by Paul Garrigan
Social Anxiety and Addiction
Social anxiety is a common issue for those of us who end up in rehab. It may have been this discomfort around other people that made alcohol or drugs so attractive proposition in the first place, or we may have developed a bit of a social phobia as a result of the substance abuse.
Mindful compassion offers a better way of dealing with social anxiety and here are just 5 of the ways it can help you:
1. Mindfulness Helps Us to Avoid the Discursive Thinking that Drives Anxiety
One way to describe mindfulness would be to say it is about learning how to be more present in our environment rather than being lost in thought. It is about letting go of the inner commentary and judgements that alienate us from reality and mean we feel uncomfortable in social situations.
For those of us who struggle with social anxiety, it is the thinking patterns triggered by these encounters that makes the situation so uncomfortable. Rather than fully focusing on the people we are trying to communicate with, a lot of our attention is drawn to the inner chit-chat that is usually highly negative – i.e. ‘why did you say that?’, ‘you’re talking too much’, and ‘you sound stupid’.
By switching our attention from our inner dialogue (discursive thinking) to the environment, we become far less overwhelmed by social situations. We are now able to focus on what other people are saying rather than wasting so much time judging our own performance. This makes everything far less stressful, and we can begin to genuinely enjoy the company of others – as it should be.
2. We Learn to Accept How We Are Feeling Rather Than Trying to Fight It
Anxiety is just a part of life, and the real problem is when we become anxious about being anxious. The dangerous idea ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this way’ means we try to avoid how we are feeling, but this only makes the situation worse – we are in a war against reality, and it is highly unlikely we are going to win. Mindfulness allows us to accept whatever we are feeling in a compassionate way – when we do this, the anxiety doesn’t escalate, and we start to see it isn’t such a big deal.
3. Increased Compassion Means We Are Much Better Able to Deal with Anxiety
Compassion refers to our ability to be with discomfort. The more compassionate we become, the better able we are to cope with feelings like anxiety. By learning to lean into our discomfort, rather than trying to avoid it, we soon discover anxiety is nowhere near as threatening as we once believed it to be. Compassion is a skill you can develop, and it is at the core of the mindfulness program we offer here at Hope Rehab.
4. We Develop a Supportive Rather Than Critical Inner Dialogue
Those of us who end up in rehab will usually have developed a great deal of ill-will towards ourselves before we arrived, and this is a major contributor to social anxiety. We experience this ill-will in the form of negativity and self-criticism. Practices such as loving-kindness meditation help us develop a better attitude towards ourselves and our inner dialogue becomes far more supportive – this reduced negativity means social encounters become easier to manage.
5. We Begin to Take Ourselves Less Seriously
By practicing mindfulness, we start to see how self-obsession causes us to exaggerate the significance of social encounters. Other people are just not going to be as concerned with our performance in these conversations as we are – the reality is we are not that important. Once we understand this, we can begin to lighten up on ourselves and just enjoy being around other people.
5 Ways the Hope Mindful Compassion Program Can Help with Social Anxiety by Paul G