How do I overcome shyness and fear

Everyone has three systems for regulating emotions: the threat system, the propulsion system, and the calming system. The respective balance between them differs from character to character and from individual to individual. The threat system is particularly active in a shy person. Then in difficult situations he becomes afraid, and when he is isolated he becomes sad. This disturbs the equilibrium even more ... What can you do at such moments to restore the equilibrium?

When our threat system is particularly active, more feelings arise that go back to the feeling of threat: one experiences fear, anger, resentment and irritation, shame and pessimism. Motivation and energy decrease, and one is exposed to feelings of hopelessness. Satisfaction, fulfillment and peace are then far away.
But if we understand how our brain works, we can step into the distance from the ego and bring the three systems back into balance.

This is a bit like "social fitness training" - it is similar to physical fitness training in many ways. Similarly, working on shyness by cultivating compassion is a form of physiotherapy of thinking. One can learn and practice how to create states of compassion that will help bring the systems of the brain into a state of equilibrium. You can also reach out to others to help you with this. One can work on behavior, thoughts and feelings. Exercise, diet, and medication can also help.

Rationality alone is not of great help

We don't want to turn off the threat system because it evolved for good reasons and is useful to us. But we don't want it to be too dominant either. It can get out of hand, and when it does, it can cause problems. When emotions, which are responses to threat and danger, are too easily triggered or too intense, it is difficult to keep the systems in a state of balance.

Trying to deal rationally with the emotional imbalance that results is not much help. Our new, rationally minded brain says that the party or date isn't really that threatening, but the old brain's patterns make it clear that the situation is indeed dangerous. One may not think or remember that these cautionary thoughts and feelings are patterns of the old brain. You then try to suppress and control them by putting yourself under pressure and blaming yourself. You feel ashamed of being scared and sensitive around people, and trying to manage and combat the feelings rather than accepting them, trying to understand them, comfort yourself, and work with them.

When you try to disappear into the wallpaper

If you are shy and go to a party and find that you don't know anyone but the hostess, then the threat system can be activated automatically. Social anxiety can suddenly increase sharply, even knowing that you have the ability and dexterity to approach someone and start a conversation. You also know that the likelihood that people are just waiting to judge you severely is very slim, but that feeling still increases. The next thing you notice is that the legs carry you to the hostess's side to help her pass trays of food around so as not to have to speak to anyone.

Or you notice that you are drifting to a place behind the table with the buffet, where people can hardly engage you in a conversation. When someone comes we turn away and seem very busy with the roast beef platter. Maybe you sweat a little, feel unsteady, and know that your heart is palpitations. This activation of the threat system happens so quickly that there is no time to think it all up. You don't actually think anything at all, except thoughts related to threat and danger, such as:"I look stupid", and"I have to be careful that I don't do anything embarrassing"while trying to disappear into the wallpaper.

And what about the interview, when you had carefully prepared yourself and had previously found out about the company, its activities and the tasks associated with the job, and then you had checked your qualifications? You had made a list of questions your interviewer was likely to ask and had been mentally going through the answers by the time the elevator reached the floor where the interview was to take place. Suddenly her head was blank. They felt how suddenly fear rose and their mouth was dry. Suddenly you panic and wanted to cancel the conversation. Social fear can be there that quickly when the threat system kicks in. You can feel like it's overwhelming.

Our brain is so creative

Another problem is that our new brain, which has the ability to be self-aware, can really enjoy pondering over potential dangers and humiliations and indulging in worry. It's amazingly creative at thinking up all sorts of terrible and catastrophic things that could happen. This is how the threat system works. It always prepares for the worst: Better to be safe than sorry later, that's what we call it. That's its job, that's what it's made for.

I remember being so scared right before an exam that I thought I was going to pass out. You've likely experienced a surge of fear the first time you met someone - maybe when you said hello or shook hands. In retrospect, you can see how automatic social anxiety is. It comes out of the blue: zack! And with her automatically such thoughts:“I won't think of anything to say. You can tell that I'm scared. I sound stupid. He / she will think I'm stupid. "

This obsession with the ways in which you are not meeting your expectations can be changed by questioning your automatic thoughts or telling yourself things that are more likely to support you. You can also concentrate on what you find interesting about the person, or you can look out for common interests. And that will be easier again when you have learned to be friendly and not strict with yourself.

Relieve the pain ...

But what if an encounter didn't go as well as expected? Do you ponder it then? Do you know the vicious circle of shame and self-reproach? You can also find yourself angry at the other person for not approaching you anymore. Do you remember the vicious circle of anger and reproach? Research has shown that this type of brooding exacerbates social anxiety and is linked to sadness and depressed mood.

Exercise can help you use the calming system when you feel bad with yourself or with other people. They can also relieve your pain. Buddhism, a spiritual tradition that places great emphasis on compassion, teaches that feeling kindly towards others and towards oneself, especially when one is disappointed or felt abandoned, leads to greater emotional well-being.

We know that intense shyness and social anxiety are part of the protective response. When one is afraid, the amygdala is activated, an almond-shaped organ in the center of the brain. If this happens frequently - for example because the environment creates a lot of stress or because of predisposition, unresolved pain and / or trauma from the past, or for any other reason - the amygdala is sensitized. They then react more quickly to lesser dangers or to the sensation of being threatened, and this means that fear is more easily triggered and more intense. When you see that fear is part of a system that has evolved to protect us, but the new brain can get the upper hand and exaggerate danger, then think about how to reduce that sensitivity. It can be of great help in this direction if one is kind and compassionate with oneself and thus brings the threat system into a more balanced relationship with the other systems.

Don't lose touch with positive feelings

Your brain is designed so that in many situations your threat system will overwhelm and override your positive feelings. Imagine that you are enjoying a quiet walk through the woods, a picnic under a tree, or a rendezvous with your partner, and suddenly you hear the siren of a police car or the fire department. Most likely, anxiety will set in and you will lose all interest in the food or romantic opportunities. This is because you are turning your attention to danger, and in order to do that, you must turn off your positive interests and emotions.

Sometimes, of course, you can be pulled in two directions at the same time, namely when the situation stimulates positive emotions but also involves risk or danger. For example, when considering dating someone, you might be excited and hopeful that a new relationship might arise, but at the same time you might be afraid of rejection. In this situation, you may need to learn to overcome fear, take the risk, and extend the invitation to the person concerned so that you have at least a chance to enjoy the date. When fear prevails, you will never call and never know whether the date would have gone well or bad.

For some people, of course, it creates desire and positive excitement when they increase their feeling of risk - for example downhill skiers or parachutists. The point is, positive and negative emotions are constantly being weighed and balanced against each other. We make decisions which we follow with our actions, that is, which of the three systems we let determine our behavior. Fear can result in losing contact with two types of positive feelings, both of which are important to our wellbeing.

When you are among people

If one is painfully shy or socially fearful, it can happen that one loses contact with one's positive feelings and desires when the threat system "outperforms" the activating and calming systems. You forget the joy you get when you are around people and how interesting they can be because you are totally focused on the fact that they might not rate you well or dislike you. I don't want to play down this fear. It can be very upsetting or annoying not to be accepted. Rejection or exclusion can hit anyone as badly as a physical threat, and it can cause just as much pain. Social exclusion even activates systems in the brain associated with physical pain.

The bottom line is that when you are socially fearful, you tend to be over-concerned with risk and over-sensitive to social threat. Then you also forget your positive traits and qualities and previous experiences when you had fun talking to people and being with them. You also forget that it helps others to get to know us a little and then to be able to like us too, if you like them and enjoy their company and let them know that. People can only like what they get to know.

Learning to accept fear as something useful

You've probably also noticed that it's easy to like people who like you and show it too. After all, they have an eye for quality. Maybe they are intelligent, clever people and real personalities. And since it works both ways, it's useful not to hide when you like someone.
It is also useful to think about what you find interesting and lovable about the other. This is a good opportunity to discover common ground. If you concentrate on the other person and not on your own feelings of fear, it also takes you away from brooding and worrying. Usually, this is the experience - if you continue to take risks, for example go to parties, meet new people, take advantage of job interview opportunities - that you feel more comfortable over time.

So, to reduce anxiety, it makes sense to try to face situations that we think are too difficult at the moment. And it helps if we learn to accept fear. If we can see it as something natural because it goes back to our evolution and then do the best we can do the things we want to do, that is a kind and supportive attitude.

This article is from Lynne Henderson's book Find the Courage to Be Yourself.