When You Can't Karate-Chop, You Judo

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’m a firm believer in rerouting around your neuroses when you can’t find a path straight through.
Take me, for example: a combination of terminal shyness and a New England upbringing leaves me unable to talk to strangers unless they’ve introduced themselves first. I’ve tried, but my whole brain locks up: “THEY DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU!” it shrieks.  “YOU’RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF!”  And that psychic sucker-punch is so overwhelming that I freeze up.
I’ve worked on it for twenty years.  But even after all this time, it’s still like shouting into a tsunami.  Yeah, I’m better at it, but “better” means “I will walk, voluntarily, into a room full of strangers to socialize and then freeze up,” as opposed to hiding out into my hotel room.  It’s like trying to fight the knee-jerk reflex; I can wrestle my natural reaction down when the doctor taps on my leg, but I can’t stop the initial motion.
So rather than talking to strangers, I have restructured my life to minimize strangers.  I started a blog to yammer at people.  I have lots of conversations online, if it’s a place I intend to go, so that I have a ton of people I kinda-sorta know.  I dress in loud clothing, almost a costume, so that anyone who might recognize me will assuredly recognize me, what with the hats and the nails and the bright shirts and stacked boots, and hence amplify the likelihood that someone will introduce themselves to me.
All of these techniques are far more effective than facing it head-on.  In a very odd but real way, my entire blogging career has been an extremely elaborate method to combat my social anxiety.
Which, I think, is an underutilized method.  Not the blogging, but the sideways approach.  Therapists are often all about “FACE THAT FUCKER HEAD-ON, ANNIHILATE IT,” when often a better approach involves changing your life so you minimize contact with this hot button as much as possible.  If it’s going to cause a full-body flush, then what can you do to work around it?  It may be elaborate, and silly to many… but what matters is effectiveness.
I know for me, these strange and bizarre workarounds get me through conventions – and the effort I’ve put into them has produced far more friendships, contentment, and love than the “just talk to them anyway!” path.  Yeah, it’s quirky, and in a way it feels cowardly at times… but the reward is actual happiness, as opposed to the grim satisfaction of knowing you’ve met your enemy head-on and have staggered away bleeding and bewildered.
It’s okay to have odd habits.  If they work.

1 Comment

  1. Hallelujah, Sibling.

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