A Journey Within and Beyond Social Anxiety
Sartre’s famous quote, “Hell is other people,” is absolutely true for some of us. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a condition plaguing some women who find social situations a hotbed of triggers for panic. For those of us with the diagnosis, the fear we encounter when triggered by social interactions is so intense, frequent, and crippling that it takes on the role of being a serious “symptom” – an emergence from the underground soul stream of our lives, which bubbles up with urgency and force to disrupt our surface world.
Many of us don’t work through fundamental social anxiety treatment plan goals and objectives to address symptoms until they have become obvious that we literally cannot proceed with our lives until we take the time and care to resolve them. Our social phobia reaches a crisis point when we achieve a little bit of stable sobriety for many of us with social anxiety treatment plan goals and objectives in recovery. With mounting dread, we discover that substance use has been heavily involved with subduing our social fears. Without drugs, we may have no idea how to relate with others and remain calm.
Fear is highly physiological, involving a chain of bodily reactions, the triggering of which is not under our conscious control. We cannot reproach ourselves for having fear because there is absolutely nothing we can do to “just get over” how we are wired. Fear is one of the most basic instincts that we possess. It is directly related to the fundamental operating system installed into our biocomputers at birth, whose prime directive, in essence, is “keep this body alive.” Like with all anxiety disorders, when we look at what it takes to heal from social phobia, we need to understand that the problem and its solutions lie with our program’s core social anxiety treatment plan goals and objectives.
The body fills with fear when some danger is threatening that prime directive. Whatever the danger is – real, distorted, imagined, it doesn’t matter – the brain sounds the alarm and sends the body through a cascade of hormonal reactions that set the body up to address the threat. A woman who has this flavor of anxiety showing up in her life is exquisitely cued to social living’s genuine dangers. Our primate cousins in the animal kingdom, you may notice, live in groups and are highly socially oriented – we are no different. Group inclusion, belonging, and acceptance are extremely relevant to our survival, especially when we are young, vulnerable, and unable to survive without that love.
Those of us who felt only conditionally accepted by our families, schools, communities, caregivers, and authorities, who experienced being abandoned, severely criticized, judged, shamed, humiliated, or in other ways marginalized if we did not stay sharply focused on what these powerful people wanted from us, are naturally attuned to the possibility that we could be ejected from the tribe at any moment if we do something wrong. With that type of background and sensitivity, we will also be highly attuned to any messages that say that we are inadequate or not good enough in some way.
Love is one word that we use to describe the meaning of self-worth and self-value. There are so many words to describe how we feel about ourselves, how we think about ourselves, and how we act toward ourselves. While the sounds may blend, they are vastly different concepts with unique meanings, findings, and purposes. Humans are, by nature, social beings. Because social connectedness is strongly intertwined with self-worth and self-value, social interaction is a critically important contributor to good health and longevity.
Hardwired for social nature, we need to feel good about who we are, and we need others to help us know that, and we need to feel needed. If this basic feedback loop of “Hi adorable being, We see you, you are lovable and we love you, and you belong, and we will keep you safe because you are one of us and we love and value you, we want you here” was missing, distorted or just plain not explicit enough in our families, our brains may not trigger worry. Whatever our background, in the here and now, the cascade of fear responses always starts with a catalyst that our lightning-quick danger software determines to be a threat.
For the socially phobic woman, the threat is often of social interactions that result in humiliation, degradation, shame, embarrassment. Often subconscious, the trigger can be a sight, a smell, a sound, a small detail beneath awareness, and not infrequently, a thought. Since the body cannot often tell the difference between what is “really happening” and what is only taking place in the mind, a thought can be a threat. Next step, the physiology reacts quickly and without asking “us” first. The adrenal chemical epinephrine is released into our bloodstream, speeding up our bodily processes so we will be sharp, on our toes, and ready to correct the mistake that was threatening to expel us from the circle of society’s love.
We become stressed: epinephrine raises blood sugar levels in our bodies, so our muscles are energized, and we can use them to clamp down on whatever unwanted behavior we have to stop. Our bodies begin to tremble with all this ready-to-use energy as we build tension like a coiled spring. Epinephrine increases our heart rate, pounding our hearts to pump us full of extra blood, which shows up as a red tinge, or flushes, in our faces and necks. As our heart rates increase, our lungs gear up to make sure all that pounding blood is oxygenated, so we take more breaths per minute. All this extra breathing and heart-pounding may create pain in our chests.
Can you relate to that experience? Do you tend to get panicky, lightheaded, out of breath, frozen, and shut down in social settings? Does this hit you too often, too fast? Do you know that dreaded, powerless feeling of being unable to calm yourself back down? Do you know the spiraling, compounding nature of getting into a state where you live in fear of your own fear?
It is important to know that mercifully, how to calm down, once riled up, is highly learnable at Villa Kali Ma. It is highly learnable because it is also a part of your inborn nature –a program that says, “danger is over, so go back to feeling good.” Just as nature wants us to survive, nature has set us up with all the internal equipment to feel ease, peace, and pleasure, to feel open, relaxed, creative, meditative, joyful, socially connected, loving, and happy.
Holistic, Female-Specific Social Anxiety Treatment Plan Goals and Objectives
At Villa Kali Ma, we offer many holistic therapies with social anxiety treatment plan goals and objectives that are designed to help women reach recovery, including (but not limited to):
- Gardening/horticultural therapy
- Massage therapy
- Expressive arts therapy
- Sound healing therapy
- Group therapy work
- Somatic Experiencing therapy
- Cooking therapy
- Outdoor therapeutic recreation therapies
- And more
These activities fire up the natural pleasure and relaxation system in the body to feel what it’s like to have your birthright of peace and ease working properly for once, and without substances. While they don’t always work instantaneously – through wonderfully, sometimes they do – these practices are sustainable and become reliable with a smaller investment of effort than we might imagine. With some dedication, humility to be a beginner, open-hearted willingness, and the diligence to keep at it, these often enjoyable practices quickly help the body and nervous system rewire and reset so that this part of our biocomputer software works again.
Getting good at calming back down is really most of the battle for people with anxiety, and often the most effective, kind, and loving entry point. However, working with the original wound, the fact that we get so riled up, so intensely and so frequently around the topic of social interaction, is also important for resolving a pattern of social phobia. One big piece in social anxiety healing is to find true inclusion amongst people who are capable of the privilege of being close to us. A loving, safe, and supportive recovery community helps heal all wounds and especially social phobia.
Here at Villa Kali Ma, you will find a place amongst people who really, truly, deeply, and unconditionally hold positive regard for us. We need to find those people who can relate and have compassion for us, who are heart-opened enough to hold love for us as we are without any expectation or need for us to be radically different from who we are right now and by nature. The experience of creating, possibly for the first time, a safe family, or tribe, heals the frightened part within us that knew we would not make it in this world without the strength, protection, love, affection, and the company of a group of beings that love us and want us to be there with them.
At Villa Kali Ma, we strive to create such a family of warm, nonintrusive inclusion, and we invite you to come to share yourself in your own time when you are ready. Please know that you can unfold all your imperfections and vulnerabilities within our walls in a safe space free of judgment, condemnation, rejection, and ridicule. Instead, you will be welcomed and cared for with the respect, love, and delight you deserve. For women who have felt that hell is other people, it will be an important part of your soul journey to discover that other people can also be a source of heaven! We warmly encourage you to come to build the foundations of a loving, healing community here at Villa Kali Ma.