Discover A Scientifically Proven Technique For Breaking Through Shyness And Social Anxiety
There is one approach to blasting through shyness and social anxiety that has been scientifically proven to work. It’s been studied and tested with thousands of people, of all ages, races, and genders. It works for virtually everyone.
Join Dr. Aziz as he interviews Dr. Robin Zasio, of the hit A&E show Hoarder’s and Animal Planet’s My Extreme Animal Phobia. They discuss the exact steps of life-changing exposure work used to help people rapidly overcome social fears.
Click below to hear this episode!
Learn more about what Special Guest Dr. Robin Zasio is up to!
The Power Of Exposure
Welcome to another episode of Shrink for the Shy Guy. Today’s episode is going to be focused on the single most powerful thing that you can do to increase your confidence, to overcome shyness, social anxiety, fear, self-doubt, the single most powerful thing that you can do to radically transform your level of confidence in your life and then therefore your entire life.
If you think about it, if you have a higher level of confidence, if you believe in yourself more, then you’re obviously going to do more.
You’re going to try more things, you’re going to take more risks, you’re going to go for those things that really matter to you, you’re going to follow your dream and you’re going to have a much higher quality of results in your life in a much higher quality ultimately of your life.
So what is this thing? What is this one single thing that can singlehandedly turn you from a place of doubt to confidence? And that is exposure.
Exposure; and you’ve heard me talk about something like this in episodes past and if you go to my, the Social Confidence, in our website, this is a theme that runs through everything and that’s because it is so damn effective.
Basically exposure means exposing yourself to the thing that you’re scared of. Doing the thing that you’re worried about or you’re frightened of and seeing what happens, it means turning that fear of if I open my mouth people are going to think I’m an idiot into an experiment.
What happens when I open my mouth? In nine times out of 10, the vast majority of the time the results that you are predicting the negative results do not happen. And, you know, one, two times out of 10, something negative does happen, probably not as bad you’re imagining but something negative happens and then you have the powerful experience of learning to manage it, to deal with it, how do I handle rejection, how do I handle a no or disappointment or failure?
However you define that term which I can get into at later day, my thoughts on the term failure but the challenge is, how do I turn this towards my advantage, because that’s often what happens, right, as we work up the courage to try, we expose ourselves.
And if it goes well, ooh, alright, I made it but if it goes poorly, what do we do? Well, often and this is what I use to do a lot is I would implode on myself. Oh that was terrible, I shouldn’t have done that, I’m never going to do that again, that was so awkward, why did I even try that, urgh?
But a lot of the time and you might be in a situation right now and I want you to examine your own life but a lot of the time we don’t even get to the point of trying. We have a closed loop cycle. I know what’s going to happen, in my mind I know what’s going to happen if I try, I know how people are going to respond so then I’m not going to try and then I further reinforce that that’s what have happened and just stay, it’s all inside of our own heads.
We don’t interact with the actual outside world, we don’t see how people really respond, we just stay in our own predictions, expectations and ultimately in our own fears. And so that’s why exposure is such a powerful way to break out of this. And I can basically predict how rapidly someone is going to improve and I work with them one-on-one, based upon their willingness to expose themselves.
And really it comes down to two things when it comes to exposure. And this is what determines someone’s progress if it’s quick or if it’s a long time, if they have radical gains in a month or it takes them a year.
The Two Aspects Of Exposure
And the determining factor is exposure but it’s these two aspects of exposure.
One, it is the level of risk they’re willing to take; the bigger risk that they’re going to take, the bigger the risks, the more rapidly they will increase their confidence. So if walking down the street and making eye contact with people is — is there a certain level of risk there, right?
You know, they could look away, they could grimmest at you, maybe even fake punch you, have never seen that happen but that could happen, there’s a risk there. But what about going up and talking to a stranger? It’s a higher level of risk, right?
What about walking over to an attractive woman that you’re drawn to, that you want to get to know and you don’t know her at all, she doesn’t know you and you’re just going in there and inserting yourself and seeing if there’s a connection that’s an even higher level of risk, isn’t it?
What about asking that woman out? What about volunteering to take on a new project at work that involves speaking in front of a group of people? What about approaching a superior or a supervisor with your own initiative of a project? Not only, not just getting assigned to you but actually creating something and bringing it someone.
What about creating your own business, I mean these are all higher and higher level of risks, aren’t they? And the level of risk that you are able and willing to take will determine how rapidly you succeed and how quickly you grow your confidence.
The bigger the risks the bigger the confidence boost. Even if the risk turns out negative, I’ve heard this so many times from clients, they say you know what, she didn’t want to talk to me but I felt good about trying. I mean I walked right over to her and I was bold and I started a conversation and that feels good.
So the more risk your going to take, the better you’ll feel even if they don’t turn out the way you want them to.
And the second element of exposure that determines how quickly someone grows their confidence, in addition to the size of the risk is the rate of risk you’re willing to experience. The rate of risk, how quickly are you willing to put yourself into another situation that is uncomfortable at pushing your edge? And I had one client who were starting to work, he developed confidence in a number of areas, he was able to speak in front of a group, he was able to create a friendship network and he’s really progressing well.
But the final frontier, for most man, myself included is woman. Oh my, you mean, you want to be assertive with women? It’s terrifying. And so we were starting to work on that and he told me flat out, you know Aziz, I will — I can — I’ll try this stuff, okay?
I’ll do it but if ask a woman out and she says no to me, I can’t try again for another three months. I said, three months, I mean he said it as if it was a like rule or a matter of fact or just how the world was as opposed to a self-created limitation. I said, three months, why, why three months? Well that’s how long it will take me to get over it.
So his rate, you think about that, if you’re going to ask a woman out once every three months or if you’re like me when I was in high school and college, it was once every six months, once a year, maybe, probably once a year on average.
What is that range of risk? And how quickly are going to increase your confidence and really get what you want which is in this case for me it was dating but it could be any goal or dream or desire that you have, the rate at which you’re willing to put yourself out there and then hence the powerful quote by Winston Churchill which I’m going to paraphrase which is,
“Success is going from failure to failure with no lack of enthusiasm.”
And that means we’re able to able to just put ourselves out there. And if you are able to turn towards someone and if she says no and then five minutes later, go talk to someone else, then the likelihood of your success, the rate of your success dramatically improves.
And so I’m particularly excited today because we are actually be going to an interview with a woman, a psychologist, a doctor, a teacher, and she is — and so many things that she’s done in the world but her main — I think one of her main gifts is in helping people get to a place of exposure, of facing their fears.
She hosts a television that’s all about helping people face their fears and just some of the work she’s doing is incredible and it’s really teaching people that you can overcome your fears by facing them, by exposing yourself to them. And so I’m very excited we’re going to be back in just one moment and we’re going to be interviewing Dr. Robin Zasio about exposure, social anxiety, her take on fear and all of that stuff. so stay tuned, we’ll be right back.
Expert Interview With Dr. Robin Zasio
Our interview today is, I’m with a special guest Dr. Robin Zasio and I came across her online, I was into a very powerful interview in which she was explaining social anxiety in an incredibly articulate and direct way. And so I was intrigued immediately and then I started looking her up. And she’s got a quite the track record of ways that she has been able to increase information and awareness around all sorts of anxiety including social anxiety. She is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical psychologist. And she has been specializing in the treatment of anxiety for over 20 years now.
She is the fonder of multiple centers including the Anxiety Treatment Center, Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center and the Compulsive Hoarding Center. She’s also been involved in numerous associations and foundations and there’s a long list there and most notably, many people now were from the hit ANE Series Hoarders and my new personal favorite which I was just talking with her about a moment ago, her show in Animal Planet called, My Extreme Animal Phobia and many of you might have seen that or if you have not, I highly recommend going online and checking out. So just such a wealth of experience and information and thank you so much for joining us Dr. Zasio.
Dr. Zasio: Well thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Dr. Aziz: Great! So the first thing I want to start with and this might be a leading question but you believe in exposure, yes?
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely. It’s actually a scientifically proven treatment modality which makes it just so cool to use because when we can work at people who have been properly trained in doing the exposure therapy who have done work with patients and specifically social anxiety and other anxiety disorders, you can see pre and post PET scans, Positron Emission Tomography scan with our actual physiological changes in the brain as a result of the exposure.
Dr. Aziz: Hmm, wow, so that actually leads to — I mean, there’s a felt difference, people describe they feel different but there’s actually a literal change in the physiology of the brain and I’d imagine that also translates into people experience of the sensations of anxiety also.
Dr. Zasio: Yeah absolutely. And you know, it’s just a basic level. If you think about anything that you’ve ever been afraid of, if you have confronted it, well you know that your experiences that you’re no longer afraid or basically no more chemicals that are sort of misfiring, telling you that there is danger in that situation. So you’re absolutely right that the physiological experience is so different and then people can start to go freely into those situations without being fearful.
Dr. Aziz: Hmm, hmm, so how does that work with your social anxiety clients? People who are struggling with social fear and inability to put themselves out there?
Dr. Zasio: Well, basically what I do is I always in my first session with my patients educate them about what’s going on. And kind of lay out the foundation as follows. We all have a fear center that keeps safe in the world. So if you imagine you’re in your home, all of a sudden you look outside and you see somebody in your backyard. You don’t just sit there and go, hmm, I wonder who that is, right? Immediately there is an instinctual response of fight or flight. Do you ride and hide in the closet, in a flight response or do you pick the phone and call 911 or security or that kind of thing.
That’s kind of a fight with touch, you’re taking a proactive response. Well in social anxiety, it leads in that same sphere system. And so what happens is, as a result to the chemical imbalance, when people are going into social situations, those same chemicals fired, telling the person that there is danger if you will, not that they’re going to be harmed in some way but typically that their could be criticism or judgment or negative evaluation.
And so because the social anxiety lives in that same system that keeps us safe in the real world, the experience of that person is that those social situations are going to produce some type of negative outcome and so they avoid them, they flight.
And with anything, the more we flight, the more fearful we get because of time goes by, we start developing all sorts of cognitive distortions around what they anticipate is going to happen. So, that being said, what we then do is we connect them about confronting those situations but in a very hierarchical way.
You know, unlike in Extreme Animal Phobia and even with Hoarders, because we only have a limited time, the pace runs much quicker but in our natural treatment setting, we create a hierarchy with the person identifies as many social situations that they can that produce anxiety on a scale of zero to 10.
Zero is to find one individual situation, I would not have any anxiety, 10 would be completely panic which we don’t want to have them do, five being in the middle. So it could be something like starting out with making phone calls, you know, to establish and it’s asking them what time they close, where they’re located, that sort of thing.
And then we work up to other situations whereby we start going into the community and facing those situations that are producing anxiety. And then what happens is, the key here is not just going in and doing it once, it’s that they do it repeatedly so that the actual decentralization happens so that they can test out their fear and see that their perceived threat is far greater than the actual threat.
Dr. Aziz: I’m sure it varies greatly from person to person and what level on their hierarchy they’re trying to — what about their taking off to but biting to chew but the question I often receive and maybe how do you respond on the question of well, how many times am I going to have to do this thing before it starts to feel not so terrifying?
Dr. Zasio: You know, I wish there was a template for that but it’s I’m sure you can imagine that people who come through looking for help with social anxiety can experience different triggers at different anxiety levels. So, you know, that’s why we actually work individually with people. So we have individual therapy, we can augment it with group and then we have a partial hospitalization and an intensive outpatient where people come in and then match with the therapist that does the work with them, they will actually go take them into the community to teach them how to confront their fears.
So, that being said we can never fully anticipate what somebody’s anxiety level is going to be until they actually do it. Often times, people have such high anticipatory anxiety and then they do it and then they kind of go, oh, that wasn’t quite what I expected, you know, but they have been avoiding it for so long that they had built up as I mentioned all these cognitive distortions around what they anticipated. So, for some people it might just be a couple of times and then they practice it for homework and they can come back the next day and move to the next step.
For other people depending on how high their anxiety is, they might have to do it, you know, repeatedly over and over again, 10, 15, 20 times that they will find as it will get easier over time. And it’s that enough to repeat it practice that really gets them the results that they’re looking for.
Dr. Aziz: Hmm, hmm, and then that’s actually very apparent on the shows in particularly the Extreme Animal Phobia show and obviously in your individual work people. And so the question that I have for you now and this is where I think it might relate to a lot of people listening is what do you say when someone says, yeah but I don’t want to do, I don’t want to go talk to that person or I don’t want to make those phone calls.
Dr. Zasio: Well, basically, this is what I say, I don’t think that anybody really wants to come and see me. You know, but they come to see me because they want to feel better and unfortunately you have to go through this somewhat torturous treatment process to get the result. And so, I really validate them and say look, you know what, if I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t want to do this either. I totally get that. However, you know, what’s predictable is if you keep doing what you’re doing which is avoiding. We know what that’s like because you’re there right now.
But, what’s unpredictable is what your life will look like if you do this work and really is about developing a good relationship wit your client, really giving them confidence in what I do and the results that they can achieve. And you know, knowing that this is what I do and it’s extremely successful. You know, it’s really interesting because there is a number out there that kind of a circulating around research saying that there is about a 30% dropout when people are doing exposure therapy. That’s not just with social anxiety but other anxiety disorders.
And we did not find at our critique, whatsoever. It’s 99% of the people that come into our program, it’s probably higher than that overall, are people, start the treatment and end the treatment because they are feeling better and they’re getting those results. And I think what’s really cool also about this treatment is somebody can come in and they can say to me, I have been fearful of social situations from the moment I had sort of conscious awareness and they can be in their 20’s or 30’s or 40’s. And within four to six weeks of treatment, we’re showing roughly on the average of 70% reduction symptoms.
Dr. Aziz: Wow!
Dr. Zasio: Yeah. So it’s just awesome and you know, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I still get chills when I think about doing this work because it’s so awesome to literally see people’s life transform in front of your eyes and regain their life back.
You know, to be able to do the things that you and I take for granted, you know, I’m doing an interview and I’m not thinking twice about it. I’m just excited about the potential that this information is going to reach one person who then realizes that their life can be different. Some people wouldn’t be even be able to pick this phone and talk, you know, so —
Dr. Aziz: Uh-hmm.
Dr. Zasio: The things that — in life that we take for granted sometimes are things that other people are really suffering quite greatly from.
Dr. Aziz: Uh-hmm, and I think that highlights something that is really important to underline as well is that what I hear often is like, well yeah, you can do that but there is something about me, I wouldn’t be able to get to that point.
And what I often challenge people on is that I truly believe that is someone is willing to consistently apply this method maybe beyond the initial period of just getting through day to day interactions but if you want to do something bigger, like be able to do a phone interview or record a video or talk in front of a group of people like it’s the same principles that apply, you just do it beyond getting out of negative territory and in to a positive territory.
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely. And you know, I think it really goes back to how important it is in that initial evaluation that when they talk to me about what’s going on, that I can validate them and talk to them in a way that helps them to understand that I do get what you’re saying.
I don’t feel what you’re saying and I’m not going to pretend that I do because I don’t have social anxiety by any means. But then when we talk about the treatment, it makes sense to them. And you know, it’s just in to instilling that confidence, that look, you know, no one is going to ask you to make a speech in front of 100 people today.
You know, let’s talk about what you’re anxious about, let’s create a hierarchy together. This is a collaborative approach. I will never ask anybody to do anything that they feel like they can’t do. And it’s my job to sort of be a detective that if they’re having trouble moving to the first, second, third, fourth step, whatever it is then it’s my job to figure out how I can get them to that step.
Dr. Aziz: And what about this one, this is getting into the realm, I mean, if someone exposes themselves and let’s say it’s to make eye contact with someone or call the police and then they do it and they find out that nothing bad happens. What about one of the fears that lurks in social anxiety is not the obvious overt response that I’m going to get from someone but it’s what they’re going to be thinking about me. And one example is —
Dr. Zasio: Right.
Dr. Aziz: — and I often hear is, with social anxiety, there’s a great fear of that anxiety being visible like if their hand shake or if their voice quivers in any way or there are some visible sign of it, there is this fear that if people saw this and they knew I was anxious to say hi or whatever, then they’re really going to think less of me, they might not tell me that but they’re certainly not going to respect me or like me.
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely. And that’s a really great question because in social anxiety, it often times is the fear of what people are thinking. Obviously there’s a fear also of what if they get mad at me or they yell at me, that type of thing but basically when we’re dealing with anxiety, we are really taking people to be able to tolerate doubt and uncertainly. And to have a conscious awareness that you are never going to know what somebody is thinking unless they tell you, but that for all of us, healings on the planet, we have to learn to tolerate doubt and uncertainty on a daily basis.
You know, doing this interview, there maybe a people that say, oh my gosh, you know, she is the worst person I’ve heard on the radio in my life. Well, you know, I’ve got to risk that. So what happens is, is over time, you know, I’ve done, my gosh, hundreds and hundreds of interviews, countless interviews. And you know, no one has ever come and emailed me and probably this will be the first after I’m saying this and said, ooh my gosh, that was a horrible interview.
You should, you know, go into a different profession or something but, you know, the thing is, is that because there are so much positive feedback that comes back, that if you do get negative feedback, it’s very tolerable and it’s going to a place where you can actually accept that not everybody is going to like you, not everyone is agree with what you say.
But that, if the majority of the people, you know, if you’re good at what you do and the majority of the people, you know, give you positive responses and that’s what we really build on, not the negative but the positive. And so in working with social anxiety, you know, I’ll tell people, we obviously can’t control what people say and there will be people in your life that, you know, maybe judging you or criticizing you. However, it’s probably fewer and farther between. My experience has been people with social anxiety are very, very kind.
They’re not typically, you know, overtly angry people to where the response is that they’re fearing are actually going to happen.
Dr. Aziz: Absolutely and I really believe that if someone is spontaneously being themselves and making a joke or being — starting a conversation with someone they’re interested in, if the response if they get are negative then that’s not going to be a good fit for the two of you for a relationship. And I think that —
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely.
Dr. Aziz: — the fear is often like well no one won’t like me but then that gets into the realm of something that needs to be tested and challenged with this exposure work.
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely. And that’s where I really separate out what we call cognitive behavior therapy and the exposure therapy. The CBT really works on the concept of you just — of what you’ve just said and that is no one is going to like me.
And so I’m going to go, okay wait a minute, while it’s true that some people may not like you to say no one will like you is a cognitive distortion. That is black and white, all or none thinking. And so if you’re telling yourself this message of no one is going to like me, well, why would you go out in the world? Why would you risk because no one is going to like you, right?
But if we say, I’m betting that there is at least one person in the world that likes you, you know, then let’s go test that out. Let’s go and ask this guy a question and see how he responds. Okay, so did that person respond in way that identified that he did not care for you?
And then the person says no. Well let’s going to ask another question, let’s see how that goes. And then again what happens is, is that decentralization happens where they learned that that perceives threat is far greater. Do you know the key is perceived as far greater than the actual threat?
Dr. Aziz: Uh-hmm, yeah and that’s the thing is consistently that is the response. And the major hurdle is beginning the exposure and all the fears and doubts before hand but once you are walking down that path, it’s as you said, the apprehension is often worse than the experience.
And that leads to our next question is, you know, there’s a number of people listening and obviously, hopefully they’re hearing the benefit of actually working with someone and just how much you can overcome by getting help? But, you know, there’s people that are saying, well, I don’t know if I want to commit to that and, well maybe I can just do it on my own.
And how would you respond, like how would — to the people listening, how can they find the motivation and the courage to start taking that action on their own?
Dr. Zasio: You know, I think you just said the keyword and that is motivation. What are the factors that are leading you to listen to this interview?
Well, gosh, if it’s just you’re curious about social anxiety, you want to learn about it or is it bigger than that and going back to what you said is, gosh, you know, I really don’t want to be hijacked in my house and I really want to have better quality of life. And so start with writing down what those motivating factors are to give you the quality of life that you would like.
Is it you want to go to school and get a degree? Is it that you want to get a job? Is it that you want to have more friends?
What do you want those friendships to look like? And really start identifying why you want to do this hard work?
Then what you can do and anybody can email me and I’d be happy to send them something that would help them to develop a hierarchy.
Start to identify those situations that produce anxiety. Rate those triggers on a scale of zero to 10, zero again mean not, meaning no anxiety at all, 10 being with panic, five in the middle and then start with the lower level one, so lowest level, the one and start to put yourself in those situations ad test out your fear.
And again, if people want to email me at Dr.Robin-at-atcsac(dot)net, I would be happy to send them a hierarchy where they can just put their anxiety level next to different triggers. So it’s things like, you know, asking for a location of a restaurant, asking someone for the time, calling and asking for a specific item on a to-go menu. And it has them all laid out so they don’t even have to come up with their own hierarchy and they can just, you know, start that process themselves.
Dr. Aziz: Hmm, that’s fantastic resource. I think that getting those things out on paper can really be a big first step because sometime they can feel like I can’t do anything.
Dr. Zasio: Yup.
Dr. Aziz: And then you really start to say, oh wait, certain things I can’t do, they’re just mildly anxious at producing and some are extreme. And well how about any — I know you mentioned you email.
Maybe we can give that one more time but also any way to someone could follow up and learn more about what you’re doing, social anxiety from your clinics or your centers and also in any other information about that, partial hospitalization, inpatient work that you’re offering, just to get some resources for people who are listening?
Dr. Zasio: Absolutely. Email is , the ATC stands for the Anxiety Treatment Center, SAC for Sacramento. They can always call the office if they’d like to get more information, not necessarily about, you know, I mean if somebody is calling from Wisconsin and, you know, they’re just maybe looking for resources, they’re free to call and more information and that number is 916-366-0647 and then I also just kind of want to give you some information about our national resource which is the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation.
The website is www.iocdf.com, that’s IOCDF, actually dot org. I’m sorry. So let me repeat that one more time, it’s iocdf.org. And even though they maybe calling for social anxiety, this particular organization really represent all anxiety disorders and so they can actually access a provider database and potentially find somebody in their area who can help. Now that being said, also just to let you know that their national conference is going to be in Los Angeles this year and they do cover different workshops and presentations on social anxiety as well in addition to other anxiety disorders.
Dr. Aziz: Great! Great! Well thank you that information Dr. Zasio and for everything that you’ve shared today. I really think that if people hear what you’re saying and really take it to heart and the most important thing put in to practice that there’s going to be a lot of improvement in the lives of people listening. So thank you so much for sharing.
Dr. Zasio: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Aziz: I hope you benefited as much as I did from talking and listening to that conversation with Dr. Robin Zosia. So much good information and I can’t reinforce enough her perception on exposure and the necessity of it to overcome social anxiety, shyness, social fear, self-doubt, self-criticism, all of that stuff, all those negative predictions about how people are going to respond the most powerful and effective way to overcome that stuff is to do it. And the only obstacle that’s primarily stopping you is not want to take that first step.
And for some people, it’s yeah, I don’t want to, I’m scared, maybe it won’t work. I just don’t really want to, whatever your reasoning and story is; really catching that, challenging that and then just walking on that path even if it’s low, just taking those steps one by one, checking out, emailing her, getting that fear hierarchy.
You can also check out my book, The Solution of Social Anxiety, you can find it on Amazon.com or on my website and that we’ll, we map out the hierarchy and the actions steps, the section of that book. So there are so many ways that you can make this a reality for you and I love that, in fact that’s going to be your action step for today.
Time For Action
The action step for today is going to be to take action immediately on what you heard in the interview with Dr. Zasio.
And that is, remember what she was talking about motivation? And she said, she has people write out why they — what they want in their life and it gives them a motivation to do the uncomfortable exposure work? So why do I want to do this? What is it going to give me? What do I really want my life? And take a moment; just write a paragraph about that. I really want friendships where the people are calling me to hang out and not just me pursuing people.
I want a group of friends that makes me laugh and I love hanging with where I feel like I can be real and talk with them about what’s going on but we can also just watch a movie and be stupid or whatever or maybe you’re thinking I want to meet a woman or a man if you’re a woman listening. Maybe you want to meet someone to connect with to build a relationship with.
Maybe you want to feel more comfortable at a party or a gathering. Maybe you want to — you’re sick and tired of feeling anxious when you’re in a class or you go to supermarket and you just want to feel bold and strong and determined and out in the world being your full spontaneous self.
Whatever those things are, your action step is to write a paragraph about what you want to get that motivation. And you know, bonus, extra credit if you want to get a fear hierarchy going, by all means and then start working on that.
Thanks for listening. That’s our show for today and we’ll be back next week for another episode of Shrink for the Shy Guy. Until we speak again, know that you’re awesome.