How to Change our Thinking and Thinking Habits

When just starting therapy for social anxiety, it's impossible to go from our normal way of thinking to positive thinking right away -- it's too information for the brain to take in all at once, and so your brain won't accept or believe it.  Instead, we have to slowly ignore our old thinking habits, and change our negative thinking in a step-by-step way.  You shouldn't try to make super "positive" affirmations or statements to yourself right away, as they won't work because the negative thinking habits are too deeply ingrained into your brain at the present moment, even though it is not your fault.

For example, if you make a statement like "I will be able to talk to a group of people comfortably," and realize this statement is too positive for you to make at the present time, add some neutral or conditional word like "maybe," "possibly," "perhaps," or "it could be the truth that," into the your statement.  For example, you could instead say, "Maybe, over the course of doing the therapy, I will be able to talk to a group of people more comfortably than I am able to now."

By making a statement like this, you are staying rational by telling your brain something that it can accept, and this opens up your mind up to the POSSIBILITY of this happening sometime down the road.  We do, however, want to stay away from setting an "exact" deadline for when we should accomplish / feel this, as that would just add pressure to the situation).

So the key is to stay away from absolutes, whether negative or positive.  You should stop saying you HATE making presentations, even if this is how you currently feel, because this only reinforces your hatred and anxiety about making presentations.  Instead, say "Right now, I dislike making presentations, but MAYBE it won't be so scary for me if I keep doing the therapy in the appropriate way.  Maybe I will feel more comfortable making presentations in the future, and I may even enjoy making them eventually."  THOUGHTS must be changed step-by-step like this. You can't go from negative thinking to positive thinking overnight.

We use this in our audio therapy series and the local and interantional group programs -- and it works very well if we keep doing it.  Most people are actually surprised at the changes that occur in their own thinking and behavioral patterns, after having practiced this therapy method with persistance, determination, and a compassionate attitude towards themselves at every step of the process.

These same changes can happen within you, if you are persistent, determined, and compassionate with yourself while you work on changing your thoughts from negative anxiety ridden ones to more neutral, and eventually positive ones.  You will start to feel more positive and happy as well, as long as you keep turning the tables on your old thinking habits.  You can never fail at this unless you give up, and thankfully very few people with social anxiety give up.

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The Social Anxiety Association

The Social Anxiety Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1997 to meet the growing needs of people with social anxiety.  The SAA became inactive for several years due to lack of resources.  We are in the process of re-doing our website, listing all active, structured CBT groups for social anxiety, and renewing all our licenses.  Major changes will be happening by the end of 2013.  We publish new web content -- concerning social anxiety -- almost daily on the site now.

The Social Anxiety Institute is the largest website on the internet about social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Therapy programs have run at the Institute full-time since 1994.  Major new help for overcoming social anxiety is under development and will be introduced in 2013. 

For treatment: Overcoming social anxiety: Step by Step   A structured guide to overcoming social anxiety (a "How to" guide to get over social anxiety).

The Anxiety Network explains and describes five major anxiety disorders.

Guidelines for listing social anxiety groups on this site.  We cannot officially endorse groups, so check them out thoroughly.  We ask that they be groups that are operating, have a definite leader, and are thoroughly structured.  Social anxiety therapy groups are very different than the groups that operate for other mental health conditions.