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♦Tools to Connect With Others
Submitted by Marnia Robinson on Sat, 12/04/2010 - 11:58
“Courage isn't having the strength to go on - it is going on when you don't have strength.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte
Said one recovering user:
There are a lot of places where you can get used to being out and around people but are pretty nonthreatening as far as social interaction goes. Hang out and read in a library or bookstore, or take a magazine to Starbucks or a park bench. Or just take long walks outside. I find that making stuff like this a habit helps get me out of my own head and makes me feel like more of a member of society.
The next step is to look the people you pass in the eye and smile. Then try eye contact with women when walking through the mall or around your campus. Next, try smiling with eye contact. Next, nodding and thinking an unspoken "message" to them, such as, "You look really pretty." Next, say "hi" to a few with a smile. Make a game of it. See if you can improve your "score" each time.
Connection doesn't have to be verbal to be soothing to our tribal-primate brains. Connection and companionship release healthy levels of dopamine and other “feel good” neurochemicals, such as oxytocin, which help balance us.
The gains from connection show up in very real terms. For example, HIV patients with a partner live longer and develop AIDS less rapidly. Wounds heal twice as fast with companionship as compared to isolation. Warm touch between married couples reduces various measures of stress. Yet the most profound gifts of close connection may be psychological. Close emotional connections are associated with lower rates of addiction and depression. They change the neural patterns and brain chemistry of those who engage in them, bolstering their sense of self and making empathy and socialization possible.
Humans cannot regulate their moods on their own, at least not for long. Prisoners in solitary confinement often go insane. In other words, it’s normal to feel anxious or depressed when isolated. As Philip J. Flores reminds us in Addiction as an Attachment Disorder, “Attachment is not just a good idea; it’s the law.” It’s also some of the best health insurance the planet offers. Connection helps reduce the hormone cortisol, which can otherwise weaken our immune system under stress. “It’s much less wear and tear on us if we have someone there to help regulate us,” explained psychologist/neuroscientist James A. Coan in the New York Times.
When recovering users force their attention away from their habitual “relief,” their reward circuitry looks around for other sources of pleasure. First it despairs of ever feeling good again, but eventually it finds the natural rewards it evolved to find: friendly interaction, real mates, time in nature, exercise, accomplishment, creativity, and so forth.
You can speed the recovery process, and start getting the natural neurochemical rewards that come from connection with others. Reach out. Social time with friends is great. Failing that:
Spent every weekend at my parents'. Spent time with them just watching TV. I don't normally watch TV, but being close to them helped. Plus my brother is there, so hung out with him. And last but definitely not least is the family dog. He really knows how to give affection. I'd let him lick my face and we'd play and cuddle. He's a big boy.
But see if you can take it a step farther: How can you get some healthy touch with good boundaries? Exchange foot massages with a friend? Watch a movie with someone you can put your arm around? Spend the night with a snuggle buddy? Share this article with a friend to broach the subject. Said one guy:
I have a female friend with benefits, but the benefits are that she like to come over once a week and just cuddle as we watch a movie. She's a virgin and it's probably a good idea for us to never have sex, given her history. But it's so liberating for me to let go of the pressure I put on myself to have sex. Especially when I developed porn related ED, I always tried to will my penis to get hard so I could have sex. Also I am learning to let go of the NEED to have sex. In the past if a woman that was romantically interested in me was at my place, I would single-mindedly pursue sex. But now I can just relax and be.
Advice from another guy:
Here's another man's advice:
I have this theory about men and social skills. Most men do not develop their social skills like women do. Women start with developing their social skills during puberty, while hanging out with their friends, talking about boys and other girls. In the meantime, boys at that age just play computer games and sports. That means that if a man wants to become socially as skilled as a woman, he will need to do some catching up at a later age.
However, most guys hook up with a woman, usually through the social circles they're in. It's safe and almost automatic. It is NOT the same as developing your social skills to the point that you can engage in chatter with strangers without any problem. As far as I know, only a small percentage of men actually perform such activities deliberately.
The last two years I spent quite some time on this. Found a nice community of guys working on this. I even followed a workshop which consisted of approaching people on the street. I had to ask simple questions first ("Hi, how do I get to ... ?"), then questions with a bit of a backstory, eventually asking women for advice on lingerie for an imaginary girlfriend. This way you get used to the fact that approaching strangers is usually free of any negative consequences and actually gives a great feeling. Eventually I had to ask a cute girl her phone number within 30 seconds... she refused by saying she had a boyfriend but that wasn't the point, the point was I asked, and it was a real blast!
Still, I can say that the so-called "approach anxiety" never disappears. When you see that gorgeous woman and you're not "socially warmed up", you'll almost always lock up, not knowing what to do.. even had that yesterday. It's just important not to beat yourself up for it.
To warm up, talk to some strangers. The strangers shouldn't even be beautiful women (creating pressure). Heck, it can be even more fun to talk to some older people that may have a nice story or two to share. This will put you in a socially more relaxed mood which will still be there at night. Then you socialize with a whole different mindset.
Another guy's thoughts:
I also have problems connecting with others, which I think are directly porn-related. I've also spent a bit of time trying to find out why I have trouble connecting. From what I've gathered, there are really three things that influence how well one connects with others, two of which one can influence.
Firstly, general social 'ability'. Some call this EQ, I think, and its just how well one can interact with others, how good of a conversationalist one is, how well one can influence the thinking of others, etc. I do think that people generally learn this 'skill', or collection of skills. If one is born into a highly socially-outgoing family, and then have a highly socially-outgoing circle of friends, they will, in all but the most extreme cases, be clever socially. That being said, I do think that one can learn and improve their social ability, by talking to others more; conversing with strangers in all the chances they get, etc.
The second is self-image. You should check out this journal article: "Believing another likes or dislikes you: Behaviors making the beliefs come true". The study essentially found that, when a Someone believed that a random person liked them, after a conversation with this stranger, the Someone ended up genuinely liking that person. Also, the Random Person ended up liking the Someone too. They showed similar results for dislike. It basically builds upon some work done in the 40s, where the idea of people having self-fulfilling prophecies was shown to exist, and that people will try and make these prophecies come true. I suppose that's what the entire self-help industry is built upon So, self image I think also plays a major part. Actually believing that one is a likeable person (high perceived self-likability) will result in people one interacts with liking them, having more respect for them, more trust, etc.
The next step for me is to try and start working these things into my everyday life. Things like: having the belief that I'm a friendly person, a warm person, etc.; actually believing that others do genuinely like me as a person; seeing people as generally friendly and warm. That's the hard part I've found, because I'm essentially reversing years of negative thoughts. These things also aren't mutually exclusive, and improving one will, I think, bring about improvements in the other - as well as in other ares of one's life.
Porn, I think, is also a problem because it essentially castrates one's chance to improve on these things. I've socialised less when using porn, which stunts my growth as a person in learning to interact intimately with others; my self-confidence is low, and self-image is poor, which means that interactions genuinely don't go well (with strangers, at the very least), this in turn lowers self-confidence drags me further into porn. A vicious, vicious cycle.
The third is that one is sometimes not compatible with another person. Though I do think this is rare, and if one is a friendly, confident person, the problem is probably theirs. Plus, there is nothing one can do about this.
Do ANY type of activity. It doesn't HAVE to be social. Call a friend. That's pretty helpful. Text a friend. Go for a short walk. Hit the coffee shop and people watch or read a book you enjoy. Work with yourself. If you're not already accustomed to socializing, then take it slow. You might not always be able to socialize, but you can always just be around people - go to a public place, window shop, go to Best Buy and try out the new technology/computer/etc. See what's out there.
Advice from a female forum member:
Have you thought about joining a class or group where you have the theme of the class in common with the women attending? It may help to avoid the awkwardness of starting a conversation from scratch. Classes like yoga, reiki, salsa, singing, meditation and 5 rhythms dance are usually full of women and not as many men. The best thing is that women are often interested in guys who like this kinda stuff!
Another woman said:
Here's what I'm doing: I have some single friends, so I am getting back into physical touch with them. By that I mean instead of interacting through the phone and Facebook, I'm going to meet them in person. And if my friend invites me to a concert or reading, I'll go (despite the cost) because at least I will be meeting more of the creative people who live and work in this city. I'm also going to work on getting out of my house more. I have a laptop, so I can do my teaching prep, fanfic writing somewhere else other than my home. I have a cute little dog who loves to meet people, so I can bring him to parks and use him for a conversation starter.
Check out Meetup.com for your town or region, so you can find groups of people with interests similar to yours. I keep putting it off, but I plan to set up a Meetup group for cosplayers/ anime fans in my city, since one currently doesn't exist.
Becoming a "regular" at certain places of business, i.e. bank branch, supermarket, coffee shop, post office, can help you practice social interactions that make it easier to chat with strangers who become friendly acquaintances.