Tag Archives: Self-esteem

Controlled or Controlling: Who’s in Charge?

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

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Cognitive Distortion #3: Control Fallacies

Our anxieties manifest in how we think about ourselves and how we think others think about us. We struggle with our fears of criticism and ridicule. The majority of us also live with depression, which can lead to multiple cognitive distortions including Filtering, Polarized Thinking, Overgeneralization, and Personalization. This chapter focuses on our tendency to engage in Control Fallacies due to our SAD-induced feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

A fallacy is a belief based on unreliable evidence and unsound arguments. As we discussed earlier, we cognitively distort to reinforce or justify our self-beliefs and validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions – how we think and behave.

A Control Fallacy is the conviction that (1) something or someone has power and control over things that happen to us or (2) we hold that type of power over others. We either believe events in our lives are beyond our control, or we assume responsibility for everything.

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When we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as weak and powerless, blaming outside forces for our adversities. We accuse our gender, race, sexuality, weight, income, and education rather than assume responsibility for our actions. A health scare becomes an act of god, the philanderer blames his wife for leaving him, and our failing grade is because our instructor has a personal grudge. 

Conversely, the fallacy of internal control is when we believe we have power and influence over other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We blame ourselves for their mishaps and misfortunes. It is our fault our friend turns to drugs because we weren’t supportive. Our supervisor suffers a heart attack because we continually miss deadlines.

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We believe external forces control us because we feel powerless over what happens to us. Our sense of hopelessness tells us any effort towards remedy is futile. “They think I’m incompetent.” “She finds me unattractive.” “I don’t belong here.” We subsequently feel guilty for our inadequacy, and shame for our weakness. We wallow in self-pity, convinced that attempts at happiness are pointless. 

Our tendency to unjustifiably blame ourselves for our social anxiety disorder leads to internal control fallacies. Had we moderated our adolescent behavior, we claim, we could have prevented the onset. This leads us to believe we have control over other things we bear no responsibility for. “It’s my fault she’s unhappy.” “He drinks because I ignored him.” The belief we have let everyone down wreaks havoc on our emotional well-being and our sense of competence. 

These control fallacies inform us we are not assigning blame in the appropriate ways. We need to stop taking responsibility for problems we do not create and assume responsibility for our actions. That is only logical. Unfortunately, SAD subsists on our irrational thoughts and behaviors.  A fundamental component of recovery is learning how to identify our cognitive distortions and devise rational responses. 

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

Chapter 9: Constructing Our Neural Information

Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Nine – “Constructing Our Neural Information” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Nine>
Constructing Our Neural Information

“The problems are solved, not by giving new information,
but by arranging what we have known since long.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

A comprehensive recovery program has three primary goals: (1) To replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and beliefs with healthy, productive ones, (2) to produce rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network, and (3) to regenerate our self-esteem.

Proactive neuroplasticity is our ability to govern our emotional well-being through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information. What is significant is how we dramatically accelerate and consolidate learning by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. DRNI empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. 

Before delving into the construction of our neural information, let’s break DRNI down into its components so we fully understand the purpose and the process.

Deliberate. A deliberate act is a premeditated one; we initiate and control the process. Let’s review the three forms of neuroplasticity. Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to externally driven information that impacts our neural network. Active neuroplasticity is cognitive pursuits such as dancing, yoga, or assembling a puzzle. It is not a deliberate manipulation of our neural network and is often impulsive. To be proactive is to intentionally cause something to happen rather than respond to it after it has happened. Proactive neuroplasticity is the deliberate act of reconstructing our neural network. Its purpose is to overwhelm or replace negative and toxic neural input with healthy positive information. As psychoanalyst Otto Rank confirms in Art and the Artist, “positively willed control takes the place of negative inhibition. 

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Repetition is the act or an instance of repeating or being repeated – in this case, our neural information. Common synonyms of repetitive include monotonous, tedious, and mind-numbing. The process can be off-putting unless we remain mindful of its purpose, which is the positive realignment of our neural network. Proactive neural Information consists of short, self-affirming, and self-motivating statements we commit to memory and repeat to expedite learning and unlearning. 

Neural input is the stimuli that impact our brain and compel its circuits to realign and create new neurons. The gateway to information, receptor neurons do not react to every stimulus. 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. 

Multiple tools assist in our recovery, and we identify them throughout this book. Coping mechanisms moderate our situational fears, graded exposure eases our transition into society, and cognitive comprehension corrects our irrational assumptions. In this chapter, our focus is on the rapid and concentrated neurological stimulation that compels a sensory neuron to spark, initiating a neural chain reaction. The more repetitions, the more durable the circuits. 

Neural stimuli are sensory – sights, sounds, tactile impressions; mental in the form of memory, experience, and ideas; and emotional incited by images, words, and music. The purpose of inputting neural information in proactive neuroplasticity is to overwhelm or replace toxic with healthy information in the form of positive electrical energy. The content and motive of our information determine the positive or negative polarity of its energy – the size, amount, or degree of that which passes from one atom to another in the course of its chain reaction. 

We begin the process of DRNI by identifying the goal of our information. What is our intention? What do we want to achieve? Are we challenging our anxieties about a social event? Are we asking for a raise? Are we confronting the family conspiracist at Thanksgiving dinner? A firm, specific goal enables the process. 

The next step is identifying the actions or measurable steps needed to achieve the goal. Our goal is the outcome we want to achieve; the objectives are the means necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Goals and objectives work in tandem. If our goal is to challenge a feared-situation, what is our strategy, and what coping mechanisms and other steps do we take to successfully engage? 

Now we construct our information – the self-empowering statement(s) that support our goal and objectives. To ensure its integrity, the information is sound in its construction. Meeting the following eight guidelines will establish an effective neural response. The best information is rational, reasonable, possible, positive, goal-focused, unconditional, brief, and in first-person present or future form.

Rational. Our overarching objective in recovery is to subvert our life-consistent negative self-beliefs and image that stem from our core and intermediate beliefs influenced by childhood disturbance and onset. We manifest these self-defeating perspectives in our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). For the most part, our assumptions are illogical and cognitively distorted. Countering them requires devising a rational response. If our ANT corresponds to our SAD-indued fear of ridicule or criticism, a rebuttal might be an affirmation of our significance – mindfulness of the value of our contributions.

Reasonable. Unreasonable means without reason, which is a definition of insanity. We are either sensible and of sound judgment or are cognitively impaired. Unreasonable aspirations and expectations impact the soundness of our information. “I will publish my first novel” is an unreasonable expectation if we choose to remain illiterate.

Possible means it is within our power or capacity to achieve it. Because our social anxiety attacks our confidence and self-esteem, we tend to subvert our inherent and achieved attributes, which limits our recognition of possibility. 

Positive. For our purposes positive means we eliminate negative thoughts, words, or statements from our information. Rather than stating, “I will not be afraid,” preferable statements could be “I am confident,” or “I will be courageous.”

Goal-Focused. If we do not know our destination, the path will be unfocused and meandering. We focus the content of our information on our goals and objectives. For SAD persons, our overarching goal is moderating our fears, anxieties, and ANTs. 

Unconditional. Our commitment to the content of our information must be unequivocal. Any undertaking contingent upon something or someone else weakens its resolution and potential. Saying “I might do something” means “I may or may not do something.” How comfortable are we when someone says, “I might consider paying you for your work?” 

First-Person Present or Future. Our information is a self-affirming and self-motivating commitment to our current or future. The past is important to intention but irrevocable. “I can do this.” Future time as self-fulfilling prophecy is also fine: “I will succeed,” for example. 

Brief. We express our information in brief statements purposed to initiate the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation that transmits the electrical energy from one atom to another in the course of its chain reaction. Brevity also makes it easier to commit our PPAs to memory because information changes as it evolves in recovery. 

The importance of productive neural input is indisputable. It expedites and integrates our three primary goals, each complementary to the others. The deliberate and considered replacement of our negative thoughts and beliefs with healthy, productive ones assists in changing the energy polarity of our neural network and simultaneously helps regenerate our self-esteem.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism.

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

Chapter 7: The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Directo/ReChanneling

Subscriber members generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Seven – “The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Seven>
The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
– Siddhartha Gautama

Until we immerse ourselves in recovery, social anxiety disorder governs our emotional well-being and quality of life. We are subject to an irrational, and manipulative entity. Our thoughts are distorted and our behavior is destructive due to our SAD-induced fears and anxieties. We feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. Until we dissociate ourselves from our symptoms and embrace our value and significance, we will continue to subordinate ourselves to an unscrupulous dysfunction that thrives on our misery and self-destructive behaviors.

Our phobias are not real, however; they are abstractions. They have no power on their own and cannot exist without us. They are figments of a SAD imagination run rampant. Once we learn to rationally examine and respond to them, they cease to be real. I will not minimize their impact, but our response to adversity is of our own making. SAD is the enemy, and it is well-weaponized. Proactive neuroplasticity is our weapons research facility, and we are in charge of development. The objective is to build an arsenal capable of countering that of the enemy and we can’t adequately do that until we know what we are defending against.

Recovery and empowerment work in concert. Recovery is regaining possession and control of what has been stolen or lost. Social anxiety disorder steals our autonomy, our hopes, and our self-esteem. Empowerment is reasserting our inherent capacity to control our emotional response to stressful situations. Recovery and empowerment complement each other through simultaneous, mutual interaction. 

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Our weapons research facility is operational; it is our neural network. Neuroplasticity is the scientific evidence of our brain’s constant adaptation to information. It is what makes learning and registering new experiences possible. Scientists refer to the process as structural remodeling of the brain.

All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. What is significant is our ability to accelerate and consolidate the process by compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI) develops new mindsets, skills, and abilities, replacing decades of negative self-beliefs. It empowers us to empower ourselves.

Human neuroplasticity comes in three forms. Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to information – thought, behavior, experience, sensation – anything and everything that impacts our neural network. Active neuroplasticity happens through cognitive pursuits like engaging in social interaction, teaching, aerobics, writing, and art. 

Proactive neuroplasticity is the most effective means of learning the tools and techniques of recovery while unlearning the irrational thoughts and behaviors that annihilate our quality of life. By acting proactively, we compel change rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Neurons are the core components of our brain and central nervous system. They convey information through electrical activity. Information sparks a receptor neuron, sending electrical energy to a sensory neuron, stimulating postsynaptic neurons that forward it to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas of our brain.

Our brain’s natural plasticity was identified in the 1960s, stemming from research into brain functioning after a massive stroke. Before that, researchers believed that neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons, stopped shortly after birth. 

Today, science recognizes that our neural pathways are dynamic and malleable. Our human brain continually reorganizes to information. 

When behaviorist, B. F. Skinner claimed that the neural input of information was more important than the amount, he was half right. That was before we realized how our brain reacts to information – how repeated input results in repeated firing. Neurons don’t act by themselves but through circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. Like muscles, the more repetitions, the more robust the energy of the information

The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. The process creates higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) –proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, and memory. 

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The neural chain reaction generated by repetition reciprocates, in abundance, the energy of the information. Millions of neurons amplify the electrical activity on a massive scale. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. This affirms the value of positive reinforcement

When the activity of the axon pathways is heightened, the neurotransmission of chemical hormones accelerates, feeding us GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins to boost our self-esteem, and serotonin for a sense of well-being. Acetylcholine supports neuroplasticity, glutamate enhances our memory, and noradrenalin improves concentration. 

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Cortisol and Adrenaline

Those are the highlights. 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 and adrenaline.

Among other things, cortisol helps to regulate our blood pressure and circadian rhythm. Adrenaline can relieve pain and boosts our body’s immune system. When transmitted into the bloodstream our body experiences a heightened state of physical and mental alertness. Normal amounts of the two hormones are necessary to our basic survival, and in most cases, beneficial to our overall health and well-being.

Cortisol and adrenaline are called fear and anxiety-provoking hormones. Both are designed to trigger the fight-or-flight response – our instinctive response to stress. Produced by our brain’s amygdala, cortisol increases our heart rate and blood pressure, altering our immune system, and suppressing our digestion. 

Adrenaline, transmitted by our adrenal glands, causes our air passages to dilate, redirecting more oxygen to our muscles. Blood vessels contract and send blood to the heart, lungs, and other major muscle groups. These activities all contribute to the high stress that impacts our fears and anxieties.

Chronic stress induced by our SAD symptomatology causes a higher and 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. 

Managing stress and learning how to reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline through coping mechanisms and skills is essential to our emotional well-being. We will explore these elements of recovery as we proceed. 

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Each input of positive information factors in the release of these hormones. Here’s the challenge, however. Our brain doesn’t think; it provides the means for us to think. It does not distinguish healthy from toxic information. Our neurons transmit these wonderful hormones in response to negative as well as positive information. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or recovering from emotional dysfunction is challenging. 

We are physiologically averse to change, making it difficult to remove ourselves from hostile environments and break habits that interfere with optimum functioning. 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. 

So, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of positive reinforcement. Certain recovery coping skills like rational response, projected positive outcomes, and positive personal affirmations are guided by the electrical energy of our information. Positive information is crucial to our neural restructuring, and to moderate our fears and anxieties. I realize we’re getting ahead of ourselves with unfamiliar terms. Rest assured, we will delve deeply into them as we proceed. What’s important here is our mindfulness –recognition and acceptance of the power and effectiveness of positive information. 

We are at war with our social anxiety disorder. Proactive neuroplasticity is our weapons research facility, responsible for developing a strategic advantage over our enemy. While the realignment of our neural network is the framework for recovery and empowerment, 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 psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. Also crucial to recovery are approaches that focus on the recovery and rejuvenation of our self-esteem

A one-size-fits-all solution cannot comprehensively address our 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, background, and associations reflect our wants, choices, and aspirations. If they are not given consideration, then we are not valued. Recovery builds upon our strengths, virtues, and accomplishments. We do not triumph in battle through incompetence and weakness but with skill and careful planning. 

Recovery and empowerment require incentive and perseverance to endure the potential ennui of repetitive neural input. Once we start down the path, however, our capacity for change grows exponentially as we restore our confidence and self-appreciation. This book provides the tools and techniques for recovery. The onus is on you whether you choose to use them. Should you not, take responsibility for your inaction. Don’t blame the chef if you refuse to taste the food. Meaning, don’t dispute the methods of recovery if you decide not to avail yourself of them. Your resistance is formidable; that’s how SAD sustains itself. I only ask, for your sake, that you consider the possibility. Do not allow yourself to suffer the fate of Whitter spinster, Maud Miller. “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been.”

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism

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

The Facileness of Blaming 

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)     

Cognitive Distortion #2: Blaming

We cognitively distort Blaming when we wrongly assign responsibility for things and happenings. Social anxiety disorder thrives by making us feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. The burden of responsibility for our negative self-image can be overwhelming and compels us to hold someone or something accountable.

Since we have determined that SAD onset is a consequence of childhood disturbance, we recognize that attributing blame for our symptoms makes no sense. The Fallacy of Fairness, however, alerts us to the perceived unjustness of SAD, and our Emotional Reasoning compels us to assign blame. Something or someone provokes our fears and anxieties; blaming SAD for everything does not relieve the anguish of our negative self-beliefs. When we see ourselves as victims, we need to blame someone or something for our victimization. 

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One alternative is external blaming – holding others accountable for things that are our responsibility. Blaming someone or something for our personal choices and decisions seems illogical, but remember, SAD sustains itself on our irrationality. Besides, if we feel helpless, how can we hold ourselves accountable? If we believe we do not have the power to overcome our challenges, does it not make sense to blame someone else?

internal blaming is assuming personal responsibility for the problems of other people and things that go wrong which do not involve us. We view everything as our fault and think we are responsible for everyone. If our roommate is unhappy, it must be something we did. Internal or self-blaming can be expressed as power or weakness (Control Fallacies). When we blame ourselves for our symptoms, we feed into our perceptions of incompetence and ineptitude. Believing we have power and influence over other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can be seen as grandiosity. Both correspond to our low self-esteem and sense of inferiority.

There is a difference between internal blaming and taking responsibility. Holding ourselves accountable for our actions is the mature and ethical approach to emotional well-being and social responsibility. Internal blaming is when we take responsibility for things that we are not accountable for. 

Until we devise rational responses to our fears and social avoidance, we tend to assign blame for our negative thoughts and behaviors. The ability to look at our actions through the prism of intellectual awareness is a necessary component of the transformative act and indispensable to recovery. Rational response allows the flow of positive thought and behavior necessary for recovery, eliminating the need to blame. Until we master recovery, we will continue to search for avenues to unburden ourselves of responsibility. 

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 dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

Chapter 5: The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChannelng

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Five – “The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Five>
The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

“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

While we remain conjoined with our social anxiety disorder, we continue to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. These become our core self-beliefs as a result of childhood disturbance. By dissociating ourselves from our condition, we perceive things more rationally. It is SAD that compels us to think irrationally, and it is this compulsion that causes us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. In my experience developing and implementing programs to challenge the self-annihilation of those living with SAD, I have identified the overarching integrant. We are lost. Like the preverbal wandering lamb, our flanks are exposed to the wolves of our irrationality. 

We are the personification of the fabled protagonist wandering, helpless and hopeless, in the forest. Our hunger for safety and comfort drives us to grasp onto anything that offers sustenance, no matter how destructive to our well-being. We encounter the house of candy and voraciously consume it even though our instincts advise us of the likelihood of villainy within. 

Mindful we are not accountable for having SAD should relieve us of the unjustifiable shame and guilt we have relied upon to rationalize our condition. Since we are not at fault for having SAD, we should no longer feel the need to beat ourselves for our condition. Yet we continue to do so. Why is that? The answer is obvious. While we are not accountable for the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given. In essence, our resistance to recovery continues the cycle of guilt and shame that causes us to continually beat ourselves up. 

It is a common refrain that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. That is especially true for social anxiety because we find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of irrational fears and avoidance of social interaction. Contrary to what SAD tells us, we are not stupid. We know, after decades of denial, that our thoughts and behaviors are self-destructive yet feel doomed to repeat them ad nauseam. Then we beat ourselves up for our failure to escape this prison of self-abuse. We hate our life, and we hate ourselves for putting up with it. 

So, in this chapter, we are going to learn the history of our negative thoughts and behaviors so we can put an end to this endless cycle of fear that alienates us from our true nature. We will see the development of our self-destructive proclivities as a series of stages. It is not a perfectly linear trajectory. It is a collaboration of associated events. For example, the onset of SAD corresponds to our negative intermediate beliefs which are associated with our perceptions of childhood disturbance. Like the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions in all human endeavors, each stage in our trajectory complements, influences, and overlaps.

The negative cycle we are in may have convinced us that there is
something wrong with us. That is untrue. The only thing we may be
doing wrong is viewing ourselves and the world inaccurately.

Core Beliefs

It begins with our core beliefs that underscore our understanding of self. Core beliefs are our 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 perceptions, and they, 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 individuals with SAD 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. 

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Childhood Disturbance

During the development of our core beliefs, we are subject to a childhood disturbance – a broad and generic term for something that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, or social development. The word disturbance generates images of overt and tragic abuse, but this is not necessarily the case. As explained in Chapter One, any number of things can be defined as childhood disturbance. It can be intentional or accidental, real or imagined. (The suggestibility and emotional creativeness of the pre-adolescent is legendary.) I gave you the example of the toddler who senses abandonment when her or his parental quality time is interrupted by a phone call. It is safe to posit that every child perceives disturbances daily. They are universal and indiscriminate. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established, and experts speculate that each of us will develop at least one diagnosable emotional dysfunction at some point in our life. 

Negative Core Beliefs 

This confluence of developing core beliefs and childhood disturbance generates negative core beliefs about the self (I am abandoned) and others (you abandoned me). Feelings of detachment, neglect, and exploitation are also common consequences of childhood disturbance. It is our self-oriented negative core beliefs that compel us to view ourselves in these four ways. As helpless (I am weak, I am incompetent); hopeless (nothing can be done about it); undesirable (no one will like me); and worthless (I don’t deserve to be happy). Our other-oriented negative core beliefs view people as demeaning, dismissive, malicious, and manipulative. Other-oriented self-beliefs incentivize us to blame others for our condition, avoiding personal accountability. We hold others responsible for our feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness. 

Emotional Dysfunction

The next step in our trajectory is the onset of emotional dysfunction as a result of childhood disturbance. Roughly 90% of onset happens during adolescence. Two exceptions are narcissistic personality disorder and later-life PTSD. The symptoms and characteristics of emotional dysfunction often remain dormant, manifesting later in life. The susceptibility to onset originates in childhood – emotional viruses that sense vulnerability. Experts tell us that 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. Whatever the causes, it is our perception of childhood disturbance that produces the susceptibility to infection.

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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 perceptions of abandonment, detachment, exploitation, and neglect subvert certain biological, physiological, and emotional needs like familial support, healthy relationships, and a sense of safety and belongingness. This lacuna negatively impacts our self-esteem which we express by our undervaluation or regression of our positive self-qualities. This does not signify a deficit, but latency and dormancy – underdevelopment of our character strengths and attributes due to inactivity. 

Negative Intermediate Beliefs 

The confluence of SAD and the disruption in self-esteem generate life-consistent negative self-beliefs sustained by cognitively distorted thoughts and behaviors. 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 influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real. Despite similar core beliefs, we each have varying intermediate beliefs developed by information and experience, e.g., social, cultural, and environmental – the same things that make up our personality. 

Negative Self-Beliefs and Image

These SAD-induced attitudes, rules, and assumptions result in distorted and maladaptive understandings of the self and the world. In psychology, experts present two forms of behavior – adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive behavior is behavior that is positive and functional. Maladaptive behaviors are dysfunctional behaviors. that unique characteristic of SAD. They distort our perception and we ‘adapt’ negatively (maladapt) to stimuli or situations. To analogize, if the room is sunny and welcoming, SAD tells us it is dark and unapproving. 

Automatic Negative Thoughts and Behaviors 

We articulate our fears through preprogrammed, self-fulfilling prophecies called ANTs. Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are involuntary, anxiety-provoking assumptions that spontaneously appear in response to the places or circumstances that provoke our anxiety. Examples include the classroom, a job interview, a social event, and the family dinner. Dysfunctional assumptions caused by our negative self-beliefs impact the content of our ANTs. Even when we know our fears and apprehensions are irrational, their emotional impact is so great, they run roughshod over any healthy, rational response. We will delve deeper into all of this as we progress. Then, together we will develop a targeted plan to dramatically moderate your social anxiety.

We briefly discussed how SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Propaganda is the distribution of biased and misleading information. SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-annihilating thoughts and behaviors. We manifest the effectiveness of SAD propaganda through our maladaptive behaviors and cognitively distorted responses to our fears.

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of our anxiety and depression. Everyone engages in cognitive distortions and is usually unaware of doing so. They reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors. They twist our thinking, painting an inaccurate picture of our self in the world. We distort reality to avoid or validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions.

Part of our counteroffensive is recognizing these cognitive distortions to challenge and counteract them. Throughout this book, we will analyze and discuss each of the thirteen cognitive distortions most applicable to SAD and analyze how we utilize them to reinforce and justify our irrational thoughts and behaviors.

The bulk of this chapter focuses on the origins and trajectory of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs, illustrating the slow but inexorable progression of the SAD army on our emotional well-being. We are now beginning to understand SAD’s tactical advantage. This will help us forge the tools and techniques to (1) defend ourselves and (2) overwhelm or conquer our fears and avoidance of social connectedness. In Chapter Seven, we will look at some of these tools both scientific and psychological.

One of the repercussions of living with SAD is our self-annihilation – our compulsion to beat ourselves up for our difficulties rather than embrace our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. You are challenging your social anxiety. That is positive neural information, the cornerstone of proactive neuroplasticity. Acknowledge your determination, take credit for it, and give your psyche a hearty pat on the back.

“If you do not change direction,
you may end up where you are heading.”
— Lao Tzu

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism.

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

Chapter 3: Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Three – “Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Three>
Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We blame ourselves for our lack of social skills. We feel shame for our inadequacies. We guilt ourselves when we avoid getting close to someone, terrified of rejection. We know these feelings are irrational, we know we are not responsible for 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.

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

“There are many things that seem impossible
only so long as one does not attempt them.”
– André Gide

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

*          *          *     

Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism.

*          *          *

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

Social Anxiety. Why Do We Resist Recovery?

Robert F, Mullen, Ph.D.
Director/ReChanneling.

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter One – “Overcoming Our Resistance” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<One>
Overcoming Our Resistance

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

Why begin this chapter with an obscure, 2,500-year-old quote about Chinese battle tactics? Because we must declare war on our social anxiety disorder if we are to conquer it. Make no mistake about it, social anxiety disorder is the enemy, and it is devious and manipulative. If we are going to win this war, then we must educate ourselves about the symptoms and characteristics of our emotional dysfunction, and how they individually impact us. Roughly forty million U.S. adults and adolescents find themselves caught up in this devasting and lonely chasm of fear and avoidance of social connectedness. Statistics tell us that roughly a third of those seek recovery,  but what about the millions who choose not to reveal their condition or pretend it does not exist. Our resistance to recovery is formidable.

We are SAD persons, trapped in a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety, and restricted from living a ‘normal’ life. We alienate and detach – loners consumed by trepidation. Our fear of disapproval is so severe we avoid the life-affirming experiences that connect us with others and the world. We fear the unknown and unexplored. We endure anxiety for weeks before an event and anticipate the worst. We worry about how others perceive us and how we express ourselves. We have tried everything to overcome our condition and have achieved little, which makes us incompetent and worthless. Why bother, we tell ourselves. 

Change is difficult for everyone; we are hard-wired to resist it. Our bodies and brains are structured to attack anything that disrupts their equilibrium. A new diet or exercise regime produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration. Inertia senses and resists these changes, while our brain’s basal ganglia gang up against any modification in our patterns of behavior. Thus, habits like smoking or gambling are hard to break, and new undertakings like recovery, are challenging to maintain. The irony, of course, is that change is constant and inevitable. We shed and regrow fifty million skin cells daily. Our bones regenerate every few months, and our entire skeletal system in a decade. Our neural network continuously readapts and realigns to new information and experience. What we fear most is happening to us every second of every day.

We resist recovery because of our emotional baggage. Our inherent negative bias predisposes us to focus on unhealthy experiences. We feel inferior and abnormal, consumed by shame and guilt even though SAD is not our fault but the result of early developmental disturbance. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established.

Any number of things can precipitate childhood disturbance. Our parents are controlling or do not provide sufficient emotional validation. Perhaps we were subject to gender bullying or a broken home. The disturbance can be real or imagined, intentional or accidental. A toddler who finds their parental quality time interrupted by a phone call can sense abandonment, which can generate core beliefs of unworthiness and insignificance. This is important when it comes to attributing blame or accountability for our SAD because of the possibility no one is responsible. Certainly not us as children. We are not accountable for the onset, although the onus is on us to do something about it. While not liable for the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given. In recovery, we focus on the solution; the cause, while not inconsequential, factors little. 

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Yet we beat ourselves up daily for our perceptual inadequacies. We linger in depression; we drink or drug ourselves immoderately. We blame ourselves for our defects as if they are the pervading forces of our true being, rather than symptoms of our dysfunction. SAD does not define us. We are defined by our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. SAD is powerful, however. It compels us to reject our qualities, miring us in our self-destructive complacency.

We know in our hearts that recovery is the gateway to our emotional well-being and quality of life, yet we resist it. I am reminded of Al Pacino’s infamous film quote. “Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard.” Let me assure you, contrary to defeatist claims, recovery from SAD is not that difficult. It is repetitive and boring and demands extensive self-evaluation, but it is theoretically simple. 

So why do we resist? SAD sustains itself by convincing us we are unworthy and inconsequential. It is the enemy.

Society does not help. We are hard-wired to fear and ostracize anyone who hints at peculiarity. Individuals perceived as fragile or abnormal have suffered since the dawning of humankind. We fear emotional dysfunction because we see it in ourselves and scorn the reflection. And what do we often do when confronted by our weaknesses? We become the bully that hides the beast within. We prey on the vulnerable. 

We resist because society identifies us as weak aberrations and we accept the stereotype.

Our families share responsibility for our negative self-image. Parents and siblings hide their relationship with us or dispute our condition because they are ashamed. Throughout history, families have shouldered the blame for their child(s) emotional dysfunction because it is commonly accepted that it is either hereditary or the consequence of poor parenting.  Since the latter is likely, it is deemed unacceptable.

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

The sensationalist media stereotypes us as annoying, dramatic, and peculiar. Films portray us as unpredictable and dangerous schizophrenics. Nearly half of U.S. stories on emotional dysfunction allude to violence. Now, of course, mean-spirited individuals anonymously spew their idiocies on social media. 

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

Finally, we are at the mercy of the pathographic focus on emotional dysfunction. The current psychological perspective focuses on our negative behavior rather than our positive achievements. Simply put, the disease model tells us what is wrong with us. Recovery is not achieved by focusing on our SAD-induced negative self-beliefs and image but on our character strengths and capabilities. 

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

Our inability or unwillingness to fully embrace our emotional dysfunction is a major impediment to our recovery. Many of us stubbornly choose to remain ignorant of SAD’s destruction or go to enormous lengths to remain oblivious to its symptoms and traits as if, by ignoring them, they do not exist or will somehow go away.

We are faced with a simple choice. We can do nothing and continue to live in fear, victims of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, or we can challenge SAD and take control of our life. If we choose the latter, then we must overcome our resistance. There is no other way. Only unequivocal acceptance of our condition and our willingness to change motivates us toward transformation.

The onus for recovery falls on us notwithstanding the causes of our condition. The perception of impotence–the belief that we are not the steward of our behavior is an unhealthy misconception that severely inhibits our potential for transformation. We are the agents of change, of personal evolution. Expecting anyone else to do it for us is foolhardy and futile. We are the captain of our ship; anxiety is just a passenger.

SAD thrives by our complacency and irrationality. Our SAD-provoking self-abuse is irrational.  We were not put on this earth to hurt ourselves. That flies in the face of universal law and common sense. Yet, we have stayed on our self-destructive trajectory since childhood. So where do we go from here? The first step is to overcome our resistance. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and comfortable shoes. The single step is non-resistance; the shoes are self-reliance and self-appreciation.

Our resistance compels us to settle even though we are disillusioned by our toxic condition and secretly crave a healthy alternative. These dual modes of desperation manifest in an inner contradiction, pitting fear against desire, in essence, shutting us down. We close ourselves off to innovative ideas and concepts. We let nothing in. We stay embrangled in our perceptions of incompetence and inferiority.

Resistance is borne by childish intransigence and underscored by antipathy and dread. It is the dam that stems the river’s flow, counterintuitive to evolution and the natural order. The universe is fluid and constantly adapting. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu tells us “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Motivational gurus describe non-resistance as surrender. In recovery, we embrace it. Surrender is submission or concession. Embracement is willing and enthusiastic acceptance. That is what we must have to get well. Proactive neuroplasticity is our deliberate input of positive information to counter our life-consistent negative self-beliefs. Half measures or capitulation subverts the self-reliance and appreciation necessary for transformation.

Why is proactive neuroplasticity the most efficient means of recovery? We dramatically accelerate and consolidate recovery by consciously telling our neural network to repattern its circuitry. Our brain responds in multiple, positive ways. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input

of information empowers us to consciously transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. It powers us to take control of our recovery.

One more symptom of resistance is our tendency to attack the value and effectiveness of something without experiencing it. We refute ideas and concepts without intelligent consideration. To offer a common colloquialism, don’t knock it if you haven‘t tried it. Consider the possibility. The self-recrimination for not having the presence of mind to even try is far more destructive than any form of rejection or failure.

For those who dispute its effectiveness, doubt is another manifestation of resistance, and It will not serve you well in recovery. Remember, the truth does not care what you believe; the truth is the truth.

Our nonresistance is evidence of our willingness to accept what is fundamentally our inheritance. When we commit to recovery, a broader dimension of consciousness opens up and we merge into the orderly flow of the universe. We are no longer isolated but accept our inherent role as a creative force as both inlet and outlet. As receivers and givers, we become entangled with society. By recognizing our inherent worth and potential, we allow the transformation.

The negative cycle we find ourselves in may have convinced us that there is something wrong with us. That is too simple a rationalization. Perhaps we are viewing ourselves and the world inaccurately. That is not our fault. SAD sustains itself by feeding us life-consistent irrational thoughts and behaviors. When we break our leg do we become that injured limb or are we simply an Individual with a broken leg?

When we remain conjoined with our social anxiety disorder, we continue to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. These are our core self-beliefs as a result of childhood disturbance, something we will cover in more detail in Chapter Five. By dissociating ourselves from our condition, we view things more rationally because it is our dysfunction that compels us to think irrationally.

We realize we are not helpless. There are multiple resources available to anyone with the motivation and commitment to improving their emotional well-being and quality of life.

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We are not hopeless unless we chose to be. We capitulate to despair to justify our fears. Once we recognize they are intangible, existing only in our imagination, we see them for what they are – SAD-provoking abstractions, powerless without our participation. Feelings of despair are not concrete but emotional states or reactions under our control. If we were truly devoid of hope, we would not be investigating avenues of recovery. 

We are not undesirable. SAD compels us to view life inaccurately. It reinforces or justifies our negative thoughts and behaviors. It convinces us our perceptions are the truth of a situation instead of interpretations. Assuming we know what others feel and think, and why they act the way they do is self-centered and illogical. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and SAD’s vision is myopic and jaundiced.

We are not worthless, but integral and consequential to all things, the ultimate, dynamic, creative ground of being and doing. Our life is an exquisite, creative work-in-progress, an integral force of nature. We are an agent of all future becomings. We are creativity itself, responsible for capturing, preserving, and passing along the entire history of the Universe. 

We are unique to every other entity; there is no one like us. We are the totality of our experiences, beliefs, perceptions, demands, and desires with individual DNA, fingerprints, and outer ears—no one shares our identities. There is and never has been a single human being with our sensibilities, our memories, our motivations, and our dreams.

The more formidable the challenge, the greater the adversity. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself and the greatest is that of the unknown. SAD sustains itself by inflicting anxiety and fear, but they have no power on their own. We fuel them; we give them strength and power. 

How do we defeat SAD? We outsmart it. We overcome it. We refute its authority. We challenge its legitimacy. Any new pursuit is uncharted waters and that is, by nature, scary. But with significant risk comes great reward. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the shadow of the unknown until we expose it to the light of rational response. That is why we must know the enemy and know ourselves and use this information to prepare for all contingencies. Confidence and mastery come through knowledge and preparation.

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

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Comments, Suggestions, Constructive Criticism.

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

A Workshop Graduate’s Testimonial

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

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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 dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums. 

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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

Video Series #7: Constructing Our Neural Information

Neural information is constructed by establishing our goal, identifying the objectives or steps we take to implement that goal, and determining the Information – the self-affirming or motivating statement we deliberately and repetitively input into our neural network. We want our information to be authentic and of sound construction to engage the full capacity of positive neural response. The integrity of our goal, objectives, and information correlates to the durability and efficacy of the neural response. LINK

Video Series #6: Affirmative Visualization

By visualizing a positive outcome prior to a feared situation, we experience behaving a certain way in a realistic scenario and, through repetition, attain an authentic shift in our behavior and perspective. It is a form of proactive neuroplasticity, and all the neural benefits of that science are accrued. Just as our neural network cannot distinguish between toxic and healthy information, it also does not distinguish whether we are physically experiencing something or imagining it. LINK

Video Series #5: Challenging Our Self-Destructive Thoughts

In this video, we focus on the trajectory of our self-destructive thoughts that impact our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. They originate with our negative core beliefs generated by our disorder which influence our intermediate beliefs from life experiences and form our ANTs or automatic negative thoughts that underscore our situational fears and anxieties. LINK

Video Series #4: The Power of Positive Personal Affirmations

We drastically underestimate the significance and effectiveness of PPAs because we do not understand the science behind them. PPAs are brief, individually focused statements that we repeat to ourselves to describe what and who we want to be. PPAs help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds. Practicing positive personal affirmations is an extremely effective form of DRNI or the deliberate, repetitive input of neural information that supports proactive neuroplasticity. LINK

Video Series #3: Tools and Techniques

Proactive neuroplasticity is the process of deliberately and repetitively inputting positive information into our neural network to consolidate learning and unlearning. What is that information? How is it constructed? The objective is to ensure the information is of the highest quality to effect change. What are the best tools and techniques? What methodologies and psychological support systems are best suited to support proactive neuroplasticity – to help us unlearn the toxicity of negative self-beliefs, replacing them with healthy, positive ones. LINK

Video Series #2: Three Forms of Neuroplasticity

Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaptation to sensory information. Active neuroplasticity is neural information acquired through conscious activity, which includes all forms of deliberate learning. Proactive neuroplasticity is the conscious, intentional repatterning of our neural network utilizing tools and techniques that facilitate the process. The deliberate, repetitive, input of neural information empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. LINK

Video Series #1: Introduction

Research has established that our neural network is a dynamic organism, constantly adapting and rebuilding to each new input of information. Scientists refer to the process of neuroplasticity as the structural remodeling of the brain. By deliberately enhancing the process, we can proactively transform our thoughts, behaviors, and perspectives, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. All information notifies our neural pathways to restructure, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. LINK

This series of videos explains how information is algorithmically coded into positive or negative electrical energy creating the activity that modifies our neural network. How the deliberate, repetitive neural input of information, or DRNI, strengthens and solidifies the connections between neurons, dramatically accelerating and consolidating learning through synaptic neurotransmission. We will learn how the goal, objective, and content of our information correlate to its effectiveness and durability.

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Here are some articles and posts on proactive neuroplasticity that can help you delve deeper into the recovery and empowerment provided by our deliberate, repetitive neural input of information (DRNI).

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The video series describes the evolution of the science of neuroplasticity, differentiating reactive and active from proactive neural input. They will diagram the trajectory of neural information and how it impacts the various lobes of the human brain responsible for cognitive learning. How the neural input of information, coded into electrical energy, causes a receptive neuron to fire that energy onto a sensory neuron which forwards the information to millions upon millions of participating neurons. They will show how this cellular chain reaction reciprocates that initial electrical energy in abundance due to the amplified neural response. Positive information–in, positive energy multiplied millions of times, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Each neural input of information impacts millions of neurons as they restructure our neural network to a form conducive to a positive self-image. 

Subsequently, the natural hormonal neurotransmissions reward our activity with GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure, endorphins for euphoria, serotonin for a sense of well-being as well as hormones that support our motivation, enhance our memory, and improve concentration. However, since our brain doesn’t distinguish healthy from toxic information, the neurotransmission of pleasurable and motivational hormones happens whether we feed it self-destructive or constructive information. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or achieving our desired goal is challenging and why positive informational input is crucial for recovery and self-transformation.

Contemporary wisdom disputes the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all approaches to behavioral modification, so these videos will show how the integration of science and east-west psychologies is best suited to the positive modification of our thoughts and behaviors. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity; cognitive-behavioral modification and positive psychology’s optimal functioning are western approaches; eastern practices give us Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. 

Our neural system has been conditioned by our core and intermediate beliefs. Childhood disturbance and emotional dysfunction negatively impact these beliefs, generating automatic negative thoughts called ANTs – that impact our emotional well-being and quality of life.

The mechanics of Hebbian Learning will be defined—how the repeated and persistent proactive input of information correlates to more robust and more effective learning. Hebb’s rule states the more repetitions, the quicker and more robust the connections. Harmful behaviors are unlearned, and new ones are adopted through deliberate and calculated activity. Negative core and intermediate beliefs are challenged and replaced by healthy and life-affirming ones. Videos will demonstrate how deliberate, repetitive, neural information not only alleviates the symptoms of emotional dysfunction but empowers us to achieve our goals and objectives.

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

The universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of proactive neuroplasticity is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive electrical energy and the neurotransmission of hormones that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance. Proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI dramatically mitigates symptoms of emotional dysfunction and advances the pursuit of goals and objectives.  

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