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The Social Opinion, Weakness & Inferiority, and 2 Causes of Social Phobias

Two Causes of Social Phobia

#1  Shame and “Social Image”
First, let’s discuss shame and social image.  The experience of shame is important in discussions of social phobia because the socially phobic client is fearful of being shamed in many situations.  As you know, shame is an affect related to a client’s conception of his public image at the time that he is being observed or believes he is being observed.

The client’s notion of his social image may be accurate or inaccurate; but if he believes that his image has been tainted, and he cares about the observer’s opinion of him, then he is likely to feel shame.  Sal stated, “The possibility of being thought of as weak, inferior, or inept is just as bad as actually being talked about in these terms.”  In other words, what others think of Sal is the crucial ingredient of shame induction— irrespective of whether they communicate this opinion.

The key factor in the activation of shame is exposure to observation by one or more persons.  This affect was triggered when Sal realized that he had been observed violating specific social norms, expectations, or demands, especially in relationship to appropriate appearance and behavior.

Sal’s perceived  “deviant” appearance or behavior were judged (he assumed) to be reflections of his weakness, inferiority, ineptness, character flaw, or immaturity.  The public sanctions for lack of conformity, by and large, made Sal feel inferior, depreciated, and immature.  The actual social consequences may consist of covert depreciation or open expressions of disapproval, ranging from mild mimicking to overt ridicule.It should be noted that if a client like Sal manages to conceal his “substandard” behavior or engages in a shameful activity in private, then he does not feel shame.

A client who feels shame sees himself as relatively helpless in attempting to counteract his depreciated public image.  Sal believed he was subject to painful group reprisals, such as public humiliation and ridicule, and is powerless to ward off these attacks.  The social opinion is absolute, finalistic, irrevocable.

It was futile for him to try to modify or appeal the group verdict.  Sal stated, “Any protestations only increases their enjoyment of my embarrassment.”  Sal acknowledged his “inept” behavior by statements such as “I made a public display of myself,” and hung his head or attempted to hide to avoid their gaze.  In his mind, the antidote for shame was to vanish from the shameful situation.  Sal often made statements such as, “I should like to fade away,” or, “I felt like merging into the woodwork.

For #2 Fear of Loss of Love or Abandonment go to Phobias Course.

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