9/5/2012 3:52 PM
Earlier today, I read about a study with results that I think can be of real benefit to singles out there in the dating world.
In the study, UCLA psychologists had participants who were afraid of spiders approach a tarantula in an open container under four different sets of circumstances. Members of one group were told to walk up to the tarantula without saying anything; another were told to approach it while talking about how the spider was nothing to be afraid of; a third were told to talk about something unrelated to the experience; the fourth was told to acknowledge that they were afraid of the spider. Universally, the people who verbally acknowledged that they were frightened were able to get closest to the spider and showed the fewest threat reactions like sweaty palms.
For a lot of us, it’d be a lot easier to get up close and personal with a large spider than it would be to approach an attractive stranger. Almost half of all adults consider themselves shy. And, many people consider rejection one of their greatest fears.
The usual advice when facing something you fear is to talk yourself up and tell yourself that whatever you are afraid of can’t hurt you. But, for some, this approach does not work. In fact, for some people, affirmations have exactly the opposite effect that’s intended. Instead of feeling happier, braver, or more worthwhile, people with low self-esteem wind up ruminating on all the negative things they feel about themselves.
If pep-talks have never seemed to make things better for you, try going the other direction. I don’t see a reason that the methods they used couldn’t work just as well in socially threatening situations as they did for the fear of spiders. One of the authors of the spider study said, “When spider-phobics say, 'I'm terrified of that nasty spider,' they're not learning something new; that's exactly what they were feeling — but now instead of just feeling it, they're saying it. For some reason that we don't fully understand, that transition is enough to make a difference.”
That you find new people intimidating is not a new piece of information. Even if we don’t understand why it helps, maybe simply acknowledging your nervousness to yourself can help you get over your fears.