Tuesday, September 05, 2006

THE SELF-CONSCIOUS MIND

Introverts and the socially anxious naturally tend to have self-conscious minds. It is this self-absorption that keeps us intricately focused on our continually unfolding problems and emotions. You know how it is, you're standing with a group, you're fairly relaxed listening to the others speak, enjoying the flow of conversation without making much effort to participate, then someone turns to you and says 'Hey, tell us that story about the...'. Bang! That's it, your attention is no longer nonchalantly following the conversation, it has taken a U-turn and raced down the road to a place far darker. The volume of your inner dialogue has increased and it sounds very agitated. It's speaking to you and it's going to make sure you're aware of all the fears it harbors.

Now, you know this story inside out, you've told it to yourself many a time. Maybe even delivered it to a few close friends, and you are well aware that you have the power to replicate the original events through the medium of the english language. But the inner voice is saying 'No!'. The problem here is focus. The more you focus on and become involved in the thoughts of the original events, the better story you can tell. You will become engrossed in the finer details, almost reliving the experience, and if you can relive the experience you have the power to help others live it right now. That is the power of story telling. In reality, given the situation in hand you lost all focus on the story when your attention became firmly seated in the grips of your negative inner voice. The one that very quickly briefs you on the horrid nature of your position. This is your self-conscious voice, and it's loud.

I hear this voice all the time. It speaks to me daily, when I walk down the street, through a shopping centre, at work, even speaks to me when I'm on my own sometimes. Always reminding me of the perceived absurdity of my manner and actions. Snide little comments pop-up randomly: 'You sounded like a gimp when you said that!', or 'You sure you're walking properly, there's people watching you, you know?'. Honestly, this little guy is my worst enemy. I keep telling him to 'shut it!', but he just gets angry and pipes up all the more, the little bastard. The fact is, there's only one reason he talks to me, and that's because I take the time out to listen to him. That's right, I have only myself to blame.

The answer is simple. Don't listen. Of course, answers are never that simple, we have developed a habit of listening to these whining little voices inside. It's time to break that habit. Anything suggested in this blog, or anywhere else regarding social anxiety will take time and perseverance, and if you've got those two ingredients you can learn to ignore this bringer of negative words. But how? Same thing I suggest anywhere else in this blog, you can't forget it's there, but if you focus elsewhere it will go of its own accord.

It's all about where you place the focus of your attention. When Buddhists meditate, they place their focus on something that is present and very real (such as their breathing). This brings their attention to the reality of the present moment, without preconceived ideas of what that present moment is. They become the present moment, seeing it only as it is and not what they think it is. That's all well and good (highlighting the benefits of meditation) but is a skill with many years of practice and dedication behind it. You don't need to go that far, but it is very useful to become increasingly aware of your surroundings in a non-judgmental and unbiased way. If you're wandering down the street and you hear your self-conscious inner voice piping up, divert your attention elsewhere, listen to the sounds, view what you see, but whatever you do, do it with commitment and focus. One thing at a time, putting 100% into what you do. Let yourself become absorbed in your surroundings rather than your inner-self. Any activities you become involved in, let yourself become absorbed in them too. You often hear stories of shy, or socially anxious people making great achievements in their chosen field, perhaps a musician who will freeze at the thought of walking up onto a stage without their instrument. Yet, with their instrument they are able to play in front of packed audiences seemingly without fear. They have found something which they can become absorbed in. This is great, but these people usually revert back to their shy and retiring personalities as soon as they step off that stage, we really need to learn to become absorbed in everything we do. We need to find focus.

Let's go back to interacting with others. If we are self-conscious whilst talking to others, then we become very self-absorbed and aware of the ways in which we are speaking rather than what we are actually speaking about. Now, if we can become more absorbed in the topic of conversation as well as the other person (and this goes back to becoming interested in people) then the self-conscious voice will slowly begin to fade. Keep this up and it'll eventually become inaudible. What your little voice tells you is rarely the truth, it makes far more sense to seek the truth from the actual facts of the situation, and you can't determine these facts if you're not aware of your surroundings. For example, I remember I used to walk around the city often wondering why I got little attention from the opposite sex. It then occurred to me that I never even looked to see if I got attention, so I started an exercise of noticing the girls around me and just giving a little friendly smile. Most of the time they would smile back. I tell you, I was shocked. I thought people just assumed I was some kind of weirdo, but I was getting all of these genuine smiles. If I could only go a step further and start talking to them I'd be onto something!

My advice is this. Let your guard down once in a while, tear a hole in your little bubble, and take a peek outside. It's not as threatening as it appears to be. Once you've done that, embrace it!

Your little voice has kept you trapped long enough. You'll find far more interesting and constructive conversation elsewhere. Go find it.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Enigma said...

mico: you're so right.
Keep up the good work!

12:38 pm  
Anonymous SarahC said...

Followed your link off the NMP website.
Loving the blog.. :)
Sarah

12:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I am so glad to have found your blog. Its so good to know someone else knows how I feel. I laughed out loud at part of your blog because it was so true, and that rarely happens to me haha. Anyways keep up the good work. Honestly.

12:20 pm  
Anonymous MW said...

thank you mico...i love you for this..its strange that i know my problems (what i m going through) but only now i realized that i can do something about it..
thanks again and best of luck..

5:42 pm  
Anonymous bobthenailer said...

Great stuff

10:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff buddy...

6:19 am  

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