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Not addicted - but my social anxiety nearly vanished
Submitted by admin on Tue, 11/06/2012 - 07:49
I know this is pretty long, but I've been accumulating a lot of thoughts on this subject over the past week, and it seemed appropriate to put it in my obligatory '90 day report', so... here goes.
- The Beginning
90 days ago, I was truly a skeptic of NoFap. The TED talk had a few interesting ideas in it that resonated with me, in particular the ideas concerning reward-seeking feedback loops. It was a logical enough theory that if you cut off the supply of mind-candy, you'll slowly re-train your mind to find it elsewhere. Since I was a couple weeks into quitting smoking and drinking, I was in the right mindset of tackling a new challenge just for the sake of seeing what happens.
First week was pretty easy, I already filled my schedule with things to do to keep my mind off my woes, so I simply didn't even think about fapping. Week 2 started to make me really anxious and depressed, and by week 3 I thought I was going to go nuts. My only coping mechanism for this was working out to pure exhaustion or going out and hanging out with friends or trying to go meet new people, or simply just going somewhere I haven't been before.
This is when I noticed something pretty remarkable... my social anxiety didn't really exist anymore. Or rather, it was still there, but manageable to a degree that it was almost negligible. I started to notice how other people reacted to me, and I reacted to their reactions. In short, I felt like I was dominating most of the conversations I was in, even though I barely talked.
What I mean by that is, you don't have to be loud and alpha in order to dominate people's attention. There are so many subtle ways you affect people's behavior than that, the key component I've discovered in myself is to simply be receptive. If you build a large inner confidence, people simply pick up on it, respect it, and are largely affected by it. People will change their mannerisms and the way they talk to you and what they talk about largely on how they perceive how you respond to them.
This might be common knowledge to most people, but this was a very enlightening experience to me, as it allowed me to actually make meaningful connections with people, for once in my life, my social interactions were actually intellectually stimulating to me, I didn't feel like I was boxed in a corner every time I was in a social setting. Even more than all that, you really start to get a good feel for how insecure and anxious other people are once you notice these behaviors, and your own insecurities don't seem to matter as much once your innate empathy kicks in.
I've been single my whole life, and am single now, and honestly, I'll probably be single for a great deal of time to come, if not the rest of my life. I did manage to hook up with this one girl I was interested in a couple months ago, which was a pretty big deal for me since I haven't been laid in about 4 years, (I'm 26 now) but as per usual, there was nothing of real substance in our attraction to keep us together.
That said, I have more meaningful platonic relationships with women now than I've ever had before in my life, and I can say with complete certainty that I put myself in this position by choice. Honestly, I've always kind of... disliked sexual tension. I don't like to consider myself an intellectual, but there's just something very primitive about modern society's mating rituals that just lacks any real emotional or intellectual substance. This is kind of a curse with a silver lining in that, well, there's no quicker way to get friend-zoned than to stimulate deep-rooted inquiries into women's emotional and philosophical backgrounds.
However, as 'beta' as this seems, it's earned me the trust and friendship of people I truly feel are fascinating and interesting to me, and my social circles have benefited immensely for it. More than that though, my experiences have given me a pretty deep understanding of the female psyche and a window into a lot of the insecurities that modern society bestows on women, and how their self-worth is largely determined by superficial qualities. What I see is a society that encourages people to act in certain ways, and if that archetype you're modeling yourself after doesn't match up to who you are personally, then you're basically on your own when it comes to making sense of that psychological discrepancy.
I suppose I can relate to this on many levels, since I long since became disenfranchised with what I thought I needed to be in order to accommodate society, because the bottom line is... well, nobody really cares. Not really. The only people who ever will care are friends, and most friend's opinions are still hi-jacked ultimately by what media and culture tells them they should value. This is alienation on a massive scale, and so I prize moments when people can be real with each other, if even only for a few moments, and this is basically a large reason why I removed myself from the rat-race of the modern day dating game.
- Dealing With Desire
So after coming to terms with what I valued, and feeling pretty confident in my ability to exert self-control, I still had periods of severe anxiety and, well, sexual frustration. Honestly the only thing I felt I could do is either use that anxiety as fuel to do something I objectively felt to be beneficial to me in some way, whether it be study, exercise, or self-improvement, or I would just take some time to reflect on the nature of the anxiety and literally just meditate for as long as I needed to for the feelings to subside.
In many ways, I thought I was kidding myself, that I was a ticking time bomb, that my life would be a lot better and more fulfilling if I stopped thinking so much and just satisfied my primal urges, whether it be porn and masturbation, or just going out and hook up and date like normal people. But in many ways, I opened up Pandora's box, and what I see is a society absolutely chock full of miserable people. Everyone I know has relationship problems, everyone I know is playing some proverbial goose chase, and not one of them can truly articulate what it is they're looking for and what they're trying to achieve.
I mean, just like the next guy, I can appreciate a fine woman when I see one and fantasize about her and be all about 'trying to get all up in that', but... I feel silly even saying this, but that whole mindset just feels so detached from reality, after having so many first-hand experiences of the reality of situations and the many more complex and subtle layers that go into courtship and how difficult it is to extract meaningfulness out of superficial encounters. For the longest time I just figured I was romantically handicapped, perhaps I had some sort of sexual deficiency, or some other Freudian bullshit. But honestly, I can't shake this feeling off my chest that it's really society as a whole that has an emotional deficiency, leagues of people unable to connect the dots between consumerism, desire, and inner-fulfillment... it seems that society has formed an artificial ecosystem, and all we can do as men and women is fill our respective niches as best we can.
This leaves me sad for many reasons, and not so much because I'm not 'getting some' as much as I'd like, but that the world at large seems wholly incapable of approaching each other the right way, that as a whole, we have designed our own cages and degrees of separation from each other. I feel no shame in noticing these barriers and doing what I can to break them down, but there's a great sense of isolation in this style of living as well.
I wish I could give some comforting advice, but the only thing I can say here is... it pays off to learn to love the pain. Since starting this NoFap thing, I have started to take running pretty seriously, I'm training for a marathon, and sometimes I push myself to serious periods of discomfort. But as other runners will confirm, there's a sense of profound pride and fulfillment that makes it worth it, a sense of euphoria that renders the pain obsolete. It's the best analogy I can come up with for seemingly unbearable moments of self-control, but the feeling is true, and transcendent of our physical ailments in many ways.
- The Future
I can never go back, not unless I undergo some severe trauma or if my spirit and strength wane dramatically. Sometimes I look back to where I was three months ago, how depressed I was, how hopeless and bleak my worldview was... it's still so vivid in my mind, and I know for a certainty I haven't been anywhere close to that state of mind since starting this NoFap thing. There's actually a video I found linked here from a philosophy series on happiness about Nietzche and hardship that I believe resonated with my experience pretty closely, which I'd recommend watching.
In short... it's sometimes easy to jump on the NoFap bandwagon because you believe it'll cure all your life problems or make you a 'chick magnet' or whatever else, and there's no doubt in my mind that it does help to various degrees depending on who you are, but I think more than that, NoFap is therapeutic in a way that's more self-reflective, it helps us uncover what we truly want and how we truly perceive the world because we remove that numbness that constant pleasure-response cycles do to our neural pathways. I mean, the psychology behind this is all up in the air, but I've spent a great deal of time thinking about this subject, and I can think of nothing bad to say about NoFap other than it's deprivation in some ways, but that's the short-sighted view, and shouldn't be a real concern for anybody truly interested in improving themselves. Porn truly is akin to the proverbial cookie jar. You know what's in it, you know what it tastes like, and you know what it'll do to you if you over indulge.
tl;dr Haha, yeah right.
LINK TO POST - 90 days of NoFap and the tenets of self-control