Social Anxiety Problems?

A lot of people don’t realize they struggle with social anxiety. Common internal monologues tend to go something like, “Did I talk too much?”, “Did I say that right?”, “Did I offend them?” We may even unconsciously notice people’s mannerisms or facial expressions and have negative thoughts. We may interpret these by thinking that we automatically did something stupid when really they could have been picking lettuce out of their teeth after lunch.

social anxiety

We get into overthinking and incurring so much social anxiety, panic, and stress. This has the effect of disconnecting us from ourselves and others. One of the main limiting beliefs associated with this type of thinking is feeling incapable.

If only we could carry on this conversation or we would be interesting or they would think we were fun. What happens is we feel incapable and is causes us to withdraw and avoid the very social interaction that could allow us to eventually feel capable, diminishing our social skills. Learn about different types of anxiety here.

Another belief we can have is “I am vulnerable”. Feeling exposed and overthinking things is uncomfortable so we will often try to protect ourselves. Asking too many details about events or trying to manage situations to avoid interactions that will make us feel this way. At times simply feeling not good enough or mask our true feelings in an effort to control the way we think others will think of us.

At its core, CBT focuses on identifying and modifying thought patterns that lead to destructive behaviours and emotions.

The Shift Protocol represents an innovative combination of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and Reconditioning via Exposure & Integration (REI), often known as Reprocessing. It aims to effectively treat social anxiety by systematically reducing or eliminating limiting beliefs. The underlying principle of the protocol is that by changing our beliefs, we can fundamentally alter our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, leading to improved mental health and well-being.

Someone with social anxiety might hold the belief that they are always being judged negatively by others. This thought pattern can lead to fear and avoidance of social situations. CBT helps to identify these patterns, challenge their accuracy, and develop healthier alternatives. By learning to reframe negative thoughts, individuals can begin to change their emotional responses to social situations.

Reprocessing, on the other hand, involves exposure to and integration of distressing experiences or beliefs.

The idea here is to confront and fully experience these distressing thoughts or emotions in a safe and controlled manner. Over time, through repeated exposure and processing, these distressing experiences lose their power and become less anxiety-provoking.

When combined, CBT and Reprocessing can offer a powerful means of addressing social anxiety.

The Shift Protocol may start with cognitive restructuring, a fundamental element of CBT. This helps individuals identify and challenge their distorted beliefs and thoughts. For example, a person may learn to replace the thought “everyone is judging me” with “I cannot control others’ thoughts, and their opinions do not define my worth.”

However, merely recognizing and attempting to change these cognitive distortions may not be sufficient for some individuals. Deeply ingrained beliefs may persist and continue to drive anxiety. This is where the integration of Reprocessing can be vital. Once an individual has identified and challenged their limiting beliefs using CBT techniques, they can then confront these beliefs through exposure exercises, under the guidance of a trained professional.

During exposure sessions, individuals are encouraged to imagine themselves in anxiety-provoking social situations.

They learn to tolerate the distress associated with these experiences, helping to reduce their anxiety over time. Simultaneously, they work on integrating new, healthier beliefs about themselves and their relationships with others.

For instance, if an individual believes they always appear awkward and uninteresting in social situations, they might imagine themselves in a scenario where they are engaging in a conversation with strangers. The individual is encouraged to stay with the distressing feelings and thoughts, while also integrating the healthier belief developed during the CBT stage.

Over time, repeated exposure and integration sessions can help individuals to replace their limiting beliefs with healthier ones.

This two-pronged approach helps to ensure that changes in thought patterns are not only intellectual but are also deeply felt and integrated into the person’s understanding of themselves and the world around them.

In summary, the Shift Protocol leverages the strengths of both CBT and Reprocessing to treat social anxiety. It provides a systematic and comprehensive approach to identify, challenge, and replace limiting beliefs, thus reducing social anxiety. It goes beyond mere symptom management, aiming for deeper cognitive and emotional change. However, as with any therapeutic approach, its effectiveness can vary between individuals, and it is important that treatment is tailored to meet each individual’s specific needs and circumstances.