I know that in the last session it encourages you to redo the series. I understand this, but I have a question, do I need to restart at it from session 2 or could I restart where I feel is necessary? I hope someone could help me with this decision. Any help would be awesome!!
Congratulations. Big, huge, well-deserved congratulations!
25 weeks of a new daily habit that you completed successfully, consistently, with rational hope in the face of fears and ANTs. Well done, for yourself.
So the elephant in the room: you may not feel like you’ve fully arrived to a happy conclusion, right? You may feel like, now what… I’m not really over social anxiety like I had hoped. Or, if someone asks you now, “Have you overcome social anxiety?”, how would you answer that?
If I had to answer that same question after I completed the series the first time through, the answer would probably be “no”. When I did the series the first time, I was becoming a shut-in, staying at home more, nothing to do, avoiding a lot. I had no hope and a lot of free time, so I did the series. And, like a lot of people describe here, in the beginning I had a boost of energy and positivity from the series, in the early sessions. I related to so much of what Dr. Richards spoke about. Getting more rational, stopping ANTs, turning conditional (Turning the Tables on the Ants), the deserving statements, understanding the Fighting Paradox… - all those things really were helping me. Those principles were sinking into my brain because I was reviewing them every day, saying my notes out loud. Some things I could accept at believe more easily. Some things I understood in principle but I still didn’t feel very deeply or confidently.
One big change for me was that the deep depression I used to have, which I used to think was clinical depression on its own before I discovered this thing called social anxiety, - that stopped happening. My depression was coming out of ANTs and dwelling. So, fortunately I picked up on at least stopping the ANTs more often and not dwelling, and depression of that sort decreased dramatically. Sure, I was still having ANTs, and anticipatory anxiety, but I was being more rational about that. I was feeling more optimistic about life in general, feeling happier for the first time in a long time, not because I felt over anxiety, but because I felt like if I had made this progress, further progress was possible.
But, I was still scared of the “doing” part - the behavioral part. I was pretty good about sticking with the therapy and doing it daily, and slowing down. I hadn’t really done anything behavioral, though. What I had gotten from the therapy by that time, though, was the ability to feel much, much calmer in my daily life, in what I would call normal everyday situations, stuff that could have caused me anxiety before but wouldn’t be as high on my list of fears. Going out, walking around, making small talk, being at a restaurant with other friends or family, standing in a line at a grocery store or public place - those type of things I was feeling much more rational about. So, from my perspective now I can see that I gained a lot even at that time. If you asked me then, though, I may not have felt I gained as much as I had because I was still very nervous about being put on the spot in a larger way or more formal way, presentations, the idea of getting a job - those things seemed really scary still. Really scary, but I wasn’t letting myself dwell on the fear, at least. But turning the tides of anxiety is something to realize that you have done. I had gone from leaving my home and sitting in my car for hours every day in empty parking lots just to get away from people; from avoiding supermarkets and avoiding good friends; from starting to panic even inside my home - from that to a much, much better place. But, no, I wasn’t “over” social anxiety.
I hope that you have realized some benefits, too, now, and keep that in mind, respect that and all your efforts.
One thing I was looking forward to when I finished the series was that in a few months I was scheduled to attend one of the groups here, the International Group. So, I sort of did the series the first time, gave myself a break with the idea that I was looking forward to a new thing - something I needed to do, something I was still scared about doing, but something I also felt more ready for. I still was reviewing my notecards daily, as my therapy - so I guess you could say I didn’t stop doing therapy, just not as rigidly as before, and then I started the series formally from the beginning when I came to the groups here.
In the group therapy here, I started doing things I hadn’t done before - the behavioral part. Despite this always being a surprise to people and to me, I started doing these things so much more quickly than I ever thought possible. I guess I thought that if I could do these things, and if I could finally not have physical symptoms of anxiety like blushing and sweating, then BOOM! I’d be cured. Rationally I read that wasn’t true, but you know in my heart I was still probably believing it that way.
So the group did help. It was good to do behavioral therapy. Perhaps there was some flooding at times, some pushing. You know it’s hard to balance that, and very subtle not to fight or pressure yourself. Like all of us, I had ups and downs there, but overall, I had to go through that, and I think that is part of the process. It’s not as clean as we would like it to be, but as long as you don’t stop or get completely thrown off, as long as you come back to the therapy, you keep going, you certainly have the chance, more than a chance, to keep getting over this.
And what I got from the groups on a deeper level was more awareness of what I think are the longer term issues for some of us to deal with. For example, there was still a core of a negative self-rejection inside me. I had to face that, slowly turn that around. Letting go of the negative past, acceptance even of physical symptoms still occuring but not defining me, the paradox of all the solutions - these things took longer to sink in really.
When asked now if I’m over social anxiety, I more confidently say “yes” because even in the past few years, things have worked themselves out in my brain. I think the more you just allow rational thinking to be there and repeat these concepts/apply them to life, even if you’re no longer formally doing the therapy by that point - your brain is working things out for itself and for yourself. I would answer “yes” because the easiest way to define overcoming social anxiety is looking at the DSM-V definition and knowing that I no longer check all those boxes. But, one also hesitates to say “yes” because it’s sort of a funny thing - if I had never had social anxiety in my life, and suddenly I am at the point I’m at now, or even after two years after I did the therapy, I would not consider anxiety as a habit in my life. But because I did have it, even when you’re past a lot of it, you could almost think too much about it. This is something I let go, too, in my life, especially when I’m away from this community, this job. When I’m around it more, as I need to be for this job, it’s naturally on my mind. But this is becoming something that doesn’t affect me as it used to.
I learned that behavioral therapy was certainly necessary and beneficial for me, but then I learned that the biggest issues still facing me were cognitive in nature, and that I needed to go back to the series and spend more time with cognitive therapy - review and reinforcement. We discuss that a lot here. People, like myself at first, probably don’t even truly believe that until it happens to them. The group stuff becomes “easy” and what’s needed is still the daily cognitive reinforcement.
So, I’ve written a lot and not answered your question at all. I think the simplest answer to the question is to restart from the beginning and go straight through again. But, I also think - there is no right or wrong answer here. Why do I say just restart it from 2 and go through? Because, you may not know what you missed the first time. It’s also not that you missed it. It’s more that your brain wasn’t ready to hear it. So, the second time through, you’ll hear things in a new way, discover things that make more sense now, and find that different things help you than the first time. And how you would know what you missed is impossible to guess, at least for me. Still, you probably do know the issues in the therapy, in you life, that cause you more trouble and you could surely focus on that, and emphasize that part each time, or as a part of each day no matter which session you’re currently reviewing.
This is where the daily habit of therapy may become stale, and you do need to change it up for yourself. You know if it’s not working the same way as the first, and it feels more boring to sit fully through the audio and review exactly the same stuff in the same way, well… THEN DON’T. Don’t beat your head against a wall feeling that you must do it the same. Change it up. And don’t worry that changing it up is right or wrong. It’s enough that you’re still doing CBT now, in your way. For me, changing it up involved taking the therapy outside - on my jogs and on my bike rides. The first time through I always did the therapy in the morning, in a quiet room, at a desk, reading all my notes. I couldn’t keep up that way the second or third time. To be honest, it was boring and I wasn’t finding that motivating. I didn’t really think about it or plan it, but I did just start to do it when I exercised. I had my voice recordings for some things and listened to that when I jogged, but mostly I just reviewed my notecards, in sequence, and said that out loud outside as I jogged. And I had begun biking every day in the evenings and found that a great time to naturally review all the therapy out loud that I had also seen on my cards that day.
So my answer for you is, you choose - there is no right or wrong. I have recently gone through the entire series again, for the purposes of editing and future additions, and I found it extremely helpful even now. But also, I hadn’t gone through the series in many years, so this was fresh for me. If you find yourself not being able to go through it again from 1 to 25 in order, then don’t force that. Do it in the way that allows you to keep up the habit. That’s the key. Don’t do it in a way that feels pressuring or dreadful. If so, that’s certainly not helpful, and even then, such feelings we could call into question or have a choice to change the perspective on. But, if that’s happening, do it in the way that works for you. I have only described my experience, and maybe your experience will be much better if you do restart where YOU feel is necessary.
One last thing - I went through the therapy without medication - not because I wanted to, but because seeing a doctor and getting medication for me was too expensive. I never had insurance or the money to do so. If you had told me that I could get this XYZ drug to help and it was free or cheap, I probably would have jumped at that chance, even knowing that it is not the answer, I would have done so. Just like the discussions of other drugs or things you see here - people want those things. I understand that. I never relied on a prescription to get me through the therapy simply because I didn’t have that option, not because I was strong. But, I say this because as much as it might not feel this way for all of us, you can make progress still without medication, in the right way. Medication can help people. I don’t dismiss that, but the biggest gains I’ve realized in my life have been in times of sobriety and without medication.
Hey Mateo, thanks for the response! I think what you said has really help me in making my decision of where to restart the therapy. So, I’ve decided to restart the therapy from session 2. I think that by going back I’ll hopefully find something I missed just like you said. Well, here we go again!! Thanks again for the response!!
I was reminded of this thread today when I read the supplemental handout in Session 1, “Living with Social Anxiety or Overcoming It”.
I agree with what Dr. Richards says here, and I’ve answered in similar ways on other posts. I would never say overcoming social anxiety is “easy”, nor is there a definitive answer for everyone on how much time is required. This handout discusses that.
I know that my perspective when I started therapy, when I wanted and expected changes, is different than my perspective now. I don’t look at it as a specific amount of time allotted on therapy. And I share his feelings when he says that he doesn’t agree with people who say that you can get better but that you must accept having social anxiety forever.
This handout might be worth reading again, a good reminder for all of us and for those just starting the therapy program.
Hey Mateo, same here!! I made the mistake that I wanted to see changes, big changes, quickly instead of taking my time and taking slow and steady. I eventually learned as time passed that I should focus on taking my time to understand the concepts fully.