After a few more stories like that one (“I’m having a total panic attack right now!
” one man says when it’s his turn), Luna offers some tips: Focus on something specific. If you’re talking about a car, give us its make and color. Rebecca tells us that, against her family’s wishes, she wants to get a Triforce tattooed on her wrist.
Most of them learned about the workshop through the New York Shyness and Social Anxiety Meetup; with more than 2,500 members, it’s the largest social anxiety meet up in the world, according to the group’s leader, Erik Silverman.
By contrast, several other students fidget, stare at the floor, and admit nothing.Not all of tonight’s participants have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD), but whether they’ll admit it aloud or not, they all know that they have something like it.I imagine that man at a party, talking to a stranger, blowing his nose if the stranger blows his nose, scratching his crotch to build rapport with a crotch-scratcher. A few minutes into the exercise, throughout the room, ones and twos stand smiling at one other, their bodies less tense, their conversations less stilted. Still, a ripple of terror moves through the room when Luna announces the next exercise: tag-team storytelling. “As soon as I say something that makes you think of something else,” he says, “yell, ‘Freeze!Some shake their heads and back away from the circle. ’ ” The idea is that the person in the middle will rejoin the circle and the person who yelled “Freeze! “Don’t forget to make eye contact with everyone,” Luna adds.“When I get nervous,” says a young woman named Rebecca, “I shut down.
I go blank.” She sits in a circle of 20 in a dance studio on the west side of Manhattan.Today, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that SAD afflicts approximately 15 million American adults. If someone’s shyness “has caused impairment in his life,” then it’s a disorder, says Barrie Rosen, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan.* Picture the person who can’t ask for directions without succumbing to a panic attack, who sweats profusely upon entering a grocery store, never mind a party.Picture, in extreme cases, years of isolation leading to depression, substance abuse, and suicide.Picture someone so afraid of social interaction he can’t hold a job or make friends. That’s where 32-year-old dating coach Chris Luna comes in.Luna looks less like a dating coach than like a movie star playing the role of a dating coach.In the email Rebecca writes me the next day, she says, “I remember way back in sixth grade, our teachers would gather 30-40 of us at a time and show us how to be social.