Monday, September 1, 2014

The Deep End of The Immersion Therapy Pool

My "Fake It 'Til You Make It" Hub for Socially Anxious Introverts was really fun to make, but it took a really long time to write because a lot of thought went into it. Thankfully, I had a little help from my friends, for which I am eternally grateful.

The article may look whimsical, but Social Anxiety is anything but a joke. I still suffer greatly from it but I've learned the power of immersion therapy and am able to force myself to do the things I need to do in order to get stuff done. Perfect example; when I was in summer camp, I was asked by the counselors to put on a show for the rest of the camp. I wanted to sing, so I chose a song I knew and liked, practiced it for weeks and when the time came to perform in front of my peers, I panicked and ran off the stage.

Textbook stage fright. I was a battered child and emotionally associated failure with being physically punished, and so the fear of failure lead to the utter inability to function at all. This theme played itself out for many years with everything from public speaking to asking strangers for the time. It was crippling; something had to be done.

Since I've never been terribly gentle with myself, I threw myself into the deep end, so to speak. I got a job selling goods door-to-door. Not decent goods, but pure crap: broken watches, Far Side calendars with missing pages, ginormous kids books with Loony Toons characters on it, etc. I peddled some of the most useless garbage imaginable... but to my surprise, I became astonishingly good at it. For every item I sold, the company got $4 and I kept $1.
I made $50 profit on my first day out. Don't ask me how, because my confidence level was in the negatives. Maybe I smelled particularly good that day? Maybe the planets were aligned in my favor? Though more than likely, people are just impulsive and will buy pretty much anything.

Whatever it was, it was doing wonders for my social anxiety. I was not getting over it, per se, each time I would speak to strangers, it felt as though I was about to get into a fight. I had to muster all my courage just to keep from having a breakdown. Though my encounters became easier and easier. Handling rejection became par for the course and less devastating to endure.

Pretty soon after I succeeded in garbage peddling, I gained enough confidence to proceed to the next level of immersion-- I needed to defeat my stage fright. What did I do? Stone cold sober Karaoke.
Oh yes, and it was glorious. I wish I had video, but it was sadly before the invention of the smartphone. I shook like a leaf at first, and had many many shaky starts, but with the cheering of my drunken friends from the peanut gallery, I became quite good at it. Sometimes I even got cocky. One time I went to a bar in ABC City by myself, registered myself as "Satan", belted out a near pitch-perfect rendition of Queensryche's Eyes of a Stranger and left as mysteriously as I had arrived. People were stunned. I was able to hear their cheering and whooping from two blocks away. It was one of my proudest moments.

Now I can go up in front of any crowd, no matter who they are, how many stocks they own or what they're doing, interrupt them like I'm the one who signs their checks and then give an improvised speech without worrying too much if I trip over my words or if nobody gives a crap what I have to say. I will make them listen. This deep end therapy I've given myself isn't for everyone, but it worked wonders for me. I still have my moments of self-doubt, but I've realized that nobody on this earth is more important or deserves to be heard any more than me. It's all about putting out the right vibe. If you fake being important hard enough, people will listen to you. It really is that simple.

For anyone who is on this path, I wish you luck and lots of patience with yourself. It's a difficult road but so, so worth it.