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I take the NYC subway system everyday. You see, our seats are aligned facing each other so one person would face another. I know that we're not even supposed to notice or look at the people the are across from us, or people that board the train but this is where the problem aggregated. Before my trip was not noticing anyone or taking people into perspective as I took the system. If I can think back to before I had the problem I don't remember any visuals of people on the train ride. But now I've retrained my brain (unfortunately) to take everyone into perspective since I realized that this would cause anxiety to other people (and it does). Every time I take someone into perspective, I gain more anxiety and even more when someone reacts by for example casting their eyes to the floor or something like that. The problem grows worse from here. NYC is pretty populated and people walk one path and other in the same direction. I know that we are supposed to not notice anyone but this lead to me noticing everyone. So the subway has become an anxiety spot along with walkways. You see if I find more things to tell myself that I shouldn't do and I do them compulsively because I feel that I have no control of them. Unlike an OCD case where threats aren't real, other people really feel anxiety if they are taken into perspective. I've also realized that a feeling of anxiety is linked by my brain to my lack of ability to control my eyes and where they look. You see now I just look at random places throughout the room even though I want to only look at the keyboard and the screen only because it annoys me and it feels like I have no control. Thank you for any reply.

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  • 1 month later...

I was terrified. Having been agoraphobic for years, and an ex-husband that would let me stay home, meant learning to be on my own. I didn't have a car, so bus ws my only choice to go to work. I, too, didn't know where to look and the inadverdant eye contact, often met with a scowl or a quick glance away, kept me looking at the floor a lot. Sometimes, like others, I'd bring a book. But as time went, my curiosity about the people I was seeing kept me peeking. And when I could, I listened. I noticed reactions between people, I noticed that everyone was very different than the images we're fed on tv.

As people would get on the bus, they're level of their composure was usually pretty obvious. Smiling and pleasant people didn't pose a threat, and everyone would relax. What power. Some would sit and with a smile pull in to themselves, others would strike up conversation, and many were eager to participate. Everyone seemed to really appreciate the ride. It had become more safe.

Have always been self conscious, anxious and afraid, using different coping skills at different times, but as I aged, some thing happened-I took on the appearance of my grandfather, (I'm a woman)one of my abusers as a child, and lost some front teeth.

Youch. After a very long time of self pity and fear of reactions, I decided to try smiling and a hi. I t took awile to understand that a quick smile brought lots back. I learned I could look at people. If they noticed, quick smile and look away. Going to town is better when I do these things. Some people won't look at me directly at all. A girl at the pharmacy, some times a checker, but it's rare. Some people scowl, but am learning that it will only bug me if i let it. I realize I'm really only another face in the crowd. When i smile, i establish myself as friendly and others usually react favorably. I realize this is the lesson typically learned as a child. So much for invalidating environments and thank you DBT. Am learning not to let others control how I feel.

On the good days. But lately, I think there are being more of these. My first DBT was almost ten years ago. It's taken time, and desire for better. And willingness to take the steps, even if the first ones fail.

This writing I feel is more for myself than others, as i hadn't a clue what to say when I started, but I hope in some little way it benefits some one else.



So appreciate all that all of you've shared here.

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I hate the looks of people... It even sticks in my mind days after, even though their strangers , it is so uncomfortable . I do not like going out at all, or dealing with others one bit.

What I am thinking is that may help you , is to use an I pod or Mp3 player? Have a distraction so this will be easier for you to be on the subway. Just a thought.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Hello9,

As a former resident of New York City and as a person who rode the subways from childhood throughout most of my life, I can tell you that there is no way to not notice other people. In fact, that is unrealistic. You need to modify your thinking. You are not supposed to stare at people. There is a huge difference between noticing versus staring.

Also, you do not want to ignore what is around you because you need to be safe.

I believe that what Katleen described about the buses is very accurate. Most people are lost in their own private world and do not care. Even those who scowl are just having their own private thoughts. In fact, everyone is lost in their own lives and do not care about the others in the bus or train.

You see, you are being "self conscious," while, they are being "unconscious."


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