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anonymous
12-06-2014, 12:45 AM
:salamext:

I have a couple things that have been on my mind lately. The older I get, the more I think about it. I'll share them with you all and I hope venting out will help relief some of this stress.

I'm a 30 year old male, I live alone, support myself, have no friends and overall live a very sheltered life. My whole life I have been quiet and to myself. People always told me I'd grow out of it but I haven't. I don't know what it is but I hate being around other people.. At the same time though, when I go home from work, I look forward to the alone time BUT it's also depressing knowing that I'm going home to nothing. How is someone like me who has a lack of a personality and fears being around other people supposed to get married and have a family? I'd like to have a family of my own but no matter how much I want it, my anxiety takes over just thinking about it. I lack social skills because of having this problem my whole life so having simple conversations can be hard for me.

My boss invited me over his house today to have a get together with some of the other guys from work and have some dinner. This wasn't the first time and like the previous times, I declined. After work today, I went to the grocery store to pick some food up. I sat in my car debating if I should just order some pizza that way I don't have to walk into the store and I can go back home. I never got out my car and actually drove back home and ordered pizza.. I just feel uncomfortable being around people even if I want to be around them. I feel like it's too late in my life to fix this problem as it has gotten way worse since I was younger.

I know the comments saying "bro, your old, get married asap!" are inevitable but, please remember the purpose of this thread is to help me figure out my anxiety issues and that I do want to get married!
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MuslimInshallah
12-06-2014, 11:11 AM
Assalaamu alaikum brother,

Mmm. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? I feel that I need more information to better address your concerns.

(smile) First off, do you have any relatives close by who you feel comfortable with? How are/have been your relations with them, especially with your mother? Do you have any siblings? Cousins? If you could give me some ideas on your family dynamics, that would really help.

Secondly, you mention social deficits. Do you think this is just a result of anxiety, or do you have trouble interpreting other people's behaviour (which, of course, is rather anxiety-inducing, because then people seem unpredictable). I ask this because I have a son who is autistic. He is very smart, but he just can't read social signals. Part of this is a lack of being able to read people's facial expressions. So then he finds people irrational and unpredictable, and so prefers to avoid people. (smile) We all have our strengths and deficits. His weakness happens to be reading people. (smile) On the other hand, he is gifted in math, and can understand computers very well. (twinkle) He doesn't understand how many people can't find equations in patterns, or read equations, or read great chunks of code and see the flaws. (smile) What I am saying is, is it possible that you have a weakness in the area of social relations? Perhaps you have autistic tendencies? Because if you do, there are strategies out there to help you work with this weakness. And there is nothing wrong with being autistic (or whatever), just as there is nothing wrong with being tone-deaf, or terrible at matching the colours in clothes, or feeling mystified in front of equations, or having trouble reading text because the letters seem to mix themselves up, or whatever. It's just the way Allah Created us, and part of the challenges in life. Part of our Test.

Thirdly, you mention getting married. Why do you want to? Is it only because you feel it's socially an obligation? Do you have a sexual interest in women? Do you want a wife to have someone to connect with? Do you want to connect with her emotionally? Do you hope she might help you to socialize with others? Do you want to have children? Are you ready to connect emotionally with them? Do you have an image in your mind of what would be your ideal family (I mean ideal for you, not a societal ideal)?

Fourthly, can you give me an idea of your communal ties? You are a city-dweller, I think? Is it a big city? Do you know your neighbours? Do you go to the masjid (or whatever, depending on your faith community)? Are you a member of any kind of community organization? Apart from work, do you do any kind of volunteer work?

Fifthly, you talk about anxiety issues. Have you ever explored the roots of your anxiety? This connects a bit with the point about autism (because it might be a root cause). But perhaps there are reasons other than autism for feeling anxious? Have you any ideas why you might feel anxious? Have you ever discussed this anxiousness with a doctor or therapist (trying to find physical or psychological reasons for it)?

(smile) Finally, please don't feel like you're too old. Especially for a man, 30 is not old. And your case is obviously not hopeless. You are reaching out for help. This is very positive. It is part of connecting with others and looking for solutions. And as you may see in my questions, there are many possible avenues to explore (and if you could answer my questions, it could help guide us (you, me, and whoever else wants to add their 2 cents) towards finding the most fruitful ones for you.

(smile) Anyway, I'm glad you posted about your concerns. Each human being is a precious creation of our Lord. And each interaction we have has the potential to bring us closer to Him. For you, for me, and for anyone else who may interact with this thread. (smile) So, thank you for this opportunity.

May God, the Gentle and Wise, Help us to know and understand one another.
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greenhill
12-06-2014, 03:39 PM
This is so personal that it is not an easy or straight forward.

I guess a huge part of it has to come from you. If you decline and keep declining every opportunity then it is never going to change for you.

To change there will be discomfort, anxiety and a host of other things that will scream at you to tell you to go home and not bother. Then before you know it, another 20 years have gone by and you are in a bigger rut and totally fixed in your own ways.

As I said, you will need to want to change and perhaps you should enrol in a program related to confidence boosting, or outreach etc where you will meet others having similar issues. You will probably meet people there that you can relate to and develop friendship.

You have got to break your routine to see any change. Cannot expect anything to change if you resist it.

:peace:
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anonymous
12-06-2014, 08:08 PM
Originally Posted by MuslimInshallah
Assalaamu alaikum brother,

Mmm. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? I feel that I need more information to better address your concerns.

(smile) First off, do you have any relatives close by who you feel comfortable with? How are/have been your relations with them, especially with your mother? Do you have any siblings? Cousins? If you could give me some ideas on your family dynamics, that would really help.

Secondly, you mention social deficits. Do you think this is just a result of anxiety, or do you have trouble interpreting other people's behaviour (which, of course, is rather anxiety-inducing, because then people seem unpredictable). I ask this because I have a son who is autistic. He is very smart, but he just can't read social signals. Part of this is a lack of being able to read people's facial expressions. So then he finds people irrational and unpredictable, and so prefers to avoid people. (smile) We all have our strengths and deficits. His weakness happens to be reading people. (smile) On the other hand, he is gifted in math, and can understand computers very well. (twinkle) He doesn't understand how many people can't find equations in patterns, or read equations, or read great chunks of code and see the flaws. (smile) What I am saying is, is it possible that you have a weakness in the area of social relations? Perhaps you have autistic tendencies? Because if you do, there are strategies out there to help you work with this weakness. And there is nothing wrong with being autistic (or whatever), just as there is nothing wrong with being tone-deaf, or terrible at matching the colours in clothes, or feeling mystified in front of equations, or having trouble reading text because the letters seem to mix themselves up, or whatever. It's just the way Allah Created us, and part of the challenges in life. Part of our Test.

Thirdly, you mention getting married. Why do you want to? Is it only because you feel it's socially an obligation? Do you have a sexual interest in women? Do you want a wife to have someone to connect with? Do you want to connect with her emotionally? Do you hope she might help you to socialize with others? Do you want to have children? Are you ready to connect emotionally with them? Do you have an image in your mind of what would be your ideal family (I mean ideal for you, not a societal ideal)?

Fourthly, can you give me an idea of your communal ties? You are a city-dweller, I think? Is it a big city? Do you know your neighbours? Do you go to the masjid (or whatever, depending on your faith community)? Are you a member of any kind of community organization? Apart from work, do you do any kind of volunteer work?

Fifthly, you talk about anxiety issues. Have you ever explored the roots of your anxiety? This connects a bit with the point about autism (because it might be a root cause). But perhaps there are reasons other than autism for feeling anxious? Have you any ideas why you might feel anxious? Have you ever discussed this anxiousness with a doctor or therapist (trying to find physical or psychological reasons for it)?

(smile) Finally, please don't feel like you're too old. Especially for a man, 30 is not old. And your case is obviously not hopeless. You are reaching out for help. This is very positive. It is part of connecting with others and looking for solutions. And as you may see in my questions, there are many possible avenues to explore (and if you could answer my questions, it could help guide us (you, me, and whoever else wants to add their 2 cents) towards finding the most fruitful ones for you.

(smile) Anyway, I'm glad you posted about your concerns. Each human being is a precious creation of our Lord. And each interaction we have has the potential to bring us closer to Him. For you, for me, and for anyone else who may interact with this thread. (smile) So, thank you for this opportunity.

May God, the Gentle and Wise, Help us to know and understand one another.

Thanks for the response. I'll try my best to answer everything.

1. I have relatives that live near me. The only relationship we have is if they need something from us. Only then will they talk to us. Me and my mother are very close. I never had a father figure in my life. I hate to say it but we really have no relationship to each other. I have older siblings who have moved out of state a while back but we keep in touch. My siblings, and even my parents, are the exact opposite to me. They are very outgoing people and can make friends out of strangers with ease. I don't know what my issue is.

2. As far as my lack of social skills, I always imagined it was related to my anxiety issues. I always heard about autism but never really knew what it was nor have I ever looked into it. I think I'm fairly good at reading and understanding people, and I also consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character. I definitely do have a weakness in social relations though. I was recently researching my issue online to read about related stories and the word "introvert" popped up. I looked it up and it actually fit me very well.

3. My mom actually never approached me with the topic of marriage until 3-4 years after I finished high school but it was just to get an idea of what I wanted. No one in my family has ever been pressured into getting married and it was always up to us. My reason for wanting to get married is based on a couple things. I don't want to be lonely for the rest of my life. I also want to have a family of my own. I want to feel like my life is worth something other than feeling like a robot working full time for pretty much nothing. I'd like to have a companion to share things with and to have kids who I can teach and be a mentor to them. Basically what we didn't have growing up with a lack of a father figure. It's more about having a family than it is a sexual thing.

4. Outside of work, I pretty much do nothing. I work all week so Friday prayers are a no go. I have in the past when I was younger and had no problem doing it. I never socialized with anyone while there though. I don't volunteer or do any kind of social work. I live in a fairly small area but people in my community keep to themselves.

5. My problem seems to fit the description of what anxiety is but it's basically a self diagnosis. I've never seen a doctor or even talked to my family about it. Now that I've recently read about the "introvert" personality, that may be a better description of why I am the way I am. I still haven't read much about it though.


I hope this helps somewhat in getting a better understanding. It's actually nice to share my problems with other people while not having to do it in person. Thank you
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BeTheChange
12-06-2014, 08:09 PM
Walaikumasalaam

Well done for reaching out. That's the first step to 'recovery'.

I think like sister Muslim InshaAllah mentioned it's important to understand why you feel this way and what makes you want to alienate yourself from society. It is good to meditate and seclude yourself from society for religious purposes but at the same time you also need interaction with human beings - that's part of human nature. We need a balance. We can't be too extreme in our approach and methods.

You mentioned you've been a quite person all your life and you never thought anything of it (hoping it would change) until the issue has now escalated and you struggle to even walk in a shop. I think you need to identify whats made you react this way. Is it past experiences? have you been bullied? Is it to do with your body image? Is it because you think people won't accept you and may ridicule or laugh at you? Whats making you fear the public? Until you know the answer to this it will be hard to overcome this social anxiety issue.

Maybe you could start of by taking baby steps. Go with a work colleague to town even if you don't have anything to do - just take a walk outside with someone who you feel comfortable with. It doesn't have to be a long walk. Maybe start at your workplace start having 'small talk' with your colleagues? or customers if you have any at work? I think what am trying to say is move away from your comfort zone. You don't have to change all at once but just take small steps and build your confidence up.

You said you don't have a personality i don't believe that to be true - we all have personalities. Even if we're quite we all have a character. Don't put yourself down. I think your being very harsh on yourself. Also, from reading your post i also feel maybe you don't appreciate and love yourself as much as you should. It's good to be humble but it's also good to have confidence and self-respect. Don't belittle yourself for no reason. Don't be a prisoner of negativity thoughts. I know it's easy for me to say this. I don't know what you've been through but never lose hope. See beyond the situation you find yourself in.

Visit this website http://www.kalamullah.com/lectures.html

Scroll right at the bottom and you'll find this lecture called - Self Image Psychology

Self Image Psychology expounds on some of the harmful messages promoted by the western media. The speaker points out how these common messages damage the Muslims’ self-image psychology. Among the many things discussed in this presentation are examples of proper self-respect and self-reverence from the lives of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (s). In addition, the speaker mentions common acts that entail lack of self esteem, such as the changing of Muslim names to non Muslim ones and the changing of the Islamic identity in general. The mere nature of this discussion reveals how Muslims today really view themselves.

In sha Allah maybe the lecture will help you to value and appreciate yourself more? Life is too short to be worrying about how others perceive you. I wish you all the best.
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anonymous
12-06-2014, 08:15 PM
Originally Posted by greenhill
This is so personal that it is not an easy or straight forward.

I guess a huge part of it has to come from you. If you decline and keep declining every opportunity then it is never going to change for you.

To change there will be discomfort, anxiety and a host of other things that will scream at you to tell you to go home and not bother. Then before you know it, another 20 years have gone by and you are in a bigger rut and totally fixed in your own ways.

As I said, you will need to want to change and perhaps you should enrol in a program related to confidence boosting, or outreach etc where you will meet others having similar issues. You will probably meet people there that you can relate to and develop friendship.

You have got to break your routine to see any change. Cannot expect anything to change if you resist it.

:peace:
That is good advice. I've heard of similar advice given to people with phobias and I guess in a way, what I have is a type of phobia if you really think about it. Unfortunately at this point in my life, I fear that getting outside help (doctor, classes, etc.) may be the only solution as you've already stated. Inshallah with continued du'a, things will change for the better. Thanks
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BeTheChange
12-06-2014, 08:20 PM
Just something else i forgot to add. Maybe your not interested in the 'fake' interactions that we see on a daily basis? (i know it's a horrible thing to say but it is very true.) What i mean by this is when people say things and offer a lip service but don't have the intention to see it through?

As long as your performing your Muslim duties and offering help and being good - it's important to expect nothing from people and everything from Allah swa. This way you won't be disappointed.
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greenhill
12-07-2014, 12:47 PM
:D

If you get outside help (Dr or classes etc), it becomes a commitment that you cannot be lazy about and you will have to do and cannot decline. It will help with discipline.

Wishing you the courage to make those necessary steps.

:peace:
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MuslimInshallah
12-07-2014, 01:25 PM
Assalaamu alaikum,


(smile) Thank you for answering my questions. This helps me place you a bit better. (twinkle) If you happen to have read Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories, then perhaps you'll remember that Miss Marple finds similarities between new people and people she knows well from her little village, as away of getting insights into their character. (smile) I try to do something similar.


There is nothing “wrong” with you if you are more socially quiet. It's just the way you are. Some of my children are social butterflies (and can flit from person to person) and some are more like flowers (and wait quietly in the sun… for the butterflies!), and that's the way they were born. (smile) So perhaps you are more of a flower? Which is a good thing. We need stabilizing elements in society, too.


One of my children is very shy. She never really made friends herself, but hung out with her older sister's friends. She likes to do things quietly by herself most of the time. She finds crowds of people unnerving and she dislikes bright lights and noise. Because we homeschool, she was able to develop at her own pace and learn in environments that were comfortable for her. But there came a time when she needed to emerge a little from her protective cocoon and go to university. But she was really nervous about interacting with so many people.


She can read people some ways very accurately. But in other ways, she is socially a bit blind. (smile) If you have a flaw, she will see it, but if you admire her, she won't. I have come to wonder if there aren't many different pieces of information that make up social awareness, and whether some people may be deficient in one or some of these areas, but not too many, and thus be more socially awkward without being autistic (which would be a deficit in detecting many of these pieces of information).


Having someone to support you really helps when you are trying to overcome a fear. In this case, perhaps your mother can help you interact with people? You could ask her help, maybe, in finding a wife? (smile) She may be delighted that you brought it up, and is looking forward to grandchildren! (pensively) However, I have also seen cases where a mother doesn't have a husband's support, and she becomes emotionally dependent on one of her sons. This causes trouble for the son, as he starts to fill a role for which he is not prepared. And having a pseudo-spousal role prevents him from forming this kind of bond with another woman (I have seen this between a father and a daughter, too). I am not saying that there is any kind of physical incest. Or that the mother is a bad person. But emotionally, there is an inappropriate crossing of boundaries that causes the boy to remain bound to his mother and not grow emotionally independent. Deep down, he may feel like he is betraying or abandoning his mother if he forms this kind of a bond with another woman. And to complicate things, deep down, the mother may also feel this way.


(smile) I'm not saying this is your case. But I felt it necessary to suggest. If a person is aware of this possibility, it may help them deal with some barriers more effectively. And also be able to understand where his mother is coming from, if she starts to seem upset or has many conflicts with a possible woman in her son's life. And with understanding comes possible avenues for healing and effectively dealing with problems. And giving your mother the love she may need in ways that are good for both you and her.


(smile) Anyway, to get back to concrete steps you can take. You might consider joining Toastmasters http://www.toastmasters.org. This organization helps you learn how to speak in public. If you are terrified of walking into one of their meetings, perhaps you could ask your mother or a sibling to go with you the first time? The individual chapters of this organization are composed of not too many people, and they can be very supportive of shy people. If you google them, you may be surprised to find how many chapters may be in your area (I'm guessing you are in the US).


You could also consider working for a community organization. Charities are often delighted to have people who commit, and will try to accommodate you. And knowing you are doing something that helps others (and that you are doing it voluntarily), can give you self-confidence when dealing with people.


You may want to try to form a bond with another person of the same sex as you before venturing into a marital bond. This is hard, yes. But it is doable. Again, can your mother or a sibling help coach you with this? Perhaps they could suggest tips on how to approach a person you want to try to befriend? And if the results are not what you want, they could commiserate and put the experience into perspective?. And when things worked out, you could all celebrate! And they could perhaps suggest ways to maintain the friendship? If you don't have this kind of support, (smile) perhaps you can check in with us on the Forum from time to time for some feedback?


Co-workers are often not the best people for friendship, especially for men, I suspect. There is a certain amount of hierarchical jostling (competition) that goes on. You might try checking out a masjid. Just going is probably not enough. Talk to the imam. Are there any activities (outside of Friday prayers, there are often a lot of things happening)? Tell him you want to connect with the brothers. If one masjid seems unhelpful, try another. Look for a community that you feel comfortable with.


You might try mentoring a child to work on your parental skills http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGK....BE16/Home.htm. You didn't have much of a father. I deeply empathize. But perhaps you can give to another fatherless child what you would have liked? And perhaps, helping a boy with his problems may help give you insights into your own? (smile) As well as giving you a little practice in the joys of parenting, so that you can be a better father for your own children one day, inshallah. (smile) It is also often easier to be relaxed and connect with children than with adults, I find. And (smile) you may find that children can teach adults many useful things.


If your anxiety is very high about social interactions, realize that avoiding people is making the problem worse. A good way to get over a fear is, as you have probably heard, to face it. (smile) However, this doesn't mean that you have to become Mr Life of the Party. I would suggest breaking down your barriers gradually. Perhaps start by going into a store when you feel nervous. Just that. No more. Then, over time, perhaps you could try smiling and saying hello to the cashier. (smile) Cashiers are human, too. It really is a sadaqa when you give someone a friendly smile. (twinkle) You could even smile at strangers on the street. It can make someone's day, you know. If you force yourself to do it for the sake of Allah, then you can have the pleasure of knowing that you have done a good deed, even if the person doesn't smile back.


(smile) You could break down your efforts into little steps. Plan them like a campaign. Keep a record of what you've tried. Note the successes. Small successes will give you the confidence you need to tackle bigger efforts.


Let me give you an example. For various reasons, I was too terrified to drive a car until about 3 years ago. But I felt I had to get over this fear. So when I signed up one of my children for driving lessons... I took the plunge and signed up, too. I told myself that I was supporting and helping her (and I was). But I was helping myself, too. Doing the theory lessons gave me a little self-confidence. Acing the written tests gave me more. Unfortunately, I got a nasty and verbally abusive instructor when it came to the practical lessons. But after the second lesson, I gathered up the tatters of my courage, and requested the driving school give me another instructor. And they did. And that boosted my confidence. Unfortunately, the next instructor was rather sarcastic about my fears. So I changed again. And this time, I got a really nice elderly man, who, when I berated myself for my mistakes, would point out all the things I did well. So I finally started to learn to drive. And rather than doing the minimum amount of lessons required by law, I took extra driving lessons, until I felt more confident. And then I took my driving test. And passed! That gave me a boost. But was I still scared? Yes. So I forced myself to drive nearly every day, because if I stopped for a few days, I'd get paralyzed with fear again. I also took my eldest daughter with me. She is a confident driver, and I felt more secure with someone else keeping an eye out. And the more I drove, the more confident I felt. At first, I only drove in the day, outside of rush hour. Then I slowly started adding other elements, like night-driving and driving in traffic, till I finally went on the highway where there wasn't much traffic (something I never thought I'd be able to do). Each little victory gave me the confidence for the next step. Trust me, I'd have NEVER thought myself capable of ever going on the highway. And now... I drive all over the place, anytime, and... enjoy it!


If you break your problems down into smaller pieces, they are much easier to deal with. And each small victory paves the way for an attempt on the next step.


You mentioned that your community is relatively small, but closed. Hmm. This is a big problem these days. I've been discussing steps that you as an individual can take to connect with people, but the sad reality is that in the modern industrial corporate monoculture world we increasingly have today, human relations are under attack from the structures we have set up to organize our society. It is hard to form bonds when we are constantly changing jobs and/or where we live. In schools, we are shuffled every year with larger and larger numbers of strangers. We are all so busy, we have little time for each other... You know, you are not the only lonely person out there. I heard recently that in North America, there are more single people than couples, now. Some of that is elderly people who have lost their spouses... but it's also many younger people, too. The way our lives are structured is destroying our connections with one other.


So it's not just you. Our constantly changing co-workers (or school mates), our constantly changing neighbours, the scattering of our lives over large geographic areas (necessitating cars to get to and from), megastores with large flows of people, the anonymity and superficiality of the relations with the people we spend time online with, the flattening of true individuality into a mass-produced illusion of variety…these structural influences have a great effect on our lives. It is just so hard to define ourselves an identity, and a feeling of place, and to make deep connections with people.


(smile) So don't think there is something terribly wrong with you. (smile) Sure, you can make some changes. But realize that our modern “society” has some serious flaws that are making it hard for you to define yourself and find people to deeply connect with.


(smile) And finally, while it is easier for you to share your problems anonymously, it would be better for you if you shared them with people more personally, I think. Take some strength from this Forum, sure. But don't let it substitute for closer connections in the world around you. You've reached out to us here, but you need to reach out to people around you. (smile) For their sake as well as yours.


(laugh) But to be a little inconsistent, I'd appreciate it if you let us know how you're doing. (smile) If we are going to have these online communities, let's make them stronger ones, too!


May Allah, the One Who Gathers, Help us to build strong ties with one another.
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