Category Archives: Behavior

Coping Mechanisms for Social Anxiety

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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 apply to most emotional malfunctions, including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and self-esteem and motivation issues. 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)   

Coping Mechanisms for Social Anxiety

“Success depends upon previous preparation,
and without such preparation, there is sure to be a failure.”
– Confucius

Social anxiety is culturally identifiable by the persistent fear and avoidance of social interaction and performance situations, which causes us to miss the life experiences that connect us with the world.

Our primary recovery goal is the dramatic moderation of these symptoms. To achieve this, we identify three objectives: To (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid neurological stimulation to restructure our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem.

Coping Strategies versus Coping Mechanisms

Coping strategies are the methods or approaches that best execute our three objectives. In recovery workshops, we emphasize response-focused and solution-focused strategies, but multiple complementary strategies are utilized, including problem and emotion-focused coping strategies that help us manage our response to feared situations.

Coping mechanisms are tools and techniques that implement our strategies. They allow us to temporarily step outside the bullseye to objectively analyze our automatic negative thoughts and reactions to respond rationally and productively.

In general terms, coping mechanisms help us cope with everyday stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. They range from practiced skills in recovery (e.g., slow talk, persona, and character focus) to everyday stress reduction like gardening, journaling, and listening to music. Healthy coping mechanisms are adaptive – positive contributions to our emotional well-being.

Decompensation

Without coping mechanisms, healthy or otherwise, we can experience decompensation – the inability to generate effective psychological stress response, resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are temporary safeguards against situations that challenge our conscious minds. They are automatic psychological responses designed to protect us from our fears/anxieties. Notwithstanding their label, many defense mechanisms support recovery when utilized appropriately.

Cognitive distortions are common defense mechanisms. CDs are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that perpetuate our anxiety and depression. They interpret experiences in ways that don’t represent reality. We twist it to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors and validate our destructive thoughts and conduct.

Any process that protects us from our fears, anxieties, and threats to our emotional well-being is a defense mechanism. Some, like avoidance, humor, and isolation, require no explanation. Others, such as compensation and dissociation, have positive and negative values.

Situations

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 provokes fears/anxieties that negatively impact our activities and associations.

Two Types of Situations

Two types of situations concern us. Anticipated situations are those that we know, in advance, will provoke our fears/anxieties. They can be one-off situations like a job interview or social event. They can be recurring situations like the classroom or our daily work environment.

Unexpected situations catch us by surprise—stress-provoking incidents impacting our daily lives such as faulty plumbing, an unexpected guest, or losing a wallet.

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Associated Fears and Corresponding ANTs

Automatic Negative Thoughts are immediate, involuntary expressions of our fears/anxieties. They can occur prior to, during, or after a feared situation. ANTs are terse emotional responses, unbased upon reason and deliberation. They are the unpleasant expressions of our negative self-beliefs that define who we are, who we think we are, and who we think others think we are.

We first determine the fear-provoking situation to Identify our fears/anxieties and corresponding ANTs. Where are we when we feel anxious or apprehensive, and what activities are involved? What are we thinking? What might we be doing? Who and what do we avoid because of these insecure feelings?

We then unpack our associated fears/anxieties. We ask ourselves the following: What is problematic in the situation? How do I feel (physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually)? What is my specific concern or worry? What is the worst thing that could happen to me? What might happen to me?

The next step is unmasking our corresponding automatic negative thoughts, e.g., “I am incompetent.” “No one will talk to me.” “I will do something stupid.” “I am a loser.” 

Examining and analyzing this information allows us to generate rational responses to our fears/anxieties and corresponding ANTs, which are not factual but subjective abstractions.

Moderating Our Fears/Anxieties and ANTs

In anticipated situations, we have the luxury of preplanning strategies to address our fears/anxieties and ANTs. For unexpected situations, assembling an emergency preparedness kit of practiced coping mechanisms is prudent and helpful.

Coping mechanisms are valuable tools in the recovery process. Their role is to moderate the negative stimuli within the situation, allowing us to de-stress and reframe our responses.  Our apprehensions adversely impact our ability to concentrate. Additionally, we are hampered by our negative self-appraisal and the influx of stress-provoking hormones.

We develop and practice more detailed coping mechanisms in a workshop environment. Introspection, collective activities, and graded exposure are helpful to the client in determining the mechanisms that are most individually effective and adaptable.

Know the Enemy

Did you ever try to talk to someone about your social anxiety? It’s hard. Like it’s some alien disease or something. Nobody gets it. That is why we are reluctant to disclose it. Many of us deliberately choose to remain ignorant of SAD’s destructive capabilities. Others pretend it doesn’t exist or ignore it, hoping it will disappear or no one will notice. Our resistance is a significant impediment to our recovery.

It is disconcerting how many socially anxious clients are unfamiliar with SAD’s causes, symptoms, and impact. The information is readily available. When we have the sniffles, we dash to the internet and familiarize ourselves with every snake oil remedy known to civilization. Nevertheless, despite experiencing social anxiety for decades, it remains as mysterious to us as the eating habits of the Loch Ness Monster.

It is essential to know the symptoms of our condition and how they impact us. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, our chances of recovery are negligible if we neither know the enemy nor ourselves. It is pointless to attempt to assemble a puzzle if the pieces are missing.

Rational Response

A rational response is a logical, self-affirming counter to our fears/anxieties and ANTs. For example, if we fear criticism and negative judgment, rational responses might be, “I belong here as much as anyone,” “I am valuable and significant,” and “I am equal to anyone here.”

Positive personal affirmations focus on general aspects of our condition. We devise rational responses to rebut the automatic negative thoughts that correspond to our situational fears/anxieties. Rational responses challenge stressful incidents that impact us at a particular time in a particular place. Essentially, rational responses are intellectual evaluations of our emotional angst.

Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing is identifying and resolving negative emotions and situations by changing our perspective on how we experience and respond to them. Positive reframing is turning a negative perspective into a positive one. Reframing addresses our negativity in general, while rational response focuses on our feared situation. Positively reframing adverse experiences, events, thoughts, and behaviors as an opportunity to challenge them supports both processes. As we progress in recovery, both positive reframing and rational response ostensibly become habitual and automatic. Experts agree that positive reframing is critical for emotional well-being.

Seek Progress, Not Perfection

SAD persons worry about their performance before and during a situation and obsess about the outcome long after. We fear criticism and negative appraisal. We set unreasonable expectations to compensate for our perceptions of incompetence and inadequacy, and then we beat ourselves up when our expectations are unmet. Perfectionism is not the desire to do well but the need to be faultless. Anything less is unsatisfactory. Perfectionism and social anxiety have a parallel relationship.

Recovery, however, is a life’s work in progress. There is no absolute cure for social anxiety, but with work and over time, we experience a dramatic and exponential moderation of our symptoms. The key is progress over perfection.

Set Reasonable Expectations

An expectation, by definition, is a fervid belief that something will take place in the future. When we set expectations, we invest a strong interest in their outcome. What happens in the likelihood that our expectations are unmet? Because we have a vested interest, we are psychologically attached to the outcome. Fixed In our minds, we set it as a reality. When it does not go our way, the general response is one of disappointment.

Experts describe the reaction to disappointment as a form of sadness – an expression of desperation or grief due to loss. While it is true that we cannot lose what we have not acquired, fixing the expectation in our mind makes it real and visceral. Loss leads to depression, self-loathing, and other traits associated with perfectionism and social anxiety. 

Engender Joy and Laughter

The endorphins and chemical hormones transmitted with positive emotions dramatically enhance our psychological well-being. Joy and laughter counteract stress and defuse anger, resentment, and shame. They strengthen our immune system, boost energy levels, and enhance memory and concentration. When we smile and laugh, the influx of our fear and anxiety-provoking hormones decreases. Finding humor in stressful situations reframes our perspective, takes the edge off our anxiety, and helps us take things less seriously. It provides a sense of shared community, which helps counter our fear and avoidance of intimacy and social events, improving our psychological health.  

Remember, We Are Not Alone

Roughly 124 million U.S. adults and adolescents experience anxiety disorders. 60% of those have depression, and many resort to substance abuse. Others experiencing SAD are too preoccupied with their center of attention to seek us out for judgment or criticism. At least two of five people in any situation are just as apprehensive as we are, if not more so. So, when we worry and hyperventilate at a social event, we are in good company. Social anxiety is common, universal, and indiscriminate. We are never alone.

Avoid Non-Productive Situations

A primary SAD symptom is our intense fear or anxiety during social situations, causing us to avoid interacting with others. Human interconnectivity, however, is essential for emotional health. Turning down opportunities to socialize exacerbates our isolation, and we continue to miss possibilities for intimacy and friendship. In recovery, we gradually expose ourselves to situations that can engender positive social interaction.

This, however, does not mean that we need to challenge every situation. There is a distinction between avoiding out of fear and avoiding out of reason. One workshop exercise is to initiate a salutation or small talk with a stranger. Discretion about who and where we engage is important. Another example is the socially anxious individual with an arts degree attending a conference for chemical engineers. Avoidance is not only reasonable but also evident.

Remember, You Are Not Alone

Roughly, 124 million U.S. adults and adolescents experience anxiety disorders. 60% of those have depression, and many resort to substance abuse. Persons experiencing SAD are too preoccupied with their own center of attention to seek us out for judgment or criticism. At least two of five people in any situation are just as apprehensive as we are, if not more so.  So, when we worry and start to hyperventilate at a social event, we are in good company. Social anxiety is common, universal, and indiscriminate. We are never alone.

Emergency Preparedness Kit

Knowing how to respond effectively to unexpected situations is challenging. When dealing with a scheduled event or one that meets regularly, we have the wherewithal to plan accordingly. Strategizing for unanticipated situations is somewhat of a crap shoot. Accordingly, we assemble an emergency preparedness kit of practiced coping mechanisms that can be effective in any feared situation.

General Coping Strategies

Controlled Breathing

Controlled breathing reduces stress, increases our mental awareness, and boosts our immune system. Scientific studies show that this simple grounding technique helps moderate symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. Grounding distracts from negative stimuli by focusing on the present through our body and senses. It helps us manage our negative thoughts and reactions.

Our vagus nerve controls our heart rate and nervous system. It also manages our fight-or-flight response. Science tells us that the simplest way to manipulate our vagus nerve is to practice controlled breathing, which decreases the flow of cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine while releasing mood and memory-enhancing chemical hormones like GABA and serotonin.

Positive Personal Affirmations

Positive personal affirmations are self-motivating and empowering statements that help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds. We drastically underestimate the significance and effectiveness of PPAs because we need to understand their neuroscience. Providing all the neural benefits of positive reinforcement, our PPAs self-describe who and what we aspire to be in our emotional development. PPAs are rational, reasonable, possible, positive, unconditional, problem-focused, brief, and in first-person present or future time. Think of positive personal affirmations as aspirations or self-fulfilling prophecies that, through deliberate repetition, help replace our abundance of negative neural information with healthy, productive input.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR is another grounding technique. We progressively relax our muscle groups, beginning with the lower extremities and extending to the forehead. Like controlled breathing, there are long and short applications. Abbreviated PMR takes less than a minute and can be executed surreptitiously during any situation. This coping mechanism relieves the discomforting muscle tension aggravated by stress. It also reduces the influx of our fear and anxiety-provoking hormones while momentarily distracting us from our negative thoughts and reactions.

Slow Talk

Our anxiety often compels us to mumble or rush our speaking under pressure. Slow talk is deliberately speaking slowly and calmly. It slows our physiological responses, alleviates rapid heartbeat, and lowers our blood pressure. It is also helpful to incorporate the 5-second rule, i.e., pause any response for five thoughtful seconds. Not only does this coping mechanism moderate the flow of cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress-provoking hormones, but it also presents the appearance of someone thoughtful and confident.

Coping Mechanisms for Anticipated Situations

Knowing our feared situation in advance gives us ample opportunity to devise a structured plan to counter our fears/anxieties. In providing rational responses to our negative emotional stimuli, we identify the feared situation, associated fears/anxieties, and corresponding ANTs. From there, we devise our rational responses by reframing the negative self-appraisal of our ANTs.

We develop a structured plan utilizing situationally focused coping mechanisms in a workshop environment. We practice the strategy in non-threatening simulations. This method is called graded exposure – systematic desensitization consisting of thought and behavioral modification techniques that reduce our sensitivity to feared situations.

When we feel adequately prepared, we expose ourselves to the feared situation. 

In addition to the coping mechanisms already outlined, situationally specific coping mechanisms include the following:

Affirmative Visualization

An affirmative visualization is a positive outcome scenario we mentally create by imagining or visualizing it. All information passes through our brain’s thalamus, which makes no distinction between inner and outer realities. Whether we visualize doing something or actually do it, we stimulate the same regions of our neural network. Visualizing raising our left hand is, to our brain, the same thing as physically raising our left hand and produces the same neural benefits.

Affirmative visualization activates our dopaminergic-reward system, decreasing the neurotransmissions of anxiety and fear-provoking hormones and accelerating and consolidating the beneficial ones. When we visualize, our brain generates alpha waves, which can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Research shows that visualizing a situation in advance improves our mental and physical performance. We consciously source information that will enhance our performance outcomes, dramatically improving the likelihood of success in the actual situation.

Character Focus

Focusing on our character strengths, virtues, attributes, and achievements channels our emotional angst to mental deliberation, disparaging our fears/anxieties and corresponding ANTs. It supports the regeneration of our self-esteem as we rebuild our latent self-qualities. By manifesting our character strengths and achievements, we reframe our perspective, empowering our assets and generating renewed self-confidence and viability.

Distractions/Diversions

A distraction is another grounding technique that momentarily channels our attention away from our fears/anxieties. Also called directed attention, we focus on specific sensations, items, or activities to supersede moments of stress and discomfort in our feared situation. These physical and mental distractions temporarily remove us from our fears/anxieties and help us manage our negative thoughts and reactions. Snapping a rubber band on our wrist to momentarily ground our attention is a prime example of a distraction.

Persona

Our persona is the social face we present to our exposure situation(s), designed to make a focused impression while concealing the visibility of our social anxiety. We have multiple personas. We present differently depending upon the context of the situation, e.g., a sports event versus an interview for a job or a family dinner versus a fraternity bash.

A static or negative persona (e.g., SAD-induced) inhibits our psychological development. A strong sense of self-esteem relates to the outside world through flexible personas adaptable to different situations. Establishing a persona is similar to an actor preparing for a role. While we may employ new mannerisms, a different stride, or attitude, a persona is not another self. It is an affectation – a novel rendering of our personality. It is also a formidable distraction.

Projected Positive Outcome

Our projected positive outcome is the reasonable expectations we set for our feared situation. We already know the projected negative outcome if we capitulate to our ANTs. Therefore, we rationally respond by setting reasonable expectations. A sensible projected positive outcome is rational, practical, and doable to ensure success. For example, expecting to be immediately hired with a fantastic salary at a networking event is not a reasonable expectation. Making an initial and fruitful contact is a more reasonable projected positive outcome.

Purpose

Purpose is the primary motivation behind our exposure to a situation. What do we seek or hope to accomplish? Why are we exposing ourselves? If the situation is the barbershop or beauty salon (not uncommon sources of anxiety), it is reasonable to consider that our purpose is get our hair cut or styled. It may be something else, however. Purpose is a subjective determination.

Attending a social event offers multiple purposes. We may want to network, make friends, and seek an intimate relationship. Maintaining numerous purposes reduces the probability of success, leading to disappointment and self-recrimination. Therefore, we redefine and focus on one purpose and set reasonable expectations.  To paraphrase a Russian proverb: if you chase two pigs, you have less chance of catching either one.

Small Talk

Small talk is an informal greeting, comment, or discourse absent any functional topic of conversation or transaction. In essence, it is polite, non-confrontational verbal interaction meant to acknowledge presence and or open channels of further communication. This activity is not as easy for those experiencing social anxiety as it appears. In interactive workshop activities, graded exposure defines the parameters and establishes the comfort zone critical to successful small talk.

SUDS Rating and Projected SUDS Rating 

The Subjective Units of Distress Scale ranges from 0 to 100, measuring the severity of our situational fears/anxieties. Additionally, it allows us to set reasonable expectations of success. We evaluate what level of distress we anticipate in our feared situation (SUDS Rating) and what we project it will be upon its successful completion (Projected SUDS Rating). Again, we set reasonable expectations. A moderate projected SUDS rating will offer the probability of a successful venture. For example, if our SUDS rating of distress for making a presentation is 80, a reasonable projected SUDS rating might be 70 or 75. Projecting a 10 SUDS rating would imply that we expect a standing ovation and a national speaking tour. It’s possible, but it is an unreasonable expectation.

These coping mechanisms are specialized and focused on responding to expected and unanticipated feared situations. Exposing ourselves to a feared situation without a strategy and functional coping mechanisms is jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In the words of a master of moderation, Benjamin Franklin, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”

Coping Mechanisms for Everyday Stress

Anything that takes us out of the stress of the moment qualifies as an adaptive coping mechanism. From listening to music to tending a garden, coping mechanisms are as numerous and varied as individual experience and imagination.

To iterate, some will work for us, and others we will discard. Some will work sometimes and not at other times. Most are general activities like exercise, meditation, and creativity. The key is to become mindful when a pursuit helps us unwind from our anxieties and apprehensions and utilize them when the stressful occasion arises. Examples of coping mechanisms for everyday stress include:

  • Arts and Crafts: Pottery, knitting, photography, scrapbooks, candle and jewelry making.
  • DIY: Building, redecorating, reorganizing, constructing, painting.
  • Music: Soundscapes, chants, and ambient music can be restful and motivating; sound therapy therapeutic; and emotionally supportive music and songs stimulate the positive flow of chemical hormones.
  • Creative Pursuits: produce videos, write, read, play an instrument, visit a museum.
  • Connecting with nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings while contributing to our physical well-being, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and mood and emotional well-being improvements. 
  • Personal Time: Take a relaxing bath, cuddle with the family pet, spend time with friends, colleagues, and family, fun shopping.
  • Physical Activity: Dancing, jogging, swimming, yoga, the gym.
  • Body Relaxation: Tapping, acupuncture, meditation, massage, autogenic relaxation.
  • Self-Empowering: Gratitude list, journaling, self-compassion, volunteering, random acts of kindness.

Coping mechanisms are tools and techniques with a wide range of uses. They assist in moderating our situational fears/anxieties and ANTs. They temporarily allow us to step outside the bullseye to objectively analyze our perceptions and reactions and respond rationally and productively. They also help us cope with everyday stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions.

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Social Anxiety Disorder: A Life Trajectory of Fear

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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. 

Social Anxiety Disorder: A Life Trajectory of Fear

Peer-reviewed and approved for publication, Clio’s Psyche, 2023.

Founded in 1994, Clio’s Psyche is a scholarly journal published by the Psychohistory Forum, holding regular scholarly meetings in Manhattan and at international conventions. Clio’s Psyche is unique in that it prefers experiential testimony over extensive citation.

Abstract: The author examines the parallel of social anxiety disorder to fear and the remarkable contrast between individuals in recovery to those who resist healing due to symptomatic defeatism.

Keywords: anxiety, cognitive distortions, fear, interconnectivity, neuroplasticity, recovery, resistance, social-anxiety-disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is culturally identifiable by the persistent fear and avoidance of social interaction and performance situations, which causes us to miss the life experiences that connect us with the world.  To paraphrase Sun Tzu, if we know the enemy and our capacity to defeat it, then we need not fear it.  SAD sustains itself by provoking fear and anxiety. In recovery, we acquaint ourselves with the symptoms and characteristics of the condition as well as their impact on our emotional well-being and quality of life. 

Notwithstanding, persons living with SAD are disproportionately resistant to recovery.  We go to enormous lengths to remain oblivious to its destructive capabilities as if, by ignoring them, they don’t exist or will somehow go away.  Our justifications for resistance are numerous and a discussion for another time.  This writing contrasts the emotional functionality of persons resigned to SAD with those who choose recovery.  The personal thoughts quoted throughout are from clients and workshop graduates.

Like all persons living with SAD, I entered my adolescence terrified of my shadow and not knowing why.  Nicknamed the “neglected anxiety disorder,” SAD is ostensibly the most underrated, misunderstood, and misdiagnosed psychological affliction.  Few therapists understand it and even fewer know how to effectively address it.  SAD is routinely misdiagnosed.  Professionals cite the mental health community’s difficulty distinguishing its symptoms and identifying specific etiological risk factors.  Over the years, I was diagnosed with various forms of depression and bipolar disorder.  Delinquent, insubordinate, and intolerable were other personal epithets.  Anxiety was never a consideration. 

One has to experience SAD to recognize its severity.  My struggles countering my life-consistent negative self-beliefs provide a unique understanding of how SAD manipulates and provokes emotional self-annihilation.  Recovery is an exponential process of transformationIt may not be curable, but its symptoms can be dramatically moderated.  Remission is generally defined as a year in recovery utilizing the available tools and techniques. 

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal facet of life. The typical individual accords its appropriate deference.  Those of us living with SAD personalize our anxiety, dramatize it, and obsess about its negative implications.  We create mountains out of molehills, spending our days in tortuous anticipation of our projected negative outcomes.  We encourage our submission through self-fulfilling prophecy.

We live with persistent anxiety and fear of social situations such as dating or interviewing for a job.  Often, mere functionality in perfunctory situations -eating in front of others, riding a bus, using a public restroom – is unduly stressful.  We seek invisibility, praying we will not be asked to participate.  As Matty S. explained, “I spent high school trying to hide in every dark corner with a book in my face. I never once ate lunch in four years, and never once went to the bathroom in four years at my high school, for fear of having to interact with people.”

Four words define our self-image:  helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless.  The first three were coined by Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy.  The overriding sense of undesirability evolved from my discussions with hundreds of SAD individuals.  Debilitating and chronic, SAD attacks on all fronts, manifesting in mental confusion, emotional instability, physical dysfunction, and spiritual malaise.  Emotionally, we are depressed and lonely.  In social situations, we are subject to unwarranted sweating, trembling, hyperventilation, nausea, and muscle spasms.  Mentally, our thoughts are distorted and irrational.  Spiritually, we define ourselves as inadequate and insignificant.  Most of us suffer from depression and gamble with substance abuse to blunt the discomfort of our condition.

The overriding fear of being found wanting manifests in our self-perspectives of inferiority and unattractiveness.  We are unduly concerned we will say something that will reveal our shortcomings.  We walk on eggshells, supremely conscious of our awkwardness, surrendering to the GAZE – the anxious state of mind that comes with the perception we are the center of attention.  We anguish over things for weeks before they happen and negatively predict the outcomes. 

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.  “Anxiety has crippled me, locked me in a cage and has become my master.” – Jeremy G.

We fear the unknown and unexplored.  We crave companionship but shun intimacy, expecting to be deemed unlikeable.  It is not the fear that destroys our lives, it’s the things we do to avoid it.  At the peak of my social anxiety, I would circle the block repeatedly before a social event to bolster my courage.  More often than not, I ended up in the bar rather than the event.  Not only did I anticipate letting myself down, but I guaranteed it through my avoidance. 

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Cumulative evidence that childhood disturbance is a primary causal factor in emotional instability has been well-established.  The word ‘disturbance’ generates images of overt abuse. However, any number of things define it.  Parents may have been controlling or did not provide emotional validation.  Perhaps we were subject to gender bullying or a broken home.  Disturbance can be intentional or accidental, real or imagined – the suggestibility of the pre-adolescent is legendary.  A toddler who finds their parental quality time interrupted by a phone call can form a core belief of abandonment.  SAD senses the vulnerability and onsets at adolescence, often lingering in our system for years before asserting itself. 

It is essential to recognize our malfunction is not our fault nor the result of aberrant behavior.  We did not make it happen; it happened to us.  We are not accountable for the hand we have been dealt.  We are, however, responsible for how we play the cards.  The onus of recovery remains with us.  Experts supply the tools, but we must take them out of the shed and out them to work. 

Undoubtedly, this sociological model conflicts with moral models that claim emotional malfunction is onset controllable, and we are to blame for our symptoms (or that it is God’s punishment for sin).

Social connectedness is a central psychological requirement for emotional well-being.  In unambiguous terms, the desire for love is at the heart of social anxiety disorder but our social avoidance and fear of intimacy disenables our ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships.  We feel trapped in a vicious circle, restricted from living a normal life, alienated from our peers, and isolated from our families.  Bryce S. writes: “I still find myself very scared to open up, be honest, be intimate, and trust people while also figuring out how I feel about things and reacting appropriately.  I guess I realized I’m starved for genuine connections.” 

We store information consistent with our negative beliefs.  Even when irrational or inaccurate, it defines how we see ourselves in the world.  By declining to question these beliefs, we sustain a cognitive bias that compels us to misinterpret information.  This is further compounded by humankind’s inherent negativity bias.  Even when we know our fears and apprehensions are irrational, their emotional impact is so great, our attitudes, rules, and assumptions run roughshod over any healthy, rational response. 

SAD in Recovery

We exponentially erode SAD’s power by compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry.  Dissociation is the first order of business in recovery.  We learn to define ourselves not by our malfunction, but by our character strengths, virtues, and achievements.  If we break our leg, we do not become the injured limb; we are someone with a broken leg.  The same logic applies to our condition. 

We counter our fears and anxieties through rational responses, recognizing that our learned helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness are SAD-induced distortions of reality.  They are defense mechanisms – irrational thought patterns purposed to validate our negative self-beliefs.  Substance abuse, denial, projection, regression, and cognitive distortions twist our thinking and paint an inaccurate picture of ourselves and the world around us

Neuroplasticity is evidence of our brain’s constant adaptation to learning.  Scientists refer to the process as structural remodeling of the brain.  It’s what makes learning and registering new experiences possible.  All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. 

What is significant is our ability to dramatically accelerate learning by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry.  The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI) empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities.  Proactive neuroplasticity is not psychology, but science.  They share responsibility for recovery.

Know yourself and know the enemy.  Discovering I was not an inherently evil person – that social anxiety disorder was the force behind my behavior -caused me to reevaluate my value and significance.  The realization that proactive neuroplasticity gave me control of my emotional well-being was life changing.  Passing this information on to others living with emotional malfunction gave me a sense of purpose. 

As the saying goes, 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 becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling our life and claiming our rights as human beings.  Recovery is regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.  Social anxiety disorder is the invading force that has stolen our autonomy, our hopes, and our self-esteem.  Reclaiming our inherent universal rights demands a comprehensive strategy. 

To paraphrase the strategic offensive principle of war, the best defense against emotional malfunction is a good offense.  Military strategists develop a structured plan of action to outmaneuver the opponent.  They then identify the actions or measurable steps needed to achieve the goal.  A definitive strategy also identifies what resources are needed to implement the tactics.  That is what we must achieve in recovery.  We are the strategists, our recovery program our weapons research facility.

A coalescence of science and east-west psychologies is essential to capture the diversity of human thought and experience.  Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity; cognitive-behavioral modification and positive psychology’s optimal functioning are Western-oriented, and Eastern practices provide the therapeutic benefits of Abhidharma (Buddhist psychology) and the overarching truths of ethical behavior.  Also crucial to recovery are approaches that focus on the regeneration of our self-esteem.

The primary goal of recovery from social anxiety is the moderation of our irrational fears and anxieties. This is best achieved through a three-pronged approach: to (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem. These comprise our overall strategy.

Cognitive and behavioral mechanisms replace or overwhelm our life-consistent negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy ones.  DRNI produces rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network.  Recognizing and emphasizing our strengths, virtues, and accomplishments regenerate our self-esteem. 

In recovery, we identify the situations that provoke our fear(s) and unmask the corresponding automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that reinforce or justify them.  Through personal interrogation and analysis, we generate rational responses while simultaneously reconstructing our neural circuits.

A one-size-fits-all recovery strategy cannot sufficiently address our individual complexity.  We are better served by integrating multiple traditional and non-traditional approaches, developed through client trust, cultural assimilation, and therapeutic innovation.  Our environment, heritage, conflicts, and associations reflect our wants, choices, and aspirations.  If they are not given consideration, then we are not valued.  Recovery builds upon our assets.  We do not triumph through incompetence and weakness but with practiced skill and careful planning. 

The process of recovery is theoretically simple but challenging due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process.  Neural restructuring requires a calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information that is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope in this era of instant gratification. 

Once we start down the path, however, our capacity for transformation grows exponentially.  All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a constant and correlated change in behavior and perspective.  A comprehensive recovery program provides the tools and techniques.  The decision to use utilize them is on us. 

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 neuroscience and psychology including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

Positive Personal Affirmations

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PPA2.png

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. 

Positive Personal Affirmations

“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)

The positive thinker sees the invisible,
feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”
Winston Churchill

Positive personal affirmations (PPAs) are self-empowering, motivating statements of purpose that we repeat to ourselves to challenge our negative self-beliefs. Executing them repeatedly is one of the more efficient means of neural restructuring. Additionally, the power of suggestion supports the replacement of our toxic thoughts and helps regenerate our self-esteem.

In defining his counteroffensive in war, Sun Tzu wrote, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” That is what we are doing with the deliberate, repetitive neural input (DRNI) of our PPAs. By barraging our brain with positive information, we are breaking down its resistance to healthy thoughts and behaviors due to our life-consistent negative self-beliefs.

Executing PPAs properly initiates the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation that causes positive neural chain reactions. PPAs are the most effective way to accelerate and consolidate proactive neuroplasticity. Additionally, PNPs help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds. 

Consequently, the three Rs of recovery – restructuring, replacing, and regenerating are satisfied.

Why We Dismiss PPAs

So, why do we resist executing this very elementary coping mechanism? Client interviews with persons recovering from emotional malfunction reveal a curious resistance to carrying out the simple task of implementing PPAs. Mindful of their value, we consistently fail to take advantage. Additionally, we rarely have a rational explanation.

So, let us discuss some reasons for our reticence.

Negativity Bias and Cognitive Bias

Humans are hard-wired with a negativity bias and inherently respond more favorably to adversity. Additionally, we have been inundated with SAD-provoked unhealthy thoughts and behaviors since adolescent onset. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs produce a cognitive bias that compels us to misinterpret information and make irrational decisions. PPAs, by definition, are positive manifestations that naturally conflict with our emotional trajectory.

Many of us disparage the new-age implications of PPAs. Even with recognition, comprehension, and acceptance of their benefits toward positive neural realignment, we find them silly and pretentious. Likewise, their 2000-year history in tantras and prayer compels us to dismiss them as archaic and impotent.

SAD is ostensibly the most underrated and misunderstood disorder. Its complexity disputes the effectiveness of simple and uncomplicated solutions. How can anything this straightforward contribute significantly to the restructuring of our neural network? 

The calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope in this era of instant gratification.

SAD drives us to disparage unfamiliar ideas and concepts. Our resistance to recovery and its tools and techniques is robust. Remember, humans are physiologically averse to change. We are hard-wired to resist anything that jeopardizes our status quo. Our brain’s inertia senses and repels change, and our basal ganglia resist any modification to behavior patterns. 

Finally, since childhood, we have been badgered by parents and other influencers to think positively. However, they rarely considered the supporting scientific evidence. Cajoling someone to do something without explanation is like teaching a puppy to walk on its hind legs. It eventually learns, but only under duress, and probably resents its trainer. It is not self-motivated and does not perform without an audience. 

In the wise words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

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Complex Simplicity

On the surface, creating PPAs sounds easy, but it is deceptively complex for SAD persons. It is challenging to grasp how years of negative self-beliefs are compensated by a few choice words. Our brains, however, do not think. They are neural reciprocators. Therefore, the intent and input of positive neural information compensate for our low implicit and explicit self-esteem.

That’s why mindfulness of the science behind proactive neuroplasticity is so important. If our PPAs meet the criteria for good information, our neural network will recognize them and restructure accordingly, whether we believe our information or not.

Power of Suggestion

Additionally, the power of suggestion instigates positive changes in our thoughts and behaviors. Psychology attributes it to our ‘response expectancies,’ or what I refer to as self-fulfilling prophecies. Response expectancies refer to our anticipation of a positive response. Similar to affirmative visualizations, PPAs are positive outcome scenarios that we mentally imagine or visualize.

All information passes through our thalamus – the small structure located just above the stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain. It has extensive nerve connections to both. By visualizing activity, we increase activity in the thalamus and our brain responds as though the activity is really happening. Our thalamus makes no distinction between inner and outer realities. Visualizing raising our left hand is, to our brain, the same thing as physically raising our left hand.

Any idea or suggestion, if contemplated solidly, will take on a semblance of reality. If we visualize a solution to a problem, the problem begins to resolve itself because visualizing activates the cognitive circuits involved with our working memory.

Neural Wiring

Neurons don’t act by themselves but through neural circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information from PPAs compels neurons to fire repeatedly, causing them to wire together. The more repetitions, the more robust the new connections. 

Hebbian Learning

Neuroscientist Donald Hebb pioneered the correlation between psychology and neuroscience as it relates to behavior. Hebbian Learning is a complex algorithm that is best summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together.” That means the simultaneous activation of nearby neurons leads to an increase in the strength of synaptic connections between them. While our input of information is not simultaneous, the corresponding reactivity of participating neurons produces the same response. PPAs accelerate and consolidate learning by causing neural circuits to strengthen and forward information.

Neural Reciprocation

Multiple repetitions of positive information activate millions of neurons that reciprocate that energy in abundance. Like any neural input of information, PPAs spark receptor neurons that forward positive energy to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas. Remember, our brain doesn’t distinguish healthy from toxic information. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. Thus, the value of positive information.

Three PPAs repeated five times, three times daily generates forty-five cellular chain reactions, dramatically accelerating and consolidating the restructuring of our neural network. The process takes approximately five minutes out of our day.

Cortisol and Adrenaline

PPAs decrease the flow of the fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline while simultaneously producing hormones for memory, learning, and concentration. Scientists have identified over fifty chemical hormones in the human body. They are the messengers that control our physiological functions – our metabolism, homeostasis, and reproduction. Their distribution is precise. Even slight changes in levels can cause significant disruption to our health as in the cases of cortisol, adrenaline, and other fight or flight-inducing hormones.

Cortisol and adrenaline are called fear and anxiety-provoking hormones.  Under stress, our amygdala signals our hypothalamus and sympathetic nervous control systems in the brain stem. The hypothalamus, in turn, alerts our cortisol and adrenaline hormones. This stress-related trajectory is stored in our physiological memory bank and the more the process is repeated, the more we are negatively impacted by these hormones.

Chronic stress induced by our SAD symptomatology causes a higher, more constant influx of cortisol and adrenaline into our system. Not only does this increase the risk of health problems like heart disease and stroke, but it contributes significantly to our anxiety and depression, causing problems with memory, cognition, and sleep patterns. PPAs help reduce the influx of these neural transmissions.

Other Benefits

The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information also activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. Additionally, PPAs amplify the activity of our axon pathways, creating higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neural factor) proteinsWe accelerate learning and unlearning through deliberate repetition.

Criteria for Robust PPAs

The most effective PPAs are constructed using the following seven criteria.

  • Rational: Our objective is to subvert the irrationality of our negative self-beliefs. It is illogical to cause ourselves harm. Irrationality is self-destructive because it subverts the truth.
  • Reasonable: Of sound judgment; sensible. I will publish my first novel is an unreasonable expectation if we choose to remain illiterate.
  • Possible: If our goals are impossible, our efforts are counter-productive and futile. I will win a Grammy is not a viable option to the tone-deaf.
  • Unconditional: Placing limitations on our commitment by using words like maybe, might, and perhaps is our unconscious avoidance of accountability. Saying I might do something essentially means we may or may not do something depending upon our mood or disposition. How comfortable are we when someone says, I might consider paying you for your work?
  • Goal-Focused: If we do not know our destination, our path will be unfocused and meandering.
  • First-Person, Present Time: The past is immutable, the future indeterminate. Our actions can only happen in the present. 
  • Brevity: Direct and easily memorized.

The most effective PPAs are calculated and specific to our intention. Are we challenging the negative thoughts and behaviors of our social anxiety? Are we reaffirming the character strengths and virtues that support recovery and transformation? Are we focused on a specific challenge? What is our end goal – the personal milestone we want to achieve? 

The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We do not don tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with rackets and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard.

As described earlier, neural restructuring requires a calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information that is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results. Fortunately, the universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of PPAs is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive energy, the neural benefits, and the transmissions of hormones that accelerate and consolidate learning.

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 neuroscience and psychology including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

ReChanneling: Updates and Happenings, Summer 2023

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 Málaga)   

Here are some of ReChanneling’s activities through the spring and summer.

New Saturday Workshop

Due to multiple requests and the overflow for our current workshop, we have scheduled an additional social anxiety recovery workshop for Saturday mornings. 

VIDEO #8 in our Proactive Neuroplasticity series

Social Anxiety: It’s Not Your Fault

We are editing the eighth video installment on Proactive Neuroplasticity. The YouTube video will also be viewed on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, BitChute, ReChanneling.org, and Regimed Pharmacy,

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Three Forms of Neuroplasticity
  3. Tools and Techniques
  4. Positive Personal Affirmations
  5. Challenging Self-Destructive Thoughts
  6. Affirmative Visualization
  7. Constructing Our Neural Information

Upcoming Book

We are currently editing with Springer Publications our upcoming book, tentatively titled The War for our Emotional Well-Being. Recovery from Social Anxiety and Other Emotional Malfunctions. Prior to publication, we will enlist support and criticism from our peers at Academia.edu and ResearchGate. We appreciate the excellent support from individuals who commented on our website postings that are drafts of what is transcribed into the book.

The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity, and references to one include the other. The tools and techniques provided in this book focus on social anxiety but are applicable to most emotional malfunctions, including depression, substance abuse,  panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and self-esteem and motivational issues. They originate uniformly, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.

Statistics

Dr. Mullen’s publications are viewed worldwide. Academia.edu and ResearchGate claim roughly 1,000 academic readers,  and Google Scholar reports 31 citations in books and journals. ReChanneling’s website, YouTube, and other sources (not including social media) have been accessed over 25,000 times.

All of Dr. Mullen’s chapters and articles, including “Utilizing Psychobiography to Moderate Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder,” “The Extraordinariness of the ‘Ordinary’ Extraordinary,” and “Enlisting Positive Psychologies to Challenge Love within SAD’s Culture of Maladaptive Self-Beliefs” are available upon request. Contact us.

LINK to Other Publications

Recent Posts

ReChanneling’s website is updated weekly.

Academia.edu

Academia.edu continues to offer two ReChanneling courses: Neuroscience and Happiness: A Guide to Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change and Social Anxiety in the LGBTQ+ Community.

Support Groups

ReChanneling currently facilitates over 1000 individuals with social anxiety disorder in our two discussion groups. Social Anxiety and Proactive Neuroplasticity and LGBTQ+ Social Anxiety Group.

A third discussion group, ReChanneling: Recovery and Empowerment focuses on proactive neuroplasticity in the pursuit of goals and objectives.

Seminars/Lectures

  • (2/25) Lake Shore Unitarian Society, Illinois
  • (6/19) SF’s Magic Theatre/SF AIDS Foundation
  • (9/8) Tedx, Las Vegas
  • (9/9) Sacramento’s The Exchange
  • (2/5/25) THSFW – Tucson Hard-Sci SF Writers
  • (3/20/25 ) APA Western Division Conference, Portland

Schedules for upcoming workshops and presentations are provided on ReChanneling’s website.

Some Testimonials

“I like Robert’s SAD recovery program, especially how it’s taking many of my negative thoughts away and replacing them with positive ones. I also appreciate the others that are in our recovery group, as we all mingle quite well. And, of course, Robert is always there as nurturing and positive friend.” – Michael Z. 

“I have never encountered such an efficient professional … His work transpires dedication, care, and love for what he does.” –  Jose Garcia Silva, PhD, Composer Cosmos          

“I am simply in awe at the writing, your insights, your deep knowing of transcendence, your intuitive understanding of psychic-physical pain, your connection of the pain to healing … and above all, your innate compassion.”Jan Parker, PhD

“A leading expert on social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities, Dr. Mullen is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity, enabled by the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI).” Lakeshore Unitarian Society  

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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 neuroscience and psychology including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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 apply to most emotional malfunctions, including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and self-esteem and motivation issues. 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)   

Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety

“Success depends upon previous preparation,
and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.”
– Confucius

Social anxiety disorder is culturally identifiable by the persistent fear and avoidance of social interaction and performance situations, which causes us to miss the life experiences that connect us with the world. Our recovery goal is the general outcome we mean to achieve. The objectives are the actions or measurable steps taken to achieve our goal.  

Our goal, then, is the dramatic moderation of our fears of social interconnectivity. To achieve this, we identify three objectives: To (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid neurological stimulation to restructure our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem.

Coping strategies are the methods or approaches we devise to execute these objectives. Coping mechanisms are tools and techniques that implement our strategies. The distinction is important.

We are at war, and social anxiety is the enemy. Successfully challenging our fears/anxieties requires an adaptive plan of action. A military strategist is skilled in designing a plan to overwhelm the enemy. As strategists for our recovery, we are responsible for developing a cohesive plan to meet our three objectives. These can involve multiple strategies.

Situations

A situation is a set of circumstances – the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a specific place. A feared situation provokes fears/anxieties that negatively impact our activities and associations.

Two Types of Situations

Two types of situations concern us. Anticipated situations include those that we know, in advance, will provoke our fears/anxieties.  Examples range from restaurants and the classroom to job interviews, family gatherings, and social events. They can be one-time situations like a job interview or social event. They can be recurring situations such as the classroom or work environment.

Unexpected situations are those that catch us by surprise. An accident, an unexpected guest, and losing your wallet are unexpected situations. 

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Automatic Negative Thoughts

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are the immediate, involuntary, emotional expressions that occur when our situational fears/anxieties confront us. They are the unpleasant, self-defeating things we tell ourselves that define who we are, who we think we are, and who we think others think we are.

ANTs are borne of our negative core and intermediate beliefs and the symptoms of our social anxiety, e.g., “No one will talk to me.” “I will do something stupid.” “I am a loser.” Adverse behaviors consequently accompany these self-maligning thoughts.

Identifying situations and unpacking associated fears and corresponding ANTs are crucial to recovery. Our issues are as distinctive as our environments and experiences.

9-Step Process for Rational Response

Moderating our associated fears/anxieties and corresponding ANTs demands an integrated approach. Through what we call the 9-Step Process for Rational Response, we learn to: 

1. Identify our Feared Situation. Where are we when we feel anxious or fearful and what activities are involved? What are we thinking? What might we be doing? Who and what impacts these insecure feelings? 

2. Identify our Associated Fear(s). One way to identify our associated fears/anxieties is to ask ourselves the following: What is problematic about the situation? How do I feel (physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually)? What is my specific concern or worry? What is the worst thing that could happen to me? What might happen to me?

3. Unmask our Corresponding ANTs. How do we express our fear/anxieties? What are our involuntary emotional expressions or images? How do we negatively self-label? What do we tell ourselves?

4. Examine and Analyze Our Fear(s) and ANTs. What are the stimuli to our fears/anxieties? How do we express them? Discovery approaches include cognitive comprehension, introspection, psychoeducation, and the vertical arrow technique.

5. Generate Rational Responses. We become mindful of the irrationality and self-destructive nature of our associated fears/anxieties and corresponding ANTs. We unmask, examine, and analyze the cognitive distortions and maladaptive behaviors that validate or reinforce them. Then, we devise rational responses to counter our false assumptions.

Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that interpret experiences in ways that don’t represent reality. We twist it to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors and validate our destructive thoughts and conduct. Rational Responses are self-empowering statements we devise to counter our situational fears/anxieties and ANTs.

6. Reconstruct Our Thought Patterns. Through proactive neuroplasticity and cognitive approaches, we reframe or convert our thought patterns by replacing or overwhelming them with healthy productive ones. This is an essential component of recovery.

7. Devise a Structured Plan. Utilizing our learned tools and techniques, we develop our coping strategies and mechanisms to challenge our situational fears/anxieties, irrational thoughts, and maladaptive behaviors.

8. Practice the Plan in Non-Threatening Situations. We strengthen our rational responses by repeatedly implementing our plan in simulated situations and practicing exercises, including role-play and other workshop interactivities.

9. Expose Ourselves to the Situation. We challenge our fears/anxieties on-site in real-life situations. This transpires after a suitable period of graded exposure to accommodate the reconstruction of our neural network and ensure familiarity with our strategies and coping mechanisms.

Coping Strategies

Coping strategies are processes or tools to help us manage stress. Since maladaptive is particular to social anxiety disorder, we emphasize adaptive strategies to counter our negative thoughts and behaviors. Researchers claim over 400 coping strategies designed to address emotional malfunction, including problem, emotion, social, and meaning-focused.

Our recovery programs emphasize response-focused and solution-focused strategies, but we consider multiple approaches in an individually targeted recovery program.

Emotion-focused coping strategies focus on managing or regulating our emotional response to feared situations. Identifying the emotions associated with a stressor is essential to moderating them. In the first three of our 9-Step Process for Rational Response, we identify the feared situation, associated fears/anxieties, and corresponding ANTs.

Problem-focused coping strategies employ the same tools and techniques as our solution-focused strategy. One crucial distinction: the pathographic disease model of mental health focuses on the problem, whereas the wellness model we favor emphasizes the solution.

Recovery is a here-and-now process. The past is immutable. We have no control over it beyond our response to it. It is the here-and-now and how it reflects on the future that is of value in recovery.

Meaning-focused coping strategies entail rationalizing or delegating responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors to a moral or religious code or influence, which can encourage negatively valanced emotions like shame, guilt, and blame. The more rational approach emphasizes personal accountability and self-determination.

Social coping strategies are essential to counter our fears of human interconnectivity and avoidance of social situations. Graded exposure includes practiced cognitive-behavioral techniques that reduce sensitivity to our feared situations. The 9-Step Process for Rational Response encourages systematic desensitization of our fears/anxieties in non-threatening workshop environments before exposure to real-life situations.

Avoidance-focused coping strategies pursue alternate activities to avoid situations that endanger our emotional well-being. They are short-term solutions. In the long term, we moderate our fears/anxieties by learning to respond rationally to them, allowing us to engage in feared situations at our discretion.

Avoidance is a major symptom of our social anxiety, and our primary goal is to moderate our anxieties/fears rather than avoid them.

Restructuring, replacing, and regenerating comprise the framework for recovery and self-empowerment. A coalescence of coping strategies is needed to accommodate these goals as well as the diversity of human thought and experience.

Best Strategies for Social Anxiety

Response-based coping strategies, which we focus on in our recovery programs, pay particular attention to generating rational responses to our maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. We facilitate this component of recovery in the first four of the 9-Step Process for Rational Response. Further consolidation is achieved through cognitive comprehension, introspection, psychoeducation, and other psychological and scientific approaches.

Solution-based strategies keep our attention centered on finding solutions rather than researching the origins of our problems. Recovery is a here-and-now and how it reflects on the future process. We define ourselves by our character strengths, virtues, and attributes rather than our symptoms. Delving into the origins and early trajectory of our negative thoughts and behavior, if deemed necessary, is the purview of psychoanalysis.

Recovery relies on self-reliance and self-motivation. The onus rests with the recovering individual. A comprehensive recovery program is individually targeted and emphasizes the solution, rather than the problem.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

*          *          *

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.

The Character Resume

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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)   

The Character Resume

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power,
but in character and goodness. People are just people,
and all people have faults and shortcomings,
but all of us are born with a basic goodness.”
– Anne Frank

A character resume is a written compilation of our positive qualities, achievements, and memories. Mindfully retrieving and cataloging these qualities compels us to embrace our value, confirming we are desirable, consequential, and worthy.

Mindfulness is recognition, cognition, and acceptance of reality, as opposed to an opinion or belief lacking evidence or foundation. Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value to self, society, and the world. The trajectory of our negative self-beliefs disrupts the development of our positive self-qualities. This, then, erodes mindfulness of our inherent and acquired character strengths, virtues, and attributes. Fortunately, these qualities are not erased but misplaced, lost, stolen, or compartmentalized away from our consciousness.

The definition of recovery is regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. In social anxiety and comorbidities, what has been stolen or lost is our emotional well-being and quality of life.

Insufficient Satisfaction of Needs

Self-esteem can further be 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 and subsequent negative self-beliefs disrupt our emotional development by denying us satisfaction of certain fundamental needs.

Core beliefs of abandonment, detachment, exploitation, and neglect subvert certain biological, physiological, and emotional support. This lacuna negatively impacts our self-esteem which we express by undervaluing our positive qualities. Again, this does not signify obliteration, but diminishment or latency due to inactivity or suppression. 

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Purpose of the Character Resume

In his examination of anxiety and depression, Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy, maintained that social anxiety provokes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and unworthiness. The concept of undesirability revealed itself in our SAD recovery workshops. Until we commit to recovery, we continue to be manipulated by these destructive self-beliefs. 

Again, to emphasize Sun Tzu’s words of wisdom, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” I am continually amazed at how little SAD persons know their symptoms. It is as if, by ignoring them, they do not exist or will somehow go away. Ignorance is a major impediment to recovery. How can we fix something if we do not know why it malfunctions? How do we regenerate our character qualities if we remain blissfully unaware of what they are? Thus, the value of the character resume.

An objective of recovery is to become mindful of our inherent and acquired character strengths, virtues, attributes, and achievements. This includes mutual consideration of our shortfalls, as well. Again, we are repairing our brokenness.

Elements of a Character Resume

What goes into our character resume? The simple answer is anything and everything that stimulates a positive personal response including our successes, achievements, contributions, personal milestones, talents, charitable deeds, and happy memories.

How does building a character resume support our recovery?

Overwhelming Negativity

Childhood disturbance generates negative core beliefs that influence our intermediate attitudes, rules, and assumptions. These attributions produce a cognitive bias that compels us to misinterpret information and make self-destructive decisions. Since we humans are hard-wired with a negativity bias, we already respond more favorably to adversity. Add our SAD symptomatology and our neural network is replete with toxic information.

We convey this in our thoughts, behaviors, and the words we use to express them.

Throughout our lives, we are consumed and conditioned by adversity. SAD sustains itself through our negative self-beliefs and image. By the age of sixteen, we have heard the word no from our parents, roughly, 135,000 times. Some of us use the same unfortunate characterizations repeatedly. It is not just the words we say aloud in criticism and conversations. The self-annihilating words we silently call ourselves support our adverse thoughts and behaviors.

Additionally, we are continuously impacted by outside negative forces over which we have limited to no control, such as life’s vicissitudes, physical deterioration, and subjected hostilities.

Our neural network is replete with negative information. A character resume is a constant, visual reminder of our value and significance.

Utilizing Our Character Resume

The primary goal of recovery from social anxiety is the moderation of our irrational fears and anxieties. This is best achieved through a three-pronged approach. To (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem.

These comprise our overall strategy.

Replace

The goal is to replace or overwhelm our adverse thoughts and behaviors with positive ones. Our character resume is constructed with our positive qualities, achievements, and memories. It is these attributions that replace the abundance of negative self-beliefs acquired throughout life. These qualities that were lost, misplaced, or compartmentalized, are retrieved and recognized through recovery approaches, e.g., personal introspection and inventory, memory work, cognitive comprehension, and other tools and techniques. They are subsequently input into our character resume.

Restructure

Proactive neuroplasticity produces rapid, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network. Our brain receives around two million bits of data per second but is capable of processing roughly 126 bits, so it is important to provide substantial information. DRNI is the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of Information. A deliberate act is a premeditated one; we initiate and control the process. Repetition accelerates and consolidates neural renewal and connectivity. Information that is sound, reasonable, goal-focused, and unconditional determines its strength and integrity. The information we assemble in our character resume generates the most efficient words and statements to accelerate and consolidate the process of neural restructuring.

Regenerate

Regenerate means to renew or restore something, especially after it has been damaged or lost. The qualities that comprise our self-esteem have been misplaced, lost, stolen, or compartmentalized away from our consciousness due to the disruption in our psychological development.

The process of regeneration in recovery is supported by clinically practical tools and techniques designed for the process. Also, the three goals or strategies of recovery – replace, restructure, and regenerate – are complementary and mutually interactive.

What Goes Into our Character Resume?

Some of the entries into our character resume include our positive personal affirmations, rational response to our ANTs, affirmative visualizations, character strengths, virtues, and attributes rediscovered through various exercises, retrievable happy memories, and self-esteem attributes from various inventories.

One additional and equally important benefit of a character resume is the constant and renewed reminder of what we have complied on the written page. It is an invaluable resource to moderate those situations that may continue to generate automatic negative thoughts, behaviors, and other adverse self-beliefs.

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

Know the Enemy: Social Anxiety Disorder

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

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 Málaga)   

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. 

Know the Enemy: Social Anxiety Disorder

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

Social anxiety disorder is the most underrated, misunderstood, and misdiagnosed disorder. Nicknamed the neglected anxiety disorder, few experts understand SAD and even fewer know how to address it. Recovery is best conducted by someone who has experienced social anxiety disorder and knows how to deal with it. When we go to war, we are not led by a theoretician, but by a tactician who has experienced battle. And make no mistake about it, we are at war and social anxiety disorder is the enemy.

Know Your Enemy

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 recovery. This is a war for control over our emotional well-being and quality of life. 

As the world’s third-largest mental health care problem, SAD is culturally identifiable by our persistent fear of social interaction and performance situations. Our suspicions of criticism, ridicule, and rejection are so severe, we avoid the healthy life experiences that interconnect us to 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. 

Automatic Negative Thoughts

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are anxiety-provoking thoughts or emotions that occur in anticipation of or reaction to a situation. They are unpleasant expressions of our self-perspectives – predetermined assumptions of what will happen when we expose ourselves to our fears.
(“I am incompetent. “No one will talk to me.” “I’ll say something stupid.”)  . 

These cognitively distorted responses stem from an endless feedback loop of hopelessness, helplessness, undesirability, and worthlessness, leading to self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. 

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 remember those events in high school when we were the last to be chosen. The times we felt shunned when we tried to interconnect. SAD sustains itself by focusing on the negative aspects of our life. 

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Defining Recovery

The definition of recovery is regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. In neuroses such as anxiety, depression, and comorbidities, what has been stolen or lost is our emotional well-being and quality of life.

Symptoms

Chronic and debilitating, SAD attacks on all fronts, manifesting in mental confusion, emotional instability, physical dysfunction, and spiritual malaise. Emotionally, we are despondent 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. Additionally, many of us endure depression and turn to substance abuse to blunt the pain of our condition.

The Here and Now

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 mistrust and intimacy. Recovery, for the most part, is a here-and-now endeavor. Understanding the past is not unhelpful, but it is not our priority. The past is immutable, the future definable by our actions in the present.

Trapped and Crippled

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 spurn new relationships in anticipation of rejection? Do you repeat the same mistakes over and over again?  

As one client sorrowfully 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 perceptual ramifications. We make mountains out of molehills and spend our days in tortuous anticipation of projected negative outcomes. We guarantee our failure through SAD-fulfilling prophecies.

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 provokes the opposite of the desired effect.

Established recovery approaches fail because they are not designed to address this peculiarity. SAD is the ultimate enigma – an intractable condition difficult to comprehend. The purpose of recovery is to unravel the enigma and defeat the enemy. Know your enemy.

Do you feel like you 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 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 – is unduly stressful. 

The fear that manifests in social situations seems so fierce, we feel it is uncontrollable, a conclusion that manifests in perceptions of weakness and helplessness. We avoid situations where there is the potential for mistakes; imperfection is intolerable. Constant negative self-evaluation disrupts our desire to pursue a goal, attend school, or form relationships.

SAD Symptoms, Fears, and Apprehensions

Social Interaction

Do you imagine you are the curiosity in the room – the scrutiny 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. 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-perception difficult to reconcile when SAD is the scale upon which we are being weighed. 

Our social interactions are clumsy, small talk inelegant, and attempts at humor embarrassing. Our anticipation of repudiation motivates us to dismiss overtures to offset the possibility of rejection. SAD is repressive and intractable, imposing self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. It establishes its authority through defeatist measures produced by cognitively distorted and maladaptive interpretations of reality.

Maladaptive Behavior

Maladaptive behavior is a term created by Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy. A unique characteristic of SAD, maladaptive behaviors are manifestations of our symptoms. As a result of our negative core and immediate beliefs, our attitudes, rules, and assumptions are distorted, and we adapt negatively (maladapt) to positive situations. Attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real.

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of anxiety and depression. They reinforce or justify our errant thoughts and poor behaviors. In essence, we twist reality to comport with our negative self-beliefs and image. We filter, personalize, blame, and catastrophize. There are thirteen cognitive distortions that are particularly germane to social anxiety.

Do you incessantly replay adverse events in your head? Do you constantly relive all the discomforting things that happened to you during the day? Do you avoid meeting people or going on dates because you anticipate 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 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.

Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value and significance to ourselves, society, and the world. It is honest and nonjudgmental mindfulness of our flaws as well as our assets. 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. Persons living with SAD have significantly lower implicit and explicit self-esteem relative to healthy controls. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs are directly implicated. Our symptomatic fears and anxieties aggravate this deficiency.

Negatively Valenced Emotions

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. Negatively valanced is a psychological term used to characterize specific emotions that adversely affect our daily lives. Emotions like shame, guilt, and resentment negatively impact our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. We know these feelings are irrational, we know we are not responsible for its onset, but our social anxiety compels us to self-loath and self-destruct. Then to top it off, we consistently beat ourselves up for these feelings that are the product of emotional dysfunction that is not of our doing.

Recovery

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 strangers. 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 must stop beating ourselves up. We did not ask for our social anxiety disorder. 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 we happy with who we are now, or would we like to change for the better? Do we choose to be miserable or to be happy? It is cut and dried. The tools and techniques for recovery are ours for the taking. 

We are engaged in a war that is not easily won – a life-consuming series of battles. The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We do not don tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with rackets and balls. Philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard.

Neural restructuring requires a calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information that is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope in this era of instant gratification. However, once we initiate the process of recovery, utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques, progress is exponential. The rewards far outweigh the process.

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

Committing to recovery is one of the hardest things you will
ever do. It takes enormous courage and the realization that
you are of value, consequential, and deserving of happiness.

Upcoming 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, Málaga)

Due to the overflow in our last two workshops, we have
scheduled additional workshop for Saturday mornings.

Space Still Available
Register Now

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.

Committing to recovery is one of the hardest things you will
ever do. It takes enormous courage and the realization that
you are of value, consequential, and deserving of happiness.

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“I have never encountered such an efficient professional …
His work transpires dedication, care, and love for what he does.”
–  Jose Garcia Silva, Ph.D., Composer Cosmos          

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For Further Information

Emotional Malfunction: Why Me?

Robert F Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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.

Space is Limited
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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.

Solutions

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.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

*          *          *

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.

Shame and Recovery

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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)

Shame and Recovery

Holding onto shame is reckless in recovery. One of the more identifiable characteristics of emotional disorder is our overriding sense of shame. This is in response to both internal and external attributions. Outside forces over which we have little to no control – public opinion, the media, stigma, and the pathographic mental health industry contribute significantly to our negative self-evaluation. Internally, we continue to express shame for our childhood behaviors that led to adolescent-onset – irrational but understandable in the face of our perceptions of undesirability and hopelessness.

Defining Shame

Psychology defines shame as the unpleasant, self-conscious feeling that comes from the sense of being or doing a dishonorable, ridiculous, or immodest act. It is irrational to feel shame for experiencing social anxiety, as we are not responsible for its origins. If there is any shame to be felt, therefore, it cannot legitimately be for our condition. If it is not in the being, then it must be in the doing – in our unwillingness or perceived inability to challenge it. We are not accountable for the hand we have been dealt. We are, however, responsible for how we play the cards we hold. We have the means to dramatically moderate our symptoms. Holding onto them is irrational. 

Shame adversely impacts our psychological and physiological health, further eroding our negative self-image and low self-esteem. Shame is a negatively valenced emotion which is one that adversely affects our daily lives. Emotions like shame, guilt, and resentment negatively impact our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. When left unresolved, they permeate our neural network with negative energy and obstruct the process of recovery.  We have to let go to let in.

Self-recrimination for not managing our life is far more destructive than the symptoms of our condition. The shame of self-disappointment – that felt moral emptiness that pervades when we abandon our inherent ability and potential – is soul-crushing. And unnecessary.

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Shame is Reckless

Holding onto shame is reckless and implies that we do not care about the consequences. Simply put, if we have the wherewithal to enable our emotional well-being and quality of life and choose not to do so, we are reckless.

The dichotomy we find ourselves in is that social anxiety disorder compels us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. That is its function and that is how it sustains itself. If we accept that our condition is hopeless and we feel worthless, then we identify ourselves as helpless to do anything about it. SAD, therefore, controls our being and doing.

The primary goal of recovery from social anxiety is the moderation of our irrational fears and anxieties. This is best achieved through a three-pronged approach. To (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem using methods targeted toward our individual personality.

Unresolved shame impedes these objectives. Rather than moderating our fears and anxieties, it exacerbates them. Instead of regenerating our self-esteem, it weakens it.

Shame Symptomatology

When we feel shame, we want to hide and become invisible. Shame aggravates our anxiety and depression, causing us to withdraw from the world and avoid human connectedness. We feel powerless, acutely diminished, and incompetent. Until and unless these self-defeatisms are addressed, we remain caught in an endless cycle of desperation that alienates us from our true nature. The regeneration of our self-esteem alleviates the severity of our shame. Conversely, our shame amplifies our lacuna of self-esteem.

Adding insult to injury, the shame of denying ourselves our capacity to change leads to self-blaming. Especially pervasive in social anxiety disorder, self-blaming is an extremely toxic form of emotional self-abuse. We blame ourselves for our shortcomings. We blame ourselves for our lack of commitment or, if we commit, our failure to follow through. We blame ourselves for our inability to achieve our goals and objectives. Consequently, we blame ourselves for being and not doing.

Shame can be revealing, cathartic, and motivational when utilized appropriately, promoting emotional growth and broadened self-awareness. The shame of knowing we have the capacity to recover from that which has made our lives unbearable yet refuse to take advantage of it – that seems untenable. In the memorable words of John Greenleaf Whittier, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”

Commitment to Recovery

Recovery and self-empowerment require letting go of our negative self-perspectives, expectations, and beliefs, and opening our minds to new ideas and concepts. When we hold onto shame, we remain imprisoned in the past and our negative self-beliefs.

Recovery from social anxiety is theoretically simple. Making the commitment to recover is challenging. It takes courage. Following through on that commitment is a remarkable achievement. As an expert in recovery, I speak from observation and experience. Statistics are modest and disheartening.

Pre-recovery, our symptomatic emotional status is an entanglement of weeds in a garden of potential flourishing. The tools and techniques are there but we have to take them out of the shed and put them to work. Shame not only obstructs the door but represses the incentive. It wounds our being and doing.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

*          *          *

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.