Utilizing Complementarity for Social Anxiety (and other physiological dysfunctions)

Complementarity is the inherent cooperation of our human system components in maintaining physiological equilibrium. Sustainability-of-life and sustainability of our dysfunction require simultaneous mutual interaction.

How is this physiologically supported? 

Every thought and behavior generates a realignment of our neural network which produces a correlated change in our thought and behavior. Our neural network transmits the chemical and electrical maintenance that maintains our vital functions: heartbeat, nervous system, and blood–flow. It tells us when to breathe. It generates our mood, controls our weight and digestion. It provides acetylcholine for learningnoradrenaline for concentration, glutamate for memory (Mind), adrenaline for muscles, endorphins to relax (Body), dopamine for motivation, GABA for anxiety (Spirit), and serotonin for mood stabilization (Emotions).

Examples of Complementarity (Simultaneous Mutual Interaction).

  • The freeway fender bender: I could have died (mind), I’m sweating, my heart is pounding (body), I’m angry, and frustrated (emotions), and suddenly conscious of my mortality (spirit).
  • The social gathering: are they looking at me (mind), I’m shaking and sweating (body), I’m afraid I’ll say or do something stupid (emotions), and they probably won’t like me, anyway (spirit).

Mindfulness of Complementarity.

Recognizing that the “Self’ is not a single entity but a complex collective of four major components: mind, body, spirit, and emotions (“MBSE”); accepting that these components react simultaneously and work in concert. One component will seem to dominate, depending on the situation. 

How is this relevant to social anxiety?

The symptoms of social anxiety attack our self-image. Because this causes us to build up defense mechanisms, our reactions are often irrational (self-destructive). This is especially pertinent in situations where our anxiety and depression generate self-denigrating or unhealthy responses: the social event, job performance review, the interview, the classroom.

The clinical term ‘disorder’ identifies extreme or excessive impairment that negatively affects functionality. Feeling anxious or apprehensive in certain situations is normal; most individuals are nervous speaking in front of a group and anxious when pulled over on the freeway. The typical individual recognizes the ordinariness of a situation and accords it appropriate attention. The socially anxious person anticipates it, takes it personally, dramatizes it, and obsesses on its negative implications. 

Let’s look at an example applicable to social anxiety disorder: We find ourselves in a social situation where our apprehensions and fears overwhelm us. We feel incompetent and unattractive. Our dysfunction persuades us we are being judged, criticized, or held in contempt. We either feel we are the center of attention or invisible. Our deflated spirit and fraught emotions fight for dominance. 

How do we alleviate our fears and associated symptoms? We engage a well thought out and prepared diversion from our emotional/spiritual malaise by utilizing our supporting components, e.g., our mind and body. To divert is “to change course or turn from one direction to another.”  When ‘A’ is overwhelming, we engage ‘B’ or ‘C’ to mitigate “A.” (We instinctively divert readily. We go for a walk to calm our emotions, pray when anguished, vent frustration by bellowing or breaking something.) There are numerous ways to divert as we will discover; here are a few examples

Engage your body. Place a small item in your shoe, snap the rubber band around your wrist, or carry a distracting item in your pocket like a pushpin. Your slight physical discomfort diverts from your emotional and spiritual woes.

Engage your mind. Find three items in the room: the blue couch, red vase, cuckoo clock, and focus on them in moments of stress. Prepare event-focused PAs, repeating them the week before and mentally at the event. Learn the lyrics to an empowering song and mentally sing it.

Engaging Mind and Body. Subtly mimic a fearless or confident character from a film or book. Paul Newman created the walk to establish the character. 

With Positive Autobiography and positive psychologies, we retrieve those extraordinary moments of our lives resisted or repressed by the negative self-image generated by our dysfunction. Reflecting on these just before and during the event challenges our irrational perceptions of incompetence and worthlessness. 

Through mindfulness, practice, and the simultaneous restructuring of our neural network, these distractions or diversions will eventually become less important. 

Why is your support essential? ReChanneling is dedicated to research and development of methods to alleviate symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort (neuroses/disorders). Our vision is to reshape the current pathographic emphasis on diagnoses over individual, which fosters a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Treatment programs must disavow ineffective, one-size-fits-all approaches and target the individual personality through communication, empathy, collaboration, and an integration of historically and clinically practical methods. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

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