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Apr 8, 2019

How to Overcome Shyness

In a recent podcast, David and Rhonda emphasized the importance of specificity--selecting one specific moment when you want help. This is very true in the treatment of shyness. 

Jason, who we introduced in the last podcast, wanted to work on the intense anxiety he felt in the locate grocery store. He thought the woman checking groceries was attractive, but he was terrified about talking to her, or trying to flirt. So he said nothing, and left the store feeling like a failure. 

After this humiliating experience, he filled out a Daily Mood Log and listed all the Negative Thoughts and feelings he'd had while waiting to check his groceries. After doing Positive Reframing, he decided on the Negative Though he wanted to work on first: “People will think I’m a self-centered jerk if I try to flirt with her.” David and Jason put this thought in the Recovery Circle and selected more than 20 techniques Jason could use to challenge thought. 

On the podcast, David and Rhonda illustrate how to challenge that thought using many of the methods listed on the Recovery Circle, including:

  • Identify the Distortions. They found all ten distortions in this thought.
  • The Straightforward Technique. This technique was not effective, since the Positive Thought Jason came up with was not valid, and it did not reduce his belief in the Negative Thought. However, this technique did reveal something important about Jason—he seems to see the world in an adversarial way, and imagines he is in competition with others who will try to put him down.
  • The Cost-Benefit Analysis. What the are Advantages and Disadvantages of Jason’s Negative Thought? Jason did a remarkable job with this technique, and found it helpful and illuminating.
  • The Individual Downward Arrow Technique. David and Rhonda illustrated how this works, using role-playing. They were able to identify five of Jason’s Self-Defeating Beliefs that are extremely common in Social Anxiety, including:
    • Perfectionism
    • Perceived Perfectionism
    • The Approval Addiction
    • The Spotlight Fallacy
    • The Brushfire Fallacy
  • The Paradoxical Double Standard Technique. What would Jason say to a dear friend who was also struggling with severe shyness? Would he say, “People will think you’re a self-centered jerk if you try to flirt with her.” If not, why not? What would Jason say to a friend? And would he be willing to talk to himself in the same compassionate way? This technique was also very helpful to Jason.
  • Examine the Evidence. What’s the evidence that people will think he’s a self-centered jerk if he tries to flirt with a young lady he’s attracted to?
  • Survey Technique. Have his friends ever struggled with anxiety when they were starting to date? Would they think of him as a “self-centered jerk” if he was more outgoing and flirtatious? This was a homework assignment, to ask his friends. The information he got was a huge surprise.
  • Thinking in Shades of Gray. He thinks he has to sweep her off her feet or he’ll get totally rejected and ostracized by the human race. Is there some easier goal he could shoot for?
  • He’s telling himself that if she shoots him down, it will prove that he’s a “loser.” Are there other reasons why a grocery checker might not respond favorably to a young man who is trying to flirt with her?
  • Feared Fantasy / Acceptance Paradox. David and Rhonda illustrate this amazing technique, with role-reversals. This technique will help Jason crush the Self-Defeating Beliefs that cause his shyness in the first place, like the Approval Addiction.

These techniques were extremely helpful to Jason, and all of his negative feelings went down dramatically by the end of his first therapy session. However, he will have to do more work outside the office for homework, using Interpersonal Exposure Techniques to confront his fears of rejection, including:

  • Smile and Hello practice
  • Flirting Training
  • Talk show Host
  • Rejection Practice
  • Self-Disclosure
  • Shame Attacking Exercises

These assignments terrified Jason, but he courageously agreed and followed through. He had his share of rejections, as we all do, but had some successes, too, and soon was dating a lot and enjoying it, and his shyness became a thing of the past. The treatment only required four sessions.