THE FLUID PARAMETERS OF RESPONSIBILITY

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER

In publications and workshops, we emphasize that anyone committed to positive change must shoulder unequivocal responsibility for his or her condition. While not responsible for the cards dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand given. Those of us resolved to modify our behavior or condition cannot abrogate responsibility to another. That being said, there are limits to this responsibility. Let’s explore this using social anxiety as our point of reference.

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. It is the debilitating fear and anxiety of being negatively evaluated and judged. It is a pervasive disorder that affects multiple areas of a person’s life. It keeps people in self-initiated solitary confinement. Fittingly, its acronym is SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder). SAD is chronic because it does not go away on its own―but it can be remedied. Since less than 37% of those suffering choose to receive treatment, the nickname, SAP (Socially Anxious Person) suggests that a person with SAD is, indeed, a SAP if he or she chooses to avoid successful methods of recovery and continues to wallow in misery and isolation.

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults or about 18% of the population. In the LGBT community, somewhere between 30 and 60 percent deal with anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. That rate is 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than that of their straight or gender-conforming counterparts. Our San Francisco based, gay social anxiety workshop generated over 300 participants in the first year. You are not alone!

SAD 3

SAD Defeatism

Let’s assume you are a person with SAD. When you enter a social situation, you are affected by the unsubstantiated criticisms of others. These feelings are aggravated by your own self-defeating narratives. You worry about your appearance, what you might say, how you are perceived by others. Your Integral Human Complex (body, mind, and spirit) is overwhelmed by self-doubt. Physically, you may hyperventilate, your stomach in knots, as you avert your eyes and sidle to a safe zone. Emotionally, you’re consumed by self-doubt and hesitancy; spiritually, depression and isolation overcome any sense of belonging. The irony is, you have far more to fear from your own distorted perceptions than the opinions of others. Your imagination takes you to dark and lonely places. Upon leaving an event or situation, different self-esteem issues emerge as your imagination creates false scenarios and you obsess about your prior behavior.

Your neurosis underscores a degree of self-absorption that borders on narcissism, the psychoanalytic definition of which is self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external object―from the reality of the situation. This is a common characteristic of SAD. Narcissism does not have to be a disorder, however. To clarify this abstract assertion requires an understanding of classicist definitions of love.

The Greeks’ delineated eight types of love including sexual passion, brotherly love, puppy love and so on. Philautia describes a type of love that can be either selfish or selfless. The adverse is self-centeredness―a destructive preoccupation with the perceptions of others. Healthy philautia, on the other hand, is the kind of self-affirmation produced by an inveterate sense of inner-worth and value―the emotional competence that allows you to embrace your capacity to empathize. It is extremely difficult to accept love unless you have the ability to initiate and reciprocate, and that ability is generated by your own sense of self-assuredness. In the throes of your illness, you immerse yourself in the selfish aspect of philautia. As you recover from SAD, recollection of your own suffering encourages you to become increasingly sensitive to the needs and conditions of others.

Perceptions

Conditioning is an individual’s current state of being as consequence of his or her reactions and adaptations to experience and circumstance. Each of you is blessed with the qualities and uniqueness of your conditioning. It is these sensitivities that dictate your beliefs, peculiarities, fears, aspirations, and so on. They define you and you are defined by them. They unremittingly adapt to, and are augmented by new experience and circumstance. No individual can truly grasp at your totality because you are in constant flux. You are subject to your unique conditioning. Perceptions are, at best, uninformed and biased speculations. We emphasize this to illustrate that opinions are specious and inaccurate reflections of individual, singular fears, prejudices, affections, disappointments. They are perpetually flawed and not worth a proverbial tinker’s damn. Only your opinion of you is an opinion worth examining.

SAD 2

It is your own negative self-worth that permits you to be negatively affected by the opinions and thoughts of others. Accepting their impressions and opinions as certainty is a self-defeating existence. It is your uniqueness and individuality that is of import and, if your condition is flawed or distressed, then it is up to you to seek remedy for your own self-mortification.

Not Your Problem!

When we expose ourselves to others in social situations, we subject ourselves to three correlating forms of feedback: first impressions, reactionary opinions, and post-impressions

First Impressions are meaningless. Initial reactions are prejudicial and gratuitous consequences of an individual’s condition. No one can make a well-informed assessment of someone they see for the first time. Yet, it is your own stuff, your personal negative narcissism that legitimizes these non-constructive impressions corrupted by another’s experience and circumstance. You may physically remind someone of an abusive ex-lover or an annoying teacher. An obese person may be affronted by your figure. In any case, one thing remains constant. An assessment generated by first impression is meaningless. It is Not Your Problem!

Reactionary Opinions are assumptions made during or immediately following interaction with a person or group. Best-selling teen author, Simone Elkeles writes “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one but they think each others’ stink.” They are emotional reactions to scattered aspects of your presentation. Your presentation is the way in which you present yourself and any reaction to this presentation is perverted and distorted by condition. Your personality may conjure images of a mother-in-law or a teenage bully. The tenor of your voice may bring an unconscious memory, your race a bias, and so on. It is imperative that you recognize that you are not responsible for someone else’s uninformed and meritless opinion. If you are attempting to be as authentic as you can be in your current condition, there is no reason in-the-world to assume responsibility for unsubstantiated perceptions. It’s Not Your Problem!

Post-impressions: once you have left the event or situation you, obviously, have no control over what people think. What’s done is done. You can’t revisit the past. You can’t change it. Yet, more often than not, this is when your fragile psyche subjects itself to the greatest damage. Why did I tell that joke? Did I drink too much? Why didn’t I talk to him? Did I wear the wrong color socks? It’s called Second Guessing Neurosis (SGN). SGN is defined as retroactively changing the construction and outcome of a situation or event. In colloquial jargon, it’s fantasizing a different result. So you made a mistake, called someone the wrong name, said something inappropriate. Join the club of this too shall pass. Learn from it and move on.

One more piece of irony. Not only does your insecurity seduce you into rewriting reality, it compels you to subvert the positive. In other words, because you doubt the probability that you made a good impression, you dwell on your perceived gaffes and errors-in-judgment. No matter how good an impression you make, you pervert the experience by tearing it down. It’s characteristic self-destruct by the SAP. You have the choice between darkness and light and you choose to blindly walk into walls.

Overall, you worry too much about what someone else thinks of you. In the film Bridge of Spies, Rudolf Abel, the Soviet agent faces the possibility of the death penalty. His lawyer, befuddled by Rudolf’s impassive demeanor, whispers, “Aren’t you at all worried?” The convict shrugs. “Would it help?”

Rather than bemoaning, why did I do that, rechannel the emphasis. Why did I do that? What persuaded me to react or respond in that way? Everyone makes errors-in-judgment, says something inappropriate, tells a bad joke. A good comedian will take the ‘bomb’ and turn it into humorous self-deprecation. A teacher who is not getting though to a student will instinctively try a different approach. A politician will change the subject. Although they make it appear spontaneous, they have rigorously trained themselves to do so. Rather than obsessing about your mistakes and miscalculations, use them as learning tools. You’re only allowed to blame yourself for your mistake if you ignore the lesson―if you don’t learn from it. You’re not stupid or an idiot or a jerk for making a mistake or acquiescing to your fears―you’re human! (You are a few fries short of a Happy Meal, however, if you don’t attempt to fix the problem.)

Change Your Focus

Your being, your totality is blessed by three separate yet complementary components―mind, body, and spirit. It’s important for your health to find a balance amongst the three, and to learn to use them in support of one another. For example, when you perceive yourself being attacked, learn to rechannel that sinking sensation with something positive. Mentally replace the injury by going to a familiar place of confidence. Rechannel your emotional reaction by intellectually affirming that unjustified criticism has no validity. Temper your angst, spiritually, by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, or taking a short walk. Simply stated, train yourself to instinctively replace the maladaptive behavior or reaction with one of positive and superior value. Rather than feeling persecuted, control the situation.

SAD 5

Step outside yourself in your tiny world, and visualize the situation as an outside observer or film director. Analyze your presentation from an intellectual perspective. Study your behavior, evaluate it. Compliment the things you did well and work on what you perceive are deficits. That’s cognitive behavioral therapy in a nutshell. In simpler terms, know yourself.

You are unique. You have distinctive DNA, different experiences, beliefs, sensibilities, tastes. Some of you are great at math, some nature lovers, some like astronomy, some are intuitive. There is no one like you, you are one of a kind. That makes you special. Reexamine the qualities that celebrate your uniqueness and rechannel any perceived lack of self-worth into pride of your individuality. If you are doing your best and truly desire to tap the kindness and strength resident within you, then you have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear.

ReChanneling is a method of recovery and revitalization for those who struggle for self-affirmation. It is a program designed to assist in developing ways to replace negative addiction and maladaptive behavior caused by your neurosis through cognitive-behavioral therapy and auxiliary learning techniques―mechanisms constructed to teach you to rediscover your innate value and self-worth.

Creator and facilitator of ReChanneling, Dr. Mullen suffered from SAD for many years. His recovery is illustration of the dynamic potential inherent in all of us.

ReChanneling
ReChanneling@yahoo.com
robertfmullen.com
415-305-5895

The Significance of Our Insignificance

We have determined that recovery from immoral and maladaptive behavior is achieved only through unequivocal acceptance of our condition, and our willingness to change. It is recognition of our moral infirmities that motivates us towards transformation. Do you really like who you are now? Are you truly satisfied with the person you believe you have become? While not liable for events beyond our control, we are responsible for how we react and interpret those events. As the cliché goes, while we do not have control over the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given.

Our adamancy―fomented by religion and ego―that humanity is supra-special because of perceived hierarchal dominance is a consequence of three very human considerations. First, it is our awareness of being aware―the primary factor of our humanness―that offers hope, piques our imagination, and enables self-reflection. Second, it is recognition of this awareness that is human consciousness as we know it, an underdeveloped and fearful consciousness that compels the rationale that we are the chosen, and we resent our conditional discontent because we believe, as chosen, we deserve better. Finally, we have convinced ourselves that humanity is the apex of cognitive development, and that nothing supersedes our species except ethereal forms we create in our image and likeness.

Darwinism determines, if humankind is the successor to a species then it must also be the forerunner. Since 99% of all species that ever lived on our planet have been consumed by nature, logic dictates that homo-sapiens also has a shelf-life. In the current known universe (approximately 4% of total) there are over one-billion-trillion stars. Where, in this vast expanse of space and human nescience is the significance of our being? How does humanity maintain its perceptual superiority within such a great and formidable reality? Is there significance to our insignificance? The answer is a resounding yes. Our significance is sustained in our innate potential to improve our condition, to enhance, expand, and evolve, to embrace our virtuous and empathetic natures, to share these and other qualities with others―to lift the human spirit. Teilhard de Chardin (1955) hypothesizes we are entering the sixth epoch of complexity, the one in which the universe wakes up. Evolution guarantees accelerated complexity.

The only higher-power that needs to be acknowledged and accessed is extant within each of us, as all things have consciousness due to the consequences of involution-evolution, which logically claims that it is impossible for some-thing to evolve from no-thing.

Humanity’s evolved state of complexity demands reevaluation of its primitive concepts. We are children of the universe(s). Our god’s are earth gods. We were not created in their image and likeness. The origins of morality determine that we created gods in our image and likeness―only of intangible stock. They are our egos, endowed with the powers to which humankind aspires and does not believe is worthy. Promises proffered by our gods are manifestations of our own fears and desires. When we attempt to personalize what we call god, we minimize it with mundane language.

gods_of_rome_by_pelycosaur24-d5qhwgk Courtesy of www.crystalinks.com.

Our impartial awareness of what little we know does not devalue our significance, it compliments, because it illustrates the premise of evolution, much like the bud anticipates the bloom of the rose, its awareness resident in the seed. Our higher power is reciprocal energy, reciprocity confirms our necessary participation; may the force be with us. Energy is the measurer of that which passes from one atom to another in the course of their transformation. We seek to transform and cannot help but do so. It is nature.

Let’s embrace the speculation that, rather than the infinite endurance of our egoic consciousness, our good moral character is validation of our significance―the immortality of our spirit that is passed between generations, the ever-evolving reconnaissance of our minds. Where would humanity be without the broad shoulders of those upon whom we stand, and where will that same humanity or its successor be without the formative actions of each generation on the one before and after? We are not useless, separate entities passing each other, autonomous and alien, like proverbial ships in the night; we are integral and interrelated to all things, the life’s blood of being, the ultimate, dynamic, creative ground of the universe(s). “I am in heaven, in earth, in water, in air; I am in animals, in plants, in the womb, before the womb, after the womb, everywhere.” Whitehead’s (1978) Philosophy of Organism states that the actualities of the world are fundamentally interdependent—every actual entity is present in every other actual entity, while his Principle of Process determines that the composition of an actual entity is a constant process of becoming, its being constituted by and the result of that same process. We belong to all things and all things are part-and-parcel of our being. We are, as all entities, active agents of all future becomings. Our conscious moments of experience are products of all past experiences of occasion and conduits to all in the future. As human beings, we are creativity itself; we evolve from creative occasions and all our present occasions of experience preserve and pass along the entire history of our universe. This perpetual act of creation is another example of the validity for which we desperately search: that of our advanced species laying the groundwork for a superior one.

The dynamic role of the future is being systemized by our present existing selves. With little asked of us other than participation in being, we evolve as increasingly complex things and, science informs, the higher the degree of complexity, the more substantial the consciousness. Self-consciousness evolves in organisms with increasingly complex brains. It did not first emerge with humans. Awareness of self-consciousness emerged. Humankind is no longer recognized as the center of the universe anymore than is our planet the centerpiece around which our tiny solar system revolves.

Too often we substitute complacency for contentment, grateful for brief moments of serenity but forgoing any hope of durable happiness because we have been instructed that such a phenomenon is only attainable in a spurious afterlife, an enigmatic supposition which values our existence in an ‘incredible’ world in lieu of the one we currently inhabit. Rather than accepting commendation for the hard work and obligations achieved by maturation, we condone this prevalence of despondency because we believe suffering is the predetermined causal to post-life fulfillment‒a destructive and psychologically counterproductive assumption. We worship sacrifice and interpret dukkha as suffering when it is more reasonably translated as discontent. Suffering denotes a predestined condition; discontent is something over which we have control. Rather than re-informing our perception of prevalent miserableness, we sheepishly embrace it! We cling to our illusions because it is easier than confronting life as we know it, even though life as we know it is our experiential state-of-nature. We loudly display our misconceptions of eternal consciousness, persuaded that it represents our being, our memories, our intelligence, our bodily organs, as they are supernaturally transported whole to an otherworldly plateau, one replete with joy and reconciliation.

To understand our reason-for-being, our niche in this vast wilderness of speculation, perhaps we should pay closer heed to those spiritual masters upon whose wisdom we precariously rely in attempts to see beyond the knowable horizon. They tell us to divest ourselves of the ego, of the desire for worldly goods, of our arrogant belief that humankind, an ignorant, childish, and childlike species, is the final, evolutionary apogee of consciousness.

Charlie

As humans, we are inherently motivated to search for answers, yet ignorance of the events and circumstances that underscore the structure of our being promotes discontent and agitation. A certain calm urgency is required to grasp at the things that encourage homeostasis, a state-of-being achieved through transformation. We are energy. We are potential.

The acquisition of good moral behavior is easily impeded by the attractiveness of the old lifestyle, and it takes continued restraint to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The struggle for excellence does not eliminate the influx of triggers that have the power to alter our perception of personal value; the temptations flourish but, through a clarified understanding of the consequences of pandering to baser enticements, we make more profitable decisions. Again, “if we believe we know what the good (the best) thing to do is, and it is accessible to us, we will do the good” (Brody 2015). Through the elimination of any outside source as scapegoat, we accept full responsibility and continue our commitment to society as a contributing member to the evolution of excellence.
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Full acceptance of one’s humanness involves an awareness of one’s connection with others and the world. Life may go on more or less as usual, but there is a deepened, intimate sense of involvement. … One no longer has to betray one’s true self, or the darker aspect of oneself, in order to feel in community with others. (Bauer et al. 1992)
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Upon commitment to remedy, the conditions responsible for our maladaptive behavior loosen their destructive hold. The initiation to effect recovery underscores our desire for and transformation towards the greatest goodness.

Sources
Bauer, L., Duffy, J., Fountain, E., Halling, S., Holzer, M., Jones, E., Leifer, M. & Rowe, J. O. (1992). Exploring Self-Forgiveness. Journal of Religion and Health, 31 (23), 149-160. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27510687

Brody, A. (2015). Addicts, Mythmakers and Philosophers. Philosophy Now, 90. Retrieved from https://philosophynow.org/issues/90/Addicts_Mythmakers_and_Philosophers

Dewey, J. (1994). The Moral Writings of John Dewey. J. Gouinlock (Ed.). New York: Prometheus Books.

Erickson, E. H. and Erickson, J. M. (1988). The Life Cycle Completed (Extended Version). New York City: W. W. Norton & Company.

Kurzweil, R. (2005). Journal of Evolution and Technology, 20: 1, p. 15. Boston, MA: Institute for Ethics & merging Technologies.

Hanegraaff, W. J. (2005). Human Potential Before Esalen: An Experiment in Anachronism. On the Edge of the Future. p.21. Eds. Jeffrey J. Kripal and Glenn W. Shuck. Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Piaget, J. (1971). Psychology and Epistemology. (A. Rosin, Trans.). New York City: Grossman Publishers.

Steinhart, E. (2008). Teilhard de Chardin and Transhumanism. Quoting Kurzweil (2005: 15). Journal of Evolution and Technology, 20: 1, pp. 1-22. Boston, MA: Institute for Ethics & merging Technologies.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. (1955.) The Phenomenon of Man. Tr.: Bernard Wall. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Thought.

Trimbur, C. (2015). Theories of Developmental Stages – Stages of Development. Psychology Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/183/Developmental-Stages-Theories.html

Whitehead, A. L. (1978). Process and Reality. New York: The Free Press (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.).