlook with the addition of trust or faith; softening our resistance with inward and outward compassion and unraveling mental knots through acts of service and a new sense of relationship with others along the lines of spiritual principles. Spirituality, in this sense, need not be religious, but can instead carry other connatations relating to letting go of excessive control and moving beyond ones smaller sense of the world and oneself and one’s purpose to good effect for reducing ones habitual social fears.
A short list of principles that can stop self-sabotage, can help social anxiety directly and can even enable other tools and therapies for social anxiety work more effectively—
- 1) Understanding that spirituality is a powerful key to making all other self help and therapy tools work. When not getting results, lubricate all other self-help or therapy tools with spiritual principles and you may find that they work more effectively for your social anxiety problem—or may finally work when they never worked before at all.
- 2) Realizing that spirituality can be non-religious: Enhancing faith in ‘The Good’ and learning to recognize the interconnectedness of all things, and especially any act of service that causes us to move beyond our personal problems all have benefits for the social anxiety sufferer regardless of whether we have religious belief.
- 3) Letting go of control. We unconsciously try to control our social anxiety with self help techniques rather than surrendering the need to control first. Drop efforts and agendas designed to change others and learn to live in the moment and go with the flow. Especially though a careful study of Steps One Two and Three of the Social Phobics Anonymous / Social Anxiety Anonymous 12 Step program we learn how to make vital progress with this core social anxiety-causing issue.
- 4) Taking a larger view and expressing this in actions towards others. Don’t just look for what’s in this for you. Make kindness and even little acts of help (service or support) to your fellow social anxiety sufferers a part of your life. Kindness to others, especially when we help people with Social Anxiety, reflexively triggers self-kindness, something that social phobia sufferers are distinctly lacking. Focus on service or being helpful (in healthy ways) when dealing with non social anxiety sufferers as well. This will increase your self-confidence and release you from excessive self-consciousness. Consistently making efforts (on a daily basis) that help others can help to end the cycle of self obsession that fuels social anxiety– and is the best way to preserve the recovery gains that one has already made. This need not be excessively time consuming, yet can pay us back many times over in hours and days with reduced social anxiety.
- 5) Honoring and being true to yourself. Learn to accept yourself in totality and with unconditional love. Listen to your inner voice and try to live more according to it. Allow yourself to dream in detail about the life you really want. Set boundaries with others when needed. Speak up and even stand up for yourself when needed. Be who you really are and live the life that you really want rather than living according to what your anxiety wants or what others want. Anyone of these things undertaken alone can help a little, but all of these things taken together can help social anxiety enormously.
- 6) Manifest outward and inward love in a balanced way. Becoming a more loving person towards others will help you to transcend your fear. Becoming more loving towards yourself will help you to heal your fear. Balance is the key; extremes in either direction won’t work and may set us up for more anxiety.
- 7) Faith and Trust. Whether one develops a rational or a spiritual faith, developing a deep underlying trust that there is more good than we realize in the world, in ourselves, and in the Universe as a whole will go a long way towards healing our fears.
8) Being present. The present is the only place where never obsess. When we gently keep our focus in the here and now we there is no worry and the cycle of negative thoughts are gradually short-circuited. If we practice this long enough our discomfort loses its power over us. Eventually, any new unpleasant thoughts and feelings will tend to even tend to pass in and out rather than sticking around.
9) Make a commitment. In our groups no one will ever pressure you to do anything. Pressure of any kind, we have found, aggravates all anxiety problems, including social anxiety. Yet after attending groups for a while we come to realize that all other tools of recovery eventually fall into place and our recovery begins to manifest at it’s own speed when we make a commitment to study and use of the 12 Steps on an ongoing basis our first priority. Commitment works at two levels– Day-long (gentle) effort (throughout the day and in response to challenges) and long-term (gentle) effort (long term meaning— spanning weeks, months and beyond) can, in combination, help social anxiety a great deal. The principle of gentle persistence is the key to keeping commitment on a healthy track. We are persistent but in a way that is compassionate towards others and ourselves. We are only human and should not hold ourselves to perfectionist standards as we try to gently keep our commitment to our use of program tools (and support groups) on an ongoing basis. We will stray or fall short of our own expectations many times and the principle of self-forgiving gentle persistence can always bring us back to the path of focused, ongoing effort.
This is not a catchall approach. Rather than being a compromise of all-inclusion, we see a 12 Step approach as being it’s own unique entity— an opportunity for a synthesis of the spiritual and emotional healing that stands apart from the current division of spiritual healing paths on the one side, and psychological self help techniques and therapies on the other. Rather than asserting the supremacy of one approach over another, the SPA / SocAA proposition holds that adding spirituality in to the mix frees the social anxiety sufferer more effectively in the process. This is a concept so compelling that there are now Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous groups in five states, and a couple of other countries with more to be added soon. And our telephone conference call support groups have regular International participation. So far, people from four continents, as well as the Pacific Islands, have received help by participating in Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous support groups.
This concept of a 12 Step Program for social anxiety program is not always immediately obvious— people don’t always see the entire picture right away. That’s fine— newcomers are gently reminded that every group member is free to accept and use those tools of recovery that work best for them and to disregard the rest. The 12 Steps and also the related SPA / SocAA concepts are simply shared weekly in our groups.
Our idea here is simple. First of all, the spiritual principles of the SPA 12 Steps laid out alone can by themselves be a sufficient platform for a full recovery from any anxiety disorder. This has been proven by 18 years of experience as various other 12 Step programs have emerged to address anxiety problems of different types—some even more crippling than Social Anxiety.
Steps 1, 2 and 3, which help to relieve control issues, reestablish trust (an underlying feel of safety) and call for a burden-relieving housecleaning process that is then carried out in Steps 4 and 5, all reveal exactly how an Integrated 12 Step Program for Social Anxiety Problems actually works.
At it’s most essential level we find that the 1 Steps, when worked gently but diligently, work all by themselves to relieve social anxiety—although many have also reported that they help to unleash and amplify the effectiveness of many other healing tools and concepts.
How can this be? To return to this concept, in a word, many call it spirituality. Others who do not view themselves as spiritually inclined might call it ‘learning to trust the good and go with the flow’.
In either case the result is the same—that something ‘extra’ that makes many, if not all, other healing tools (no matter what the therapy) work more effectively can be revealed if we further pry open the definition of spirituality.
‘Spiritual’ has not one, but a cluster of meanings and we will list some of their various shades and applications at greater length here:
Just to expand on the concept of spiritual / emotional healing for social anxiety a bit more:
First, spirituality refers to connectedness— something we social anxiety sufferers are often starving for. Through reestablishing a sense of healthy connection to both others, to the God of our personal understanding and surprisingly, ourselves— we find that our social anxiety is diminished as we re-emerge.
Transcending or moving beyond ones self– All spiritual paths call for their travelers to not only see, but also act beyond their own selfish needs in the service of others. Service need not be great or dramatic—a simple welcoming smile, a kind word or lending a supportive ear all make a good start. Being willing to get a phone call from a suffering fellow social anxiety sufferer can help not only the person in crisis but the person who offers an ear as well. Helping to get the word out about the support group and carrying the message about the tools of social anxiety recovery can also be a great help. In all of these cases we free ourselves from the self-obsession that is at the root of social anxiety and so short circuit the cycle of self-consuming fears.
Honoring and being true to oneself— by developing self-compassion as opposed to self pity, by learning to listen to our inner voice to hear our real needs, desires and to even allow ourselves to dream in detail of the life that we really want but have allowed the anxiety to convince us that we can not have. The power of living according to what we want instead of what our anxiety wants, (or what others want), and the power of imagining the life of our dreams and then, when we feel ready, taking steps towards those dreams. This shift in focus also allows us to speak up for ourselves and to stand for ourselves when necessary. Here also we learn to separate from others so that we can become centered in ourselves for the first time.
The secret of balancing outward love and inward love— the two above sections, may seem contradictory but actually they are not. First service to our fellow social anxiety sufferer heals us as we help others so and so is actually a means of helping oneself. We are freed from the terrible suffering of anxiety as we help our fellow social anxiety sufferer so in that act—outward love and inward love are one and the same. Of course balance also comes into play here—sometimes we can overdo service and get overtired or distracted from the joys and responsibilities of our own lives. It’s important to remember that hurting ourselves in order to help others is not our aim. Helping should be good for both the giver and the receiver in order to have spiritual value and so reduce our social anxiety.
The reason why many self-help tools don’t work— Many an excellent self-help book touts tools that frustratingly seem not to work for us. Many of us have had the experience of buying such books, using their techniques with success for short time, getting a few breaths of fresh air, and then having the anxiety return with a vengeance. Ones first reaction may be that the book must have been a fraud—surely the charlatan that wrote it was only after a buck, we fume. Or, alternately, we may berate ourselves for ‘failing’ yet again to ‘make the grade’. Surely if it is not the authors fault then it must be our fault that so far it just isn’t working. In fact, the problem may not be the book at all, but a single unadressed issue that blocks all progress: This hidden underlying issue is control. We have been trying to use various tools of recovery to control our anxiety rather than bringing ourselves into line with spiritual principles. Adding spiritual principles to our recovery process actually help to eliminate control while empowering us in healthy ways.
Strangely we find in Social Phobics Anonymous that many self help tools actually can be made to work where previously they could not— if we address the underlying spiritual or ‘control-based’ blocks to our recovery. Spirituality, rather than being a source of mere comfort actually can serve as the lubricant that allows our stuck gears to start moving.
Many people are shocked to find that if they do the spiritual work that everything else falls into place. Suddenly other self help tools start to work where before they didn’t— All because spiritual healing as derived from working the SPA 12 Steps and 14 Suggestions.
Faith and Trust— As described in the Social Anxiety Anonymous 14 Suggestions (Also known as “Social Anxiety and Trust”), ‘faith’ also known as ‘trust’ is the underlying solution for all of our fears. Moving forward with active faith (believing in and serving healthy love) can eradicate anxiety. Additionally, being gentle with oneself and others can have the same effect. Many tools of recovery fail to work simply because we are pushing ourselves ruthlessly to perform as we use them. Starting from a place of faith and expressing love towards ourselves as we make the effort can make all the difference in this regard. This is really a case where kindness can help to make all the difference with social anxiety.
Please note: Although Social Anxiety Anonymous makes no public affiliations, there are many truly wonderful, valuable and worthwhile written sources of self-help (or famous self-help leaders) in both the commercial and / or more publicized non-profit sector and we never mean to discourage anyone from availing themselves of such helping resources.
This ^^ post is related to a (general) policy re-examination that occurred before the old website went down.