Full Counseling session transcript – why I got anxious before speaking up in a group of 3 guys

This is a transcript of a counseling session I had to understand why I got anxious before attempting to share an opinion with a group of 3 other guys I had met for the first time at a dinner. The assumption is that you’re aware of the Option Method and want to see an example of it in action.

You’ll see how we uncovered the reasons I got anxious.

  • For a summary and in-depth analysis of this session, check out this post.
  • An audio recording of the session can be found here.

Background: I was at a sushi restaurant on a Friday night with a group of 3 dudes from a Men’s group I was in. We were all meeting each other for the first time. I was anxiety-free for the first 10-15mins of the conversation and then more serious discussions started taking place. I eventually had a personal opinion to share but immediately felt anxious at the thought of sharing it so I kept it to myself. This happened multiple times and annoyed me.

At the time, I was working with a practitioner skilled in helping people eliminate and understand the root cause of their negative emotions. I dedicated one of our sessions to understanding why I got anxious with these guys. I told my teacher that when I thought about sharing my opinion, I felt the fight-or-flight response and my heart raced as if I were in danger. Below is the condensed transcript of our session, where I learned why I got anxious.

P: is the practitioner and M: is me

  • P: What was there about wanting to share something that felt dangerous to you?
  • M: *I took several seconds thinking*..I don’t know for sure. I can try and give a hypothesis.
  • P: Don’t worry about giving a hypothesis; share whatever comes up for you.
  • Me: That I could be viewed as off?
  • P: How would you know that? 
  • M: I read people’s body language. So based on how people respond, I would know.
  • P: Let’s say that happens, you say something, and you have the body experience [referring to the fight or flight experience I felt when I thought about sharing my opinion]. Why is that dangerous?
  • M: It’s dangerous because I think that means my default way of being….generates that type of response. 
  • P: What is there about generating that type of response that is dangerous for you?
  • M: *I laughed* It puts me at risk of getting what I want but I don’t need what I want which is why I laughed.
  • P: Wow that’s fast, even for me…. Let’s slow it down a bit.
  • P: So you want to offer something into the conversation about yourself. You imagine if you share it then people will see you triggered. You think your default way of being is that whenever you express yourself you’ll be triggered and generate responses you don’t like and that feels dangerous. How do you get from it being dangerous to it putting you at risk of getting what you want?
  • M: If I’m generating these responses in this scenario, and there are a lot of other stuff I want to do from a social perspective, then I’m going to bring this into other scenarios, and I see failure. My performance here is going to play out in other scenarios and not produce the results I want.
  • P: You’re looking at your way of being as generating this kind of response and that means to you, you not getting what you want because you just being you, generates negativity.
  • M: Yea if you look at it from high level.
  • P: That’s not that high. That’s what you believe. What you believe is that when you get negative responses from people, that’s about you, and what that means to you is you won’t get what you want from them.
  • P: It seems to me that it’s not about people at the table. Let’s try and narrow things down. What are you wanting at dinner when you’re offering something of yourself. What did you want that you’re not getting?
  • M: I didn’t want to worry whether I’m going to deliver what I wanted to say comfortably. Because if I don’t deliver something comfortably it’s going to generate negative responses in people. I want people to take what I say as a valuable contribution that is considered and acknowledged.
  • P: Let’s put aside that you want to deliver it comfortably because that’s what were talking about, you’re not delivering it comfortably. You will deliver comfortably when you’re no longer afraid. What you’re afraid of is that you’re going to offer something and they’re going to react negatively to it and that means it’s not valued. You’re wanting your input to be valued and for people to go with it. 

I learned that I was anxious because I was afraid of them ignoring or not valuing my opinions.

Later on I learned I was afraid of my opinions or perspective being ignored for a reason(s). Here’s how we found that out:

  • P: You’re saying that because you’re getting this negative body language it’s not being valued. Is that right?
  • M: I look at the body language as indication that my thoughts are at risk of being valued. It’s like oh snap, its not being valued.
  • P: What if it isn’t valued? You have some input, people aren’t interested, negative reactions, whatever. How does that put you in danger? How would you feel about that? When you see they aren’t valuing what you hoped they would value. How do you feel about that?
  • M: I shouldn’t be here. Why am I here if I’m not valued. The other concern is, what if this happens all the time? Is there something about me that’s why I’m not valued or respected? Is this something that’s going to happen in every other interaction I step into?
  • P: You think you’re a good reader of body language but until you ask them you don’t really know. For all you know, they could think it’s a wonderful idea and be pissed off that they didn’t think of what you shared. You’re immediately questioning, what’s the point of being there. What is the point? Why, if, people aren’t immediately liking what you have to offer, why does that bring you to that question? Why am I here?
  • M: If I’m going to be in a situation I would want to be in, I want anything to come from me to be acknowledged. Maybe it’s not the right idea, but at least it’s acknowledged.
  • P: That changes it a bit, not that people go with it, but that people acknowledge it. But if you’re not acknowledged, why is that a reason for you to feel like you shouldn’t be there?
  • M: I think it means they don’t respect me. They don’t look at me as an equal here.

So for me, having my opinions ignored by them meant they didn’t see me as an equal. I also learned there was a reason I was anxious about not being seen as an equal. Here’s how we figured that out:

  • P: If people aren’t looking at you as an equal, what about that bothers you?
  • M: What’s coming to my mind is that I view that as unacceptable. I think there’s a fear that people will look at me less than just because I’m different. I think that’s part of it.
  • P: And that’s not what you want, that’s unacceptable to you. If people do that, yes, you don’t want that, but why is that a reason for you to feel bad?
  • M: I guess in the past I’ve used this way of thinking to prevent situations like this from happening. But as I look at it now, I’m not sure I see the benefit of feeling bad about it happening
  • P: What if you were with a bunch of people different than you and they weren’t treating you as an equal and you didn’t feel bad about that. How could that be bad for you?
  • M: It’s bad as a human to accept that. That you have to do something. That’s not ok. You have to be indignant about that.
  • P: Feeling bad does something and brings something to the situation that wouldn’t be there if you didn’t feel indignant or bad in any way. So what does it do? If you didn’t feel bad and were immune to it, how could that be bad for you…what do you feel like you’ll be giving up?
  • M: That means I believe that. That I’m accepting that I am less than.

I was anxious about not being seen as an equal because I believed if I wasn’t anxious about that, that meant I believed it.

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