I saw this interesting post in another forum:
Originally Posted by Steve Mensing
John asks: "What are you thoughts on REBT's shame-attacking exercise? Is that a form of desensitization? If so, any thoughts on its effectiveness? Any tips?"
John REBT's (Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) "shame attacking exercise" is a direct exposure process targeting shameful activities. It is a form of exposure-desensitization. I hold "shame attacking" exercises in high regard and have taught their use to social anxiety groups.
Typical exercises are walking a shoebox, labeled "dog", on a string through a public park or loudly calling out all the stops on a bus or a train. (I modeled the behavior first and had great fun calling out stops first--Only once did some elderly woman tell me to sit down and shutup--I asked her what stop she was getting off so I could announce her departure and sing: "Happy Trails to You".
She said I was a flake and I agreed with her.
What happens is shame attacking is a person finds out they can stand and survive the socalled shame and it wasn't a big a deal as they thought. Very often persons using this exercise enjoy a good laugh at what they previously believed would be a public disaster.
It's excellent for the shame and embarassment part of social phobia, overcoming our "hangups", and even public performance anxiety. Folks experience the socalled worst and find out they can survive and stand it--it's not the end of the world.
*Don't perform "shame attacking" exercises at work.
*If someone is extremely anxious about embarrassment and shame they might want to build up at a gradient.
Do lesser shameful exercises at first until they are desensitized and move to the next shame provoking activity.
*If someone gets very overwhelmed initially or feels some panic coming on they can quickly perform the Shrunken Head to ratchet the overwhelm down. Then continue acting silly or strange until your shame is desensitized.
*Calling out stops on a public bus or train is a nice start.
Don't wear a backpack on New York or London public transportation or you might get detained by the transit police.
Take care, Steve
This post has really inspired me...
I am suddenly reminded of an interview I heard with Larry David (my comedic hero). He talked about how when they are filming a scene where someone is yelling at him and/or cursing, he has the hardest time not laughing. He explained how in real life, people very rarely have such extreme responses when they get upset at you, so actually getting to act in scenes where people are psychotically yelling at him and calling him all kinds of vulgar names is irresistably funny. I think I too often think I'll end up getting cursed at or yelled at, when most of the time it doesn't happen (only rarely do I get cursed at, usually while running). Larry's explanation shows that while getting verbally assaulted is rare, it doesn't have to break you (you don't have to echo their comments in your self-analysis).
I tend to think that most guys will yell or physically attack me if I even slightly bother them (I'm a small guy, which makes me think it's more likely). I think the same with women, minus the physical attacks (although possible, it's less probable).
The shoebox on a rope with "DOG" on it sounds like a hilarious, and very difficult, stunt. I might actually be able to almost do it if I had a bunch of people with me (maybe filming from a distance).
In fact, I almost did a stunt a couple years ago with my roommate. We lived in an apartment up a big hill, with a balcony looking over the hill. I was going to walk up the hill and make a jerking motion with my leg, such that my leg nearly touches my ear. I'd do this RIGHT before passing someone, making them hopefully think I've got some kind of issue/problem. We never went through with it, but only because she never really got her video camera working (which would be filming from the balcony).
I used to do this in the movie theater I worked at though, and one time this attractive girl had NO negative reaction... in fact, she ended up asking me for the time. I was stunned! I was also a lot more socially confident at the movie theater, so it wasn't something I'd ever do outside of that place (with people supporting my stunt).
I think I'm going to go with either of these exercises/challenges:
- Wear running clothes that evoke the most negative comments from people (tight-fitting basically), and run wherever I see the most people. Run through big crowds, especially groups of teenagers. Teenagers will likely provide my best chance at tasting some disapproval.
- Near others, clumsily drop several books two times in a row in a quiet library (I haven't been to the library in my new city yet).
PS --- Ross, have you read "How to Control Your Anxiety Before It Controls You" by Albert Ellis? It came out in 1998, and I'm a little intrigued by it. There is a section on shame-attacking exercises, as well as a sense of humor to combat anxiety. I might buy this book or look for it in the library (hey, two birds with one stone if I perform the shame-attacking challenge there).