Social Anxiety, Jumping to Conclusions, and Peace of Mind
Thursday, October 22 2015 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Social anxiety, jumping to conclusions, and peace of mind: which one of the phrases doesn't seem to fit with the others? In this particular set of words, three's a crowd, and it seems that peace of mind doesn't fit. Social anxiety and jumping to conclusions often go hand-in-hand, each make the other worse until a person's brain is chaotic and swirling with anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. No wonder peace of mind doesn't naturally fit. There's no room. When jumping to conclusions is removed, there's plenty of room for peace of mind even when social anxiety remains.
Jumping to Conclusions Ignites Social Anxiety
Social anxiety, put simply, is the fear of being judged by others, the fear of making mistakes and proving the negative judgments correct, and/or, the fear of embarrassment. The fear of the opinions of others is so deeply rooted that automatically, in almost every situation, people with social anxiety begin jumping to conclusions and assuming that others are looking down on them.
Someone living with social anxiety disorder might have a job she loves but can't enjoy; she lives in perpetual fear of her supervisors and coworkers thinking she's inferior and hating her because of it. Someone else might have such severe social anxiety that it becomes avoidant personality disorder. He's afraid of the scrutiny and negative opinions of others to such a degree that he severely restricts his life and actions.
Like all mental health disorders, social anxiety disorder is complex and can't be assigned a single cause and easy solution. That said, there are things that have been found to contribute greatly to social anxiety.
Researchers and practitioners in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an approach to helping and healing that addresses the way people think and how their thoughts impact their behaviors (and feelings), have identified a number of faulty thought patterns, often called automatic, negative thoughts, that get in the way of healthy functioning and someone's ability to live life fully. One such automatic negative thought pattern that is widely implicated in social anxiety is jumping to conclusions.
Mind-Reading Is Similar to Jumping to Conclusions
Jumping can be great physical exercise. Jumping rope and jumping on trampolines can be fun, exhilarating, and invigorating. Jumping to conclusions is not so great. It feels horrible, it's exhausting, and it increases social anxiety. It most certainly doesn't create peace of mind.
To jump to conclusions is to form a thought or an opinion before checking it out for accuracy. A form of jumping to conclusions is mind reading. With mind reading and social anxiety, a person experiencing the anxiety can take one look, even just a sideways glance, at someone and "know" that the person hates him or her or thinks he or she ridiculous, incompetent, and any other negative thing that fuels social anxiety.
Mind reading is interpreting someone's thoughts without actually knowing what those thoughts are. Mind reading isn't truly seeing yourself the way another person sees you; mind reading is seeing yourself the way you see you. Mind reading and jumping to the conclusion that another person regards you with disdain does not create the peace of mind you deserve.
According to CBT, another form of jumping to conclusions is fortune telling. Like mind reading, fortune telling contributes heavily to social anxiety disorder because it's driven by anxious, negative assumptions that haven't been proven true.
Fortune telling projects anxiety, in this case social anxiety, into the future. The woman from the above example might "know" that she will be fired because others think she's incompetent. She has read her coworkers' minds and has concluded that they think she's a horrible person and a horrible worker, and now she is fortune telling and fully believes that she will lose her job because others think she's no good.
Social Anxiety and Peace of Mind
Jumping to conclusions, whether mind reading, fortune telling, or both, feeds social anxiety, making it ever stronger so that its squeeze grows harder and more stifling. The more we experience social anxiety, the more we tend to jump to conclusions, and the more we jump to conclusions, the more socially anxious we become.
It's possible to get off that trampoline and stop jumping to conclusions. There are social anxiety treatments. The next post, Visualization Exercises Can Conquer Anxiety, will address how to reduce social anxiety, stop jumping to conclusions, and develop peace of mind.