Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fear of Judgmental Eyes

Relationships are harmed when one person wants to dance and the other refuses to. What is behind the refusal? There are many possible causes, but a fear of being judged is often the unnamed reason for not even starting a dance class, or later not fully enjoying a milonga. Are people sitting there as you dance judging you? Probably not. The problem is the perception you are being judged.

Even with the attainment of tango perfection, this particular anxiety may not go away. Take a moment to recall if you know a talented musician or dancer who is debilitated by the fear of being watched and judged.  I know many talented people like this.  So the ability or the attainment of tango skills is not the issue with this social anxiety. Skill is indeed needed, but it is to put the feeling of being judged to rest!  And it does take skill. Fair and kind self-talk script writing is a great skill. Below, I am going to suggest a few things that will help you or a friend to develop this skill. You can write the new scripts all by yourself, and if that does not work, a life coach or CBT therapist* can help you.

Here's a video that gives the feeling of judgmental eyes very well:

This commercial is saying without any words, "You have to go to the gym and sculpt a perfect body before you can face the beach judges."  Yet the answer is not having the perfect body, or the being the perfect dancer, but to enjoy the path to getting better or simply the wonderful path of free expression. 

I am going to give you some techniques I use with combat veterans the chronic perception and overwhelming feeling that they are being targeted by snipers or others are watching them with the intent of harm.

The schizophrenic solution:  "Bring it on!"
As a therapist,  I had a schizophrenic patient who taught me something that I have shared with many veterans with hyper-vigilance and paranoia in public.  The soldier suffered from severe paranoia, thinking that people all around him were plotting to kill him.  One day he was greatly relieved, telling me, "Mark, I am so tired of being paranoid, that I figure that if someone is going to kill me, then they can just give it a try.  I am ready."  The take-home lesson is to say:  "Sure, the jury of (perceived) tango judges sitting over by the DJ's table are judging me, but just let them judge all they want.  Their judgments are null and void.  They have set up court at a non-competitive event."  This is a good start, but the next three are better.   

The unicycle solution:  Be invisible.
My children and I ride unicycles because my oldest wanted to learn when he was 9-years old.  I looked up on the Internet how to coach him, and soon he was riding.  Then I learned to ride a unicycle myself.  We now even play street hockey on unicycles.  At age 49 I started.  It was hard.  I really looked stupid trying.  Really stupid.  The neighbors peeked out the windows and surely were thinking, "My God, I would never do that!  Look at how childish he is!"  Later, perhaps they wondered what it would be like, being out in the street playing street hockey on unicycles and laughing with their children.  How did I do it?  I pretended they couldn't see me.  But then, once I was good at it, I had the terrible thoughts that everyone was thinking that I was showing off.  Really, I just wanted to have fun and challenge my brain to do something totally new.  I cannot juggle and ride a unicycle, but I am good at riding and performing my "disappearing judge magic." Poof!  Judging people, all gone!  I am invisible.

The safe place solution.
In EMDR* therapy, on of the first things that I do is to find out what "safe place" the client has in the past--such as grandma's house.  The best way to establish a very strong memory of a safe place is with left right movement.  Guess what?  Left right movement is what dance is.  So work on establishing different safe places and go there while dancing.  Social tango is your safe place?  Go there.  Judges don't exist in your safe place because you are the architect of this place.  In social tango, non-competitive tango, judges are in the unemployed line. They are not even wanted as volunteers. When they get tired of standing in line, they sit there. Be nice to them.  :-)

The spiritual solution.
I like the spiritual solution best.  By all the evidence, it appears that the Universe wants you to dance freely and openly as a child does.  You were made to respond to music in your body.  It is the center of your humanity.  Language came slowly; dancing as a child came naturally.  Dance is the epicenter of your humanity! If you can do this first part of the spiritual solution, then you are ready for the deeper part:  People you may perceive as judges perhaps are struggling with their own problems of being perfect.  If you knew person--the perceived judge--you might see that they are sad that you can dance so feely.  Perhaps they envy you because, although they dance well, they suffer with feeling of being judged.  Say a prayer for them to the tango gods, okay?  The tango gods listen to more than tango music, you know.

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Resources for getting help:
If you can convince a friend or a non-dance partner to get help for social anxieties, please share this larger look specific phobias related to dance (chorophobia) with a therapist:  http://tango-therapist.blogspot.com/2015/08/tango-chorophobia.html.  Most therapists are unaware of the intricacies of chrophobia. It will save time if they are aware of dance-specific issues that may be behind the reluctance to dance.  One last thing:   Go with you partner or friend to seek help.

*A test for social anxiety for someone you know.  If you are enjoying social tango, you probably do not have a debilitating social anxiety, but someone who would love to dance but is afraid to come to a milonga may need your help.  They can take this test and then do something about it with a professional. Tell your friend or non-dancing partner about Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  All the private tango lessons in the world may not help a person who has a social anxiety.  Your friend may want to get professional help for this specific social anxiety of feeling judged.  It is a very common anxiety, but if it is debilitating, then help is advisable.  CBT helps with overcoming the internal dialogue that keeps social anxieties from continually disabling one's attempt to be social or freely enjoy social events.

Photo credit:  http://www.naijastories.com/2012/07/the-fear-to-dare/1024-eyes/