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Have any of you ever heard something called theory of mind? I'll explain the basic concept first, so then I can explain a small revelation I have had and a hypothesis for the route cause of social anxiety.

Theory of mind is the ability of intelligent animals, of which humans are the most intelligent of all (naturally), to theorise the existence and behaviour of minds other than their own. There is no evidence a person can ever have that other people around them have their own minds, nor do they have real acess to their thoughts, however we are able to built a theoretical model of what we suppose their minds might look like and use it to predict and translate their behaviour and reasoning.

There is a big problem with this this; that being that theories of mind are all based on the mind of the person creating them. Accepting that this is true, I am forced to come to the conclusion that the source of social anxiety must be based on one's own habit of critiqueing others (thereby causing you to assume they will behave similairly). Think about it; if your theory of mind tells you that others are constantly criticising you then this most ultimately be based on the fact that you yourself are too critical.

I don't know why I never realised this before. When actually examine the way I view others, it is amazing how negative I am so much of the time. Today I deliberately monitored my own thoughts when viewing other people and was staggered at the amount of negative evaluations I could come up with for them. Every time I saw someone I automatically honed in on the least attractive aspect of their appearance and marked it as inperfection (too old, too fat, freckled, big nosed, buck toothed). Every time I heard someone speak I took note of their accent and graded it based on socio-economic class. I am disgusted with my own predjudices.

It seems that in order to alter the theory of mind I have for other people I will first need to make my own mind much less critical. I haven't really tried out this idea yet, but I have a basic concept of a technique that involved forcing yourself to always zero in on the most attractive aspect of everyone you meet before you think about anything else. If I can change my own attitude towards others into highly positive one it will become second nature for me to assume such an attitude in others.
 

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I'm not critical of other people at all, and hold no prejudices, yet I feel everyone is constantly judging me and focusing on my least attractive aspects. I believe this was caused by a series of negative social experiences when I was younger that created an impression of society and people in general within my own mind that is distorted from the reality. The reason I assume others are critiquing me isn't because I engage in such thinking myself, but because it's what I came to expect from others based on past events. Also because I have a negative self image, and I believe others must hold this same image of me. I realize this is all irrational thinking, but that's SA for you.
 

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Theory of mind is beginning to be studied in relation to SA. I am not sure how your example properly relates to it though. A lack of, or deficiency in, theory of mind can involve such things as not understanding others have their own thoughts that are separate from your own, assuming people know the things that you know, and not being able to empathise or put yourself in others' shoes.

Here is a document explaining in more detail what is meant by theory of mind.
 
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