Greatest Fear and Shyness in my Life

Personality is an abstract science about a very warm, personal, concrete subject matter (Klinger,21). In my first paper I described my personality according to the first five chapters of Derlega. In this paper I am going to describe how my greatest fear, shyness, relates to the last half of class and the whole picture.

Shyness may be defined experientially as discomfort or inhibition in interpersonal situations that interferes with pursuing one’s interpersonal or professional goals. It is a form of excessive self-focus, a preoccupation with one’s thoughts, feelings and physical reactions. Shyness reactions can occur at any or all of the following levels: cognitive, affective, physiological and behavioral, and may be triggered by a wide variety of arousal cues. Among the most typical are: authorities, one-on-one opposite sex interactions, intimacy, strangers, and having to take individuating action in a group setting (Lynne Henderson, Ph.D. Shyness Clinic, 1996). These are just a few that I fall into. To put it in other terms, shyness is a shrinking back from life that weakens the bonds of your human connection with others and us. There are many symptoms that overt shyness. Some are as follows; speech dysfluencies, sweating, dry mouth, trembling or shaking, fear of negative evaluation and looking foolish to others, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are just a few that I experience.

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Research has distinguished shyness from introversion, although they are typically related (Zimbardo, P. G. 1977/1990). Shyness: What it is, what to do about it. Introverts simply prefer solitary to social activities but do not fear social encounters as do the shy, while extroverts prefer social to solitary activities. Although the majority of shyness is introverted, shy extroverts are found in many behavioral settings. They are privately shy and publicly outgoing. They have the requisite social skills and can carry them out flawlessly in highly structured, scripted situations where everyone is playing prescribed roles and there is little room for spontaneity. However, their basic anxieties about being found personally unacceptable, if anyone discovered their “real self,” emerge in intimate encounters or other situations where control must be shared or is irrelevant, or wherever the situation is ambiguous in terms of social demands and expectations. I would probably fall in the introvert category, but I am also a little on the extrovert side also. I would have to do some more testing to find out where I really do fall.

The side effects of my shyness problem can be damaging if I don’t take control. A Greater health problem from lack of a social support network is one side effect. Therefore, it is essential for good health maintenance. Another problem is making less money in less suitable jobs due to less frequent requests for raises, lowered visibility on the job, interview setting difficulties, and limits on job advancement that require greater verbal fluency and leadership skills. If shyness becomes chronic and continues into the later years of life, chronic social isolation leads to increasingly severe loneliness and related psychopathology, and even to chronic illness and a shorter life span.

The research literature supports an interactionist interpretation of the origins of shyness (Kagan, J. 1994. Galen’s prophesy). Strong genetic predispositions in some newborns and strong experiential factors operate with some adolescents and adults to create shyness. Being born timid, easily aroused, and not responsive to social engagement overtures leads to less frequent social interactions with parents, siblings, family and friends, thus promoting a shy response style. I believe this was the case with me and I was not able to overcome it in time unlike others who are. However, research conducted by Jerome Kagan, Nancy Snidman, and their colleagues at Harvard University state that some people have become shy in adulthood who were not so previously, usually due to experiences of rejection, conditions that lower self esteem, and fears of failure in social domains.

Where does this shyness come from Biologically? According to the Medical Translation Dictionary 1996, shyness is found in the action of the amygdala and hippocampus which also are related to the stimuli of fear. The correct terminology is known as contextual conditioning. This diffuse contextual conditioning occurs more slowly and lasts longer than most traditional conditioning. It is experienced as anxiety. I can feel this anxiety as I enter a classroom or a party. Contextual conditioning involves the hippocampus, crucial in spatial learning and memory, as well as the amygdala. Both the hypothalamus and the brain stem relay anxiety to the rest of the body. The hypothalamus triggers the sympathetic nervous system and the physiological symptoms of shyness, among them, trembling, increased heart rate, and muscle tension are just some of the factors that I stated before that I experience. This tells me that my shyness is triggered greatly by my biological status.

Research in the United States typically indicates that shyness is highest among Asian Americans and lowest among Jewish Americans (Jones, W. H., Cheek, J. M., & Briggs, S. R. Eds. 1986). There is no gender difference in reported shyness, but men have typically learned tactics for concealing their shyness because it is considered a feminine trait in most countries. In Mexico males are less likely than females to report shyness. Maybe in my case I don’t have a shyness disorder, but something else. I guess I need to do more testing to find that out for sure.

Shyness is something that can be treated. The first is to be diagnosed. An initial evaluation generally involves a structured clinical interview, using either the SCID or the ADIS IV (Zimbardo, P. G. 1977/1990). In addition to the structured interview, frequently used self-report questionnaires are also used. Effective treatments for shyness exist. They include some kind of anxiety management and coping skills training, such as coping self-statements.

Shyness, to some theorists, is not a big problem. It has been my mission to describe my shyness using the theories and techniques I was taught in personality, to persuade therapists and mental health professionals to recognize the serious need for treatment of shy adults and children. They also need treatment approaches to for us people who are trapped in their silent prisons of shyness.

Carducci, B. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1995). Are you shy? Psychology Today, 28, 34-40, ff.

Kagan, J. (1994). Galen’s prophesy: Temperament in human nature. New York: Basic Books.

Jones, W. H., Cheek, J. M., & Briggs, S. R. (Eds.). (1986). Shyness: Perspectives on research and treatment. New York: Plenum.

Zimbardo, P. G. (1977/1990). Shyness: What it is, what to do about it. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Medical Translation Dictionary, (1996)

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