31 August, 2013

Social Anxiety

I've made this argument before, but it's a good one, so it bears reiterating.

Let me try to give you an idea of how problematic my social anxiety is. My social anxiety often manifests as a strong fear of talking to and interacting with people. It doesn't even have to be strangers, I get anxious dealing with people I know, too.

Now imagine, for a second, somebody who has arachnophobia - which I also, incidentally, suffer from. It's not just an "ew, bugs are gross" sort of thing, because I have that, too. Other bugs can scare me and certainly gross me out, but when it's spiders, it's on a whole different level. I don't know why, it's just the way I'm wired, I figure. It's an intense and irrational fear - and I understand that, and that doesn't make it any easier for me.

Now, my arachnophobia doesn't bother me all that much. Obviously, if I'm anywhere near a spider, it's a big deal, and I have an uncomfortable reaction whenever I, for example, stumble upon a picture of a spider on the internet. But this is something I can manage. Spiders, though they cover the face of the Earth, are, in the grand scheme of things, not all that prevalent in modern day-to-day life. And I can do things to reduce my interactions with them, and I can also enlist the help of others to deal with them when they become a problem. I might have a little more trouble in my life than other people doing things where spiders are more prevalent, like going camping, but again, it's something I can deal with.

But social anxiety is different. Interacting with people is not only unavoidable, it's indispensible to living both a successful and rewarding life. It's like being an arachnophobe, and living in a world where the only way to actually make a living and support yourself is working every day handling spiders. Worse yet, it's like being an arachnophobe, and at the same time, being a creature that requires the closeness of spiders to be happy. That's a bit of a mindfuck, I know, because fearing spiders makes me hate them. But I need people, and I know it. Yet I can't bring them into my life because I'm too afraid to interact with them.

Now you might think, as some psychologists argue, that with proper exposure, any fear can be overcome. If, for example, forcing yourself to work with spiders everyday eventually made you stop being afraid of them. Maybe this is true. I don't know, because I haven't had an opportunity to see it work. I do know, however, that I have been forced to interact with people throughout my life, and yet I still remain ever as anxious. Granted, I have a strong avoidant impulse, so maybe I am not exposing myself enough, but the fact remains that if this is the solution, then it is akin to forcing myself to work with spiders everyday, not certain that I will ever get less fearful of them, and even if I do, not certain of how long that will take (i.e., it may be days, weeks, months, or even years of torturing myself with spider-handling before I finally reach a point where it doesn't bother me). Can you blame me for not having the courage to do it?

I mean, I know that any goal worth accomplishing takes effort. If you want to get or stay in shape, for example, you have to exert constant, continuous effort, and it's not easy. But that's work that you just push yourself through. It's something you don't want to do, maybe. But it's not something that your whole body and your mind literally trembles at the very thought of. Forcing yourself to do something - not just that you're afraid of - but something that you're absolutely terrified of doing, requires a whole different level of strength.

And I've never considered myself as being particularly strong. Or brave.

18 August, 2013

Atheism in a nutshell

It's a little known fact that I'd love to start a webcomic, but unfortunately my drawing skills aren't up to snuff. Nevertheless, here's another one-off, which, following my last post, demonstrates that I don't discriminate against the religions I like to poke fun at.

This is also a good, concise example of why atheism is not, as some claim, just another belief system like religion. The religious believe in the existence of God based on faith. The atheist disbelieves in the existence of God based on a lack of evidence. It's true that a lack of evidence doesn't prove that God doesn't exist, but it does make his existence about as plausible as the existence of unicorns, fire-breathing dragons, the fountain of youth, and alien abductions. If God were to part the heavens tomorrow and introduce himself to the world in no ambiguous terms, the atheist would begin to believe in His existence, because it would no longer require a blind faith. But in the meantime, he professes that believing in ghosts is about as productive to society, and makes just about as much sense from a modern perspective, as the practice of bloodletting is to medicine.