In my research to create the online, home-based course for dissolving social anxiety, one of the many resources I’ve been using is Albert Ellis’ “How to Control Your Anxiety – Before It Controls You”.
Ellis stated how with certain types of therapy (old-school therapy techniques like psychoanalysis) – patients gaining understanding of where it came from, might help them feel better in the short term, but in the long-term they never actually get better.
So when recovering from social anxiety disorder – it’s always great to remember that feeling better isn’t necessarily getting better.
Ups and downs, highs and lows, progress and setbacks are all part of the process.
Acknowledging, accepting and feeling our negative thoughts and emotions is very much a part of the process of change, though sometimes it feels counter-intuitive or “wrong” to accept yourself and what you are feeling when you feel bad.
Of course, in the end you will end up feeling better overall, but during the process, there will be times you won’t think you actually are getting better.
Even though therapies like CBT, REBT, ACT and many others are very active and effective in their own way – it led me to think about my own struggle with social anxiety the different ways that I felt during the process.
A Key Lesson From The Recovery Process
While active CBT techniques like thought-challenging work very well to intervene and facilitate the process of changing negative beliefs – it’s easy to get caught up in the techniques and avoid what you are feeling sometimes.
This is a tricky point and very much deals with self-acceptance, which is a key component to any type of mental recovery and healing.
Most of the time those negative, anxiety inducing thoughts and feelings are irrational and should be challenged, however sometimes I’ve found that I must just “feel, accept and let go” of the negative thought/feeling fueling my anxiety in the moment.
Why is this? If underneath the thought-challenging, I am coming from a place of lack of self-acceptance, pushing too hard, then I find the thought-challenging doesn’t work – I’m just building resistance, and beating on myself.
I’m “shoulding on myself” trying to force myself to change, when I don’t accept myself in that moment.
Come From Self-Acceptance First
Now I’m not saying that thought-challenging doesn’t work – it does work very well – I’m saying that the place from which you are challenging your negative beliefs works much better if you come from a place of self-acceptance.
So in these cases, where I am primed to beat up on myself no matter what I do, in that instant that I feel, accept and let go of the negative pattern – I fully embrace and acknowledge that there’s nothing I can do right then.
I accept the thoughts, feelings and myself as I am. Suddenly I feel lighter, more open and the anxiety has disappeared.
THEN I am able to either move on with my day, or say an affirmation or rational statement, because the space within me is now open to it.
In the process of overcoming social anxiety and changing our belief systems, learning self-acceptance, and proactively exposing ourselves in social situations we fear (eventually) – it’s always good to remember that we are human beings that are meant to feel, and shouldn’t forget that, especially when on a “high” of feeling free of social anxiety.
Not trying to be a superhuman and maintain any particular state.