An Approach to Approach Anxiety
For the new year I thought I’d tackle one of the first problems people experience within game and slowly move through the topics throughout the rest of 2009.
Are you afraid of approaching someone you like through a fear of rejection?
Do you get that horrible feeling in your stomach and begin to formulate 100 reasons why someone wouldn’t want to talk to you?
This is a lot more common than you would believe. There are a number of different products out there which will supposedly “fix” the fear of approaching strangers, especially ones you are attracted to. However, few of them take the time to understand why we have that fear in the first place. If you understand why you have this fear or anxiety, you can take steps to counter it. This is probably the biggest topic when it comes to understanding attraction. Well, that is to say, it is the one that most people have the biggest problem with. I constantly receive the same excuses time and time again when it comes to this subject.
1) I’m scared of approaching
2) I have a fear of rejection
3) They aren’t in the mood to be spoken to
4) She won’t think I look good enough
5) I can’t meet people in a park/cinema/night club
6) I’m not good enough for him/her
7) There’s no point, it won’t work
These are probably the most common reasons I am given as to why someone can’t approach, or the feeling that is preventing them from approaching. The fact that these are so prevalent is because they are all based on very real psychological factors to do with learning and behaviour.
Anxiety is defined by Seligman, Walker and Rosenhan (2001) as a physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These factors essentially make up the feelings that we experience as fear, apprehension, and worry.
There are some physical sensations that you will probably be aware of such as heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, shaking and perhaps headaches. These may be common to you. Some people will disguise these by making a decision not to approach. This will relieve the sensations and instead leave a sort of “numbness” to the situation.
Sigmund Freud himself believed that these anxious feelings were created by an association between a past negative experience and the current situation. These associations are often false and not related through causality – the idea that one situation directly affects another, but through correlation – one thing “tends to affect another over repeated attempts.”
When people begin to see this correlation as a fact, it is commonly referred to as “Magical Thinking.”
There are two governing principles behind magical thinking. The first is the law of similarity which is the notion that things that resemble each other are casually connected in some way that defies scientific testing.
Here people will typically see vertical columns of squares and circles as opposed to horizontal mixed rows of squares and circles.
The second law is the law of contagion which is the belief that “things that have been in physical contact or in spatial or temporal association with other things retain a connection after they are separated.” Contagion effects have been noted to be more effective with negative associations than with positive ones. This is probably best explained by the notion of getting “bad luck” or having a bad time every time you go to a specific venue.
Freud believed that the anxiety or fear was maintained through a form operant conditioning. Essentially the feeling of anxiety is reinforced every time you are in a similar situation. You then “learn” to remove the negative feeling of anxiety by not approaching. These connections of patterns, or “magical thinking,” are common throughout all the human societies across the world. The human brain is adept at forming these patterns, though we do not have a particularly good system for distinguishing between real and perceived connections. Theoretically this is due to a simple survival tactic. If we notice rustling behind a bush it is better for us to assume it is some form of threat and begin to prep our bodies to defend ourselves rather than ignore it and risk being eaten.
Our fear or anxiety response is actually designed to help us survive in a fight or flight scenario. Believe it or not the symptoms detailed earlier are all beneficial to us in times of survival. Perspiration occurs to help cool us down, heart rate increases to improve blood circulation and muscles tighten as they are filled with oxygen in preparation for use. Unfortunately these are not particularly beneficial when we are looking for something witty to say during a conversation with someone.
In short we learn the fear through a number of negative experiences and then reinforce them by not doing anything about it. The bodies natural reaction towards a fearful situation is the feeling we associate with approach anxiety or the fear of the approach. The way to overcome this is to reverse the learning.
All of the common problems detailed above can be directly related to either “magical thinking” in the form of a false belief that failure is almost certain due to some form of connection to a previous situation that failed. Or pure fear learnt and reinforced by not approaching. These are both forms of self fulfilled prophecy i.e. Unless you actively do something to fix it they will continue to support themselves. The good news is that this problem is far from unfixable.
The bad news is that it does take time. The easiest way to fix this is to actually go out and meet new people. The problem is that when you do this, any negative experience you receive is likely to reinforce the previous attitude or fear you had before. As I’ve mentioned before one of the easiest ways to get around this is to simply meet people for the sake of meeting people.
Most of us are actually more than happy to talk to other people, especially on boring long journeys, or when waiting in a long queue. Get used to talking to absolutely everybody, male or female, young and old. This should help you generate a great deal of positive responses to your approaches and help curb some of those negative connections.
I hope this helps guys,