Robert F, Mullen, Ph.D.
Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.
“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid)
This is a draft of Chapter One – “Overcoming Our Resistance” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional malfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.
Overcoming Our Resistance
“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 SAD’s destructive capabilities 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.
Space is Limited
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.
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.
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.
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
Social anxiety disorder is comorbid with multiple emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, issues of self-esteem and motivation, and half-a-dozen other disorders. Proactive neuroplasticity and subsequently this book addresses emotional malfunctions in general because each originates with childhood disturbance and benefits, dramatically, from neural realignment.
* * *
Comments, Suggestions, Constructive Criticism.
* * *
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.