So I had a therapist years ago suggest this to help with my social anxiety. - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-18-2021, 01:27 AM Thread Starter
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So I had a therapist years ago suggest this to help with my social anxiety.


So I had a therapist years ago suggest this to help with my social anxiety.

He told me to got out and panhandle or beg for money like a homeless person. He said to dress up like a homeless person (old, dirty clothes) and ask strangers for money. And he told me to go to a different town then what I lived in where no one knows me and place where it is legal to panhandle.

So I think his theory was this would expose me to interacting with strangers and then desensitize me to being rejected by them or desensitize me to people being rude to me. Which would be highly likely since I think a lot of people are rude to people begging them for money. He said give it a try and you may even make some money out of the deal!

I never did go through with it but I can see the logic in it now, Perhaps it would have helped. Do you think this would have been a good idea or that it would help you?
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-18-2021, 02:45 AM
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I have very mixed feelings about 'shame attacking' techniques.

What most people are anxious about is not negative reactions per se; what they're anxious about is being judged negatively for who they are. If you go somewhere nobody knows you and pretend to be someone you're not, those people are judging a persona you've created, not who you really are deep down inside as a person.

I suspect a person can tolerate a good deal of negative judgment when they know that it's not really them who is being judged. You can see this sort of thing happening to some degree even when people aren't pretending to be someone else; many people feel less anxious around complete strangers they never expect to meet again than they do around people who know them. That's because they don't expect anything to come back to haunt them. Many people can do things on the job they can't do in their private lives because they're representing someone else, not themselves. I could make 50 phone calls a day at work without thinking too much about it, but I'd still have to spend hours psyching myself up if I had to call someone on my own phone representing no one but myself.

I think for a technique to be truly effective it has to expose the real you to the judgment of other people. But I've never looked into the research about this particular tactic.

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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-19-2021, 03:06 PM
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I have to say, that is perhaps one of the more original takes I've seen as a therapeutic approach to combatting social anxiety. Because, dressing up as a bum, going to beg for money in another city - that is another ballpark I wouldn't have quickly come up with myself.

That said, if it's effective, who is judging? I think it'd be a little bit too much out of my comfort zone (fully realizing that that is the point of the exercise) to go through with it, but can also see it working. Just, y'know you have to be actually prepared to dress as a bum and beg for money, which seems like a whole life experience on its own.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-20-2021, 03:46 PM Thread Starter
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I have to say, that is perhaps one of the more original takes I've seen as a therapeutic approach to combatting social anxiety. Because, dressing up as a bum, going to beg for money in another city - that is another ballpark I wouldn't have quickly come up with myself.
Yea it seems pretty original. But I dont think it is because I remember years ago a friend I knew had a therapist and they suggested the same idea of dressing up a a bum and begging for money. So its something that has been around for some time and suggested to others as well.
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-20-2021, 04:59 PM
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I have to say, that is perhaps one of the more original takes I've seen as a therapeutic approach to combatting social anxiety. Because, dressing up as a bum, going to beg for money in another city - that is another ballpark I wouldn't have quickly come up with myself.
Yea it seems pretty original. But I dont think it is because I remember years ago a friend I knew had a therapist and they suggested the same idea of dressing up a a bum and begging for money. So its something that has been around for some time and suggested to others as well.
Well, was it the same therapist? J/k, just of all the treatments I have come across that never quite made the list. But it may be a therapeutic approach more common in some areas, and it does make sense on some level going by the logic your therapist presented (well not sure about the part of maybe making money on the side a bit, that seems like a stretch goal for a therapeutic approach put forth like that).
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 01:20 AM
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 07:09 AM
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You could also get into bum fights and push off rival beggars off your turf. The ultimate exposure therapy.

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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 07:17 AM
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I don't think this kind of thing works because you have to overcome every specific thing that creates anxiety and that seems like acting plus just asking them for money doesn't really open you up for conversation 9/10. Most people will just ignore you anyway or at best give you money and leave.

What I found in the past is if I became comfortable with someone I'd have to start from scratch with every new person and on top of that if I don't talk to/hang out with someone regularly I start from 0 again or at least have to get over the rustyness.

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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 08:48 AM
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I think I've read something similar to this at one point in one of the SA books.

I'd never do anything like that. I did manage to push myself to do things completely outside my comfort zone, but it ended up backfiring, and I ended up worse than I started.

Also, there's the possibility of pushing yourself to the edge and then backing away (which I've done at some points). This is probably the worst thing ever and will reinforce your SA.

Exposure is a really risky exercise imo. I think it should only be done if you know beforehand there's 99% chance you'll be able to go through with it + deal with the aftermath emotionally.

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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 06:49 PM
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Might work for some people with more confidence but I don't think I could ever do that. I already have ZERO confidence and care way too much about what people think of me. I always shame myself retrospectively about every encounter I have with another person, replaying it in my mind over and over the things I've said, imagining all the negative things they might think about me. I don't want to begin imagining how that will be if I act like a homeless person.
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-21-2021, 10:17 PM
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I'll tell you guys how it goes when I become homeless.

Actually, I probably won't, because I won't have access to a computer, but y'know.

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What I found in the past is if I became comfortable with someone I'd have to start from scratch with every new person
This is how it is for me. Everyone is a murder ape until proven otherwise. Which can take time. And the more power someone has to hurt me, the more anxiety I feel.

How to calculate how anxious I feel:

number of murder apes X how dangerous* they seem / how well I know and trust them

----------

Maximum anxiety would be something like a Hell's Angels biker convention (well, being captured by cannibals, but that's less likely). But even something like retail is bad because you're constantly exposed to stranger danger. I'm most comfortable 1 on 1 with someone I know I can trust. But even then, if they have a lot of power to hurt me, I can feel very anxious around them. Probably one reason I still experience a lot of anxiety talking to my parents.

* Danger is hard to quantify. Mostly it refers to how close a person conforms to the stereotype of a person who'd beat me to death with a tire iron. (Quite a few of those.) But I'm also afraid of children. Not because they're dangerous, but because I'm afraid a dangerous murder ape (like their parent) will see me as a predator and beat me to death with a tire iron. Safer just to give them a wide berth. I can get similar anxiety around single women if they seem too skittish/likely to blow a rape whistle. I tend to cross the street to avoid people like that, because I don't want a white knight murder ape to beat me to death with a tire iron. It's sort of exhausting being a Hollywood villain everyone hates and fears. I see torches and pitchforks everywhere I go.

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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-22-2021, 08:22 AM
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I'll tell you guys how it goes when I become homeless.

Actually, I probably won't, because I won't have access to a computer, but y'know.



This is how it is for me. Everyone is a murder ape until proven otherwise. Which can take time. And the more power someone has to hurt me, the more anxiety I feel.

How to calculate how anxious I feel:

number of murder apes X how dangerous* they seem / how well I know and trust them

----------

Maximum anxiety would be something like a Hell's Angels biker convention (well, being captured by cannibals, but that's less likely). But even something like retail is bad because you're constantly exposed to stranger danger. I'm most comfortable 1 on 1 with someone I know I can trust. But even then, if they have a lot of power to hurt me, I can feel very anxious around them. Probably one reason I still experience a lot of anxiety talking to my parents.

* Danger is hard to quantify. Mostly it refers to how close a person conforms to the stereotype of a person who'd beat me to death with a tire iron. (Quite a few of those.) But I'm also afraid of children. Not because they're dangerous, but because I'm afraid a dangerous murder ape (like their parent) will see me as a predator and beat me to death with a tire iron. Safer just to give them a wide berth. I can get similar anxiety around single women if they seem too skittish/likely to blow a rape whistle. I tend to cross the street to avoid people like that, because I don't want a white knight murder ape to beat me to death with a tire iron. It's sort of exhausting being a Hollywood villain everyone hates and fears. I see torches and pitchforks everywhere I go.
haha murder apes. I don't think I know why people make me anxious. It's not that they could hurt me but it's kind of hard to know why since it's just a general feeling that's usually there and also with other new stuff too to be honest I seem to have some general anxiety as well. (although not always, like I'm not scared by the 'new things' that bother others culturally as much.)

Children make me anxious as well but that's because I don't really know how to intuitively communicate with them due to lack of experience. But I don't really encounter them often. I have some young cousins I've seen only a couple of times as an adult, and then much more rarely young children have approached me in public (like once or twice ever.) One time after it had gotten dark I was walking somewhere and this young kid came running at me, and I heard their mum warn them not to run ahead because I might kidnap them :/ I think it's on some parent's minds constantly.

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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-22-2021, 08:54 AM
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What most people are anxious about is not negative reactions per se; what they're anxious about is being judged negatively for who they are. If you go somewhere nobody knows you and pretend to be someone you're not, those people are judging a persona you've created, not who you really are deep down inside as a person.
I kind of disagree. I think a big part of social anxiety for a lot of people is a faulty expectation of how your own identity is perceived by others. You have constructed an identity of self in your head, and when you fail to perform it, you get anxious. At least, that's how it works in my head.

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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-22-2021, 09:58 AM
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Personally, I think a better exercise would involve something like partnering with a local (to you or not) cause and offering to canvas for them/pass out flyers. That sort of thing. There are, more or less, similar stakes... But with more potential for real conversations and less likelihood for potentially draining resources actual people in need could benefit from.

Shrug.
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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-22-2021, 11:56 AM
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That sounds horrifying. I could never do that and it sounds dangerous anyway.

Why would a therapist recommend that you humiliate yourself? If a therapist told me to do that then I would get up and walk right out. Rude.

Homeless are the easiest targets for another homeless to direct their spontaneous fits of rage at. Ever seen a hobo walking in the middle of the street screaming? Now imagine that they are screaming at you and are threatening you. That could realistically happen if you go through with this.
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post #16 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-22-2021, 04:13 PM
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I have very mixed feelings about 'shame attacking' techniques.

What most people are anxious about is not negative reactions per se; what they're anxious about is being judged negatively for who they are. If you go somewhere nobody knows you and pretend to be someone you're not, those people are judging a persona you've created, not who you really are deep down inside as a person.

I suspect a person can tolerate a good deal of negative judgment when they know that it's not really them who is being judged. You can see this sort of thing happening to some degree even when people aren't pretending to be someone else; many people feel less anxious around complete strangers they never expect to meet again than they do around people who know them. That's because they don't expect anything to come back to haunt them. Many people can do things on the job they can't do in their private lives because they're representing someone else, not themselves. I could make 50 phone calls a day at work without thinking too much about it, but I'd still have to spend hours psyching myself up if I had to call someone on my own phone representing no one but myself.

I think for a technique to be truly effective it has to expose the real you to the judgment of other people. But I've never looked into the research about this particular tactic.
Good thing I read other people's replies first because this is exactly what I thought upon reading the original post.

If the therapist is anticipating that someone is going to go out of their way to be aggressive to a homeless person then this would be quite irresponsible of them to put you in that position, both in therapy terms and for your personal safety. But more likely, the expected reaction is that passers-by would either give you money, say they don't have any, or just ignore you. If the latter is what was meant by "public being rude" then I'm not sure how effective this would be towards overcoming rejection.

By the therapist's own admission, his recommended plan basically relies on people's perceptions of homeless people, and provides an alias that faces rejection - it's not the person directly being judged - and this is what I've noticed with most of these shame-based exposure techniques.

To highlight this point further - a more effective rejection exposure method would have been for the patient to walk around in a nice suit asking for random strangers for money, because the public is not used to this scenario. And even this involves hiding behind an alias.

Not trying to be harsh. But perhaps its better for the rejection exposure therapy to focus on scenarios most reflective of what the person normally faces as possible - along with assessing the impact of their rejection anxiety on their ability to actually face it. But I'm definitely no expert on the matter.

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post #17 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-23-2021, 12:56 AM Thread Starter
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Personally, I think a better exercise would involve something like partnering with a local (to you or not) cause and offering to canvas for them/pass out flyers. That sort of thing. There are, more or less, similar stakes... But with more potential for real conversations and less likelihood for potentially draining resources actual people in need could benefit from.

Shrug.
I agree offering to canvas for them/pass out flyers would help more with working on and improving your conversation or social skills.

But I think the idea of panhandeling would desensitize you to people being rude or rejecting you. So you would not care about the outcome of your social interactions as much. So if you want want to approach a woman and ask for a date you would be more likely to approach if you dont care about the outcome or dont let the idea of being rejected bother you anymore because you are use to it. Kind of like the idea I have heard of approaching like a hundred women in a day and ask for a date and then from that point on you will not care so much about rejection and see it isnt that bad. Then you wont have approach anxiety anymore. That or getting rejected all day would destroy your self confidence. Could work both ways I guess
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post #18 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-23-2021, 12:59 AM Thread Starter
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Also, there's the possibility of pushing yourself to the edge and then backing away (which I've done at some points). This is probably the worst thing ever and will reinforce your SA.

Exposure is a really risky exercise imo. I think it should only be done if you know beforehand there's 99% chance you'll be able to go through with it + deal with the aftermath emotionally.
Yes that would be the risk of not be able to go through with it at the last minute. Then you would beat yourself up for being a coward in your own mind. Which would just make things worse
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post #19 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-23-2021, 01:07 AM Thread Starter
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This is how it is for me. Everyone is a murder ape until proven otherwise. Which can take time. And the more power someone has to hurt me, the more anxiety I feel.

How to calculate how anxious I feel:

number of murder apes X how dangerous* they seem / how well I know and trust them
Murder apes thats a funny way to look at it! lol. But I do understand their are a great many people out their in the world who will not help a person, or stand by and do nothing while they are getting hurt or try to hurt you them very selves. The world is a rough and dangerous place. Makes me glad I live today and not in the distance past where people with mental health issues or who were different were treated even worse. I can just imagine how fun it would be to be locked up in a insane asylum in the 1850's for example. Reminds me of the story of reporter Nellie Bly who went undercover in a mental institution. Not good what she experienced and reported on
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post #20 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-23-2021, 09:12 AM
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Personally, I think a better exercise would involve something like partnering with a local (to you or not) cause and offering to canvas for them/pass out flyers. That sort of thing. There are, more or less, similar stakes... But with more potential for real conversations and less likelihood for potentially draining resources actual people in need could benefit from.

Shrug.
Not sure what it means to "canvas" something (I know what telecanvassing is i.e. calling people to sell services). Whilst I'm not sure giving out flyers would open up conversations, being a street fundraiser would definitely benefit in approaching strangers and facing rejection (and indeed trying to overcome initial objections). Hugely more challenging than giving out flyers, but if one's end goal is to be more confident in opening conversations with strangers then this method would be effective.

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