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Sunday, December 12, 2010

On the Wagon Again

It's been a while since I wrote about my struggle with social anxiety disorder. Partly this is because things were preoccupying me that left me little time to post about anything. But I also felt that I was backsliding, and was not eager to write about this.

I was trying to use the weekly messages from a seduction "email bootcamp" to keep me motivated, and initially it worked. But then I started to fall behind on my email. I could have made an exception for these emails and kept up with them even while lagging on the other messages, but didn't do so, due presumably to an unholy alliance of social anxiety and obsessive-compulsiveness.

When, a few weeks ago, I decided to resume the boot camp, I found the instructions to be totally over my head. They seemed to require me to already have proficiency in areas where I simply didn't, and I despaired of following them in any but the most perfunctory way, which might fulfill their letter but not their spirit.

Reflecting on this impasse led me to the feeling that this approach might be too rigidly goal-oriented for me (especially when I can't negotiate personally tailored "homework," as I could with a therapist). I also recalled someone's observation that OC people are always telling ourselves that we need to be "more self-disciplined," when actually we need just the opposite. So I decided to focus on practicing mindfulness more -- both to be more open to possibilities to start conversations with strangers, and to avoid the kind of self-talk which, even though intended to motivate me, seems often to just end up making me more anxious by raising the stakes too high.

I judged that I need to do less reading, more simply being and doing in the moment. And now there's evidence that this was a good choice. Yesterday, while standing in line at my neighborhood post office, I started a conversation with an attractive student standing behind me, in the course of which I got her email address. This was the first time in several weeks that I'd done something like this. (I'd made small talk on elevators in the interim, but never asked for contact info despite the notion that I should try to.)

An example of the different approach I was now taking is that I resisted any temptation to strategize in my head during the conversation. At those points where I had nothing to say, I simply turned away and maintained my poise without thinking about anything in particular, and when something apt occurred to me I turned back and expressed it.

Over the preceding couple days, I'd actually started unsubscriibng from several people's attraction and seduction-related newsletters which I wasn't keeping up with. I worried that this might be a manifestation of avoidance, but yesterday suggests it was in keeping with an approach that may prove to be more sustainable than my previous one.

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