In my youth years, I felt I had to take the opportunities I got to meet people and go to parties so that I could say (if asked) that I had been to a party fairly recently. It was my impression that young people who didn’t go to parties were losers, and I didn’t want to be one of those, at least not that obviously.
‘You are living an easy life, aren’t you? You ain’t doing nothing!’
the old man said. I pass his house every day when I walk or run* with my dogs. When he and his dog are out in his front yard, I stop and talk, so my dogs get this beautiful rare chance to hang out with another dog that, albeit a bit cranky, doesn’t behave like an erratic maniac like many other dogs around here.
Most of what the old man says is difficult to hear, because his voice is like a soft, mumbling creek of linked words strayed with Aussie idioms, and garden noises in the surroundings zap out some of them too. However, I usually manage to pick up enough key words here and there to estimate what we’re talking about, and make friendly expressions and statements (one syllable is sufficient) every now and again to prove my participation in the conversation.
I like him, and I like listening to him. He is a bit like my grand mother (R.I.P), and I enjoy seeing his joy about having someone to talk to, while my dogs have a great time relaxing in the grass and pestering their ‘friend’.
The above quote is one of the sentences that I did hear in full, and I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. Slightly insulted, I told him that I work as a research interviewer with variable hours, I ain’t ‘ain’t doing nothing’. ‘OK’, he said, and maybe something along the lines of ‘that sounds like a great job’.
About a year old* and until now unpublished, here comes an essay about social anxiety theory and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (the main treatment for social anxiety disorders); following a Social Phobia diagnosis a few years prior**…
Social Anxiety, part 1: defining social anxiety disorders
‘Normality’ is an ill defined, but eagerly used benchmark for human behaviour that has always confused me. The tricky bit is that normality does not exist, and everybody knows it but pretend that it is the standard for how people behave. There does not exist a normal person. Everybody is unique and different in some way.
People’s perceptions of what it is to be normal – what others might think about them and how they ought to behave – depend on culture, gender, age and many other factors, but any culture has a zone of normality defined by subtle rules, exceptions and grey areas. And in any culture, the need to belong and the fear of social exclusion shapes behaviours, personalities, the way people relate to each other and who they accept. Mild worrying about what others might think is a normal and benevolent aspect of being a social creature.
Social anxiety helps us to remain sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, which is a core foundation of cooperation and building relationships.
However, social fear can spin out of control and damage social confidence and the ability to pursue a fulfilling life. That is when social anxiety becomes a disorder.