I was reviewing the therapy, specifically Turning the Tables on ANTs, Parts I, II, and III, today, which made me think of this thread.
I know what you mean about performance anxiety. No doubt everyone here does, as well as most people on the planet. There is a natural adrenaline rush that comes with being the center of attention, presenting or performing in front of a group of people. I feel that using performance anxiety as the 1 example (when discussing social anxiety with others who might not understand it) doesn’t do justice to the totality of social anxiety. But, it’s an easy example for us and for others to relate to. Furthermore, when we separate out performance anxiety as independent of social anxiety, I worry that people diminish the value of the same principles/strategies that work to help us overcome social anxiety - the same strategies that would effectively help one perform better with less anxiety. It’s another one of these things where people go looking for specific solutions for this, when the solution is foundationally the same, but, okay - I understand the reason, and, perhaps, the need to focus on this singly, if we’re going for solutions.
From what you’ve written, it seems you have identified ANTs that crop up for you when dealing with this situation. This awareness is good. You’re not starting from confusion. You also are aware of your feelings, feelings that happen around this, which you don’t have to fight, shouldn’t fight. You comment on the feelings, the triggers, and the resulting spiral. So, you, yourself, have just outlined the cycle that takes place.
The tactics you describe are behavioral in nature - doing things (eye contact, rubber band as a distraction). That’s good. Dr. Richards discusses that we combine behavioral with the cognitive to make our progress faster, more effective. But, remember - it is the doing reinforced by the thinking (cognitive), the doing built upon the cognitive. We don’t just keep throwing ourselves into a perceived fire.
Thus, how to make that “fire” not a fire anymore, not an irrational, unjustified ANT? We reinforce the cognitive part, too. And specifically, I thought that Turning the Tables on the ANTs was very relevant here.
This is a reminder for all of us. This is a reason to repeat the therapy. We understand things better, we are exercising our abilities to do things better, but still in this process there is room for applying the rational therapy more than we might be doing. You ask for real life examples. Real life examples involve nothing more than applying these same cognitive strategies. This goes for me, too. I’ve got to apply the thinking (nothing more complicated than that) to the situation. When I don’t, I’m failing to help myself with a real life example of a tool. When I do, I’m using a real life technique.
Turning the Tables has three parts (three handouts), and at least in my opinion, the differences in concepts from one handout to the other aren’t different so much as it’s just a matter of, again, needing time for our brains to work through using the concepts. Slowing down, relaxing, going conditional, staying away from absolute/negative words and beliefs, and reinforcing this… that’s the essence of this. I suggest looking back on these three parts.
My real life examples for employing these techniques include: 1. Being a teacher. I still had a lot of nerves each time I taught and in different situations. No longer were my nerves keeping me from teaching or making me completely irrational, but they were nerves that I feel were not completely necessary or rational. Without thinking about it, I began to check these ANTs, breaking the cycle, reminding myself that I had taught many classes, that my nerves did not have to be negative, that maybe I could do fine without all the build-up of tension. I accepted my nerves too through self-acceptance. 2. Being more of a leader in therapy groups. This, at first, seemed to put me into a place of more self-scrutiny, more self-judgment, because I was pressuring myself to be somehow “better” for the purposes, I suppose, of wanting to help people.
To make a longer story shorter, with these examples and others, I more recently in my life began to apply rational thinking to all the build up of nerves and self-pressure. Essentially I was doing what I see today is in the Turning Tables on ANTs handouts. When I did therapy in a more focused way, I probably was keeping my mind open to these ideas and using them formally. Later on, I was probably falling back on being less proactive about it, not thinking and letting nerves sometimes rise up. But somehow, and maybe just through initial repetition and reinforcement, I did apply this to real life situations more recently in the past few years. And that was real stuff - doing the cognitive therapy is real stuff. I can clearly remember myself in my apartment saying things out loud before presentations, keeping myself more rational, letting go of the irrational build up, if you will.
Doing those things has helped. So I might not have been at my worst, for sure. But still I was perfoming with a level of unchecked nerves. And when I “checked” these nerves consciously, it helped me go through the process and the presentation better. Once you start going through the process in a more rational way, that only leads to going through it the next time more rationally as well.