Something was missing. I had just spent the better part of a week contemplating my situation and still couldn’t put my finger on the reason for my failure. One thing was certain – It would take more than exposures (no matter how small) to break this cycle. I thought I was on the right track with my incubation approach – and I actually was – its just that I hadn’t prepared myself personally.
Well, as it turns out, I was the problem – and this revelation didn’t come to me until about a week after I had stopped the exposure experiments. Let me explain:
Ive always had a problem walking through malls – All those people just freaked me out. I usually stared at the ground and allowed them to think I was some kind of loser – at least this is what I had convinced myself of. Never looking up and around, I allowed my own imagination to create my reality. Where did I get the info? Why, my warped belief system, that’s where!
On the day we were walking through the mall, my brother asked if everything was alright. I told him it was, but I’m sure my outward image suggested otherwise. We never talked about social anxiety because I didn’t want to appear weak. I know he always suspected there was something wrong with me because of how quiet I became in public. He may have assumed it was depression or one of the better known mental afflictions, because I doubt if social anxiety is well known among non-sufferers.
I didn’t want him to see me like that, so with all the determination I had, I forced myself to look up. Initially, I didn’t look directly at people, just any available object that was at eye level. I felt sick with anxiety and my head wanted to drop back down to its comfort zone, but I wouldn’t allow it. I was going to walk through the mall with my brother like normal people do.
It was so exhausting keeping this up, but my brother seemed to notice and I thought I detected a change in him, he seemed less worried and seemed to be in a better mood. I, on the other hand, felt like passing out.