Understanding social anxiety and social power

Going into a social situation is not a neutral experience. It is expressed as a situation which has qualities relative to the composition of its elements; often without taking into consideration the subjective element. For instance, a bar with a nice garden can be seen as possessing positive qualities in and of itself and therefore be promoted. But to someone with social anxiety, who will bring their traumatic experience with them, the bar could be a very difficult situation.

A ‘neutral agent’, such as the white, middle class ideal, may find similarity with another similar person’s experiences (of course, it is always subjective, but there are similarities between groups). However, everyone brings themselves to a situation.  This must be remembered to ensure that social norms are not made into social oppressions. For instance, someone who finds small intimate groups difficult shouldn’t be forced to celebrate a birthday party, or seen as a ‘bad person’ because they find this difficult.

Personally I have faced ostracization on many occasions simply for not having the endurance to go into difficult social situations. Loud environments full of alcohol and hard drugs, ending with late nights of poor sleep, for me are like a form of living hell. To my peers it is an ideal night out. Perhaps because their psychic resources are not limited by trauma, emotional processing, and so forth, they can get away with a missed night and a battered immune system. I do not feel I can risk this.

When considering whether someone would enjoy a social situation, one needs to take into account the subjective history and the social identity of a person. We are not all ‘neurotypical’ (I highly doubt I am); some of us are suffering a constant inner-battle. And we are not all the ‘neutral’ agents of this society, namely white and middle class. Being placed in the wrong social category is a high cause of anxiety, doubly so when society seems to be teetering between xenophobia and progressivism.

8 thoughts on “Understanding social anxiety and social power”

  1. Hello! I just wanted you to know that your piece has been featured here: https://optimistjenna.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/december-disability-roundup/

    Your piece is so clear and concise. It gave me new insights into what life must be like for social anxiety. I hope people will start to understand better that “fun” is a subjective term. When choosing activities as a pair or group, it’s best to pick something everyone can enjoy.

    You say you don’t think you’re neurotypical. As I understand it, a neurotypical person is someone who has no brain-related disabilities or mental illnesses. Thus, anyone with anxiety and/or depression wouldn’t be neurotypical.

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    1. Thank you for the thoughful reply Jenna. And the feature.

      Does not everyone have some degree of anxiety/depression? How prevalent is it among people?

      I’ve never really questioned how many are neurotypical. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live without these disabilities 😥

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      1. You’re welcome!

        From what I’ve read, rates of anxiety and depression are on the rise. Everyone gets nervous, stressed, sad, or tired sometimes (unless they have some odd type of brain condition), but most people don’t meet the criteria for diagnosis.

        I’m not sure how many people are neurotypical either, though the number is probably smaller than most people would think. I know there are neurodivergent people who live healthy lives. I also know that sometimes people’s anxiety/depression can become smaller or even disappear. Even if you can’t imagine it now, better things could be in the future a couple months or years and now.

        My dad is probably the picture of mental health. He’s very relaxed about everything, including things that scare most people. He tends not to worry about things that he can’t control and he figures he can adapt to just about anything. He has this air of casual, quiet confidence. (I wish I were more like him that way, and most people probably do. I’m just lucky I get to live with him in my house as a role model and dad.)

        I was struggling with life in late high school and early college. It took me time to hit my stride. I was trying to do things that I thought I was supposed to do, even though it was making me pretty miserable. I got happier when I started adjusting my expectations and focusing on things I wanted for myself, regardless of what other people might want for me. It wasn’t easy, especially at first, and it threw my family for a loop. However, they got used to it, and I’m happier now that I feel like I’m living my own life.

        Of course, your route to happiness might look different from mine. All I can say is that I found one. Yours is probably hiding somewhere too. It just might take some courage, patience, and careful analysis to find it.

        This is getting long, but I hope some of it helps you in some way. Bad times aren’t always forever, even though they can feel that way when you’re stuck in them. Someday the things you’re going through might just be a bad memory.

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      2. I have become significantly more resilient these past four years. My crisis almost destroyed me, but ended up changing my life.

        My levels of anxiety are still very high. You have made me realize I’m most probably neurodivergent 😭

        My whole adult life haa been a struggle and still is. No jobs, no relationships, little money or freedom, dependence on abusive people. I had good friends throughout and my own artistic talents (music, writing mainly) to get through it. To survive and sometimes thrive. But it has been a challenge. Neurotypical expectations are like poison to me.

        The typical “damaged genius” type?

        Thanks to therapy and self knowledge I am on track to major healing and discovering the world of love. I am optimistic. But covid winter and the wider world crisis is haunting.

        I have always been all too aware of societal factors and the evils of the world. Perhaps being raised by abusers I had to be hyper observant. Being alienated from myself, dislocated from an already immigrant family, I had a perspective on society as an outsider. One which might take a lifetime for an included, healthy adult to realize.

        Suffering has taught me much. I am a bit tired of it now though.

        No such thing as too long a reply. I read it twice. Thanks for sending ☺️

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      3. Clearly you’ve been through a lot. Take care, okay? Finding hope during the COVID crisis is a challenge. I’ve been stressed about it too, especially since my sister is high-risk. We just have to keep taking it one day at a time. I stopped following the news as closely and am focusing more on my work. My life is a lot better than it used to be, and I hope you’ll be able to say the same in the future.

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