Social Anxiety and Trust: How Building Faith or Trust Eliminates Social Fears
Bookmark this page (using the following button), and return to study for gentle reinforcement every day!
In Social Phobics Anonymous we have found that increasing trust helps to reduce our fears. It seems that trust, in fact, is the opposite of fear. In our program there are various ways to increase feelings of trust and we are each free to choose that which works best for us individually. For some, trust is increased through a purely cognitive reevaluation of ourselves, others and events. For others there may also be a spiritual dimension that deepens faith or trust. In either case the result is the same—reduction of social anxiety.
*Although spiritual recovery is an option in our program, it is not required. We have simply found that increasing trust (or faith) in something positive about the world and ourselves can have a surprising effect on our social fears. For some these changes will come quickly, for some more slowly, but if we focus consistently in these areas, changes will come.
Here are some things, in no particular order, that we have found to be helpful. In keeping with our philosophy of respecting individual choice, we encourage you to take those ideas that you like and leave the rest–
In all of these areas, daily practice seems to be the key:
1) Reframe negative thoughts, create positive thoughts. Learning to question our negative judgments of ourselves and replace them with more positive judgments (replacing negative trust with positive trust).
2) Develop a realistic picture of ourselves. We socially anxious types have a tendency to be overly negative in our evaluation of not only our performance but also our worth as human beings. Having faith in ourselves when there is no ‘evidence’ to the contrary will eventually allow us to find proof of that evidence.
3) Develop a more realistic picture of others. Learn not to idealize other people (placing excessive trust in others while not trusting or valuing ourselves). We also learn to allow others (and ourselves) to be human, forgoeing expectations of perfection that make unrealistic demands on both ourselves and others. We also try to keep in mind that everyone, not just the socially anxious individual, operates out of fear from time to time. As socially anxious people we may tend to think our problems make us somehow different from the rest of humanity, rather than falling on a continuum that describes the entire human condition.
4) Increase trust by giving the gift of trust. Learn to give others the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise by their actions (increasing trust in others to a reasonable level). In addition we can practice forgiveness and tolerance when we ecounter other people’s shortcomings, keeping in mind that our own tendency to be overly critical of ourselves may also, at times, be unwittingly turned against others.
5) Daily cognitive study. Reading materials on a daily basis that support a positive, balanced rational evaluation of ourselves and others.
6) Daily spiritual study. Reading spiritual materials on a daily basis that can increase our faith in ourselves, others and the ultimate reality that is behind or transcends our difficulties.
7) Daily prayer. For those of us who have faith or want to try it, regular practice can bring a significant reduction in anxiety. Some may have long experience of faith with no prior success. For them and also the novice, a simple shift in focus can make all the difference.
In SPA we don’t pray for things but instead do so as an act of trust. Placing ourselves in the hands of a divine providence can help to end the excessive control that feeds our social anxiety problems, thereby freeing us to be who we were truly meant to be. We benefit from both setting aside special times to pray each day and also praying whenever we feel troubled. This constant practice can restore a sense of serenity and reduce our anxiety considerably.
8) Daily reflection. Those of us who don’t pray can still set aside quiet time each day for reflection on the good or potential for good that is within us, others and the world. Taking time to reflect on a consistent basis can help to restore a sense of proportion about our lives, our struggles and thereby establish a deeper sense of peace. We can set regular times each day for such reflection and also take time out whenever we are troubled by difficult feelings or thoughts.
As part of our daily reflection we can practice ‘letting go’ of negative thoughts, emotions, situation and people that stress or disturb us. This helps to free us up from the underlying habit of control that fuels our social anxiety.
9) Taking healthy risks. Even small risks taken can help to prove to us that the world is a safer place than we think. And when the outcomes are not what we wish, we learn that we are stronger than we think and can handle life’s inevitable disappointments so that we can remain available to the good that will also come our way.
10) Learn to trust what is beyond the mirage. Develop an awareness of rational illusions (misconceptions) and the faith or trust that there is a greater good behind all bad things either real or imagined.
11) Faith through service. Have faith that if we commit on a daily basis to being of service to our fellow social anxiety sufferer that this process will heal us and may heal others. We have found that service to others (in a way that is respectful of our own dignity and personal boundaries) frees us from the self-obsession that is at the core of all social anxiety. We may initially feel that we have no time or perhaps lack knowledge or personal recovery to be of any help to others. Paradoxically we find that service frees us from our social fears which then frees up exponentially more time in our lives.
We also find that although knowledge is a useful gift in the right time and place, that the gift of an ear– simple acceptance and support, is of great value to the receiver as well as the giver.
12) Going with the flow. We learn that we can flow with events rather than always fighting them. This does not mean we have to be passive in our lives at all. It means however that we learn to choose to focus our efforts more effectively and are given the gift of more available energy to go after the things that we want.
13) Practice Love and kindness. The ultimate act of faith is love. By choosing to love ourselves we are enacting the faith that we are indeed loveable. By choosing to behave in a loving manner to our fellow anxiety sufferers, our family and our community we extend our faith to those around us. If love seems too much we can start with kindness. Both acts of love and kindness instantly forgive imperfections in ourselves and others. There may be those times when love also means standing up to or getting away from an abusive individual or situation. Love is the faith that we are acceptable just as we are. Love is also any action that expresses this faith towards our selves and others.
14) We find that love, as the deepest act of faith is the complete opposite of fear. As with the other tools in this section we can practice love and kindness on a daily basis, both as a habit and in response to difficult situations. If practiced consistently we find that love is the greatest healer of all.
**About romantic love. In SPA dating within a support group is gently discouraged. We may use the healing of SPA to pursue romantic love outside of the group. People in SPA with solid long-term recovery (2 years or more) might choose to date one another but it is advisable that they attend different support groups if they do. Even people in committed relationships need some private space to work on their continued recovery.
Friendship however is encouraged in SPA. Whether simply ‘working’ friendships within the confines of the group or deeper, we find that having friends who also have social anxiety can be a great gift. The chemistry between individuals is always unpredictable, but we can be open to the gift of healthy friendship within the SPA fellowship when it presents itself. If we can’t be friends with everyone, we can do our best to be supportive and friendly to the best of our ability.
Bookmark this page (using the following button) and read for gentle reinforcement during your day. Share with anyone who may find this helpful!
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 in their personal lives.