Emerging from Shyness

Inner fears left over from childhood are the main cause of shyness.

Inner fears left over from childhood are the main cause of shyness.

Shyness is a remarkably common affliction. Experts believe the incidence of shyness in the United States is close to 50 percent—and rising.

Most shy individuals are not experiencing the problem at the acute level in which it becomes a social anxiety disorder. Yet even “gentle shyness” can be painful since it derives from the fear of social disapproval and humiliation.

It’s important to distinguish between shy people and introverts. Some introverts are shy, of course, but shyness is inherently painful while introversion is usually not. Shyness is rooted in fear, while introversion is largely derived from one’s preference for quieter, more solitary situations and experiences.

It’s also important to distinguish shyness from sensory processing disorder. People with this disorder experience varied unpleasant sensations due to how they process input from their own body and the environment. For this reason, they often avoid social situations—for instance, noisy parties and restaurants with strong smells—and can be seen as shy.

Shy people process social encounters through inner fear. (This correlation between shyness and inner fear is shown here.) Because their perception of the world and others is tainted by inner fear, shy people see the people they encounter as being indifferent to them, disappointed in them, critical of them, or hostile toward them. [Read more…]

The Double Barrels of Gun Mania

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of staunch gun-rights defenders.

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of many staunch gun-rights defenders.

We all agree about the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Perhaps we also need to look at some psychological issues influencing staunch defenders of gun rights. Many of these individuals are not paragons of mental health because two of their unrecognized emotional issues are triggering a double-barreled blast of self-defeat.

Before looking down these barrels, let us acknowledge our human temptation to become enthralled by objects such as guns. We love our playthings such as cars and boats. Collectors love their guns, coins, stamps, antiques, model trains, and so on. This interest or fascination can be harmless enough and a source of considerable enjoyment. Yet psychological development is impeded when we use a possession such as a luxury car or expensive painting to provide status or fill an inner emptiness. Our enthusiasm for possessions can rise to the level of a fixation or obsession, at which point our lack of self-development causes us to lose perspective and sell short the richness of our essential self.

Because guns are relatively inexpensive, they’re not usually purchased for status. Instead, they provide two psychological defenses—the double barrels of self-defeat—that make their ownership so desirable. One barrel discharges the illusion of safety and the other the illusion of power. Why do so many gun owners grasp at these illusions or inner defenses? [Read more…]

How Inner Fear Becomes Our Worst Nightmare

Our inner fear is dangerous because we project it outward into the world

Diminishing our fear is vitally important because fear can cause enormous suffering. It might also have the potential to destroy humanity.

The nuclear arms race is, in part, propelled by the fear that we will be attacked and destroyed by our enemies if we do not invest substantial amounts of our wealth in national security. We haven’t understood clearly enough that much of our fear is inner fear, which is a symptom of unresolved inner conflicts.

Inner fear is projected outward, causing us to “see” dangers in the world that we believe validate our fear. People are typically resistant to doing the inner work that eliminates such fear. Hence, their unresolved issues require them to see or create enemies (or imagine dangerous, overwhelming situations) in order to account for their fear.

It’s true, of course, that bad people exist in the world and we need to protect ourselves from them. But we must not do so in a self-defeating manner. Through psychological dynamics, we can contribute to the undesirable outcomes that we fear the most. Fearful people unwittingly create the circumstances through which their fears become more real. For instance, the technology that we pour into our advanced weapons systems spreads throughout the world for others to use against us. At some point, the danger becomes overwhelming. [Read more…]