Blogging as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Social Anxiety, part 5

This post continues the series about Social Anxiety Disorders which started with The Zone of Normality and the fear of standing out, and presents some alternative Cognitive Behaviour Therapy-like approaches to overcoming social anxiety problems.

I have so far written about undertaking a few (almost) conventional CBT strategies. This post is about hybrid, inventive CBT-like strategies using blogging as a catalyst for overcoming social anxiety.

 
The Shyness Project

The Shyness Project by Brittany Wood is a great practical example of a Do It Yourself CBT-like strategy carried out, although Brittany doesn’t call it that. Brittany started her one-year blog project in January 2011 with a goal of overcoming a range of social anxiety problems within one year, progressively month by month. During that year she systematically worked through her anxiety problems by setting up and engaging in trigger-situations with real people and documenting her progress on her blog.

Brittany’s strategies are easy to imitate (and be inspired by), and neatly organised into the problem categories they target, such as Phone Phobia, Talking to Strangers, Dressing Confidently, Public Speaking and Make New Friends. Her blog contains a variety of musings about aspects of social anxiety and socialising, and include guest posts such as this one, and I can warmly recommend The Shyness Project as inspiration.

 
The Shyness Project - Screen print of article
Image from this interview with Brittany in Psychology Today

 
Freelancing and blogging as a cure for phone phobia

One of the most effective things I have done to overcome phone phobia was to research and write a blog series about TelephobiaI learned a lot from reading about others’ experiences, and even more from throwing myself into the deep end:

In December 2011, I designed my own mini CBT challenge* inspired by The Shyness Project mentioned above. I took on a freelance phone-interviewer project, where I conducted interviews with executives in overseas companies in a specific industry (sort of a spy job)… and then wrote about it as part of my series about Telephobia.

 

Spy smiley - clipart

 
The strategy didn’t stand alone, of course, it was just one piece in a patchwork of many little phone skill-enhancing strategies; many of which were/are opportunistic and almost sub-conscious. Such as:

  • Listen to my husband’s professional phone conversations and learn from his style
  • Pay attention to other people’s conversation scripts for professional situations and copy them to the extend they are relevant
  • Use ‘sensory imagination’ to process and imitate successful aspects of other people’s communication, particularly intonation, rhythm and useful phrases (a topic for another day).
  • Develop voice confidence by singing for an audience
  • Notice my own progress and be proud of every phone talk and face to face conversation I do well! (positive reinforcement!)

So do I like talking on the phone now? No. And I still hate when the phone rings. But now at least I can apply professional phone manners when I want to (mostly), so phones are tools and not just a barrier to opportunities. I consider that a very successful result.

 
Questions to readers

I have been chasing after more well structured therapeutic blogging programmes like The Shyness Project to write about in this post. However, apparently that isn’t something a lot of people do.

Most blogs about CBT praise it so religiously that it awakes suspicion that CBT is actually a lot of blog authors’ livelihood in some ways. CBT is not just a system of useful principles and tools, it is also an industry and maybe even a religion to some. So instead, I’ll ask questions to the readers:

  • Do you consider yourself to have difficulties that can be characterised as social anxiety?
  • Do you adhere to or create systematic strategies to overcome and/or cope with social anxiety?
  • Do you use blogging or other online communication to help you overcome or cope with social anxiety?

That’s all for now …

 

*I needed work and freelance experience too, so it was a multi-purpose endeavour. Framing it as primarily a CBT project made the work more interesting and meaningful in a personal development-kind of way (because financially it wasn’t) and it was really a big leap forward and away from Phone Phobia

 

Illustrations from OpenClipart.Org

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6 thoughts on “Blogging as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

  1. musingsofanaspie

    The Shyness Project is really interesting. I’m going to be reading up on it as I have time.

    I guess you know my answer to the “do you have social anxiety type problems” question. 🙂 I have a lot of strategies, some that work better than others. The biggest strategy is that I have a ‘work persona’ that I can put on to accomplish work tasks that involve other people. I hate the phone, but I have to talk on it quite a bit for work. When I do, I slip into my ‘professional phone persona’ which involves lots of scripts and is very goal-oriented. I rarely use the phone socially because my professional phone persona would be inappropriate and I don’t seem to have a ‘social phone persona’.

    The same goes for work meetings, presenting in front of a group, or leading a committee. If it’s work-related, I’m in my element and my professional persona kicks in pretty smoothly. I may not be the most polished person, but I’m confident that I know what I’m doing and that seems to come across in a way that people respect.

    I haven’t thought about blogging as CBT, but I do find it helps me organize my thoughts and test out my beliefs. It also helps me start conversations that I wouldn’t have had a year ago. Before, there were subjects that I just didn’t know how to talk about with people close to me. Now, I can write something and ask the other person to read it as an opening to a conversation. It’s made a big difference in my relationships though I’m not sure that’s necessarily CBT-related. It might be in some way because I had a vague fear of certain types of conversations and catastrophized the potential outcome. Generally the outcomes have been much better than expected which has mad having those types of conversations easier and now I sometimes initiate them verbally.

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    1. Mados

      Yes I do know your answer! Your post My Anxiety is Not Disordered nailed the key points extremely well!

      How you describe your professional persona resonates very much with me. A personal persona is a great way to describe how one can put on a professional identity with a toolkit of professional personality traits, scripts and manners, and then take it off after work and be different.

      (My work persona does my phone work too!)

      I may not be the most polished person, but I’m confident that I know what I’m doing and that seems to come across in a way that people respect.

      Heh… That sounds like something I can recognise too. My professional persona is probably not so well developed, given that I’ve had significant career/employment difficulties (still do), but it is apparently assertive, task-focussed and rule-focussed. And in my interviewer job, gentle and non-intrusive… I have several work personas, actually, depending on the task at hand.

      My ‘self-employed’ professional persona has been slowly taking shape in recent years, and continues to grow stronger:-)

      I hate the phone, but I have to talk on it quite a bit for work.

      I change my ring tone regularly because the sound of it brings me in a bad mood (not the best attitude when greeting people on the phone). The ring tone works like Pavlov’s dog experiment, just opposite: I dislike many of the sudden calls I get, and after a little while the sound of the ring tone automatically triggers dread… It helps for a while to change the ring tone.

      I like how you use some of your blog writings as important-conversation starters. My blog is anonymous, but I have taken up the idea of using writing to enhance spoken communication in other areas, and it worked well.

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  2. brittany220

    Thanks so much Mados for writing about my blog! Yeah I decided to start it in the first place because I couldn’t find other blogs that accounted a series of personal experiences and strategies about overcoming areas of social anxiety. After realizing I couldn’t find much on it other than a lot of “how to guides” that were more based on general advice rather than actual personal experiences and stories to back them up, I decided to start my own. I understand why people wouldn’t want to talk about this stuff though since it is something most people including myself are highly sensitive about and many believe they’re alone or in the few in their experiences. Not true of course, but when hardly anyone shares about it, then what else are we going to think. 🙂 I’m really glad you wrote a series about Telephobia too because I think more and more people are starting to feel uncomfortable or nervous about making phone calls and it’s good to spread the message that they aren’t alone and that practice does help. Thanks again for the inclusion in your discussion and hope you have a good rest of your Thursday! Just finished an exam in Sociology class and am waiting around in the library until the social dance club I’m in starts. 🙂

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    1. Mados

      Hi Brittany.

      You are welcome, and thank you for your comment!

      There are personal blogs out there about living with social anxiety. What I found useful about yours is the solution-oriented, systematic, easy-to-imitate approach. That it makes the overcoming of psychological barriers into a sort of adventurous journey with clearly defined challenges to undertake! which are meaningful in regard to obtaining life/career insights and skills. That was what inspired me to do the Telephobia post and convert my perception of a dreaded project (telephone interviewing with cold calling) into a seeing it as a useful self-development tool.

      Good luck with the exam result:-)

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  3. autisticook

    Where to start? I feel anxious about not smoking anymore and so I don’t visit my neighbourhood tobacconist and I’m getting to the point where I take different routes to and from home so I don’t pass that shop. Why? There’s this weird idea in my head that I should have dropped by to explain I was giving up smoking and it’s not because I started going someplace else. But I didn’t want to do that while I was still working on quitting and not able to confidently say I’d quit. And now it’s been over two months and now I feel guilty.

    I think I’ve managed to develop coping strategies for a lot of interactions, with friends but also with co-workers and clients. But I’ve started to realise that I’m not as successful as I thought I was. Because I tend to get fired or dismissed from jobs a lot, and I never see it coming. But at least I don’t feel anxious in those situations until *after* it goes horribly wrong. Yay.

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    1. Mados

      But at least I don’t feel anxious in those situations until *after* it goes horribly wrong.

      That’s something… I guess that’s both a good thing and a bad thing:-) Just kidding. It is not a good thing at all, it is very traumatic to be sacked and not understanding the reasons it happened.

      Ps. Congratulations with quitting smoking! That’s an achievement. With the tobacconist, maybe you could buy yourself a reward for quitting, which you’ll receive once you finish that epoch of your life by dropping buy the tobacconist and telling him that you’ve quit. Like: make it a ritual. You could make a little script to assist the unfamiliar conversation. It doesn’t matter that it is months late. Maybe he is speculating if something happened to you, and you dropping in briefly will take him out of his worries.

      I can hear that you are a loyal customer who care about peoples’ feelings! That is a nice trait.

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