SA Automatic Cycle Handout


Hi all,
I feel that the handout in this session “Social anxiety automatic cycle handout” was very helpful. I understand the paradox that fighting and trying to hide physical symptoms will just bring it on more. But my question is, so what should we do instead? Is it best to keep repeating rational thoughts and focusing on calmness, peace, and acceptance? My biggest fears is my neck and face getting red and feeling tense in my face and not being able to smile naturally. If I begin feeling any of these feelings in a public situation, what is the best thing for me to do in that moment? Should I try to do quick PMR to help myself loosen up? Sometimes when I feel myself blushing, I make fun of myself to others so it doesn’t give them a chance to make a comment on it or so they won’t think I’m weird. I’ll say things like “Oh my god I’m feeling so hot!” Or “This is just how I am I always sweat!”
Is it fine to say this out loud to others as to make a joke of it? Lately, my tense mouth is becoming a bigger issue. I feel I can’t smile naturally. I just try to ignore it. If I feel this happening should I catch and turn the tables on this feeling or just ignore it and tell myself it will pass?
Feel free to chime in! Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated!! :smile:


I think you should turn the tables on these thoughts when you can. Likely this means reinforcing and repeating rational, conditional thoughts daily to yourself, during your therapy perhaps, but also leading up to something if you’re thinking about this, and after. In the moment, if you can say and think such thoughts, that’s great. If you can’t, I personally fall back on just slowing down, trying to relax, trying to focus out and not on the thoughts. Rationally you can smile. This has become an issue for you, just like blushing, because it happens as a result of anxiety and tensing up. The blushing came from the rush of adrenaline, the event happening, and then the shame and embarrassment felt because of it during and after, thus setting in motion a resistance, a fight to not ever to have that happen again, which increases the chances of it happening.

So talk through this every day. Have a rational talk with yourself about this. This involves turning the tables on the ANTs, of course, because going conditional/rational with something is just that. What’s going to happen if you blush? Will the other person hate you, think less of you? What would you think of another person in that situation? Can you smile naturally at times? Is it you or anxiety that is making you tense, less able to act naturally? Does this anxiety define you and your self worth? What if you accept yourself no matter what, good and the bad, as you are now? What if you accept blushing as fine, too? What if you accept that sometimes anxiety still makes you tense, that you still worry about physical responses? What if you accept that that is even okay? What if you get to a point where your thoughts of self-acceptance trump any negative thoughts you previously had about the physical responses? It’s at that point that the negative thought chain collapses and this stuff doesn’t continue to happen so easily.

For me, I worked through my worry about physical responses first in the groups here. Feeling more confident that I could do things without blushing. When we did these on the spot exercises, Dr. Richards reminded us all to primarily slow down, loosen up, use Slow Talk. My confidence began to grow. But I still had lingering worries about my physical responses of anxiety - like sweating and blushing. The more I’ve been in those moments, the more I go to accepting myself - this type of message. What’s the worst that can happen? That type of message. Also sometimes embracing the ludicrous and telling myself I’ll be as nervous as possible, trying to bring it about. I think this is coupled with a self acceptance, because as I say I’m going to go out and completely make a fool of myself and try to do my worst, it is followed by an inner message of me telling myself that okay, that’s fine, and I know that tomorrow and after that I’ll still accept myself. I’ve repeated that self-acceptance message so much that it’s become a belief. A belief also because I’ve seen myself go through setbacks, even with physical symptoms, and at the end of it all, I come back to being okay with myself. So if and when it ever goes there again, I know I’ll ultimately come back to that.

I’m not sure if my advice will help you. I think we have to go through the moments of anxiety and continue to slow down. Calm. Focus out. And while we’re away from those moments we have to be reinforcing rational, healthy perspectives on the events (turning the tables, if you will). We can’t be keeping up the ANTs, the pressure, and the negativity about it beause that would just keep you in this position. So, go through these moments as best you can, as calmly as you can. Hopefully you’ll grow more confident from that alone. Meanwhile you’re buidling and reinforcing your self acceptance. And really talk that down to the roots of what that means. Ask yourself questions and find the answers. The answers might first reveal that we’re deeply still rejecting ourselves, that we’re still pressuring and resisting anything we perceive as “bad” happening. We are still judging ourselves based on some outside thing that we’ve labeled as making us inferior or worthless. And you question those thoughts, work on them daily in a rational way, turning conditional way, accepting way. Over time the resistance will lessen. The negative definition of this will change. You’ll be letting go of that and replacing it with self-acceptance.


Thank you for your response, Mateo!
Your feedback is very helpful! I had a great day at work today! I even got a compliment from someone who said that I have a great smile! I’ve also been telling myself that the past does not define me and I’m telling myself to let go of the past. One of my strongest ANTs is that I fear that I will repeat something embarrassing that I’ve don’t in the past and I’ve been telling myself that if I keep thinking this way, i am just keeping myself stuck in this negative thought cycle…

Since I’m a perfectionist, I always make sure that I do everything correctly. I know that there shouldn’t be any pressure in doing the therapy series “correctly” but I just had a question. So is it really important to do the stopping the ANTS process strictly. What I mean by this is that should we do this process in this order every time (1: catch and stop ANT… 2: label as being wrong, irrational… 3: calm down and loosen up… 4: Turn the tables on the ANTS using conditional statements)
Do we have to use this procedure for every ANT every time that we can? And if I have moments where I’m not having any ANTs, can I just keep repeating rational statements regarding turning the tables on the ants ?


In my opinion, the answer to your question is no. You do not have to do the ANTs stoppage and Turning the Tables on the ANTs (TTAs) in the exact, strictly same way each time.

Life moments are never exactly the same each time. There is no neat, no defined. We could go off on a tangent here, but I’ll leave it there. A cookie cutter is meant to help establish a pattern, a tool. We’re defining a tool, a guide to slowly go about this process. What counts is that you are doing the process. The risk is that people don’t ever do the process, never once use the tool.

It would be easier, in some ways, to answer you YES. “Everyone should do it exactly like this.” But think about that even when you read it. Does that feel right for you? If it does, cool. If not, cool. But that yes would simplify things and perhaps allow some to just say, “Okay, it’s a plan I can go by.”

I do think it’s important for all of us in the beginning of therapy to formally go through these steps, or else you’ve never done it and never told your brain even once that this is how I want to react / behave / feel / think. The repetition then sets up an automatic reaction later. Perhaps one doesn’t need to say “stop”. Perhaps one goes straight to a rational statement.

If someone was still floundering to get to something rational, failing to stop obvious ANTs, I would say let’s take this step by step. To answer you, in my opinion, also from all your posts, I’d say no.

The second part, personally if I’m not having irrational thoughts, I’m not still repeating rational statements to myself for no obvious reason. I did practice them in the therapy time so that they’d more easily pop up when needed. Then, when needed, they either would come gradually and/or I’d try my best to use them. But, if I understand you correctly, outside of therapy time I wasn’t consciously thinking to repeat rational statements to myself when feeling fine (when not having ANTs).


Thanks Mateo! This helped a lot!!