This is a Guest Post. Ben Wood is an actor and writer whose work in theater has taken him all over the US, Europe and Scandinavia. He has worked commercially in New York, Miami, and LA, and can be found in over ten independent films.
Ben has toured Europe with A Christmas Carol and here’s one of his commercials from a Christmas past.
Ben currently lives in New York City.
I’ve been an actor and performer my whole life.
So it might surprise you that I have a history of Social Anxiety (including a diagnosis of it).
And while I consider myself in recovery, I still feel socially anxious often.
Especially in a stressful, public situation like an audition or performance.
I was talking to a group of actors last week and we noticed a remarkable similarity in the way they analyzed our auditions after the fact.
Even if you’re not a performer, I think you’ll recognize yourself in this.
It’s completely human.
If it helps you to think of yourself after a meeting or date or even conversation here, those are perfect substitutions.
I‘ve been a friend of David’s for a long time and when he told me he was going to start sharing his techniques to help people living with social anxiety, I was very happy and proud for him.
I have to say I couldn’t agree more with the principles he lives and teaches. They go hand in hand with my own.
I love this term Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that he and other cognitive-based therapists use. I like it both for its accuracy and the image it conjures up.
I have another one, and — ha! I just realized this — I can tie it in with the insect theme.
“Bee-causes” are like ANTs in that they buzz around infesting your brain, and not to make honey.
They make unhelpful mental associations that only serve to perpetuate anxiety.
My actor friends and I found that for almost every performance, audition, or other stressful situation, we left with a personal story about how it went.
And we believed our stories unconditionally — even though the author and audience of the story were the same person (us!)
Talk about subjective. Whether we felt good or bad about it afterwards, we’d come up with reasons that we felt the way we felt.
But were those reasons accurate?
When something “goes wrong,” human minds try to reach out and determine the cause. That’s what they do best — they’re probability engines looking to predict the future based on the past.
It works well with math problems and memory puzzles. But with the subtleties of human interaction?
There are just too many variables that we end up having to guess at. We end up drawing conclusions that are really just assumptions.
“She didn’t like me because I was ‘too friendly.'”
“He doesn’t remember me well because that joke I told – and I didn’t tell it right.”
“They know I’m untalented because I made a mistake in front of them.”
Now what do each of these statements have in common? Besides the fact that they’re unhealthy and unhelpful.
See that word “because” in the middle of each?
See how it links a problem to a cause, even though both are speculative?
It’s almost a wish if you break it down: “let this reason BE the CAUSE of what went wrong” … and let me stay put in this safe place of not risking it again.
But when we apply such problematic problem-solving, we end up over-compensating, or “fighting the last war.” It’s like in darts:
First you throw left, and then in compensation, throw right.
Anytime you think you can KNOW something about what another person thinks, or you’re justifying spending time trying to figure it out .
I suggest that you just swat that “bee-cause” like you’d stomp on an ANT… ;)
Once I learned to regularly challenge my automatic assumptions, the mental chatter in my head quieted down a ton.
And with that so many of my worries and anxieties faded away into background noise.
Like the buzzing of insects in the background they’re still there, but they don’t dominate my thinking anymore.
If you want to learn how to overcome “ANTs” and “Bee-Causes” you can sign up for the Dissolve Social Anxiety 3 month online recovery program – click here to find out more.