Dealing with social anxiety – part 3 (how counselling made a difference)

For a large part of my life I was under the impression that self – awareness can only be gained through looking at yourself objectively through meditation. Meditation and mindfulness have certainly improved my ability to look at myself without judgement and offer some compassion for myself. This practice had also allowed me to pay attention to my inner needs and therefore I gained a considerable amount of self-awareness.

Recently this year however I had hit a brick wall in recovery from social anxiety. What I underestimated was how hard it actually is to do this all on your own. To get through my hurdles which derived from deep trauma I needed some external input and help at some point. I started to realise that the mind works in ways to preserve and protect it’s own psyche and beliefs. Even if those beliefs are damaging to your health, the psyche is comfortable with it’s beliefs as they have been conditioned and reinforced over time. So when you try to act against your beliefs you may get a backlash from your own ego, and without receiving guidance it can be difficult to manage this internal conflict. Our mind is equipped with a lot of cognitive biases which can subtly divert your attention from the source of your distorted thinking patterns or irrational beliefs. Therefore, the source of the problem could take a long time to figure out all on your own. Hence, I had to be humble and open to accepting help.

Having counselling can seem daunting and there are always going to be the thoughts of:

  • “Why can’t I just shrug this off?”
  • “Am I being too dramatic?”
  • “I’m sure I can endure this for longer and it will be over”.

Let me tell you, there are many ways you can rationalise your way out of accepting help. Some of the thoughts may seem on the surface as if they have a certain logic to them, however they are only rooted in fear or discomfort. Change is always difficult for the mind to grasp. The mind enjoys clinging onto it’s own pre-made identifications and attachments to it’s own perceptions of reality. Hence, you need to trust your will for change and embrace the unknown. You cannot make any pre-judgements or assumptions about counselling, since every counsellor comes with their own set of skills and they will always allow you to opt for an introductory half hour session to help you to understand what to expect and get comfortable with them. If you feel uncomfortable with a counsellor, you can chose another. Therefore, you really have nothing to lose.

In practice, they can act as a mirror between you and your thoughts/feelings. This will speed up your personal growth tenfold, as you get the freedom to understand yourself impartially through another person. It was through the interactions with my counsellor that I had gained more clarity on my social anxiety. In my case it was linked to my expectations and negative beliefs which were constantly reinforced by a series of traumas earlier in my life and during high school. It was hard for me to perceive any new situation as different from the past. So the counsellor was able to challenge my assumptions and eventually I was also able to disprove them upon reflection. It is through making the distinction between your perceptions and what is the actual present reality, that you are able to let go. Your confidence can grow naturally from letting go of trusting the assumptions you make and only trusting the facts and the reality. Things really aren’t as bad as your mind perceives it. The quickest way to be presented this idea is through a counsellor/therapist.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to try it folks 🙂                                                               

Peace and love.

Azeem.

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