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Why You Can't Overcome Shyness With Logic
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Why You Can\'t Overcome Shyness With Logic

We've all been there at some point in our lives. You know, that feeling of...

"Oh s%&t, I think I will die of embarrassment, what will she/he/they think?"

...normally after doing something pretty stupid (in our eyes at least).

Now imagine this:

You haven't even 'done' the deed (whatever the deed happens to be), and yet you have these same feelings. You imagine how it would be, if you did something stupid, and what she/he/they would think about you, and how that would make you feel. Then you just go right ahead and feel it.

But does it make sense? Look at all the 'woulds' and 'ifs' in the passage above. At the level of logic, it doesn't seem to make much sense. I mean, when you stop and think about it, does it make sense to make up a scenario in our head and then feel bad about the imagined outcome?

Yet this is exactly the sort of thing that often runs through the head of those who we describe as shy. Maybe you are one of those individuals, and if you are -- I can empathize with you.

Because, here's the thing, these patterns of thought do have logic - but the logic isn't based on what people describe as our rational brain. It's based on an entirely different sort of logic - the logic of our 'unconscious' mind.

"What do you mean?" I here you say!

I've listed a couple 'rules-of-thumb' straight from the manual for your brain - the unwritten rules that nobody really ever teaches us. They go some way to explaining shyness, anxiety, fear etc. And as you read the rules, realize this; the feelings themselves aren't bad - they are there to keep us safe. It's just that we sometimes get trapped in internal 'imagine-feeling' loops that go around and around...

So, what are the rules?

  1. The organizing principle of the unconscious mind is emotion - not time.
  2. The unconscious mind cannot distinguish between a real and an imagined scene - at least not in terms of how you respond to it emotionally.

You see, our conscious minds arrange all experiences via the thread of time, so there is a cause-n-effect logic to how we perceive of as reality. With the unconscious mind, time doesn't exist. Our experiences are arranged via the thread of emotion, so experiences that can seem quite disconnected might be right next to each other (conceptually) if they happen to evoke the same feeling.

"There I am, walking down a country lane, the wind is starting to whistle through the power-lines, I hear a skylark shrilling above me and the sound of new born lambs - and I get a whiff of gorse ... and suddenly I have been transported 40 years into the past walking down a country lane as a 5 year old with exactly the same feelings" ... see, these 'experiences' have become linked - not by time but by the exact emotion that they both evoked. That's the unconscious mind at work!

Now combine this with the second rule-of-thumb. If you imagine a scenario intensely enough (with pictures. sounds, smells even) - your unconscious mind will quite happily respond to the scenario and evoke a whole range of emotions - as if it were really happening - it doesn't know the difference.

And this is why being shy can (for some) be a debilitating condition - because we imagine a made-up scenario that triggers lots of negative feelings, and we respond to it by withdrawing, or avoiding or being so self-conscious that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you really want to overcome shyness (or any other unproductive emotional state like a phobia, anxiety, fearfulness etc.) - the last approach you want to tackle it with is 'logic' - at least the logic of the conscious mind. I would encourage you instead to explore some of the other options out there - therapy, NLP, CBT, hypnosis, or even self-help techniques, e-books, books, coaching etc.

In my next article, I'll provide some tips for overcoming shyness, which you can play with in your own time.

Street Talk

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