Change The Way You Think To Eliminate Social Anxiety
Did you know that you are “doing” social anxiety? It is actually a pattern that you run in your mind and body. Join Dr. Aziz as he interviews Brad Pendegraft, NLP expert and author of The Entrepreneurial Brain. Once you disocver exaclty how you are creating this pattern of social anxiety, you will have the insight needed to shift it rapidly.
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Learn more about our Guest Expert – Brad Pendergraft! Check out his website below to find out about his forthcoming book, workshops, and much more – click here.
Changing The Way You Think
This show is dedicated to helping you break free from whatever shyness, social anxiety, self-doubt, social fear is blocking you, blocking you from stepping up in the world, from taking on the next big thing, whether that’s a new project, a new career, moving to a new city, making new friends, starting a new relationship.
Wherever you’re stuck , wherever you’re held back, wherever you’re doubting yourself, this show is designed to help give you the tools and resources to break free of that.
And to spear that, today’s episode is all about changing the way you think. This is an incredibly powerful concept to get. Once you understand that you can change, you have the power to change the way you think, then your entire life can change.
Because if you can change — if you can change the way you think, then you can change your beliefs, you can change what you’re able to do, you can change the actions that you take in the world, and you can change how you feel about situations.
It’s incredibly powerful, incredibly useful skill to develop.
In fact, when I’m working with a client, or even before we start to work together, once I get a sense of what they’re facing or what their challenges are, I will share with them that there are two things that they must be willing to do in order to overcome whatever fears area holding them back, and that if they’re willing to overcome these two fears, then in my opinion, success is inevitable.
But if you’re not willing to do these two things, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to get what you want, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to overcome social fear, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to be bold or big in the world, and here’s what they are, and one of them relates to exactly what we’re talking about today.
The first thing you have to be willing is to be wrong. You have to be willing to be wrong. That means you have to be willing to acknowledge that perhaps the way you see the world, a belief you have about yourself or other people, maybe even the thoughts that pass through your mind about a certain social situation that you could be wrong. You could be dead wrong. You could be mistaken, you could be misperceiving.
And I find when we’re stuck in that place of wanting to be right, of wanting to you know, maintain our perspective at all costs like, “No, this is how it is, this is how it is for people,” then we’re lost.
I have one guy who wanted to work with me and he was sharing about some of his experiences, and he was highly successful in several areas of his life, in his career and other things. However, when he got outside of work, when it became to his social life, he was struggling, and one of the challenges was he didn’t have close friends, he didn’t have a girlfriend, he didn’t have a partner, he didn’t have lovers. He was lonely, and he wanted to reach out and he wanted to meet people, and he was a powerhouse at work, he’d get things done but he didn’t really have too many friends at work.
You know, he was the guy that got things done, but when it came to going to social events and gatherings, he had a lot of social anxiety, a lot of fear that held him back.
And so when I asked him about these events, I could hear in him a challenge with this first thing to be willing about, to be — to acknowledge that he was wrong. He was sort of like, “This is how it is. You know, when I get to a party, if I don’t know anyone, that’s going to be incredibly awkward.”
There is such a certainty in his voice. When I don’t know anyone at the party, that’s going to be incredibly awkward.
And notice the language. It’s not, “I feel awkward,” “I experience anxiety at a party. It is awkward,” implying that this is just how it is. And we went through the whole night, you know, imaginary, hypothetical party night, and the thing after another, it was like, “Am I supposed on the couch and turn to someone and just say, “Well, how are you doing today, you know, my name is blank. And that just ridiculous. I couldn’t say that. That is out of the question.”
So there is so much certainty and I actually told him at the end of our conversation, I said, “Well, I think you have a — tremendous — I think you have a tremendous capacity to grow and connect in these ways that you want. However, you have to be willing to be mistaken, to be wrong.” And we ended up having a very interesting discussion about that.
So that’s what I’m introducing to you today, is we’re going to be looking deeper into changing the way you think in this episode and the next one. We’re going to be doing an interview with Brad Pendergraft who is an incredible master practitioner of NLP, and if you don’t know what NLP is, you will learn in the interview, master of language, of changing the way you perceive the world by looking at your mindset and shifting that and changing your thoughts, and it’s masterful.
But if you’re not willing to be wrong, then you resist it all. You’re saying, “No, this is how it is, and even though it is crappy and I’m stuck and I’m lonely and I’m painful and I’m suffering, at least I know how it is, and no one’s going to tell me otherwise.” Then we get that small hint of significance of at least feeling right for a little while.
So I encourage you to let go of that for this episode and the next one. Just start to be questioning and be curious about your thoughts, about your mind.
And just in case you’re curious, the second thing that I require people to be willing to do in order to work with them and — because I believe it’s a necessity for change, is you have to be willing to eventually do the very things that you’re scared of. Talking to that person at the party, going to that party alone, interacting with that person you don’t want to.
Now, there’s a way to do that systematically and compassionately so you’re not just beating your head against the wall, but eventually, there’s some measure of challenging your fears is required.
So that’s what today is going to be about, how to question your thinking, how to change the way you think.
So we’re going to get into that in a minute in deep — in depth with our interview with Brad, but before we do, I want to take a moment to share something really fascinating that’s going to help you realize that you do have the power to shift the way you think.
You do have the power to shift shyness and social anxiety, and then you’re not stuck.
In fact, this is something that I often say, and if you’ve heard in earlier episode, I’m sure you’ve heard me say this, that social anxiety is not something that you’re just born with and stuck with forever. It’s actually a pattern that you can shift.
And I want to share a story today that recently just came out from Social Neuroscience. So legitimate purity journal that talks about the genetic underpinning of social anxiety and what it means, and this is a really empowering information that’s coming out right now.
So let’s take a moment to check out today’s top story.
Today’s Top Stories
A study recently came out in Social Neuroscience that talks about some research done by a fellow names Scott Stoltenberg, and here’s a breakdown of the research.
So there’s this gene they discovered called 5-HTTLPR triallelic, and the name is not very important, but this gene they say has been linked to social anxiety, and they were trying to find out how, and it turns out this gene affects the amygdala, which is a part of your brain deep, deep in the emotional centers of your limbic system that is monitoring the world for threats, that is keeping you aware, say of that car passing by, or you know, back and healed in time, some sort of predatory animal.
Now, part of your brain is attuned to that and is ready to deal with that. So the people with this particular gene activated are more sensitive to threats, and this included social threats. And if you’re scared if social threats, what do you have? You have social anxiety, social fear.
So you might be hearing that first part and saying, “See, I knew my problem was genetic. I was just born with a 5-HTTLPR triallelic and that’s all she wrote.” But hang on, this is what is further in the article on what Stoltenberg himself says, the guy who did this research.
He said he wanted to be very clear that this gene does not cause social anxiety. He said in a statement, “We’re not talking about any sort of disease state or disorder. There are many other genes as well as environmental factors in life experiences that influence social anxiety. In addition,” and here is the most fascinating part, “In addition, many people in this study have that gene dominant and did not have social anxiety.”
So this to me really highlights the reality that — I mean yes, we’re incredibly complex, and there are so many genes that are activated and turned on and dominant, recessive, that make up who we are, but that’s not all she wrote.
That two people could have the same gene dominant and one person could have social anxiety and one person could not.
And what’s the difference?
Well, my people might say there’s a strong component of the environment. In fact, there’s a whole field of genetics called Epigenetics where they look at, “Well, how does the environment determine what genes are actually turned off and on?” And more and more research is showing that it’s not just this is what you come into the world with, and that’s how you are no matter what.
That actually strongly influences — well, was you home environment safe growing up? Did people help you learn how to soothe and calm that sense of threat in your overactive amygdala?
And again, if the answers to that is no, you’re still not doomed. It’s not like, “Well, dang, I had that gene turned on and I had a rough childhood. So I’m toast.”
Now, the reality is you can always change your patterns, and that the only thing that stops you from beginning that process is the belief that you can’t do it.
And that’s why I keep coming to that again and again, and that’s the first thing I want you to change your thinking around, and it’s going to open you up a lot more to receive the benefits of what Brad has to say in his interview, because if you’re stuck in the place of I can’t change the way I think, then it’s going to be really hard to benefit from what he says.
But if you are open to it, then the — there’s no end to how much you can shift your experience from being shy and stuck and afraid of being vulnerable and lonely, to being connected and joyously relating to deep friendships and relationships.
So if you want to learn more about that, just go to Google and the name of the full article is Afraid to Help, Social Anxiety Partially Mediates the Association in between 5-HTTLPR Triallelic Genotype and Prosocial Behavior.
That is a mouthful but it’s pretty big on the interweb so you can find that.
So we’re going to take a brief break right now and then we’re going to get into this interview with Brad which — I mean, if you can, I would suggest even getting a sheet of paper and a pen, or opening up the documents on your computer because he shares so much powerful information about how to change your internal experience away from social anxiety to one of more confidence that is worth writing these things down, so you can actually apply them.
Check Out The Solution To Social Anxiety!
Hey. Dr. Aziz here, and I want to take a second to commend you for listening to this podcast. By listening to this, it shows me that you are taking your life and your destiny into your own hands.
When I started to do that over 10 years ago, everything shifted in my life, and what helped me more than anything else was to learn about shyness and how to overcome it starting with reading books, and I read a lot of books.
Some of them were pretty good, but I felt they lacked a real authentic look at the challenges facing men who are shy.
So I decided to write one. It’s called the Solution to Social Anxiety, and it lays out in clear simple language what causes us to feel anxious, and more importantly, what we can do about it.
It’s full of powerful tools, key insights, and illuminating stories from my own journey, and from the journeys of the clients I’ve been working with over these last years.
It’s an honest look at social anxiety from the inside out. I truly believe that it can help you on your path towards greater social confidence, and I strongly encourage you pick up your copy today.
You can get it on amazon.com in paperback or Kindle, and you can go to socialanxietysolution.com to find out more. That’s socialanxietysolution.com.
Expert Interview – Brad Pendergraft
We have our interview with a guest today, Brad Pendergraft, and I’m particularly excited about talking with Brad because I have had dozens of conversations with Brad, and I feel like there are so many different ways that I can engage with him, but one thing I haven’t talked about with him a whole lot is shyness and social anxiety.
And I — just from what I know about Brad, I’m willing to bet he has a wealth of knowledge to share in this subject.
Brad is licensed clinical social worker, and he’s been licensed for over 20 years, he can probably give me the exact number of how many, but well over 20 years, and he has done a wide variety of work as a therapist.
He’s worked with NYPD officers who were experiencing PTSD after 9/11, and — but in addition to being a therapist, he is also a business and entrepreneur, sort of a very well-rounded individual, and he’s helped build a multimillion dollar international mental health crisis response company.
And as if that’s not enough, he’s also a certified master practitioner of NLP and clinical hypnotherapy.
And for those of you who are not familiar, NLP stands for Nuero-Linguistic Programming which is something that we’re going to be getting into in our interview today, it’s a fantastic healing and transformation modality that can really help people overcome a lot of challenges including anxiety and shyness.
And one other thing about that, if you are familiar with NLP, there’s a wide range of ways that someone might become certified as a practitioner of that, on the lower end ranging from internet course or something. But Brad has been actually working with Steve Linder who’s one of the top NLP trainers in the country who’s worked with Tony Robbins, and every time I talk to Brad, he’s either just finishing something with Steve or about the start something new and has just an incredible depth of experience with this.
So I think we’re incredibly fortunate to have you on the line with us today, Brad. Thank you for joining us.
Brad Pendergraft: Well, thanks for being here. I’m really looking forward to it.
Aziz: Great. So let’s just jump in to the first question which is kind of broad, but I think you have really unique perspectives on mental, emotional challenges that people face, so I’m want to ask you broadly, what do you think social anxiety is.
Brad Pendergraft: It probably won’t surprise you that I have a little bit of a unusual take on that. You talked a little bit about my NLP background, and as you know, for the last couple of years, I’ve been particularly focusing on the brain and looking brain-based therapies and the amazing researches coming out of neuroscience, and we’re looking to use practical neuroscience with clients.
And so when I think of social anxiety these days, I use what I call a brain frame for it and almost anything else. So first thing then I’d say is I would tend not to use the label social anxiety, but here is what I think is going on and when people — for what people — so I’ll use air quotes around social anxiety —
Brad Pendergraft: Even though it’s obviously an accepted and established term. But here is what I think it is — first, it’s a overreaction of the sympathetic nervous system.
So firing off — simplistically, let’s just call it the fight or flight response, that is firing off in circumstances of personal interaction, or social interaction. Additionally, that by itself would not be enough to accomplish what I think people refer to as social anxiety.
The second thing that’s going on is an interpretation of those physical sensations, and people are labeling those sensations, “Look, I am anxious, I am upset, I’m panicking, I’m shy, I’m doubtful.”
So to accomplish the social anxiety from my perspective, I think it requires first a brain response — you can even call it a fear response in a social situation, and a labeling of the physical sensation of increased heart rate and in the little fluttering in the stomach that people often have, and the itching on the hands that’s the precursor to little sweaty hands.
They’re labeling of that as anxious or panicking, you know. So that’s what I think social anxiety — and you can tell I’m thinking about it in a certain sense from a behavioral description and then thinking about it from a physiological — the facts about what’s happening in the body.
Aziz: And do you have a sense of what might cause that fear response — a sympathetic response in the first place?
Brad Pendergraft: Yes I do, and that’s actually another really interesting thing that — there are two ways to answer that question. So I’ll get fancy here for a moment and then kind of break it down. I’d say we want to distinguish between the initial cause and the proximate cause, right.
So the initial cause is what people are often asking if I went on, and they say, “Well, how do that start?” or “why am I having this?” And the proximate cause is the, “How is it occurring now, what’s driving the process at any particular moment?”
And this actually goes into when I think — one of the things that I think is going on with a lot of emotional issues for people, but certainly for social anxiety or shyness, is that the original cause, the way that it happen initially is not at all what’s driving the process now, that these become habitual, becomes a habit.
And so the initial cause is very likely a set of experiences where people learn that in — almost always in childhood, learn in certain circumstances that they — that there’s a sense of threat or challenge, or — well threat is the best word, just coming back to that there’s a sense of threat in certain situations, and that gets again, simplistically speaking, that it gets wired in to a neuro-network where there’s a connection made between the experience of being around people and the experience of feeling threatened, feeling either emotional or physical threat.
And most commonly, emotional threat.
So I think that’s how it happens so to speak, that people start to learn it, and then what’s happening now in terms of proximate cause is that that’s become habitual and it’s been driven by the way I did — the way I described it, it’s been driven by the interpretation of that experience such that — and I think a lot of people think this is true of most what would be called anxiety disorders, that very often, people now are afraid of the physical experiences themselves.
They’re afraid of getting afraid. They’re anxious about getting anxious. Right?
Aziz: Yes I know. It’s — that one’s particularly interesting in social anxiety, is that there is a sense of, “If people knew I felt anxious, they would think even less of me.” And there’s more fear about that particular experience.
Brad Pendergraft: And that’s not a very calming thought process, is it?
Aziz: No. No, it’s actually — which leads to the way — another question I had for you because I think this might be from your NLP background, but I remember you telling one time, you said, “Aziz, people just aren’t depressed, they’re doing depression.” And I would love for you to say what you mean by that, particularly when it terms to — when it comes to say, being socially anxious, like well how is someone doing socially anxiety if it applies in that way?
Brad Pendergraft: It absolutely applies, and I’ll tell you that what I’m about to give you is what I consider to be a map or a framework, and just tiny tangent I think will help our listeners get a better understanding of how I’m thinking about these things is that — I think that any of the different frameworks that we bring to them, either clinical orientations or philosophical approaches, or even spiritual approaches, that it’s really useful to think of these as maps to the experience, that even the internal experience I think is there for people to realize that their own map, their own interpretation of what’s happening is always affecting what they experienced.
So this is one of the things about the brain that the brain being what we call a self-organizing system, meaning that whatever we’ve already thought, experienced, believed, that is there as we experience reality.
Any experience we have right now, it’s there, and it actually interprets our experience and guides the brain to what to pay attention to and how to prioritize it and how to connect it so we’re never working with a blank slate. But then as soon as that experiences happen, and now that experience of course is part of the experience in there, the self-organizing system, and so now, the next experience is filtered through that one as well.
So we’re always filtering it, and one of the big filters that we’re using the maps, the framework, the way we think of what’s going on.
And so I’m going to offer what I call a brain-based map, and it can be really useful to look at these different ways of thinking of thing and think of them as complimentary ways to do it, so like a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach, I’d think of as a CBT map.
It’s like, “Well, what does that map say about what’s likely going on here?” or you know, “What’s a psychodynamic map? I don’t happen to endorse any ways kind of psychodynamic approach, and it’s still helpful for me to look and say, “What would that map say about this,” because if all the maps say — to push the metaphor here, if I look at a whole bunch of different maps, and they all say there’s something at this location, the likelihood is there is something to that location. Even if some of them say it’s a mountain and some of them say it’s a gorge, and some of them say it’s a drop-off, they may disagree about the explicit things, but I think there’s something there.
All right, so why did I say all that? Well to think about the idea of doing social anxiety comes from an approach or a framework or a map that look at all of our experience, including our emotion as results that we are accomplishing.
And right up front, if you’re going to bring that map to the table, you have to say, “Hey you know, this is a different kind of map. It’s not looking at the same things you’re looking before,” because obviously, from a person’s perspective, it doesn’t feel like we’re doing anxiety, it doesn’t feel like we’re doing excitement.
It doesn’t feel like these emotions happen to us. But this map has explanations for why it feels that way and explains that in such a way that then would argue that it’s a helpful map to say whatever emotional results you’re getting, to think of them as a result especially when you can get them pretty reliably.
I mean, say, “Hey you know, look at me. I can reliably and consistently get the result of becoming anxious in this situation with people. Hey.”
Well, if that’s the case, once you start thinking about it as a result, then it’s — it gives — it does two things. First of all, it — just by doing that, it changes the way it feels, and then secondly, it starts to give some new perspective or information about what you would do about it, if you’re thinking, “Well, it’s not that I just get anxious. It’s that reliably, I apply certain approaches, I do certain internal experiences such that I get the result of these physical sensations that I have been calling anxious.”
Aziz: Can you say a little more about the things that someone might be doing the internal things that they might be doing?
Brad Pendergraft: You bet. nd you’ll notice that I did a couple things in that sentence. I focused on the things and then I also focused on the way that those internal — I like to call them strategies — those internal strategies result in sensations that the person has been labeling, because in a moment, if we have a chance to tell you a story about the way in which the labels and the sensations get tied together as if they were the same, but they can actually be separated.
And soon as you separate them, the person’s experience can really change.
But let me answer your question, and the question was, “What are the kind of internal processes that might result in an emotion like anxiety?”
There are a series of them — they’re — that’s like the bid dogs. There’s a whole bunch of little ones that can it, but there are a couple of processes that if anybody wants to change the results that they have been getting, the first thing they’d focus on is in fact that.
What we focus on, or where our attention is is a key mediator between the world and our brain. Well what does that mean?
What it means is that our attention or our focus determines the experiences that we have of the world. There’s always only so much that we can consciously process from all the information we’re getting.
There’s some estimates that we’re processing two to four millions bits of information per second in our brain. Our conscious mind, as we let people know, generally can hold in mind maybe five plus or minus two bits of information. You can chunk those in a way that maybe we can get about 100, 133 bits a second consciously that’s being affected in some way or another, which leaves all those millions of bits to be processed by the non-conscious part of our brain that processing our — right now, it’s keeping your blood flowing and your lungs breathing, and your spleen spleening, right?
It’s doing all that stuff.
Aziz: Whatever that organ does.
Brad Pendergraft: Exactly. But it’s doing all that and paying attention to processing it all the time.
So our focus, our attention is one of the primary things that determines which of those bits of information comes in at any particular time. So the same experience focused on, paid attention to in a different way, is very different.
Now this is true — well, one of them is context. We might think of context as, “Well no, that’s just the way it is,” but that’s not true.
Let me ask you a question.
So let’s suppose that right now, you’re having really sharp pain in your back, OK. You have a really sharp pain in your back. How likely is it that you’d be saying, “Wow, that really hurts, that’s so good, I’m so glad that that — that I’m feeling that.” How likely is it that you’d be saying that?
Aziz: Well, it hasn’t happened yet in my life, so pretty unlikely.
Brad Pendergraft: So I’m going to argue that actually it’s happened a whole bunch of times because what if that is happening during a massage, and the massage therapist’s arm or elbow right then is pushing on your back, right?
Same physical sensation, different context, and there are different focus, different attention, and so you experience that pain as completely different even though it can be pretty painful sometimes, right?
So back to the what are some of the internal processes that determine the creation of emotion that I would call doing social anxiety, I’d say what we’re focusing on is paying attention to it is one of the very first things.
And then there are three primary internal processes. One is what are we saying to ourselves about it? And not only what are we saying, but how are saying it? The internal dialogue, how we say things matters, that internal voice of, “Yes,” is it different? Is it very different experience than, “Yes, yes, yes,” right? That even internally, you can have the effect of tone and pace and all the things that we use our internal voice, sometimes people say, “My thoughts are racing,” right.
Well what does that mean? That just means that internally, their internal voice is really fast, and they associate that with feeling anxious, and for most people, it doesn’t occur to them to say, “Well then, maybe then I’ll slow down my internal voice,” because you actually can.
You can take manual override of your internal voice through doing things like speeding it up first and then slowing it down, and as you slow down, just practice seeing each word, the actual physical like the spelled word, like seeing it rolling across your visual field before you allow yourself to think it, and the thought processes start to slow down.
And when people did that, they almost always find that there’s a sense of calm that comes to them, and all they have done is take control of one of these processes, in this case the inner voice.
Aziz: What’s an example if someone might take control of that focus, let’s say they’re in a social situation, and they’re say just have introduced themselves or just started a conversation with someone, and then all of a sudden they’re focused on the other person and perhaps interpreting the other person as being disapproving or judging them?
That is all the time that we have for the interview for today. We’re going to get into the second half of that interview with Brad in the next episode which is even more important and revelatory than the first.
In fact, he’s going to go in depth into how you can shift your focus in a deep and powerful way. More ways to learn how to shift your focus which as you know can shift the way you feel, what you experience, and he shares a number of techniques and some very powerful stories.
So stay tuned next week for that episode, for the rest of that interview.
And in the meantime, before we wrap up today, there’s always one thing we got to do, which is your action step.
Time For Action
Aziz: All right. So here is what we’re going to with the action step. We’re going to relate it to the interview that some of us just heard with Brad, and that is — I love the way that he phrased social anxiety as a result.
So the first question I want to ask you is, “What results have you been getting in your life, especially your social life?”
And then here is where we’re going to do the action part. What actions, that means things that you do or do not do because not doing something, holding back, staying quite, that is an action. Inaction is an action. So what actions, things that you’ve done or do not do area leading to the results that you’re getting, and what could you do differently in a social situation or around your confidence, what could you do differently.
And then here’s the action part, pick one thing — you know, you might come up with five or something like that, but just pick one and do it. Doing one is much more important and significant than thinking of 5 or 10.
“I should try that, or I could try that, or maybe that would work.” No, just pick one and do it.
That’s your action step for today, and we’re going to get more in the interview next week. We’re also get more in depth into how to change the way you think — I’m going to give you a brief introduction into some of the most fundamental pieces of what’s called cognitive therapy, and you’re going to learn the top three just way we distort our thinking, the top three thinking errors that you, I guarantee, are making on a daily basis because we all do, that are really contributing to social anxiety, to fear, to self-doubt.
And then when you learn these things, you’re going to learn how to break free of them.
So we’re going to jump into that and the rest of the interview in this show next week. So stay tuned, and until we speak again, know that you’re awesome.