What are you saying and what do you really want to hear?

Before you start a conversation with another person, have you already decided what you want to hear? Meaning are you seeking advice, looking for clarity, seeking validation, looking for empathy, or just wanting to vent. You probably don't even know and just want to talk. So what happens after you finish stating your part and then person you are speaking with responds in a way that makes you upset or frustrated? Do you get mad at that person because they said something that you didn't want to hear or are you able to accept what they have to say?

This is a very common scenario in conversations where the person delivering the message hasn't given the recipient clarity on the purpose of the conversation, but why would they, it's not like it's meant to be a formal essay with an introduction, body and conclusion. It's just a conversation. Unfortunately, by failing to provide the recipient with the proper background information, the person delivering the message is putting themselves at risk for being misunderstood. This can subsequently lead to an argument and hurt feelings.

What if the conversation took an entirely different approach. What if you told the person from the beginning exactly what you needed from them. By giving them the proper background information as to what you would like for them to do (clarify, validate, demonstrate empathy for your feelings, or just listen), you are ensuring that the conversation will have a better outcome rather then just speaking and hoping for the best.

How to attend summertime events when you "hate people".

It's summertime. Yippee! Not exactly the first thought on a person's mind when they suffer from social anxiety.

To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, the person must suffer significant distress or impairment that interferes with his or her ordinary routine in social settings, at work or school, or during other everyday activities.

When you suffer from social anxiety and receive an invitation to attend an event your first reaction is usually "ugh, how am I going to get out of this one". Followed by the feeling of intense guilt when you start to think about how your declination may sadden the host.

What happens next usually involves a roller-coaster of emotions which includes intense fear, dread, panic, and sometimes an outburst of tears. The emotions eventually settle and then as the date approaches and you realize you have to make a decision all of those emotions come back again.

So what do you do next? Well if you decide to go then you need to make a plan:

1. Ask if you can bring a friend.
Bring someone who may be a little more social than you are and can help maintain a conversation with others better than you can.

2. Bring a comfort item.
Remember when you were a kid and you used to bring a toy or a blanket with you everywhere? Find a small object that brings you comfort and bring it with you. You may even want to consider bringing tissues if you tend to sweat excessively.

2. Upon arrival find a "safe place".
A safe place may be a corner seat or a seat that is close to an exit in case you feel the need to excuse yourself.

3. Pre-plan when you are going to leave.
Prior to arriving pre-plan when you are going to leave and let the host know you may not be able to stay for the entire event because (insert valid excuse here).

4. Find the snacks/food/beverages.
If you are dealing with an upset stomach grab a light snack or a beverage. Eating and drinking is a great way to distract your mind away from your emotions.

5. Allow yourself warm-up time.
Just like your body eventually adjusts to the temperature when you get into a pool, your emotions will also adjust when you're at an event. The feeling of dread and panic may not completely subside, but the level of intensity will eventually lessen if you willfully encourage your mind to relax.

5. Have a list of general topics to discuss prepared in your head.
Topics like the weather, the growth of someone's kid, work/school, food, animals, or something you saw on the news tend to be topics that most people can relate to, so when you begin to experience a moment of awkward silence use one of these topics to keep the conversation going.

6. Remain calm and think positive.
Take break and use the rest room if you feel yourself becoming too overwhelmed. When you enter the rest room practice doing some breathing relaxation and remind yourself to calm down, everything is going to be ok.

7. There is an end in sight!
At the conclusion of the event or if you have decided to leave early, make sure you congratulate yourself. You survived another event and you need to view your achievement as a major accomplishment.

Well done!

Until the next event.


Anjail Ameen-Rice

References: Social Anxiety

Anjail Ameen-Rice is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Staten Island, New York who specializes with working with individuals with anxiety and depression. She also integrates Christian Counseling into sessions when requested.
Why do teenagers cut, and how to help

OCTOBER 30, 2014

I noticed Sarah’s arms as soon as I met her. It is hard not to, as 15 years of self-injury have rendered them more scar than skin. Sarah isn’t my student, but I’ve taught plenty of kids like her, and she offered to talk to me about why she has cut herself for a decade and a half, and how the adults in her life could have helped her manage the pain that prompted her to self-injure.

By the time she first cut herself at 12, she’d already endured seven years of abuse at the hands of a parent. “Cutting was my comfort, from the very beginning. I know that sounds strange — to cause pain to feel better — but it worked. Sometimes, if I was feeling anxious in school, all I had to do was go in to the bathroom and look at my scars. Just seeing them comforted me.”

It can be difficult for people who have never sought relief through self-injury to understand Sarah’s actions, but to Dr. Michael Hollander , director of Training and Consultations on the 3East Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and author of “ Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury ,” her explanation makes sense.

In Sarah’s mind, self-injury functions as an effective, albeit destructive and dangerous, coping mechanism. “The vast majority of kids who cut themselves do so as an emotion-regulation strategy, and, unfortunately, it works, which is why it’s so hard to get them to stop,” Dr. Hollander said.

Kids who cut themselves are either jumping out of their skin and use self-injury to calm themselves down, or are numb and empty and use self-injury to feel something. A small percentage use it for avoidance, to create a distraction, and an even smaller percentage use it to get attention. Some, a very small group of kids, use it to punish themselves; kids who feel they don’t deserve to live, breathe or take up space may cut themselves, usually in the context of an extreme emotional situation.

Kids who self-injure tend to be particularly emotionally sensitive and vulnerable and suffer from what Dr. Hollander calls “emotional illiteracy.” They can’t name their feelings, let alone formulate a plan for managing and coping with them. Strategies that work with most kids, such as reassurance, minimizing the severity of difficulties, or offering to help them solve problems, can backfire with kids who self-injure.

When I asked Dr. Hollander to offer ways teachers and parents can help kids who self-injure, he said that what adults should not do is often more important than what they should. 

Do not agree to confidentiality. “All too often, well-meaning adults agree to keep the self-injury a secret on the promise that the kid won’t do it again, and this is a terrible idea.” While cutting is not generally a suicide attempt, “there’s a link between cutting and suicide. Suicide risk is nine times higher if there’s a history of self-injurious behavior, and some believe that self-injury is a sort of rehearsal for more severe injuries that can lead to death.” 

Adults should not prioritize relationships with a child above that child’s well-being. “Kids who self-harm need treatment, and in short order,” Dr. Hollander stressed. Giving in to their pleas for more time, silence or additional counsel only delays treatment and could lead to further, more serious injury.

Do not suggest substitute behaviors for self-injury. Offering such advice, Dr. Hollander explains, can slide into the territory of treatment, and laypeople are not qualified to counsel or treat kids who self-injure, no matter how many books and articles they read. 

What adults should do, according to Dr. Hollander, is validate children’s feelings, and work with the family or social services to get that child into treatment as quickly as possible.

Validation, Dr. Hollander stresses in his book, is the key to supporting a child who self-injures. “To validate someone is to communicate that you understand other person’s experience. You don’t have to like to or agree with it; you just have to acknowledge it.” Solving their problems, attempting to put their emotional pain in perspective, reassuring, and offering “I’ve been there” feedback may feel helpful in the moment, but when emotions feel overwhelming, and an adult tells you that everything is going to be O.K., emotionally sensitive kids can hear that reassurance as an invalidation of their feelings.

Above all else, initiate professional treatment. Self-injury that goes untreated can evolve from minor cuts to life-threatening injuries in a moment. As Sarah explained, her worst injuries always began as tiny cuts, “just a scratch, maybe one that would look like the cat did it,” and ended in a trip to the emergency room. “Because I am disconnected from my body and physical pain when I cut myself, it’s the sight of the blood — not the pain — that brings me back to myself, and things can get out of control pretty fast.” 

As we finished talking, I pointed to the marks highest up on her forearm, scars that seemed to form words. 

“What does that say?” I asked. 

“Part of it, down at the bottom, says ‘HELP ME,’ ” she replied. 

She then pointed to a faded ‘I’, an ‘M’ and an ‘S’, and said, “That used to say ‘I’m sorry.’ I cut that just after I reported my dad to Child Protective Services.”

She slid her finger to the right, then tapped the clear ‘N’ she’d incised next to the “I’m” and added, in a half-smile, “I added the ‘Not’ later.”