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Disclaimer: No Copywrite infringement. We do not own the video clip by Bessel van der Kolk. If you want to watch the full video of his interview, check out this link: https://youtu.be/0jio1T1p5pU
The are numerous studies that link the correlation between childhood traumatic experiences to having severe social anxiety.
And this is not just a drama that other people might think, it is the TRAUMA that we feel during those past experiences.
And in this episode, Sebastiaan will be sharing with you how your emotional brain (AKA your limbic system) stores the negative and traumatic experiences, and how it can also help you resolve your emotional issues.
You will also be hearing Dr. Bessel van der Kolk on how your limbic system can also help you to resolve all the trauma.
I’m a former social anxiety disorder sufferer. And in my journey to go from social anxiety to social confidence, I’ve had to work through, process, and heal a lot of trauma.
And as a Social Confidence Coach, I’ve been guiding clients since 2009 to overcome their social anxiety.
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients, and there hasn’t been a single one with whom I didn’t address trauma.
Now, on top of that, there are several studies that link childhood traumatic experiences with the onset of severe social anxiety.
So to resolve social anxiety, you’re highly likely going to be working on resolving trauma.
And to do that, you need to work on a deeper level than just the thinking mind. That’s because of what I’ve been saying, for many years — Social anxiety is predominantly an emotional issue.
And so to resolve social anxiety, you for the most part need to be working with the emotional brain, AKA the limbic system. Which is the deeper part of your brain buried under the neocortex – the thinking brain.
Working with the limbic system is essential in order to heal trauma.
Let’s listen to what Bessel Van Der Kolk has to say about it. He’s one of the world’s leading trauma experts. He’s a researcher, a New York Times best-selling author. And he’s been working with people with trauma and has been helping them for the past 40 years. Here we go.
So much trauma is in the limbic system. All these areas have to do with danger, safety, and perception of the world get changed. Most of the therapies I’m recommending here are limbic system therapy. It’s not about understanding and figuring things out, that’s not really where the trauma sits, trauma sits in your automatic reactions, your dispositions, and how you interpret the world. In order to rewire these automatic perceptions you need to have deep experiences that for your survival brain contradict how you are now disposed to think.
Now, what he’s saying here is that trauma changes the way that you perceive the world. Your sense of safety and danger gets altered.
Now, let me ask you this question:
How safe do you feel in a social situation?
Are there any people or circumstances that make you feel threatened?
How safe do you feel freely being yourself?
See what I mean?
Social Anxiety is very much linked to trauma.
Social Anxiety happens as a result of your brain perceiving threats. This then activates the fight-flight-freeze response, a cascade of responses gets activated, adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream, your heart rate starts to increase, your pupils dilate, so it can scan and see the danger and look for escapes, your mind gets over-focused on the worst case scenario, you might start to sweat, you might lump in your throat or tightness in your chest.
And all of these symptoms are what psychologists at one point have labeled social anxiety.
But what is it that starts that perception of threat?
Very often, that is trauma.
Now, sometimes, you might have picked up that perception from your parents. So it’s like things that happen over and over and over and we model so we started to adopt the view of the world from our parents. But very, very often, like I said, In the beginning, it is trauma.
And Dr. Van Der Kolk implies, this trauma is unlikely to get resolved by therapies focused on reasoning and insight alone.
Instead, the most effective treatments focus on working with the limbic system, the emotional brain.
And this is exactly my experience.
Overcoming social anxiety is mostly an emotional journey.
Now sure, often someone’s thinking isn’t realistic, it’s irrational. And so yes, insights, re-frames, different perspectives, shifting of the mindset, challenging negative thoughts, all of that can bring relief.
But no amount of better thinking is going to undo these automatic emotional reactions.
When you’re in a social situation. You can be as logical as you want. You can be as positive as you as you can be. And you can practice positive thinking all day long until you’re blue in the face.
But when you’re in a social situation, and your brain perceives a threat, your logical brain will get hijacked by your emotional brain.
Trauma gets activated, you’ll relive the negative emotions and you’ll experience anxiety.
And no amount of logic is going to stop that from happening. You simply cannot out-think your social anxiety.
If logic was the answer, you’d been free of your social anxiety a long time ago.
Now challenging negative thoughts can bring relief and perspective. And I definitely recommend that.
However, that all happens in the thinking brain. And so, that is not going to resolve the deeper trauma-related feelings and emotionalized perceptions.
And these are a much bigger problem. These are the ones that get triggered in social situations.
Now, to stop these automatic emotional reactions from happening, you need to work on a deeper level.
1. The traumatic emotions need to be processed
2. The learning from the trauma that formed the belief that’s now causing you to perceive threats socially needs to be shifted.
3. And your rehearsed, negative projections based upon the trauma need to be let go off.
That is the deeper work and it happens in the limbic system.
Now how do you do that? Let’s listen to Dr. Van Der Kolk again.
In order to rewire these automatic perceptions you need to have deep experiences that for your survival brain contradict how you are now disposed to think.
Now what he’s saying here is that you need to target the part of the brain that is feeling and reacting automatically – the emotional brain. And that you then need to create a new experience that contradicts the lesson that was learned from the original trauma.
Let’s hear him give an example.
For example, if you grow up in an unsafe environment where anyone can do anything to you unless you yell at them. That this feeling of helplessness then becomes your disposition. But if you then become a martial artist and you have the true experience from actual practice that you can kick anyone’s ass, this feeling of “I’m always helpless” will dramatically change.
And he then says that you cannot do this abstractly. You need to have experiences that directly contradict how your body is disposed of.
Now hearing this might lead you to think “OK, I got bullied and learned I’m a loser socially”. And therefore, I need to gradually force myself to face my fears. And in doing so gather positive social experiences, to prove that I can handle this approval and that I’m a winner socially. And then I’m actually acceptable.
And a lot of psychologists will advise you to do exactly that.
And you know what? It works for some people to some degree. However, it’s also incredibly scary and awkward to do.
And it’s too scary and awkward for many. And as a result of that, they don’t do it because they feel that they can’t do it. And because they don’t do it, it is recommended as the solution. Now they also judged themselves to be weak, not strong enough or broken beyond repair, there’s permanently something wrong with me, hopelessness, and it exacerbates the problem and makes it worse.
Plus, for a lot of people that do manage to force themselves to go into these social situations (which I’ve done myself), it is very difficult to gather positive social experiences, because you’re so anxious.
Socializing when you’re anxious is very difficult because your brain is in survival mode.
It’s perceiving a threat. And your system is optimally energized to fight the threat, to run from it, or to freeze! And your heart’s racing, you’re lumping your throat, your mind focusing, and all these disasters. And now you’re supposed to be funny, be truly interested, be interesting.
All of these social skills that you normally have access to when you feel comfortable are not there, or at least they’re very limited.
And you do not feel safe, being your true self socially, when you’re feeling socially anxious, and that makes it impossible to properly deeply connect with people.
And therefore it’s very hard to gather these positive social experiences.
And yet, despite all these difficulties, some manage to do exposure therapy and reduce their social anxiety.
However, the fear never goes away completely. They felt the fear and they did it anyway over and over and over, but they’re still dealing with social anxiety.
Now ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ came out in the 80s. And it’s great, it works for a lot of things. But there are alternatives that are both more efficient, and more gentle.
With these other approaches, you will still face your fears. But you will face them internally, mostly from the comfort of your own home.
This will trigger automatic reactions in the limbic system, it will activate the negative emotions in the limiting beliefs. And these can then be processed in a safe way.
So what are these alternative approaches? What are these limbic system-focused approaches?
Well, actually, there are many, and I’ve tried a ton of them. And I find my personal favorite is energy psychology, and in particular tapping, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), and especially intention tapping that is created by psychologist Steve Wells.
Now EFT is scientifically proven to be effective. There are 102 studies backing up its effectiveness. It’s in the top 10 most researched psychotherapy practices. And it meets the standards of evidence-based treatments set by the American Psychological Association for a number of conditions, including public speaking anxiety, test anxiety, and PTSD. And those three are all very much related to addressing social anxiety.
So tapping is very effective for resolving social anxiety.
With it, you can process stuck negative emotions, heal trauma, shift the limiting beliefs learned from it, and neutralize the negative fantasies related to socializing. It is amazing.
You imagine a particular feared social scenario, and you apply the tapping technique. And as you do, you’ll begin to process the stuck negative emotions. You will be able to shift the limiting beliefs and learn from them.
And bit by bit step by step, you’ll begin to reduce and neutralize the shame, the insecurity, the awkwardness, the fear, the anxiety, the tension, and you’ll start to feel more and more calm and at ease.
By imagining in the comfort of your own home, feared social situations, you’ll activate associated trauma reactions. And this will bring up emotions and beliefs and fantasies that the tapping then begins to neutralize.
This then brings you back into the present moment, you’re no longer reliving the past, you’re in the here and now. And you’ll be able to even imagine the formerly feared social situation and feel completely neutral.
Now, this is a deep experience that Dr. Van Der Kolk talks about, that directly contradicts the original trauma experience.
And you will now even be able to imagine your social situation in the way that you want it to go realistically, and deal with any other obstacles or worries, or concerns that might come up for you.
So this way, you can have a positive social experience in advance of going into that social experience in the real world. And that makes it more likely for it to occur in reality.
When this is done properly, clients often report things like:
“I actually felt normal during the meeting”
“The anxiety wasn’t there. I was so surprised. I even looked for it, but I was just calm. Amazing”
“When I got home I reflected back on my experience and noticed I hadn’t gotten triggered. And I didn’t even notice it until I thought of it.”
“I was on my way to a social event, and instead of the usual dread and worry, I felt calm. And I actually looked forward to it. An amazing feeling.”
Now, this still isn’t a quick-fix solution. Because a lot of people, they’ve been dealing with social anxiety for a long time. And so there’s a lot to tap on. But this approach is very gentle. It’s easy to use, and by applying it in the right way, you can expect to progressively reduce your social anxiety until there is no social anxiety left – you can overcome it completely
Because by neutralizing the trauma, you will be shifting around the perception of threat. And when there is no longer perception of threat, there’s no longer activation of the fight-flight-freeze response and you can feel safe being your true self around others.
Now, probably sounds too good to be true. And I am by you to inspire yourself to be inspired to go check out the many video testimonials of former clients on my YouTube channel.
And you’ll be able to hear them share things that you can relate to. And you’ll see, ‘”wow, this is the real deal”. And then you’ll hear how their lives are now, which will be tremendously inspiring to you.
Now, I’ll this message by saying, overcoming social anxiety is a journey, it’s the journey to social confidence.
You can get relief pretty quickly when you apply it in the right way. And a lot of people can, by daily applying the tapping, expect a reduction in their social anxiety within just a couple of weeks of using it.
However, to get free of it completely requires addressing the traumatic experience shifting the beliefs, and addressing the fantasies. And that will take time.
So there’s effort, energy, dedication, and the focus required in order to get to that place. But look, what’s the alternative, doing nothing? Now you have a technique where you can learn about this technique. And then you can apply the technique in order to mostly from the comfort of your own home, begin to shift everything that’s in the way of you feeling at ease, being your authentic self with others.
So learn more about trauma, learn more about tapping, discover how to apply it to overcome social anxiety, and persist, get outside help where you need it. And keep going. This is worth it. This is worth your time. This is worth your focus. This is worth your energy.
You deserve to be yourself socially, it’s not your fault that you’re dealing with this. It’s mostly a result of trauma, that trauma can be resolved by addressing things on an emotional level by working with the emotional brain, not just with the thinking brain.
You got this, you can do this.
Now. If you want to inspire yourself, go check out one of these video testimonials of former clients right now and be inspired and help yourself take things to the next level. Because when you see someone else talking about problems that you are having, and you see that they’re free of it, that will help you go like ‘wow, maybe there actually is hope for me.
And there really is hope for you.
Alright, talk to you very soon. Bye for now.