Setbacks Are a Sign of Progress

Wed, 05/15/2013 - 13:31 -- jb

Setbacks happen to everyone as they are overcoming social anxiety disorder.  A setback is defined as a time when you go “backwards” a little in your progress against social anxiety, either because you faced too high of an anxiety situation or certain negative thoughts popped into your head an inopportune time when you weren’t expecting it.

The good news is that it’s impossible to have a setback unless you've already made some progress.  What you may consider a “setback” now, could have been considered “progress” a few months ago, because you are always moving forward if you stick with the therapy.  It may be a process of taking two steps forward and one step back, but you can have peace of mind in knowing that you can’t go backwards completely unless you give up.

Leftover automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) may be playing a mind game with you.  Sometimes setbacks will occur but when they do, it is important to realize that if you get up and keep going all the rational therapy is still there.  Sometimes you can go through longer periods where nothing works as it should.  Keep your rational reminders and rational therapy going even when it's difficult.  Your brain has to change and sometimes changes occur when we are feeling like nothing is working.  If you stick to your rationality you come out on top in the end.

When you start to feel down (usually as a result of experiencing anxiety unexpectedly), catch yourself as quickly as you can.  Have your written therapy handouts near.  Even though you don't feel like it, say something like "Wait! I am not going to give in to my negative emotions -- I know they are irrational liars and I know if I give in to them I will have a miserable day.  I choose NOT to go down to the pig pen.  I'm tired of wallowing in the mud. I do not need to torture myself like that!  Instead, I will "make" myself sit down at my desk and read over my rational handouts in slow talk."  This is easier said than done, of course, but it is the only thing that works to stop setbacks and to get back on track.

You must get rational with yourself.  When you get rational, as a result of slowly reading rational statements or rational therapy methods, the negative emotions will be gone and you can actively carry on with your life.  CATCH the ANTs, STOP them any way you can (calmly and gently), LABEL them as being liars, and READ, READ, READ calmly in slow talk until those negative emotions go away.  TALK OUT LOUD rational statements like "I refuse to give into the ANTs.  They are trying to pull me down into the mud.  I'm tired of being depressed, down and anxious!  I choose to get over to my handouts and read calmly and slowly until the ANTs go away."  If you do this, they will.  All of this and much more is in our comprehensive therapy series "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step", a very inexpensive way to overcome this disorder.