Utilizing “The Work” In Reference to Social Anxiety
If you are like most people, there has been a time in your life where you have felt somewhat anxious or nervous at the thought of going on an important date or attending a party with a lot of people. This type of nervousness to meet with others can be natural, even exciting for some. However, for others it is a nightmare of anxiety which develops into full-blown social anxiety disorder (Schneider, 2012), crippling their social life and self-concept. To combat the thoughts that lead to social anxiety disorder, and a host of other undesirable consequences, The Work of Byron Katie offers a way out (Do The Work, 2015).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA, 2017) defines social anxiety disorder as “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations”. While the person who experiences this may have a fulfilling and productive life in the comfort of their own company, the social phobia kicks in with the thought of socializing with other people, meeting someone new, or going on a job interview. As social creatures, this phobia can have devastating effects for a person’s quality of life. When faced with a social situation, the fear can be so great that it stops the person from attending the social activity, leading to isolation and loneliness.
The Work of Byron Katie is a method to question your stressful thoughts. The thoughts you utilize to question in the work consist of anything that is causing you stress or disrupting your quality of life. This has incredible implications for someone who is suffering from irrational anxiety due to their beliefs about what may happen in a social situation. When faced by a social situation that causes anxiety, a person would first identify and write down the stressful thought (or thoughts) they are believing. For example, the stressful thought may be “others will judge me negatively”, “this person will think I’m stupid” or “I will never get this job”. These are the types of thoughts that, when played over and over in a person’s mind, brainwash them into an anxiety which cripples and debilitates their social confidence, and can lead to intense social anxiety. Rather than believe these stressful thoughts, The Work invites you to question them.
So, what is “The Work”? The work is a series of four questions and what is called a “turnaround”, in which you turn the thought around. The four questions are as follows:
1) Is it true?
2) Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
3) How do I react when I think that thought?
4) Who would I be without that thought?
The turnaround is simply finding an opposite of the stressful thought. Examples of
the turnarounds for the thoughts presented above are “They will judge me positively”, “this person will think I’m smart”, or “I will get this job”. The next step is to find three concrete examples of how that thought could be as true, or truer than the negative thought before. I might find three examples of why I should get that job, and armed with the knowledge of those three examples, I could feel more confident that it was true. Furthermore, this increased confidence in social situations often leads to a better performance in the social situation overall.
The implications for The Work in treating and managing social anxiety are huge. Whether you are a person with slight social anxiety or suffering from full-blown social anxiety disorder, the act of slowing down your thoughts long enough to question them can offer tremendous relief. If a person could question their stressful thoughts as they thought them (and turn them around), they would be able to free themselves from the crippling fear that comes with dreading a stressful outcome. This confidence compounds over time and with regular practice of asking these four questions and turning them around, the person can facilitate themselves to greater health, social abundance, and mental freedom.
1) Social Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder (ADAA)
2) Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.
3) International, B. K. (2015, September 06). Do The Work. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://thework.com/en/do-work