Emotional Malfunction: Why Me?

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, 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)

Emotional Malfunction: Why Me?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.
Maybe it is about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you,
so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
– Paul Coelho

Our condition emanates from childhood disturbance. Subsequent self-disapproving core beliefs inform our intermediate beliefs. These are adversely impacted by the adolescent onset of our emotional malfunction. Fostered by our inherent negativity bias, unwholesome thoughts and behaviors flourish throughout our adulthood, disrupting our emotional well-being and quality of life.

Social anxiety disorder and comorbidities compel us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. Like proverbial wandering lambs, we expose our flanks to the wolves of irrationality. We feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. That is how our malfunction sustains itself.

The trajectory of our negative thoughts and behaviors is not perfectly linear but is a collaboration of complementary and overlapping stages. Complementarity describes how a unit can only function optimally if its components work effectively and in concert. Our social anxiety functions optimally because it is sustained by our negative core and intermediate beliefs, influenced by childhood disturbance and the onset of our disorder. All these attributions are considered in recovery albeit the causes are not as important as the solution.

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Core Beliefs

Our trajectory begins with our core beliefs – the deeply held convictions that determine how we see ourselves in the world. We formulate them in childhood in response to information, experiences, inferences and deductions, and by accepting what we are told as true. They mold the unquestioned underlying themes that govern our assumptions and, ostensibly, remain as our belief system throughout life. When we decline to question our core beliefs, we act upon them as though they are real and true. 

Core beliefs are more rigid in SAD persons because we tend to store information consistent with negative beliefs, ignoring evidence that contradicts it. This produces a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, impacting the accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. That is different from our inherent negativity bias, which is the human tendency to prioritize negative stimuli and past negative events and situations.

Childhood Disturbance

During the development of our core beliefs, we are subject to a childhood disturbance, be it accidental, intentional, real, or imagined. Childhood disturbance is a broad and generic term for anything that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, or social development.

These disturbances are universal and indiscriminate. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional insecurity and instability has been well-established.

Negative Core Beliefs 

Childhood disturbance generates negative core beliefs about the self. Feelings of abandonment, detachment, neglect, and exploitation are common consequences of childhood disturbance. These generate negative core beliefs about the self and others.

Self-oriented negative core beliefs compel us to view ourselves as inconsequential and insignificant. This generates self-blaming for our perceived inadequacies and incompetence.

Our other-oriented negative core beliefs cause us to define others as demeaning, dismissive, malicious, and manipulative. This allows us to blame others for our condition, avoiding personal accountability. It also rationalizes our fears of interconnectivity and avoidance of social situations.

Emotional Malfunction

The next stage in our trajectory is the onset of our emotional malfunction which corresponds with our developing intermediate beliefs. Roughly 90% of disorder onset happens during adolescence, albeit the manifestation of symptoms often occurs later in life. SAD infects around the age of thirteen due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers recently discovered a specific serotonin transporter gene called “SLC6A4” that is strongly correlated with SAD. Nonetheless, the susceptibility to onset originates in childhood.

Disturbance, negative core beliefs, and onset generate low implicit and explicit self-esteem and heavily influence our intermediate beliefs.

Insufficient Satisfaction of Needs

Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value to ourselves, society, and the world. It can be further understood as a complex interrelationship between how we think about ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how we process and present that information.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reveals how childhood disturbance disrupts our natural development. The orderly flow of social and emotional development requires satisfying fundamental human needs. Childhood disturbance and negative core beliefs subvert certain biological, physiological, and emotional needs like familial support, healthy relationships, and a sense of safety and belongingness. This lacuna negatively dramatically impacts our self-esteem which we express by our undervaluation or regression of our positive self-qualities.

A quick note regarding mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness is essential to recovery and used throughout. However, there is appreciable ambiguity when it comes to defining it. For our purposes, it means recognizing, understanding, and accepting the veracity of something. If we understand a concept or theory about something but don’t believe it is true or valid, then we are not being mindful. Likewise, if we recognize the concept but don’t understand it, then we are still left in the dark.

Negative Intermediate Beliefs 

The onset of SAD happens during the development of our intermediate beliefs. These establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that govern our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real. Intermediate beliefs are less rigid than core beliefs and influenced by our social, cultural, and environmental information and experience. 

Negative Self-Beliefs and Image

All of these attributions produce distorted and maladaptive understandings of the self, others, and the world. Adaptive thoughts and behaviors are positive and functional. Maladaptive thoughts contort our reasoning and judgment, compelling us to ‘adapt’ negatively (maladapt) to situations. Distorted and irrational thoughts lead to dysfunctional behaviors and vice versa.

Situations, ANTs, and Cognitive Distortions

A situation is a 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/anxieties that negatively impact our activities and associations.

We articulate our fears /anxieties through preprogrammed, self-fulfilling prophecies called ANTs. Automatic negative thoughts are involuntary, anxiety-provoking assumptions that spontaneously appear in response to anxiety-provoking situations. Examples include the classroom, a job interview, a social event, and family occasions. ANTs are negatively oriented, untruthful, and have no real power over us unless we enable them. Assumptions caused by our negative self-beliefs impact their content and expression.

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of our anxiety and depression. They twist our thinking to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors. A prime example would be filtering, where we selectively choose to dwell on the negative aspects of a situation while overlooking the positive. We distort reality to avoid or validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions.


We are not defined by our disorder, however. We are defined by our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. Through recovery, we dissociate ourselves from our condition. By stepping outside of the target, we perceive things rationally and objectively.

We learn to identify and analyze our negative attributions. ANTs, cognitive distortions, and maladaptive thoughts are emotional reactions to situations that call for rational evaluation and response.

Recovery and self-empowerment is regaining what has been stolen, misplaced, or lost. For social anxiety, it is our emotional well-being and quality of life. In self-empowerment, it is our self-esteem and motivation. In regaining these things, we consciously and deliberately transform our adverse habits, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. Recovery is letting go of our negative self-perspectives and beliefs. Recovery opens us to possibilities unencumbered by prior acts.

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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 regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

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