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Do Therapists understand the terror


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I am facing a major challenge this Friday. I have agreed with my Therapist to challenge my fear. He has said to me that my fear and anxiety is something very real no matter how irrational it is.

I have been very successful in all of my challenges so far, but this one is at the very core of my difficulties with socialising.

I am terrified, the fear of the emotional hurt that might happen is beyond belief. It is like being told to put your hand in fire and that it won't hurt.

I can't even say what the challenge is because to most people it just seems silly to be afraid of this situation. It is a challenge I brought up myself and we have skirted around it for months, now it has to happen if I want to move forward.

I am not critizising my therapist, he is excellent, I am just so scared about this.

Goose

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I don't know if he understands from direct experience, or not. But I bet he can tell how difficult it is, just from watching you try. Still, this is something you suggested yourself as a milestone; maybe you should be mad at yourself for making you do it. ;-)

We're not "most people", goosey. You're just afraid that we might be.

It's not exactly like telling you to put your hand into fire and that it won't hurt. There are two parts to risk assessment: a realistic evaluation of how bad it would be if something bad happens, and a realistic evaluation of the probability of something bad happening. So, for instance, plane crashes are rare, but yeah, you're usually dead after. On the other hand, most everybody will have at least one traffic accident in their life ... My point is that putting your hand into fire has a virtually certain outcome of getting burned; it's just a question of how badly. Interacting with people, I know, feels like it has a huge penalty of hurt if it goes wrong (yet no one dies, at least, not often.) There's also the probability part. I don't know what the challenge is, but you need to ask yourself how often people do this activity, and how often does it turn out badly.

Have I bored you into running off and trying it yet? ;-)

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Goosey, for you dying is worse than any emotional pain? You must have had some, before now. Is there a particular emotional pain that you'd have a harder time with?

Hey, there's nothing like several days of lead time to give anxiety a chance to work. ;-) Will it help to discuss it with us, over the next few days?

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Thanks for your reply Malign.

I am aware that I am compounding this situation by building it up, giving it more attention than it deserves - I am just so so scared of the implications if it does not go well.

Through therapy I have begun to allow myself to feel my emotions, also by exploring past hurts, its feels very raw.

I would be very glad of support from yourself and the people here over the next few days, thanks.

I need to go to bed now as I have to get up in 6 hours for work.

Thanks again

Goose

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Goose,

I am very confused about what is going on here? What is it that you are supposed to do Friday AM?? Without knowing what it is my imagination, and I suspect everyone else's, is left to creating the worst possible scenarios. In other words, by only alluding to this thing on Friday you are increasing everyone's anxieties and fears for your well-being. It would help all of us and help us to help you by just letting us know and removing the mystery. Can you tell us, please......?

Thanks,

Allan:confused:

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Hi, I am sorry for creating such a mystery; I am just so embarrassed about how insignificant this event is. This was really my question, can people including therapists really understand the fear and terror that goes along with phobias.

I have Social Phobia and Avoidant Personality Disorder, which I believe stems from rejection and hurt I experienced as a child. The very possibility of feeling this hurt or rejection again is to me terrifying – I feel it so strong that this is where my analogy with death comes. Also there is a very real possibility that I will get thoughts of self-harm if it goes wrong.

I probably would have been better posting this to the Cognitive reframing area.

Ok at the risk of being mortally embarrassed (by how insignificant this is) this is my feared situation:

I have worked in the same job for the last 20 years, at 10.30am every day I go to the canteen (along with about 500 others) for my tea break. I go to break with one colleague, if she is not in I will go to the canteen and sit alone, not make eye-contact with anyone else and because I feel so socially inept I will refuse to join others if they invite me. I have been known to spend my break in my car, or the restroom or the hospital shop.

My task which I have decided to do on Friday (because my colleague will not be in) is to go to another table and ask to join them.

My fear: I will see a look of rejection on their faces - the resulting hurt from this will be excruciating. I will feel that I can never go to the canteen again; will I ever be able to go into work again? I cannot emphasise enough how significant this is for me, please don't minimize it.

If I achieve this and it goes well it will be a major break-through for me.

Goose

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Goosey,

No one's going to minimize this. It's your feeling. I myself have often enough associated "dying" with things other people do routinely, just slightly different ones.

Would it be against the "rules" if you did some preparatory work? Can you begin a conversation with someone other than your usual colleague, and continue it into the canteen, so that there's no awkward moment? (I do realize that this involves another, possibly even more difficult idea, starting a conversation with someone you may not know. If that's even more difficult, just forget I said anything.) Something that might be easier could be to ask someone beforehand whether you can join them for tea, without having to have a huge conversation throughout.

I don't know, but I'm here to bounce ideas off of, if that's any help, and if your ideas happen to be especially bouncy.

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Thank you for your reply Malign I appreciate it.

Can I say that I am a lot more rational than I was last night, something had happened last night with my son which had left me feeling very low and as a consequence my outlook was not very positive.

I will actually know quite a number of people in the canteen, so it will probably be one of these that I will ask. The very thought of asking a stranger :eek:.

I have kind of narrowed down the possibilities to one person. If this person was on her own I would have less of a problem -she used to work with me.

However she sits with 3 others whom I don't know so well. I do know their names. Ok: T. - well she seems nice, I have no dealings with her in the course of my work. D. - she also seems nice, I would occasionally talk to her by phone about work matters. and M. - I am not so sure about her, she is the one I am worried about.

Goose

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Hi Goose,

I dont have any advise or even any suggestions sorry but i can sympathise with you as i do and feel the same and i have an inkiling of how you must be feeling.

i doubt it means very much but i think you're very strong and brave for even considering it.

it's very unlikely anyones going to be so mean as to say no or reject you, i know thats easy for me to say and hard for you to believe though!

Perhaps they will be pleased that you want to sit with them and maybe M will enjoy meeting you properly?

When you've done it you can be proud and give yourself a pat on the back for getting up there and facing your fear head on...that takes a lot of strength.

Im not very good expressing things sorry, i'd just like to wish you all the best and that you will be ok.

Donna.

Edited by Donna
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Thank you so much Donna for your reply.

I know for a fact that they won't refuse to allow me to sit with them, I don't think anyone would.

My fear is they may say yes but that I will see in their expressions that they don't really mean it.

I'm glad I have written about it, as it helps in a way.

Goose

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Goose,

Thank you for your reply. Now I understand. Part of your difficulty has to do with the feelings of embarassment you experience about this problem. However, you are not alone with this. Much of my private practice (I am retired from practice) was in helping people with this very same issue. Some of them were medical doctors, etc. And, part of the treatment was to do the very thing that you are so very embarassed about: Sitting at a lunceon or coffee break table with other people. This is not insignicant, this is very important.

Here is how I instructed my patients after we discussed their specific fears and those did vary. I would tell them to:

1. Say to everyone at the table, "Mind if I join you?" They will say, "Of course, have a seat."

2. You do not need to speak.

3. Smile.

4. Make Eye Contact.

5. If asked a question, just answer in a friendly way.

Remember this, people often chat about minor things: the weather, the weekend, baseball, shopping, how's Obama doing, etc.??..

If you think that your task is silly, let me tell you, I used to instruct doctors and lawyers(yes, lawyers) to make eye contact with the check out person at the grocery store and to say, "Hi."

Goose, there is no failure in this experiment tomorrow, only a learning experience. The more you do of these things the easier it will get.

Tell us how it goes, please.

Allan:)

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Damn Allan, you beat me to it!!!:) Allan is right (this may be twice we agree on something, something must be wrong here). Goose, as you know, I've been talking to your therapist ;) and this is all on track. You go girl (isn't this what Americans say???)!!!!

So here's my question: What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if you were rejected (or believed you were rejected)?

By the way, I think most therapists do understand terror as Malign indicated. I used to (and still do) have such a fear of drowning (which is why water-boading has been an effective torture). For years I struggled with going to pools, rivers, sitting by the ocean or a lake... it was unbearable. I decided to take a Red Cross life saving course to become a lifeguard as a direct attack on my fears. I never told anyone but I peed in my trunks about 10-15 times until I became accustommed to the feel of the water. The coach understood as I stuttered an explanation ahead of time of what I was doing, everyone else just thot I was a wack-job that needed some meds. I took the course 2 times before I could pass it! My worst fear-- that I would be drowning while everyone watched and laughed at the scrawny dark kid with the curly hair (and weird water habits). Sure enough, I ended up in the deep end and panicked: "Oh shit... this is it, I'm gonna die while everyone laughs!!" My heart began to pound and my panic caused me to start to sink as I thrashed about helplessly. Within 2-3 seconds (it seemed like minutes) everyone was grabbing me and pulling me to the side. Nothing I feared came true, everyone understood my strange habits in the pool afterwards and I made a bunch of new friends along the way.

So, if this guy with an IQ of 86 can do it, I know you can too!

Edited by David O
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Meh. Think of it as giving you something to talk about in session. ;-)

Just because something's hard doesn't mean you'll never be able to do it, hon. "If at first you don't succeed, ..." and all. (More and more, I feel like a greeting card. I keep expecting someone to scribble "Wish you were here" on me and shove me in an envelope.)

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Trouble? :-)

'Meh' is just a shrug. The mildest form of disagreement that I'm capable of.

You know, it's quite alright to disagree with me, goosey. I've even been known to do it, at times. I even argue with myself, sometimes.

And you know I 'Meh' even more because it's your favorite word. :-P

It's just my way of saying not to worry so much. Without saying it directly, because I know you don't do it deliberately.

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Hi Goose,

Sorry to read that things were not so good, and that stuff is alot to deal with.

I was just thinking about the things I've done to try and attack my anxiety. My main thing is the social stuff, I really do just shake me head at how hard it is to get through this and I know it feels so hard. I'm really kinda jumping in big time in my life, I just went back to work after years of not working and OMG it has been rediculous anxiety sometimes I think it will never lessen and this is it I feel overwhelmed and stressed panicky and all the physical stuff and I am really tired of it, but I am doing it and I keep telling myself this everyday I am doing it, I just gotta do it. I think that telling myself that it may always be hard for me makes me understand that this is just me, and I have to learn to be ok with that. If I can learn to be ok with the fact that social stuff is hard mabe I can take the pressure to be perfect in social settings away and therfore mabe it can be not so scary because I'm ok with me not being good at it.... a bit of a ramble but I'm lending my shoulder to lean on. please take care:o

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Hi goose,

Im sorry you couldnt do it, but that really doesnt make you a failure!

you considered doing it, surely thats a step in the right direction - it's a good start, it's certainly more than i could have done! ...what is it they always say? babysteps.

You'll do it when you're ready,one day at a time and you'll get there ;)

Donna.

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