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The Heavy Artillery
Okay, now the really good stuff. Here we’re going to work on changing your beliefs, and your pain anchors, which should get rid of your shyness for good. But first, we need to know exactly what they are.
First, brainstorm your beliefs. Examine the thoughts that run through your head when you’re in your shy-pattern. Also look at the way you talk about yourself to others and your self-talk. It’s important that you be completely honest with yourself and be as thorough as possible. Examples:
• I am a nerd/geek/loser/inept
• I’m too shy
• I’m not compatible with him/her
• I’m not normal
• I don’t know what to say/do
• I’m afraid of rejection/screwing up/being hurt/being embarrassed/what others think
• Men/Women don’t like me
• People don’t like me
Now, your anchors. Make two lists, pleasurable experiences that you move toward, and painful experiences that you avoid. Rank them in descending order starting with the experiences you take the most action to gain/avoid. Again, it’s important that you’re very honest with yourself. Don’t list them in the order you’d like them to be in ideally, but examine your actual behaviour.
Sample pleasures Sample pains
Love Success Rejection Anger
Freedom Intimacy Frustration Loneliness
Security Adventure Depression Failure
Power Passion Humiliation Guilt
When you’re done, you should notice some definite conflicts that would cause your shyness. In my case, on my pleasures side Love and Intimacy were high up, but Safety, Security and Comfort were at the top.
On my pains side, Evaluation, Rejection and Humiliation were at the top, while Loneliness and Depression were toward the bottom (remember, we’re looking at the amount of action we take to avoid these feelings).
Here’s something you can try that may help. Think about the way you want to be, your ideal self, and brainstorm what your pleasures/pains would have to be for you to be that way. Think about what anchors you’d need to add and remove, and then reorder the lists accordingly. This alone might cause some nifty changes…
Changing Your Beliefs
You’ve got three basic choices when it comes to beliefs. Remember, your brain tends to filter out references that run contrary to your beliefs, so one approach is to go over your beliefs and references consciously and sort them out. This is referred to in clinical psychology as Cognitive Therapy, and, in my opinion, is the worst way to go about it. I’ll share the process with you anyway in case the other options don’t work.
Go through the following questions with each of the beliefs you need to change:
1. What is your belief?
2. Why do you believe that? What references are you using to support this?
3. Is it possible that you’ve evaluated these experiences poorly? (This is especially true of childhood experiences, when your cognitive powers aren’t at their best). If so, go back into them and re-evaluate. It probably seemed terrible at the time, but would it be so bad if it happened to you now?
4. How much pain is this belief causing you?
5. What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t believe this?
6. What references do you have that run contrary to this? After reviewing these references, are you still sure you believe that?
Ugh. That hurt even writing it. But that might’ve at least weakened the beliefs and their hold on you, if nothing else.
Option two is probably the best but the hardest to achieve. Remember, “powerful experiences” such as a rape or car accident can smash through beliefs as if they were paper. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come up with a power experience to cure shyness (short of a woman coming up to you, saying “you know, you drive us all WILD, baby!” and making love to you right there - I wish).
Instead, most of us progress in small steps - starting conversations, getting comfortable with conversations, getting a date, becoming comfortable with dating, starting a relationship, becoming comfortable with relationships, etc. which could take months, years, or a lifetime.
So we’re left with option three - use positive references consistently and repeatedly.
Start a new list entitled “Affirmations”. Go over your list of negative beliefs, and for each one, create a positive statement to counteract it. Include a reference from your life if possible. It’s important that you follow these rules:
• make sure it’s positive - “I am not shy” won’t work too well
• make it first person - “I this, I that” rather than “People this, women that, men …”
• make it present tense - “I am confident” rather than “I will be confident”
• make sure it’s something you control - not “I date more often than Frank does”
• try to include rich sensory imagery, powerful emotional anchors, and references
• I easily talk to anyone I have a desire to meet. I am clever and witty and relaxed.
• I have immense courage. I overcome any fears.
• I’m fit and attractive. I keep my body in great shape.
• I remember to compliment people and to show I appreciate them.
• I am happy with myself, regardless of what other people think.
Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “So why am I telling myself all this stuff that obviously isn’t true?”
Remember, your own thoughts are part of the input your brain takes in, and it doesn’t question anything, it just processes and stores everything. At first your beliefs will reject these statements, but with enough consistency, repetition and references, your beliefs will eventually change. Studies show it takes about a month of daily repetition, but that depends on how often you go over your affirmations. The best thing to do would be to print them out on a card and keep them with you during the day, and just read over them whenever you get the chance. As you read them, imagine how good it will feel to be that way; really get into it.
Within one month of implementing this technique, the author of the book I got this from went from hiding behind plants at parties to dating regularly. He is now in his second marriage and makes his living as an author and motivational speaker.
Hypnotherapy is similar to the technique above, but it communicates with your subconscious much more directly, and you can get results within a few sessions if all goes well. The downside of it is that it is expensive (around $100/hour) and if your therapist misses something important you’ve wasted a lot of money for nothing. The alternative is to learn self-hypnosis. Probably the best thing to do is get a therapist to teach it to you, but there are lots of good books on the subject as well. I won’t go into it in too much detail here because it’s somewhat difficult to do and I’m not at all qualified to teach it, but here are the basics:
• make sure you are in a relaxed, open-minded mood.
• put yourself in a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting.
• give yourself relaxation suggestions until you are in a deeply relaxed state. Example: “The tension in my feet is draining away… my feet are relaxed… my legs are becoming more and more relaxed… my breathing is becoming deep and even… relax..relax…relax…”, etc. Keep it up until there’s no tension anywhere in your body, and you might feel a bit numb.
• What usually follows is a countdown (or countup…) in time with your breathing. Example: “As I count down from 10, as I breathe out I will sink deeper and deeper into a state of trance… 10… deeper and deeper… 9… deeper and deeper…”, etc.
• At this point you should be in trance. Don’t start to wonder if you’re actually in trance or not, because that will definitely snap you out of it. Just start repeating your affirmation statements to yourself; even if you weren’t actually in trance, it will still do you some good.
• Finish by suggesting something like “I will count to three and then awake feeling refreshing and alert” or “I will count to three and as I count I will drift off to sleep” (If you’re doing this at bedtime).
These two techniques, affirmations and self-hypnosis, are effective ways of improving anything in your life, not just shyness. I’d suggest setting aside 15-30 minutes every day to work on these, it’s well worth the effort.
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
NLP is a fascinating concept that I’d like to share with you. It’s probably vastly different than any psychology you’re used to, and in fact its is rejected by many clinical psychologists for being “unscientific”, but it has all kinds of applications in therapy and self-improvement, so I believe it’s worth learning.
NLP was founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, a mathematician and linguist respectively. Needless to say their approach was quite unique. What they did was study with some of the world’s best therapists (Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls mainly). Whenever something happened to cause a change in the subject, rather than examining what the therapist said he did, and what the subject said happened (both conscious functions), they observed what the therapist was doing unconsciously, and what happened in the subject’s subconscious. Then they modeled their therapeutic approach after these otherwise unnoticed processes that they had observed. They learned to produce changes in a person in minutes that would take conventional therapists months, or years to accomplish. For example, NLPers can cure a phobia in less than an hour, and often in less than 15 minutes. If you don’t believe this, there are lots of NLP practitioners on the net that you can talk to who can share their own experiences with it.
I’m going to share some of the NLP I’ve picked up that I believe is relevant to shyness; for more information, check out books by: Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts, Tad James, and Steven and Connirae Andreas.
First, the assumption that your subconscious doesn’t differentiate between real experiences and mental ones is extremely important in NLP. Very rarely, if ever, will they get you to physically DO anything; rather, they’ll sit you down, get you to imagine some things, create some pictures and experiences in your mind, do some anchoring, and when you’re done, you’ve changed. It’s almost magical.
Anchoring, BTW, is a fundamental part of NLP. Being able to control your emotional states is a very powerful tool. Often what they’ll do is get you to experience something unpleasant, then experience it again with an anchor, like confidence, happiness, or courage. This will totally change your evaluation of that experience!
Submodalities are the sensory qualities of the things you perceive in your mind. Changing these can change your emotional state to a certain extent. For example, images that have very bright, vivid colors, that are large, and that are close up tend to be more emotionally intense than dim, black and white, small, faraway images. Similarly, for sounds, there’s volume, tonality, speed, duration, harmony/cacophony, and for kinesthetics there’s temperature, texture, vibration, pressure, movement, weight, etc.
Of particular interest are the techniques for overcoming fear. All fear really is, is a warning signal that you’re about to experience something that you’ve anchored to pain. A phobia is the same thing but with a much stronger anchor. So all you need to do to overcome fear is to break that anchor - change the feelings you’ve associated with that situation. This is called “dissociation”.
So without further ado, here is the NLP Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure! This is a dissociation technique that relieves fears/phobias and removes unwanted emotional residue from a traumatic situation:
• find a place free of distractions where you can concentrate.
• anchor yourself to something that gives you powerful feelings of confidence, power, safety, etc.
• imagine yourself sitting in a movie theatre. Take some time to experience this fully. Examine the decor, the screen, the people seated around you.
• pick an experience that you want to dissociate. For a fear/phobia, if you don’t know the original trauma that caused your problem, just think of any time when you experienced the unwanted feelings.
• take a “snapshot” of that experience and place it on the screen.
• take some time to examine the submodalities of the image. Alter them so that the image is less intense (make it black and white, dim, small, far away, two-dimensional, and if it is from your own eyes, change it so that it is from the viewpoint of a passing stranger, or a bird, or God).
• now make the snapshot into a movie where all the frames have the same qualities as the first one. It’s important that the movie not be about something you’re afraid of, but about you experiencing the thing you’re afraid of.
• imagine yourself floating up out of your body into the projection booth so that you’re looking down at your body in the theatre.
• start the movie from up there in the projection booth. Remember, you’re watching yourself sitting in the theatre, watching a movie.
• Once the movie is done, float back down into your body. Then, imagine yourself stepping back into the experience.
• The first time this experience happened, you were overcome by the feelings these stimuli caused and were unable to evaluate the situation properly. This time, as an observer, go back over the experience and re-evaluate it, seeing it as it really was.
• Now, imagine the movie “rewinding” in your mind. See all the events happen in reverse. When you’re finished, jump back to the end and rewind it again, but faster. Keep rewinding the movie until you can do it in the space of about a second, then rewind it again at that same speed five more times.
• Take some time to enjoy not being afraid or upset any more.
Now for some notes. It’s essential that you remain impartial (emotionally detached) throughout the movie. If you find yourself still experiencing the fear, you’re going to have to experiment with it a bit until you get it right, especially if you have a very vivid imagination. Remember to stay in your seat and don’t become part of the movie till it’s over.
Some things you can try:
• play around with the submodalities; the ones I gave might be wrong for you.
• imagine that you’re in your seat sideways and watching out of the corner of your eye.
• imagine that your best friend/loved one is there watching it with you.
• imagine that there are a bunch of clowns in the theatre with you, or in the background of the movie (don’t do this if you’re afraid of clowns)
• imagine that the person in the movie is you but the person in the theatre is a stranger, or vice-versa.
• imagine that the movie has subtitles and/or silly piano music playing at the same time.
• imagine you’re driving along a highway and the movie is playing on a drive-in way off in the distance.
• imagine the screen is loose and flapping in the wind.
Be creative. This technique WILL work under the right conditions, but it’s different for everybody.
The Belief-Change Technique
NLP has a very fast technique for changing beliefs. It’s based on the observation that whenever a belief changes,
there’s a transition from state to state that looks like this:
Conviction -> Doubt -> Disbelief -> Open to a New Belief -> Uncertainty -> New Conviction
and the assumption that those states can be anchored just like anything else. Here’s the pattern:
• The technique involves six “stations”. When you’re first starting this, you should write out the stations on pieces of paper and arrange them in a circle for added visual effect. The stations are,
o Current Belief
o Open to Doubt
o Museum of Old Beliefs
o New Belief
o Open to Believing
o Sacred Place
• When you’re doing the imagining I’m going to talk about, make sure you feel the total experience - visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feelings)
• Stand at station 1 and think about your current belief, how it feels.
• Move to station 2 and think about something that you doubt, and how that feels. Now think about your target belief and how it feels to doubt it.
• Move to station 3 and think about a belief that you used to have but no longer have, and how that feels. Now think about your target belief and how it feels to no longer believe it. As you leave station 3, imagine that you’re leaving that belief behind in the museum.
• Move to station 4 and think about the new belief you want to have.
• Move to station 5 and think about something you don’t believe but are open to believing, and how that feels. Now think of your target belief and how it feels to be open to it.
• Move to station 6 and think about one of your strongest and most sacred beliefs and how that feels. Now think about your target belief and how it feels to believe it with the same conviction.
The New Behavior Generator
Once you’ve gotten rid of your negative beliefs and anchors, you’re ready to take on new behavior. You could just do this by practice, but you’re bound to fail and embarrass yourself for a while that way. The New Behavior Generator can help with that.
• find a model, either your imagined “ideal self” or someone you know that already has this behavior mastered.
• ask yourself “what beliefs does this behavior need to maintain itself?” Go through the processes I’ve discussed to make your beliefs congruent if you need to.
• Mentally rehearse the model from the outside first, then step inside it, walk around in it, see from those eyes, hear with those ears, feel with that body. Experience the new positive intention of the behavior and the positive rewards both in what is gained and in what is avoided.
• Go back in your life to a time when you (could have) learned this behavior and imagine that it became a part of you, then project back through the present and into the future.
• Practice doing this several times a day until you forget to mentally rehearse it because you find you are already doing it!
I can personally vouch for the NBG, because I have some experience with acting, which is very similar. When I do a play I tend to model myself after my character backstage as well as onstage, and the last time I did a play I noticed several women gravitating toward me, and I had all kinds of dating opportunities. It’s too bad that the effect didn’t last, but it was because I still believed in my shyness deep down. Now I know better! =)
I think the strategy of mental rehearsal is a very important one that we tend to overlook. We often fantasize about what it will be like once we have a significant other, but rarely do we imagine things like approaching people, starting conversations and asking for dates because these things are painful to us. Or if we do imagine those things, we tend to see the worst case scenario, which just makes us feel worse. Starting now, make it a habit to use the NBG, or at least visualize yourself socializing successfully, and dealing with rejection and embarrassment effectively.
Well, that’s everything. I think if you go back over all the strategies I talked about, you’ll notice that most of them are quick and easy. That’s because they attack the cause of the problem, not the symptoms. Now all you need is a little motivation to start using them regularly. I understand that you have reason to be skeptical about a lot of it (esp. NLP), but my advice is this: don’t trust the scientific authorities or anybody else, or even your own beliefs, conditioning and common sense. TRY THEM OUT, and trust your own senses. Test them yourself. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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