Stoic Exercises for Social Anxiety

 

Stoicism is one of the few philosophies I actually like. Mostly because it´s very practical and it makes the practicioner more self reliant over time. In Stoic Exercises for Social Anxietythis post, we will look at Stoic Exercises for Social Anxiety.

In stoicism, you divide the world into two different parts: the one you can control, and the one you don´t.

From a stoic perspective, the things you can control are: your thoughts, speech and behaviour.

Everything else falls under the category of things you can´t control. The things other people do or say, how they think, their emotions, even the health of your body falls under this category.

So, everytime you´re influenced by other people in a negative way, you´re coming back to yourself. What is your role in this circumstance? What are your options? Etc.

Because of this perspective, Stoicism is a great tool we can pick up to influence our fear of social interaction and take back our life.

So, in this post I´ll first give some quotes that can help with changing your mind, your perspective, over time. Then, we will look at some stoic exercises you can do to become active.

Quotes

„Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders´ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man`s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature´s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.“

  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

„When your sparring partner scratches or headbutts you, you don´t make a show of it, or protest, or view him with suspicion or as plotting against you. And yet you keep an eye on him, not as an enemy or with suspicion, but with a healthy avoidance. You should actthis way with all things in life.We should give a pass to many things with our fellow trainees. For, as I´ve said, it´s possible to avoid without suspicion or hate.“

  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Exercises

The following exercises are examples from the book „Unshakable Freedom“ from Chuck Chakrapani.

Techniques

  • The Anticipatory Prep technique (Morning meditation)
  • The Course Correction technique (End-of-day meditation)
  • The Premeditatio Malorum technique (Negative visualization)

 

The Anticipatory Prep technique (Morning meditation)

The morning meditation consists of different exercises prepare you for the day and forestall negatively reacting to others when they behave in a way that might annoy you.

  1. Give Gratitude

Think about the people and events in your life that you´re thankful for. It can be family members, neighbours, people at work, etc. It can be a smile that was given to you or some other nice action.

  1. Prepare for the day

Continue to lie in bed and say to yourself, „Today I will meet with people tho are meddling, unthankful, rude, disloyal, and selfish. People who behave this way don´t know the difference between good and evil. But, because I know the difference, I will not be affected by their behavior. Neither will I be angry or be irritated because I´d rather cooperate than fight with others.“

Repeat to yourself, „Today I will control only what is under my control. I will not worry about things not in my control.“ Later in the day, whenever you face any unpleasant encounter, recall these words.

  1. Get up cheerfully

Once you have prepared your mind this way, get up cheerfully. If you are still reluctant to get up, continue on your meditation for a while and say to yourself, „I am here to do the work of a human being. Why should I feel I am not up to it and lie in bed? Like every being that does the work assigned to it, I can do the work of a human being too.“

The Course Correction technique (End-of-day meditation)

Go over your day. When have you felt feelings of nervousness and anxiety? In what kind of situations? A good method to get over these feelings is to ask yourself one question: „Is this what I was so afraid of ?“

It´s told that Seneca, to overcome his feelings of shame, went out in bad clothing and lived like a beggar for a few days, asking himself the question: „Is this what I was so afraid of?“

It´s a good method to bring things in another perspective and make yourself clear that you´re still alive and well, so the situation itself probably wasn´t as threatening as you first perceived.

Also, you can bring a little body awareness to this exercise through feeling your body and emotions while going over this exercise. Can you feel and relax your body like in the Dissolving Practice when you feel negative emotions rising again?

The Premeditatio Malorum technique (Negative visualization)

There seem to be different versions of this exercise, however, the common theme is this: Imagine the worst case scenario that could happen. Meaning: What could be the worst scenario when you´re talking to someone? Could the person get mad? Could your friendship break because of your conversation? Etc.

When you came up with your worst case scenario, what could be measures against that scenario? Could you say things differently? Could you do something afterwards to repair the relationship?

Also: Does it even bother you if this happens? Is it really so important to freak out over? Or, in Senecas words: „Is this what I was so afraid of ?“

 

 


sources: “Unshakable Freedom” from Chuck Chaprapani

 

picture from 6212079 on Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Stoic Exercises for Social Anxiety”

  1. The thing I like best about this article is the decision that you will focus on the things you can control and not on anything else. As wanting to feel in control is one of the main things that causes anxiety, that is great advice.

    I’m not so sure about the quote ‘Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders´ ignorance of what is good or evil….’ I have noticed that we bring about what we think about, and you would be much more likely to encounter these anti-social sorts if you think about them ahead of time.

    While driving to work, I say ‘I am excited to meet all the lovely people that will be visiting our resort today – all with their own personal triumphs and tragedies, and I will make them feel welcome and glad they came’. I was not aware that this was a potential treatment for anxiety (I can’t call it a meditation as I am driving!) I just find it grounds me and reminds me that I have a really good job (even it I don’t want to go!) and that people are just people – someone’s Mum, Dad, son, daughter – and if there are any issues it’s not about me. No one knows what is going on in anyone else’s life.

    Loving the gratitude and end of day meditation. Great article. Keep up the good work.

    Best,

    Jean

    Reply
    • Hey Jean,
      thanks for the great feedback. You´re right, a positive mindset is very important and will attract more positive things in your life. That´s whyI´m a big fan of “trying to see things positive”.

      However, my opinion is also that you can´t escape and control everything. So, life can be pretty harsh, and you might face people who might not be friendly to you. Reminding yourself on that, and actually being ok with that, is a big first step to be able to face an actual fear. In our context, an unfriendly person.

      As soon as you except the possibility of negativity, you have the chance to start seeing the positive things that might come out of it. The lessons you can learn, the improvements in your skills, and so on.

      That´s why I´m integrating this part in my lessons 😉

      Wish you all the best!
      Thimo

      Reply
  2. I really enjoyed hot article. After reading it I think I will most certainly try some of these exercises . I experience a lot of the mentioned attitudes from people in my day job so trying these Exercises should help

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for this highly informative article, Thimo! As a devout Christian, I completely agree with separating things into what we can control vs what we can’t control. God created us and gave us special talents to be used for his glory, and we have the choice of how we’re going to use our gifts. Likewise, we have freewill to act and do as we please, though we must be careful not to abuse this privilege. Looking at the current pandemic, for example, there are many things that we can’t control, but we must do the best that we can, love and help our fellow man, and realize that God is in control, will fix everything in his perfect time, and will place us exactly where we need to be. There’s no point in us worrying about what we can’t change. Haha God bless you!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

RSS
Follow by Email