Monday, May 29, 2006

Date and thoughts

I had a second date with a gorgeous gay gentleman. We went to MoAD, which did not live up to my expectations for reasons I'll get into in a minute, but we again enjoyed one another's company, which continues to astonish me because he is way way too cool and with it to like me.

Which leads me into the other thing I've been thinking about a lot.

Cluster C personality disorders include disorders of anxiety, fearfulness, and avoidance. One of these, called "avoidant personality disorder," is characterized by presence of four or more of the following:

1. avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
2. is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
3. shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
4. is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
5. is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
6. views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
7. is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

Avoidant personality disorder is similar to an anxiety disorder called social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Briefly, it is characterized by
a persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. ...Sufferers are typically more self-conscious and self-attentive than others. As a result, social phobics tend to limit or remove themselves from situations where they may be subject to evaluation. Sufferers often recognize their fear is excessive or irrational, yet can't seem to break out of the cycle. As such, the diagnosis of social phobia is made only when the fear leads to avoiding occupational functions, social activities, or relationships with others. (from wikipedia article linked above)

I've been thinking about this a lot because of the way my stomach ties itself in knots whenever I have to do something like go to a place I've never been, or talk to people I don't know, or talk on the phone, or interact with people who may have a reason not to like me, or talk with people who may dislike me for no reason, or use the restroom when other people are present, or do something in public that I don't know how to do (like the first time I used BART), or really any of these things. I feel tension, my hands flush and get sweaty, my heartrate spikes, my breathing becomes unsteady, and most noticeably, my stomach feels knotted up. I think that people are watching me and judging my behavior, and that I will seem awkward, weird, stupid, or offensive because I might do or say something wrong or inappropriate. This means I can avoid doing things which will require me to interact with people in particular ways. I might avoid calling someone, or avoid rooms in which others are present, or put off going someplace unfamiliar. I can overcome it, and I usually do, but it's a source of a lot of tension, and it probably holds me back from doing and being all I can. Now I'm thinking about what to do.

Today the insight I had with this was that I actually believe on an unconscious level that other people's perceptions of my behavior are more valid than my own. Now, rationally, I know this isn't true— I have information they don't have about my own motivations, thoughts, reasoning process, and resources. But some part of me has always felt watched by an omniscient observer, and I've attributed that to "the public eye." A Freudian interpretation might be that it's the superego, and a mystical interpretation might be that it's the Divine. Since I tend to attribute the imaginal Observer to random strangers, however, I also attribute to the Observer the faults and narrowness of judgment that I believe random strangers probably possess. So what is persecuting me is a complex entity made up of the criticism only I would/could direct at myself, an authority and insight which I don't credit myself with, and the pettiness I think most people, including myself, make judgments about others with. And yet this Observer is the source of the only opinion about me which matters. It's no wonder I'm terrified to get on the bus. It's a wonder I function in public at all.

Alright. Now that I think I understand myself a bit better, what, the everloving fuck, do I do to fix this?

Now, for my experiences at MoAD: My friend and I weren't asked to leave our bags anywhere. I thought about asking if we should, but I didn't. So we bought our tickets and went inside, and then on the third floor we walked into the contemporary art gallery. After we had already been in there a few minutes, two or three security people (I don't remember) came out of the back, walked right past me and asked my friend to leave his bag at the door. The Museum of the African Diaspora is the last place in the world I thought my white privilege would let me pass unmolested while my Black friend was treated like a potential thief or vandal.

Again. What, the everloving fuck?


At 12:44 AM, Blogger I. Mazzikin said...

Yes, I can see you possibly having this disorder. I've had similar feelings, but not all at once and not all the time. I was kinda embarrassed the first time I had to figure out BART by myself too. ;)

Dunno quite what to do about it, though recognizing it is the first step.

I personally avoid disease and mental illness by not reading books about them.

At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Tophy said...

This is going to sound utterly insane, but my Zoloft helps me a little with my Social Anxiety Disorder. But other than that, I believe the only way to over come it is to immerse yourself in social situations until you're completely over it. Meh, I know, just the thought of it makes me nauseous.


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