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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today I went to a mall in the afternoon and took a walk around for about an hour. What was different about this time was that I wore two obviously different shoes and put a black mark on the side of my face. I was encouraged to do this as part of my exposure as directed by my CBT therapist. No one said anything to me. No one even gave me a second look as far as I could tell. This exercise is supposed to show me that most people are engaged in their own life and couldn't give a damn about me. As a person with SAD I'm sure you can understand that I have a major problem with my outward appearance and what others may think about me or may say about me. I am sure as I do even more obviously abnormal things someone will eventually criticize me or at least question why I am doing or wearing something completely out of the ordinary. The challenge then is to not get down on myself and revert to self-defeatism. Basically, I got to get to the point where I couldn't give a rats a** about others and what they might think or say about me. The plan then is to start to talk to as many people as I can daily and through this repetition rewire my brain to the point where the fear response lowers to a tolerable level. I have written out this elaborate exposure plan that will have me doing things that I never would have dreamed of doing. I just hope it works. I am scared that if it doesn't I will be left hopeless and broken. Does anyone have any advice or previous experience with exposure experiments? Did it help or hurt?
 

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I love the idea of finding ways to stand out and seeing if anybody gives a crap, I'll have to try that.

I haven't seen a therapist for CBT, but one thing I think is to be careful about how hard you push yourself. If you try to do more than you can actually handle at this point you might be tricked in to thinking you'll never get better.

I say this because if I went way out of may way to talk to people I wouldn't be able to do it and would probably be discouraged. I just try to take little steps daily, like talking to someone I never talked to before, or carrying on a conversation for slightly longer than I'm used to.

It's not the fastest method but I think I'm making progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What if I dragged a banana tied to a string behind me in a mall? I think some people would give a crap then. I'm sure I would receive a few laughs. How would others perceive that as a threat? The problem for me is that I am a perfectionist and I feel a great need for everything to look in order. Just because it wouldn't work for you doesn't mean it wouldn't do anything for me or other perfectionists which is only a symptom of the greater problem of my SAD. I felt like I showed myself evidence of how little people actually care about my imperfections. So, it was a positive learning experience. The challenge now is to do something a little more obvious so there would be a greater chance that I will be criticized. Then, when criticized, not to dwell on it and self-defeat myself. Basically, learn to let criticism slide off my shoulders because it really doesn't matter.
 

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That's interesting, and it sounds like it's working well for you. A couple of days ago, I saw a girl walking through a busy, pedestrianised bit of town dragging a plastic lobster on a string. My thoughts ran "Ha ha, that's funny [I wasn't laughing at her, I thought she was cool and brave and quirky, rather than silly and odd]. I wonder if she's doing exposure therapy? Or maybe she's doing it for a bet, or some kind of conceptual art."

I pointed out the lobster to the people I was with, but they hadn't noticed.
 

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bht96 - that sounds terrifying but it also sounds like it would work, if kept up. How did you keep calm enough to not bolt at the quickest opportunity? How did you feel after the experiment? What worries me the most about that is running into someone I "used to" know.

Thanks for posting, let us know how your next experiment goes. I need to work up the courage to do some exposure therapy!
 

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Today I went to a mall in the afternoon and took a walk around for about an hour. What was different about this time was that I wore two obviously different shoes and put a black mark on the side of my face. I was encouraged to do this as part of my exposure as directed by my CBT therapist. No one said anything to me. No one even gave me a second look as far as I could tell. This exercise is supposed to show me that most people are engaged in their own life and couldn't give a damn about me. As a person with SAD I'm sure you can understand that I have a major problem with my outward appearance and what others may think about me or may say about me. I am sure as I do even more obviously abnormal things someone will eventually criticize me or at least question why I am doing or wearing something completely out of the ordinary. The challenge then is to not get down on myself and revert to self-defeatism. Basically, I got to get to the point where I couldn't give a rats a** about others and what they might think or say about me. The plan then is to start to talk to as many people as I can daily and through this repetition rewire my brain to the point where the fear response lowers to a tolerable level. I have written out this elaborate exposure plan that will have me doing things that I never would have dreamed of doing. I just hope it works. I am scared that if it doesn't I will be left hopeless and broken. Does anyone have any advice or previous experience with exposure experiments? Did it help or hurt?
Sounds like its a good method for you. Keep this in mind - you will probably will reach a point where you will think its no longer working, and you will feel like quitting. Instead of quitting permanently, just take a break and do what you need to do to refresh.

I did exposure on my own, and it worked for me. Even if it doesn't work for you (I think it will), there are lots of other methods and techniques out there, and one of them is bound to work for you. I believe that a method exists that will work for everyone. Be sure to give it a couple years (scary, I know) before you fully give up. I know I felt like giving up several times along the way, but eventually I made it through and I've got everything I could possible need right now - a good job, girlfriend, and plenty of friends. So, just hang in there, keep at it, and you will be okay!
 

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Hi. This sounds interesting. I wonder if my therapist will get me to do this. If she doesn't I might consider trying it anyways. Really interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
After these experiments in the mall I actually felt almost better than I did when looking normal. It was very weird and unexpected. I felt stronger. Not one person said anything to me. I made sure to look around and see if anyone was laughing or any signs of someone noticing. I was there 90 minutes in plain view and nothing explicit happened. There were actually a number of people who seemed to notice but when I would make eye contact with them they quickly looked away. Now, thats not to say that I would never encounter the occasional jerk or highly jovial, talkative kind of person that would make some critical mark. I am actually hoping for this to happen because then I could put the strategies I've learned to work. Basically, the goal is to get criticized and for me to truly, and deeply not care. The point I am trying to drive home is that people cannot hurt me merely from their words. The hurt would come from myself because I would have to accept the criticism as the truth about myself in order for it to hurt me emotionally. I have plans in the near future to do some things out in public that will nearly ensure that I will get reactions (wear a pink flamingo scarf that my mom made for me, drop a tray in the mall food court, drag a banana tied to a string behind me,etc.). I also plan to expand my exposures to making small talk repeatedly with strangers in elevators, and art museums. Another idea is while waiting in line at the supermarket, pick up a tabloid and make some comment about some of the stories about the messed-up celebrities. Then, I face my ultimate fear, public speaking. I plan to first practice making a speech in front of my therapy group and then ultimately joining toastmasters. I would like this to go fairly rapidly but I will try my best to deal with the inevitable failures and expect that the exposures may not go as fast as I would like them to. But, I am determined to take this on now as I am 28 and I feel my youth slipping through my fingers.
 
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