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Social tension and anxiety

answered 12:39 PM EST, Fri November 11, 2011
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I’m an educated and well read person with a wide range of interests and activities. When I am with family or close friends I have no trouble engaging in stimulating and enjoyable conversations, but as soon as I try to make any kind of conversation with a person I don’t know well, I always come across as some kind of idiot.

I don’t know why I get so tongue tied, but as soon as I am forced to make conversation with a stranger my mind always goes blank and I can never think of comebacks for little jokes and I generally just wish I could disappear. Since most conversations tend to go this way I try my best to avoid engaging with people beyond my immediate network of family and close friends…and this is not an ideal situation, I have come to realize, especially as my circle of close friends seems to be dwindling as people move away and yet is never replenished with new faces.

Are difficulties such as mine something that can be addressed through counseling? I wonder if I could learn to be less nervous and tongue tied through relaxation exercises or some sort of practice therapy, or maybe even medication.

Loren Gelberg-Goff Says...

Please let's start with the fact that this is a problem many people have.  You are not alone!  The first question I need to ask is whether or not you ever had a traumatic, stressful, negative experience in a social situation?  Often times, even when we are very young those feelings linger even when the event seems long forgotten and then the response to new social situations remain.  That said, counseling can be helpful in uncovering and understanding where this anxiety comes from.  Once something becomes a habit, your belief that you are anxious and tongue tied in new social situations becomes reinforced. This belief CAN be changed, modified even dissolved.

There are a number of options open to you that would prove to be helpful and productive in dealing with your stress and anxiety.  1. Counseling with hypnotherapy... get to the root of the problem and shift your belief about yourself from one that is you as the tongue-tied socially uncomfortable individual to a belief that you are exactly as you are in familiar situations... stimulating conversationalist, friendly, interesting, educated. etc/  You, in fact, possess these qualities, so you can learn to share them in new situations.  You can check out my website and access some of my meditations which will also work to relieve your anxiety... (www.wellfromwithin.com) (There are free ones available that you might find helpful overall...)

2. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) 

3. Joining (accessing) a therapy group that focuses on coping with life issues... You would be in a supportive setting with an experienced therapist/facilitator so you could practice speaking up in a group setting.

4. Joining a group through work, your place of worship, a hobby/interest so that you start with a common ground from which to grow your social comfort zone.  

5.  Neurofeedback...,. If some of your anxiety is rooted in your neural pathways, this can be modified through neurofeedback so that your reactions would not be present and you'd be better able to handle new situations. This works really well in conjunction with therapy.

I do hope that these suggestions are helpful to you.  Please feel free to contact me should you have any additional questions or need further clarification on any of the above suggestions.  I wish you all the best. Loren

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Page last updated Nov 11, 2011

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