Social Networking, Face to Face.

Some people thrive in social situations. These people look forward to events where they will see both their nearest and dearest and also meet new faces, potential friends and contacts of all kinds. They enjoy getting dressed up, making small talk, mingling and shmoozing with all kinds of people, finding out about others as well as opening up about themselves.

A lot of people say that they dont enjoy social affairs. Oh-I’m no good at small talk they will sigh, or I never know where to put myself at these things. This type, despite their protestations, normally find the people they already know and stick by them, or choose a wing man for the duration of the engagement to keep them company on the daunting task of meeting new people. Truthfully, they are fine, even while they do not shine at first impressions or superficial chatter, they go home perhaps glad that the evening is over, but no worse off for having attended.

There are those out there however, who have a real phobia of not just crowded events and new people, but even socialising with current friends and family. Just being taken out of their comfort zone, out of their own homes can be a serious mental and physical ordeal. Watching someone with a disorder like this is an eye opener into both psychology and sociology. They may stand frozen to the spot, not knowing who to talk to or where to go. They will perhaps look moody, or act rudely, not speaking to the host or hostess, not answering direct questions, not engaging in conversation, eating hardly anything or in an anti social manner. In contrast, they might be overly interfering and pushy, make a scene, burst into tears, or fall into a noticable sulk. They may even walk out.

The drama begins far earlier than the time listed on the invite, with anxiety starting perhaps months beforehand, and debriefing and rehashing continuing for the same amount of time afterwards. A 2 hour cocktail party can become a 6 month ordeal.

This kind of issue is all the harder to understand because simply talking to another person, especially someone we know already, is something we all do on a daily basis, without even thinking about it. It is so second nature to us all, that it seems almost laughable that just being in a room with more than 3 or 4 others can cause such a strong and negative reaction.

But it happens. I see it. I’m sorry for it. I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry for the host, and I’m sorry for the people who are just trying to make you feel more comfortable. And if I’m honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Unfortunately being sorry for us all doesnt make it go away, or make it much easier to deal with.

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Struggling into the light

Hardship. Some of us seem to have so many problems and worries, while others swim through life avoiding any simple misfortune. It hardly seems fair.

Robert Frost once said “Depression occurs when one looks back with no pride, and looks forward with no hope.” I think this is so poignant and true. If we can isolate an event, or even several events, to certain times in our life, it becomes much easier to deal with. If we can say, “I have so much in my past to be happy about, so much up until now that is good” it makes it much easier not to dwell on an unfortunate circumstance. The same is true about the future. Looking ahead, if we can say “Wow, there is so much to be excited about and look forward to” no matter what age we are or stage of our lives, it makes it simpler to believe that this too shall pass.

We all know people who seem to be permenantly upset. Things are always going wrong for them, they always have something to moan about. Conversely, we all have neighbours and friends with constant sunny dispositions, happy-go-lucky types who never complain. It can’t be true that everything in the happy persons life is always great. Similarly, it would take an extreme situation to have absolutely nothing to be glad about at all. I believe that how we show ourselves to friends and acquaintances is key to our own mood.

Dont get me wrong, when it comes to close family and friends, there is nothing better than a good cry and a vent, both of which can be surprisingly therapuetic. Letting yourself say how unfair things seem and expressing your misery is a valid step in the process of getting through any upsetting event in your life. But then what? However many times life knocks you down, there isnt an opt out button. A quote from an excellent film while discussing a characters wife’s death expresses this more succinctly than i ever could. Forgive my paraphrasing.

“I don’t think i could continue living”
“That’s the worst part of all, you do.”

And so we search our lives for the pride and the hope which Frost is referring to, and we try as hard as we can to rebuild whatever is broken and where that is impossible, just clear away the shattered pieces of ourselves and start again. And it’s difficult, and painful, that cant be denied. But at the same time, it is growing, and changing, and learning more about yourself and your life and the people in it during the stormy parts than you could in a lifetime of calm waters. Some people find it harder than others to pick themselves up again, and some people undoubtably have to do it more times in their life than others, but for everyone, it is possible.

I don’t really think going through difficulties is the hardest part. After all, we have no choice, and unless you enjoy being miserable, we dont even really have a choice as to how we respond and whether we pick ourselves up again or not. Plus I have seen firsthand how out of some of the most painful experiences can come the most wonderful rewards.

No, going through hardship isnt the worst thing, because it’s all about your own choices and what decisions you make and when. You are in control. Harder in many ways is watching the people we care about have struggles. Helpless to do anything, impossible to take it from them, wincing at their mistakes or their lack of ability to move onwards and upwards.

All we can do is try to remind them of the pride they should feel in all their past accomplishments, the unlimited hope and faith they should have in their future, and try to keep them company until they can find a way out of the darkness on their own.