I find it incredibly sad that the life experiences of so many people drive them into isolation and and an avoidance of social connections. It is understandable because their experiences have led them to the faulty conclusion that the words “good” and “people” simply cannot coexist. Once you have been repeatedly burned, starting with your family moving forward, it is hard to imagine that real connection, safety and acceptance even exists or that they are a worthwhile goal.
Nonetheless, the reality is that humans are by nature social creatures. Even if we have come to dislike other people due to fear or feel uneasy (or even panicky) in social settings, this can never negate the fact that we will still desire, need and crave genuine connection with others. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for healthy social connections. What this means, then, is that for those socially phobic individuals, two competing needs are forever at war within them: the need for social connections and the need to avoid them for the purpose of safety. This leads to a vacillation between impulsive and unsafe social connections born out of desperation and then a resulting withdrawal due to the negative consequences of the poorly executed attempts at affection or friendship. These individuals may eventually completely give up and live their lives in quiet but suffocating loneliness, left to their own devices to numb their need for social connections in various ways (e.g., addictions, over-eating, pornography) or they fall into despair, resulting in mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
It takes skill to navigate social and romantic relationships and these are often not taught to us as children or adolescents. By the time we reach young adulthood, we are already crippled by our deficits and merely attempt to mimic what might pass for social savvy, at least at first blush. When relationships do happen, we suddenly find ourselves totally out of our depth and running headlong into disaster, which further serves to confirm our suspicions that social or romantic relationships are always nothing short of agony.
Just remember this: you do not know what you do not know. You cannot expect yourself to naturally know how to navigate these waters if no one ever taught you how to swim. What you can do is this: learn the skills now! Study the art of relationship building, be open to seeing where your skills are too thin to be successful and then practice what you learn. Don’t be so hard on yourself for being a young adult or even a mature one and still having to learn what might seem like the basics. You cannot know what you were never taught, but you can certainly learn. And it will be our joy and honor to teach you. We are designing classes now and you can browse the upcoming titles here: Relationship Savvy.
Don’t live in fear. Instead, learn how to navigate the turbulent waters of relationships. Yep, you may be on for a ride in the rapids, but at least you don’t have to drown.