Here’s another one:
“I haven’t accomplished the things in life that I could have because I have social anxiety. I can’t talk to people. When the therapist gives me courage, I will do the things I’m afraid to do.”
Real life goes like this: I saw a man who said he had been crippled by social anxiety all his life. He had no friends in high school, didn’t date in college. He never spoke in meetings. I asked him, “If a miracle occurred in the middle of the night, and you woke up free of this terrible burden of social anxiety, what is the first thing you would do?” (I learned this technique from David Wexler). He replied, “Oh, I would be so happy.” I countered, “No, I asked what is the first thing you would do that very next day?” He answered, “Well, I guess instead of eating lunch at my desk, I would go into the breakroom where everyone eats, and I would walk up to someone and say, ‘Hi, mind if I sit here?’ and I would introduce myself and sit down and eat lunch with that person. ” “Great,” I said. “You know where to begin. Now go and do it,” and he did.
Real psychotherapy goes like this: “You are anxious. What would you do if the fear was suddenly removed? Confront your fears, do it anyway. Courage will follow.”
What are you afraid of? How long have you been afraid of it? Write down how afraid you are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the upper limit. Start with something on the list that is around a 3 or 4. Now act as if you’re not anxious and do it anyway. What is the number afterward? Do it a second time, a third time, and a fourth time. What is the number now? Has your level of courage risen as your fear has gone down?
Wexler, D. 1991. The Adolescent Self: Strategies for self-management, self-soothing, and self-esteem for adolescents. New York: Norton.