Help for social fear is inside of you
Research has shown that one of the most powerful forms of help for people with social fear is exposure; meaning, putting oneself into situations where you are exposed to people. I’m not entirely convinced this is the most productive way of working with social fear, even if it produces the most results. I do think that group therapy can be a powerful tool for people with social fear, especially when the facilitation is sensitive to the issue.
Social fear seems to generally stem from the fear of exposure and rejection. I’ve met a number of people who describe social fear as if nowhere is safe except their own home. The safety factor isn’t necessarily always about physical safety either for people. It is about the feeling of psychological safety. For many, there is an underlying belief on an energetic level of the body that socializing equals the experience of complete annihilation. So in a sense it feels almost like a life or death situation when meeting people. The brain ends up freezing, because it is essentially preparing for a disaster of sorts.
Exposure would be one way to “push” through it. Sometimes, that is helpful. In general, it seems healthier to really learn about fear in the body, and increase the capacity of how much fear one can feel without freezing. The process is somewhat hard to do at first, but relatively easy once you get the hang of it. One of the best ways to increase the capacity to feel fear is to meditate on the sensations of fear in the body, and simply breathe while they are happening, disengaging with the thoughts that label the experience as bad, etc. The power in fear is really just uncomfortable sensations. Biologically the sensations are meant to help us detect danger and keep us alert. However, we have all been programmed on some level to fear situations that aren’t threatening. So, in a sense, we need to change the programming of social fear.
One other way to increase the capacity to feel fear is to practice self-love. Loving oneself goes a long way in the mind’s capacity to look at the places inside of us that are scary. Practicing self-love might look like getting a massage regularly, or journaling about the fear, or getting in a hot tub to calm the nervous system down, or talking with someone close to you about the fear, etc. Loving one self is probably one of the most powerful remedies to so many problems we all face. And unfortunately, it is often difficult to do without a lot of practice.