Posted by fxckfeelings on October 9, 2014Share This Post
Fear, like high school and colonoscopies, is an uncomfortable-yet-necessary part of life. Problems arise, however, when fear either becomes excessive, thus limiting our life experiences, or insufficient, thus opening us up to dangerous experiences that could end our lives entirely. If your fear level is set too high or too low, draw on your experience and values to decide what actions are necessary, then manage your fear accordingly. You may not be able to change your fear level or the amount of dis/comfort it entails, but you can definitely prevent fear from changing your life for the worse.
I am very afraid of presenting in front of the class. I start to shake and stutter and it really happens automatically and I can’t do anything about it. Even when I don’t have to present, I always feel nervous and shy. I’m actually very afraid to talk to someone at my school even if it’s another student. Do you have any advice I can use? My goal is to be able to talk to people and stand up in from of the class without looking like an idiot.
Talking to people, especially in school, is more dangerous than most people think; one false word, sneeze, or pop culture reference, and before you know it, you’re saddled with a humiliating (possibly sneeze-related) nickname for the rest of your life or an open invitation to get your ass kicked. So, when your brain floods you with nervousness whenever you try to speak up, it’s actually trying to protect you from a dangerous activity.
Unfortunately, that fear may make you shake and stutter, thus attracting humiliation, thus proving your brain is right and making you terrified to open your mouth again, etc., perpetuating the safety/silence cycle.
You haven’t done anything wrong to make yourself nervous; you are just extra sensitive to the risks of embarrassment and rejection in school life, and you may have good reason. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t easy to make severe nervousness go away, and if you avoid class presentations and social contacts until you start to feel better, you may not learn much or talk to anyone for a long time.
Decide for yourself whether educating yourself and meeting people are worth the pain of feeling nervous, and if you think they are (and we’d agree with you), then there are lots of ways to prevent your nervousness from getting in your way.
Yes, when you go ahead and do something that scares you, you’ll feel worse at first and sometimes you’ll get criticized and humiliated, which hurts worse and for a longer time. If you push ahead anyway, however, you will eventually get better at doing whatever it is frightens you, and your fear will start to diminish. That’s the way you get better at anything, from playing piano to speaking foreign language to making soufflés.
Help yourself by finding a good therapist/coach and practicing what you’re going to say. Ask them to teach you relaxation methods, like meditation, self-hypnosis, and biofeedback. Discuss the things you’re most afraid to encounter and prepare a response. If these methods aren’t enough and you think more is necessary, there are medications that can help and, by and large, their risk is low. Unfortunately, the only way you can find out how much good they can do and whether they have side effects is by trying them, which will require some courage, as well.
The kind of severe nervousness you experience is painful and sometimes impossible to get rid of, but it never has to stop you from doing whatever you think is important. Don’t let the fear of what could possibly happen in school stop you from exploring your potential and having the best possible future.
“I feel nervous all day at school and wish I wasn’t there, but I’m brave enough to show up and I will try to get what I want, which is an education and a social life. I may not be able to speak up without fear, but I will speak up when I must and will not let fear control my life.”
I always admired my husband for being the life of the party and never being afraid to say what he thinks or talk to anyone, no matter who they are. Over the last few years, though, he’s started drinking more, and when he becomes drunk, he goes from fun to insulting. He forgets about it afterwards, but I’ve been at parties with him where, if it hadn’t been for my apologizing and pulling him away, he would have gotten beaten up. My goal is to get him to realize that too much drinking can get him and his loud mouth in danger, and that he needs to change.
Usually it’s good for overly anxious people to partner up with those who are under-anxious; the under-anxious add spontaneity, friendliness, and fun, while the over-anxious watch for danger and make sure the taxes get paid on time. It helps both members of the team.
Alcohol, however, is basically the under-anxious partner that he teams up with, and with the two of them together, the voice of over-anxious reason is outnumbered. Now, the less anxious he gets, the more trouble he gets into, and the more anxious you have cause to be. If you tell him to watch out and take better care of himself, he and his booze get together and raise hell again.
All you can do is ask yourself whether trying to protect him from his drinking behavior is doing more harm than good. Fortunately, the answer is easy, because it’s doing him no good and causing you harm. Then, instead of pleading or warning, let him know where you stand.
You respect his ability not to worry when there’s no need, but you think he’s never been good at recognizing danger when it’s real—that’s been your job—and that alcohol has made his danger-blindness much, much worse. You hope you’re wrong, but, if you’re right, there are alcohol-related injuries coming in his future. Then stop the conversation and leave the room.
By limiting your conversation to prophecy, you take no responsibility for the outcome and keep the tone from becoming blaming. When trouble arrives, you can tell him you think you’re right without implying that you expect him to agree or actually saying “I told you so.”
Don’t blame him for a blindness he may not be able to control. Just hope that he has the ability, when there’s no one to argue with and only the booze that has his back, to remember your words and recognize their truth.
“I can’t stand watching my husband walk blindly into horrible danger, but I know he won’t see danger until it comes up and smacks him in the face. Instead of distracting him with my worries, I will offer him my wisdom and hope he’s able to learn from experience.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname