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27 April 2009 @ 09:01 pm
He says what I think.  
Is Social Anxiety a Disorder?

I'm not going to dissect the whole article. If you're interested, I suggest you read it for yourself. robertsloan2 makes some excellent points about social pressure and the stresses of conformity that I completely agree with.

But for my own reference, I'm going to repost a few paragraphs here that strike a particular chord with me.

And stress related diseases are epidemic. This kind of aggravation gets treated as background -- as normal. People are supposed to just put up with it and then think it's somehow something wrong with them that they don't have a thick enough skin about criticism -- yet who can enjoy life when they're constantly under social attack?

I can't count the number of times when I get so stressed out about work and want an out and then think that I must be weak or whiny or lazy because other people can get through it just fine. What makes me so different that I can't handle it when other people handle twice as much for twice as long without complaint or issue? I've had unending arguments with myself over how weak I must be for not being able to handle it. I'm not even 25. What gives me the right to want stress leave when some people have worked for as long as I've been alive and have taken maybe 10 sick days the entire time?

And so on and so forth. I feel terrible for being so stressed over what I'm just expected to have to pu up with because everyone else does, and I hate it all sometimes.

Schools do a lot to create that conformity. The bullying system in schools establishes that group defense against bullies and the number of kids that live in constant terror of physical or emotional attack is -- the majority. Most adults too if they stop to recall what it was really like will remember times they couldn't eat or sleep because they were continually stalked or picked on by sadistic kids.

My experience with school bullying is that when the bullying is reported, the teacher decides to help you take matters into your own hands and to let make you stand up and address the perpetrators in front of the whole class, telling everyone what they did wrong and how they hurt you. The idea, I guess, is to promote empowerment, helping us help ourselves. All it did to make was make me afraid to speak up most of the time because I hated having people's eyes on me while I told everyone how humiliated or hurt I'd been. I'm being extra humuliated by having to stand up and humiliate someone else for humiliating me. I hated it. And I don't really think that it helped at all, to be truthful. It may help some people. But I think the people that approach would help the most are the people who aren't likely to be constantly picked on.

One really competent employee will recognize that he or she could do a lot more elsewhere and get paid better for it on top of that, or that the money isn't worth it, tells off the bully and walks out.

My freaking dream! If I could convince my workplace that they can get better use out of me if they stop making me take calls and instead let me focus on getting the database work done, I could be twice as useful and wouldn't have to worry about constantly being scored on things I'm crap on or fretting about losing my job. If they could learn to make better use of my strengths and to avoid my weaknesses that bring the company down, I think we'd all be happier for it.

Some people treat therapy or medication as punitive -- and disconfirm the person's feelings and troubles by suggesting they need medication or therapy or both, because what they want is the therapist to make that person conform to their group's expectations.

Reminds me somewhat of the therapist who dismissed my gender issues and when I pressed the issue with her, telling her that I in no way felt female and greatly disliked the parts of me that made me female, her reaction was to suggest I go hang out with the gay/lesbian community. Because gender issues automatically mean sexual issues, and I'm certain her goal in that suggestion was to get me comfortable with being the lesian she assumed I was, I'd stop hating my female self so much. Never mind that I wasn't a lesbian, and my sexuality had nothing to do with my gender issues. I didn't fit her mold.

It didn't help that I couldn't explain my thoughts and feelings very well, but she didn't seem that interested in pursuing the issue when I very subiously agreed to take her advice under advisement. Of course, she wasn't a very good therapist, and we now refer to her as the Crazy Frog Woman.

(Not 'Frog' because she was French and we're being derogatory that way. Griffin had a dream where someone called her the crazy fraud lady, and when recounting this dream to me, I misheard her.)

In a healthy culture, about 5% of the people don't really fit and would be happier in a different way of life. In this country, 25% of the people wind up with clinical depression and that is way too high a statistic.

I just mentioned that to Griffin and among other things, she commented that it doesn't help that we're constantly being told that we're not good enough. That's enough to make anyone feel like crap. Look at advertising. Advertising tells us that in order to be worth something, to be someone that people pay attention to, we have to be young, attractive, rich, and surrounded by friends. Therein lay one of my big problems for a while. I felt like I was going nowhere because I was approaching the end of my so-called youth, and my life hadn't taken off the way it does to people on TV or in movies. I'd experienced no great loves, I didn't have direction in life, I barely had any friends who understood me, and I sure as hell wasn't thin and attractive. And since modern culture barely has any focus on that stuff happening to people who are older than their mid 20s (unless you're talking about badly-acted soap operas where everyone's having affairs with everyone else), it felt to me like after a certain age, one which was fast approaching, my life would be over. What would be left but the same old humdrum crap that would bore me for the rest of my life, until I finally died and it was over.

I don't feel that way now. I'm in my mid 20s and I feel like my life is actually just beginning sometimes. The formative years filled with turmoil and crap are behind me, I have talents and skill that I've acquired that are helping to shape my world, and I've got plenty of time left in my life to keep growing and learning and doing what I love. It's a complete switch from what I spent so many years wasting energy over worrying about.

...some of the traumas are so common they get disconfirmed and treated as if they should not have any consequences, like childhood bullying and first adolescent love/heartbreak.

Reminds me of a line I read once in Mercedes Lackey's Brightly Burning. "First love is no less real than mature love, and first heartbreak hurts the worst."
Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dancerobertsloan2 on April 28th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Thank you.

Ignorance of gender issues is bitterly common for therapists. It's also only very recently that GBLT has started to knit together very disparate communities. Lesbians who are butch have to defend their gender constantly. Transpeople, intersex and crossdressers all need to defend their identities because their existence threatens gay people because conservatives (and sometimes members of these groups) would find it so much easier if everyone who was Different fit into the same neat category and all had exactly the same problem.

When the root problem is that if you're different in any way, especially in gender expression, forget it. American society brutally polices gender and a lot of people who don't have any identity problems with their gender still get knocked into deep insecurities by frequent gender attack.

One of the sickest examples is this:

Guys who read too much and wear glasses are effeminate brains, not manly, not really men.

Gals who read too much and wear glasses are too masculine, brains, not womanly, not really women.

Ironically if two of them are straight and have read the same books and liked them, they notice real fast and tend to get into a tight relationship with as little or as much trouble as anyone else. But I heard enough of the same insults hurled at both genders for being intellectual to conclude that attacking people on gender is just one of the nastier aspects of conformity at large.

At the same time, the same people will turn around ten minutes later and say "Why does it make such a big difference anyway?"

Yeah right.

Anyone who doesn't fit their gender roles perfectly is going to be disconfirmed every time they set out from their home, and only safe within a tested, filtered group of accepting friends who know them for who they are -- and met at a time when they weren't having to keep their head down for survival reasons or that'll be believed over anything resembling the truth. However obvious it is.
冬 - I'll eat some breakfast, then change the worldeternalism on April 28th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
Guys who read too much and wear glasses are effeminate brains, not manly, not really men.

Gals who read too much and wear glasses are too masculine, brains, not womanly, not really women.

That's a pretty twisted piece of logic right there! Gender issues aside, it enforces the belief that a lack of intelligence and drive to learn is actually a good thing. Reading = bad. Which is probably why you find so many people almost bragging that they haven't read a book in years. They don't read or learn anymore because they have too many "better" things to do with their precious time.

If I didn't have my books I'd go nuts! Even if there's only a slim chance I'll find some time to read, like at work or spending time with friends, I'll usually bring a book along just in case.

"Why does it make such a big difference anyway?"

I've heard that one too. :/ Heck, I've even wondered that one myself, though from somewhat of a different angle than most people saying that. What difference does your gender expression make? After all, you're still you, right? So who cares what is or isn't in your pants?

I've especially directed that question at myself. Not really feeling like I fit into any gender category, sometimes I wonder what difference defining myself as agendered actually makes. It doesn't change the body I have, my body will never comfort to what I feel it should be, so what's the point in defining myself as anything but what my outward appearance dictates. It's around there that I usually catch myself and go, "Oh right, the comfort thing. The fact that I don't like living a lie and pretending I'm something I'm not, even if I can't properly explain what I am."
Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dancerobertsloan2 on April 29th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
The comfort thing... the fact that living a lie becomes impossible and it confuses people mightily if your reactions are unpredictable because you don't fit the lie. Scares them, outrages them, puts them off -- the complete isolation and disconfirmation. It's not a petty thing, it's something distinct from the gender based discrimination that goes on all the time in terms of income and job qualifications. The latter is eroding but it's still there sometimes.

I think that gender is a continuum -- yes most people have one or the other gender, are toward the middle of the bell curve. But as soon as you reach people who are different, the variety among people who are different is immense. Someone once identified seven or eight alternate genders, was including sexual preference in the range to do so.

I've heard those "Reading is effeminate" and "Reading is too masculine" comments out of the same person not fifteen minutes apart when gossiping and putting down people who read a lot and wear glasses. That was one of the great conciousness raising moments for me -- I understood it in high school but have run into it all my life out of various people who disapprove of anything intellectual and think of themselves as mainstream.

Along with "poetry hahaha no one makes a living on that" and the idea that doing any form of art (writing, music, art, dance, etc.) takes inherent inborn talent and can't be taught, the idea that everyone ought to get married and have children even if they don't like children, don't have the resources to support them and dislike taking care of people, along with other similarly ignorance-praising cant. Conformity is about striving for mediocrity while repressing anything you find remotely enjoyable unless 10,000 other people are doing it at the same time or it involves hurting others.

I think these things come out of a long tradition, they get parroted and passed on for generations and never questioned because life gets complicated if people question things. Schools reinforce that and try to create an impression of unquestionable authority and expertise, then some idiot spouts off like that and people follow because they're tired, many times other life situations are Catch-22s so they don't have time for introspection or reading or questioning life.

Work is supposed to be dull, unpleasant, involve being bullied by superiors and something you'd never do if you weren't being paid for it. Yet you're supposed to work hard at it all your life whether or not you get paid decently for the effort. The same people look down on anyone whose occupation is enjoyable as having somehow cheated on life and gotten out of having to work hard.