Think about the last time you went out to see friends, family or attend a social event. How long ago was that? Did you feel connected and comfortable? Or were you distracted and on edge? If something was bothering you, did you put on a happy face so that no one would know? Did you feel lonely surrounded by other people? Did you feel like you are different from other people, like a square peg or perhaps, better than other people? Did you feel like a shell? An imposter? Did you feel that you have to keep your real self hidden because you feel that who you are is different from what you present at work or to the outside world? Or maybe, that you kept to yourself because deep down you feel that you should never trust people enough to show weakness because everyone is unkind and selfish? Did you worry that you every one would notice the red spot on your face or that you look too fat in your jeans and judge you? Would you have considered not going if you had a bad hair day? Were you plagued by thoughts of inferiority, even around your friends, feeling like you had nothing to offer to the conversation as they all seemed so witty and accomplished with perfect relationships and families. Did you feel that people didn’t like you or left you standing alone at the hors d’oeuvre tray? Did you feel like you had been through something that you think other people could understand or relate to (trauma, illness), so you just kept to yourself? Did you have trouble letting people get close to you? Did you avoid someone you might be attracted to because intimate relationships aren’t safe for you? Or did you seek out a sexual encounter or a new relationship because you felt insecure or bored? Did you drink too much so that you would feel comfortable and fit in? When you got home, were you angry that you went? Did you feel that you wasted time which should have been spent doing something more productive? Did you go over every conversation in your mind, critiquing yourself and feeling shameful about not saying the right thing? Were you ashamed of how you behaved? Did you feel lonely?
Think about your relationship with your family and/or significant other. Does it sometimes feel like situations spiral out of control very quickly and with little provocation? Do you feel heard and respected? Do you feel safe? Are you able to commit to someone you love? Are you able to love?
Social struggles are common and are as varied as people are, and their roots run the gamut from being deeply buried in childhood attachment sometimes due to traumatic events and absent parenting to more superficial in nature, related to simple skill deficits. They can occur everywhere; They can be situation specific (i.e. only at work, only in community groups, only around family, only at the mall or crowded places); They can be with everyone; they can be person-specific (spouse, mother in law); they can be obvious with blushing, heart-racing and sweating, or they can be hidden from everyone as the social butterfly makes her rounds and feels terrified and alone. But no matter how they present themselves, social struggles can make people very unhappy and can be devastating to self-esteem. They can result in total avoidance of people, agoraphobia and panic attacks or they can result in being passed over for a promotion. Often, the end result is loneliness and an inadequate support system.
I feel that a full assessment of a person’s social milieu is a crucial part of every wellness plan. While loneliness paves the way to demoralization, genuine, positive connections are well-known to be protective against a host of psychological maladies, including depression and suicide. This seems to be a matter of quality and not quantity of connections; introverted people can do perfectly well with just a few good close friends for support. So, my goal is to help you examine your social web and the connections you establish and maintain with others and then help you decide whether these connections are genuine, nourishing and free from turmoil. If they are not, we will work together to determine why not and what can be done to help you feel comfortable presenting your true self and nurturing sincere relationships.