Monthly Archives: August 2022

Chapter 3: Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

Dr. Robert F. Mullen

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“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)

Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”
– Nelson Mandela

I want you to mentally dissociate yourself from your social anxiety. Recognize it as a separate entity, familiar but distinct from the substantive individual known as you. The most important thing to take away from Chapter One is the resolve that you will no longer define yourself by your fears and apprehensions, but by your character strengths, virtues, and achievements. 

This is a crucial lesson in recovery. When we identify ourselves by our emotional malfunction, we attribute our self-destructive feelings and behaviors to a personality defect. Something must be wrong with me. That is false. Our negative thought patterns are SAD propaganda – biased and misleading information that promotes a false self-image. Nothing is wrong with us.

We are not dissociating ourselves from our memories, feelings, and achievements that constitute our unique personalities. We are dissociating ourselves from the things that make us feel incompetent and undesirable while embracing our inherent and acquired qualities that challenge these irrational self-beliefs. It is purely a mental exercise, and it is a necessary one. Our fears are expressed by unsound emotions. We challenge them through rational responses. Mind over emotion. Right now, social anxiety disorder controls our emotions. The goal of recovery is to take back our rightful control.

SAD is the enemy. Seize that awareness and emblazon it on your frontal lobe – the part of your brain that processes your emotions and your decisions. To successfully engage this sinister adversary we must learn its tactics and the scope of its weaponry. From that, we devise our stratagem. That is the substance of this chapter. This is a war for control over our emotional well-being and quality of life 

As the third-largest mental health care problem in the world, SAD is culturally identifiable by our persistent fear of social interaction and performance situations. Our suspicions of criticism, ridicule, and rejection are so severe, that we avoid the healthy life experiences that interconnect us with others and the world. It is not the fears that devastate our lives; it is the things we do to avoid them. We have far more to fear from our distorted perceptions than what we might encounter in the real world. Our imagination takes us to dark and lonely places. 

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Automatic Negative Thoughts

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are anxiety-provoking emotions or images that occur in anticipation of or reaction to a feared situation. They are unpleasant expressions of our negative self-beliefs that define who we are and how we relate to others, the world, and the future. (“I am incompetent.” “No one will talk to me.” “I’ll say or do something stupid.”) They are our predetermined assumptions of what will happen during a situation. 

A Situation is the set of circumstances – the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a particular place. A Feared Situation is one that provokes fears and anxieties that impact our emotional well-being and quality of life.  (Whenever you see the word situation, we are talking about feared-situations.) We will discuss those and their associated ANTs in more detail when we analyze the life cycle of our negative self-beliefs.

These cognitively distorted thoughts and emotions can elicit an endless feedback loop of hopelessness, worthlessness, and undesirability, leading to substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

We fear the unknown and unexplored. We obsess about upcoming events and how we will reveal our shortcomings. We experience anticipatory anxiety for weeks before a situation and anticipate the worst. We visualize those events in high school when we were the last to be chosen. The times we felt shunned when we tried to join a conversation. We do not revisit the good times or relive our happy experiences because SAD sustains itself by focusing on the negative aspects of our life. 

As Lord Acton stated, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  We do not seek power in recovery, but empowerment. There is a huge distinction. Empowerment is the process of overcoming power and becoming stronger and more confident. We exponentially erode SAD’s power by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Out with our negative self-beliefs; in with the self-appreciation of our value and significance. As our neural network realigns, we regain control of our life and emotions. We embrace our universal entitlements.

Social Anxiety Disorder

SAD is ostensibly the most underrated, misunderstood, and misdiagnosed disorder. Nicknamed the neglected anxiety disorder, few experts understand it, and even fewer know how to address it. The constant and massive number of revisions, substitutions, and changes in defining SAD do little to remedy the problem. SAD is routinely misdiagnosed. What did your therapist tell you? That you are depressed or obsessive-compulsive. That you might be borderline personality or agoraphobic? Here is an indisputable reality. Experts may be up-to-date on the latest issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and familiar with the revolutionary new anti-depressant, but they cannot comprehend the personal impact of social anxiety. One has to have SAD to recognize the severity of its impact. We know it because we experience it every moment of every day. 

Chronic and debilitating, SAD attacks on all fronts, negatively affecting our entire lived-body. It manifests in mental confusion, emotional instability, physical malfunction, and spiritual malaise. Emotionally, we are depressed and lonely. We are subject to unwarranted sweating, trembling, hyperventilation, nausea, and muscle spasms. Mentally, our thoughts are discordant and irrational. Spiritually, we define ourselves as inadequate and insignificant. 

We feel unjustifiable shame and guilt for an emotional malfunction that is due to heredity or childhood disturbance that interfered with our natural human development. Social anxiety disorder sensed this vulnerability and onset during our adolescence. The disturbance might have been real or imagined, intentional or accidental. It is essential to recognize it is not our fault. It is not the result of aberrant behavior. We did not make it happen; it happened to us. 

While we understand the relevance of past circumstances, the focus of recovery is on the present and the solution. In the case of David Z., his recollections of childhood physical and emotional abuse helped him understand and moderate his avoidance of trust and intimacy. Notwithstanding, awareness is not obsession. The past is immutable, the future is to be defined. Transformation is a here-and-now endeavor. Dwelling on the past is not helpful to recovery. We must unencumber ourselves of things over which we have no control, giving us room for new possibilities.

Our commitment-to-recovery rate is abysmal ― reflective of our SAD-induced perceptions of worthlessness and futility. SAD’s recovery rate mirrors a general inability to afford treatment due to employment instability. Over 70% of us are in the lowest economic group. Why? Because SAD makes us feel non-essential and incompetent.

Do you feel trapped in a vicious circle, restricted from living a normal life: Do you feel alienated from your peers and isolate yourself from family and friends? Do you reject new relationships before they reject you? Do you repeat the same mistakes over and over again?  

As one client once confided, “anxiety has crippled me, locked me in a cage and has become my master. ”Feeling anxious or apprehensive in certain situations is normal; most of us are nervous speaking in front of a group and anxious when visiting our dentist. The typical individual recognizes the normality of a situation and accords appropriate attention. The SAD person dreads it, dramatizes it, and obsesses about its potential ramifications. We make mountains out of molehills and spend our days in tortuous anticipation of our projected negative outcomes. We guarantee our failure through SAD-fulfilling prophecy.

We intuitively know it is an irrational and maddening way to live. We have tried everything to circumvent our behavioral patterns, yet nothing seems to work. That is because SAD thrives on counterproductivity, a tactic that guarantees the opposite of the desired effect. Established recovery approaches fail because they are not designed to address this irrationality. SAD is the ultimate enigma – an intractable condition difficult to evaluate. That is the purpose of this book – to unravel the enigma and defeat the enemy.

Do you feel like your actions are under a microscope, and everyone is judging or criticizing you? Do you worry you are making a poor impression on individuals who do not matter? Are you inordinately concerned about what you might do, how you look, and how you express yourself? 

We live with persistent anxiety and fear of social situations such as dating, interviewing for a position, and even contributing to class. We anticipate others will deem us incompetent, stupid, or undesirable. Often, mere functionality in perfunctory situations – eating in front of others, riding a bus, using a public restroom – can be unduly stressful. 

The fear that manifests in social situations can seem so fierce, that we feel it is beyond our control, a conclusion that manifests in perceptions of helplessness and hopelessness. We avoid situations where there is the potential for embarrassment or ridicule. Negative self-evaluation interferes with our desires to pursue a goal, attend school, or form relationships– anything that might precipitate our anxiety. Our imagination creates false scenarios. 

When making her initial list of feared situations, Liz D. admitted she was terrified of the scenario where every newcomer is faced with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” By simply devising a rote rational response and trying it out in graded exposure situations, she was able to dramatically moderate her fear. Planning structured responses to our situational fears is an important facet of recovery. Tolkien reminds us, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” Meaning, that if you know you have a feared situation, devise a rational plan to counter it. The solution is obvious, but SAD thrives on irrational responses to the simplest situations. What is irrational? Anything thought or behavior that is emotionally self-destructive. It is irrational to self-harm.

Do you imagine you are the constant focus of everyone’s attention? Do you worry that people will notice you sweating or blushing? That your voice will tremble and become incoherent? We are overly concerned that our fears and anxieties are glaringly obvious to everyone. That is rarely the case, however. Each of us is the center of our little universe, too self-conscious to notice the idiosyncrasies of another.

The overriding fear of being found wanting manifests in our self-perspectives of incompetence and unattractiveness. We walk on eggshells, supremely conscious of our awkwardness, surrendering to the GAZE―the anxious state of mind that comes with the fear of being the center of attention. We are reminded of that phrase from the Book of David: “You have been weighed on the scales and you have been found wanting.” It is a self-image difficult to reconcile when SAD is the scale upon which we are being weighed. 

Social Interaction

Our social interactions are often clumsy, small talk inelegant, and attempts at humor embarrassing. Our anticipation of repudiation motivates us to dismiss overtures to offset any possibility of rejection. SAD is repressive and intractable, imposing self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. It establishes its authority through defeatist measures produced by distorted and unsound interpretations of reality that govern our perspectives of desirability. 

It does not have to be this way. We function under false perspectives – illusions perpetuated by SAD. We are not unworthy, undesirable, or insignificant. We are children of the universe, endowed with all its unalienable substance. We are an integral part of the evolution of consciousness. 

Let us briefly discuss one of the more devious strategies of a well-executed campaign of warfare. Propaganda is the distribution of biased and misleading information. SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. It is a form of control and manipulation. We manifest the effectiveness of this propaganda through maladaptive behaviors and cognitively distorted responses to our fears.

Maladaptive behavior is a term created by Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy. A unique characteristic of SAD, maladaptive behaviors are expressions of our negative self-beliefs. We find ourselves in a supportive and approving environment, but SAD tells us we are unwelcome and the subject of disparagement and ridicule. SAD distorts our perception, and we adapt negatively (maladapt) to a positive situation. To analogize, if the room is sunny and welcoming, SAD tells us it is dark and unapproving. 

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of anxiety and depression. Because they reinforce or justify our irrational thoughts and poor behaviors, it is a crucial element of recovery to recognize these distortions to eliminate them from our self-destructive repertoire. We will be discussing this further in Chapter Five as we familiarize ourselves with the origins and  trajectory of our negative self-beliefs

Do you incessantly replay adverse events in your head? Do you stay constantly relive all the discomforting things that happened to you during the day? Do you avoid meeting people or going on dates because you persuade yourself it will be a disaster? Do you beat yourself up for all those lost opportunities? 

We circle the block endlessly before confronting a situation, then end up avoiding it entirely. We avoid recognition in the classroom, our hearts pounding, hands sweaty, hoping we will not be singled out. We lay awake at night, consumed by all the negative events of the day. 

We do not have to live like this. We do not have to be afraid to connect with others. We do not have to constantly agonize over how we will be perceived. We do not have to worry about criticism and ridicule from people who do not contribute to our quality of life. By deliberately and repetitively feeding our neural network with healthy information, we proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors from self-doubt and avoidance to self-assured expressions of our relevance and contributions.

We crave companionship but shun social situations for fear others will find us unattractive or stupid. We avoid speaking in public, expressing opinions, and fraternizing with peers. We are prone to low self-esteem and high self-criticism due to the childhood disturbance that precipitated the disruption in our psychological development, allowing the onset of SAD. 

The various positive qualities prefixed by the term self, including -esteem, -efficacy, -reliance, -compassion, and -resilience are not lost, however, but are underdeveloped and redeemable. The renewed recognition of our character strengths, virtues, and achievements augmented by the deliberate, repetitive neural input of positive information, awakens and reinvigorates our dormant self-esteem and motivation. All that is lost shall be found when you commit to recovery. That is the wonderful product of transformation.  

Do you avoid persons and situations for fear of criticism and rejection? Do you refrain from sharing your opinion because you believe people will think you are stupid? Do you lose out on life’s experiences because you are afraid others will disapprove of you?

We blame ourselves for our lack of social skills. We feel shame for our inadequacies. We guilt ourselves when we avoid getting close to someone, terrified of rejection. We know these feelings are irrational, we know we are not responsible for the onset. But our social anxiety compels us to self-loath and self-destruct. Then to top it off, we persistently beat ourselves up for these feelings that are the product of emotional malfunction that is not of our doing.

We must stop beating ourselves up. We did not ask for our social anxiety, we did not make it happen; it happened to us. We are, however, responsible for doing something about it. We are the captains of our ship. The onus of recovery is on us; no one else does it for us. It comes down to a simple choice. Are you happy with who you are now, or would you like to change for the better? Do you choose to be miserable or comfortable in your own skin? It is that cut and dried. The tools and techniques for recovery are ours for the taking. 

Social anxiety disorder is comorbid with multiple emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse,  panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. Proactive neuroplasticity and subsequently, this book addresses emotional malfunction in general because each originates with childhood disturbance and benefits, dramatically, from neural realignment.

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional malfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

Why Do We Resist Recovery?

Robert F, Mullen, PhD

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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior. 

“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)

Why Do We Resist Recovery?

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We must declare war on our social anxiety disorder to defeat it. Make no mistake about it, SAD is a devious and manipulative enemy. To effectively challenge it, we educate ourselves on its symptoms and characteristics, and how they personally impact us. Roughly, forty million U.S. adults and adolescents find themselves caught up in SAD’s devasting and lonely chasm of fear and avoidance of social interconnectedness. Notwithstanding, we do not take up arms willingly. Our resistance to recovery is formidable.

SAD makes us feel helpless and hopeless, trapped in a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety, and restricted from living a ‘normal’ life. Our fear of disapproval is so severe we avoid the life-affirming experiences that connect us with others and the world. We fear the unknown and unexplored. We endure anxiety for weeks before a situation, anticipating the worst. We worry about how others perceive us and how we express ourselves. 

Our unwillingness to accept or disclose our emotional malfunction is a major impediment to our recovery. Many of us deliberately choose to remain ignorant of the destructive capabilities of our malfunction or go to enormous lengths to remain oblivious to them, as if, by ignoring them, they do not exist or will somehow go away. Considering the following negative attributions, our reticence is justifiable.

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Physiological Aversion

Change is inherently difficult; we are hard-wired to resist it. Our bodies and brains are structured to attack anything that disrupts their equilibrium. A new diet or exercise regime produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration. Inertia senses and resists these changes, while our brain’s basal ganglia gang up against any modification in our patterns of behavior. Thus, habits like smoking or gambling are hard to break, and new undertakings like recovery are challenging to maintain. 

Here are some compelling attributions to our resistance to disclosure. 

Public Opinion

The heart of acceptability and tolerance lies in social acceptance. Our aversion to mental illness is hard-wired. We are conditioned to fear and ostracize anyone who does not fall within the societal parameters of normalcy. Our inherent revulsion stems from our tribal days when anything that limited productivity or procreation was valueless. Individuals perceived as weak or abnormal have been contemned since the dawn of humankind. 

Thanks to history, misinformation, and the pathographic focus of the healthcare industry, those who experience emotional malfunction are identified as unpredictable, dangerous, and unable to fend for themselves. Even with the current enlightened perspective, mental disorder is culturally feared and scorned. Observed idiosyncrasies, peculiar mannerisms, self-talking, inarticulation, and unhealthy physical hygiene are considered undesirable and untenable behaviors.

Social distance describes the psychological gap between society and those experiencing emotional malfunction. Social distance is not a measurement but attitude, the scope determined by the perceived level of threat. Distancing is the expression of disgust for the behaviors of the abnormal. Social distancing is culturally specific and varies by perception and diagnosis. The prospect of social distancing reflects our willingness to disclose our condition. 

We resist because we have been inundated by hostile and ignorant personal attacks. 

Media Representation 

From Psycho to today’s horror franchises, those experiencing emotional malfunction are stereotyped as hysterical, unpredictable, and violent. Nearly half of U.S. stories on mental disorders allude to violence. Ignorance and disinformation exploited by today’s social media and divisiveness aggravate assumptions. We are autistic, simple-minded, or homicidal maniacs who must be feared.

We resist because society identifies us as stereotypical aberrations.

Family Stigmatization

Families share responsibility for avoidance of disclosure and recovery. Parents and siblings hide their relationship with a family member experiencing emotional malfunction because they are ashamed. Throughout history, it was commonly accepted that it is either hereditary or the consequence of poor parenting. The implication of familial undesirability is potentially more emotionally disabling than the condition itself.  

We resist because we cannot break the parental chain of emotional abuse and dissociation.


Mental health stereotypes are driven by diagnosis. The pathographic or disease model of mental healthcare continues to be the overriding psychological perspective. Pathography focuses on a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Which disorder poses the most threat? What behaviors contribute to the disorder? Are we contagious? What sort of person has a mental illness? 

Disparaging and condescending attitudes, misdiagnoses, and general therapeutic pessimism are compelling reasons to avoid disclosure. We are labeled by our diagnosis, and stereotyped by its symptoms and characteristics.

We resist because healthcare experts emphasize the problem rather than the solution.

Mental Health Stigma  

MHS is the hostile expression of the abject undesirability of those of us experiencing social anxiety or some other emotional malfunction. It marks us as socially undesirable due to stereotype. Its implicit goal is to devalue us and separate us from society. Mental health stigma is facilitated by history and diagnosis and is supported by ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination.

We resist because MHS can negatively affect our employment, housing, social status, and emotional well-being if we disclose.

These are clear justifications for our unwillingness to disclose and seek recovery for our condition. The potential personal ramifications of these attributions compel us to settle for a life of disillusionment and self-doubt even though we secretly crave a healthy alternative. This results in a life of inner contradiction, pitting fear against desire and shutting us off from possibility. We close ourselves off to innovative ideas and concepts. We let nothing in. We remain embrangled in our perceptions of incompetence and inferiority. 

Generating the wherewithal to subvert these fears is affirmation of our determination to experience life at its fullest potential – to embrace the potential of our value and significance. When we commit to recovery, a broader dimension of consciousness opens up and we merge into the orderly flow of the universe. We are no longer isolated but accept our role as an internal and external creative force.

How do we defeat social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities? We outsmart them. We overwhelm them with rational response. We refute their authority and challenge their legitimacy. A battle is not won by focusing on past deficiencies, but by emphasizing our character strengths, virtues, attributes, and achievements. Any pursuit in uncharted waters is uncertain, but with risk comes great reward. Shadows of the fearful and unknown are exposed to the light of logic. That is why, in recovery, it is necessary to know the enemy and know ourselves to effectively prepare for all possibilities. Confidence and mastery materialize through knowledge and preparation. That is how wars are won.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional malfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

Lecture: Proactive Neuroplasticity. The Basics

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“Dr. Mullen is the father of proactive neuroplasticity.”
– Lake Shore Unitarian Society, Winnetka, IL

Online Lecture and Discussion

What is proactive neuroplasticity and why is it the most efficient means of learning and unlearning? What are its scientific and psychological validations?

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Proactive neuroplasticity is the most efficient means of self-empowerment or recovery from emotional dysfunction. We dramatically accelerate and consolidate learning by deliberately compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Proactive neuroplasticity empowers us to consciously transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. It gives us the power to take control of our emotional well-being and quality of life.

“I can’t tell you how much I really appreciate this program. I feel so confident and ready to utilize these resources/tools you’ve provided.” – Tess  D.

How and why does our neural network respond to the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information? This online discussion will illustrate the multiple ways proactive neuroplasticity positively impacts our neural network to achieve our goals and objectives.

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT ESSENTIAL?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

A Workshop Graduate’s Testimonial

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I’ve lived with social anxiety for decades. I spent many years (and thousands of dollars) on conventional talk therapy, self-help books, and medication, without experiencing any real change or relief. ReChanneling’s Social Anxiety Workshop produced results within a few sessions, with continuing improvement throughout the workshop and beyond. I’m now much more at ease in situations that were major sources of anxiety and avoidance for me just a few months ago. The shared experience of working through social anxiety with other people who “get it” is powerful, and I’ve felt Dr. Mullen is truly committed to our growth and recovery. Liz D. 

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