“I don’t know how to keep friends. I never have,” he said, staring down in between his hands. “I just have so much social anxiety. And my brain is hijacked by insecurities.”
The therapist waited for several long breaths before saying, “Okay, let’s do a thought experiment.”
He shifted to a more upright position in his chair and said, “Imagine I’m holding a pill that will replace 100% of your anxiety and fear of not being liked with confidence and ease.”
He held up his fingers, pressing the imaginary pill in between his fingers.
“Here, I’ll hand it to you,” the therapist says, pretending to hand it to the man.
Confused and a little irritated, the man pretended to accept the pill.
The therapist gestured for him to swallow it.
He glared at him, then dropped his head again. And then he took it.
“Ok, great,” the therapist said. “Now, what would you do? What would you stop doing? What would you say to the men in your life?”
The man lifted his head slowly, as if he had a cup of milk he was trying not to spill on his way up.
“What?” he said with disbelief. “Are you serious?”
The therapist nodded.
The man grumbled, looking down again.
He sighed, and almost whispered, “Well, I guess I’d stop competing with them.”
“Competing at what?”
“Life,” the man said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’d stop finding subtle ways of bragging about money and achievements. I’d stop trying to constantly one-up them.” He took a deep breath. “Instead, when I was excited and proud about something and wanted to impress them and celebrate with them, I’d tell them that I had something I was really proud of, something I was excited to share with them. And when they had a win, I’d celebrate it with them and encourage them.”
“Interesting,” the therapist said and grinned.
Lifting his gaze a little higher, the man said, ”I’d stop pretending everything was ‘fine’ all the time. I’d tell them how I’ve felt for so long. That sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes I fear I won’t make enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes my wife and I fight and go weeks without having sex. And I wouldn’t try to polish it up or make it seem like I have it all planned out and it’s actually ‘fine.’
“I’d stop copping out of being a leader in my existing relationships by looking for new ones all the time.”
He stared straight ahead, deep in thought.
“Anything else?” asked the therapist.
“Yeah, I’d stop being so boring. I’d get on the internet and search for ‘fun shit to do in my city,’ and then I’d curate fun and new experiences for us. I’d plan adventures that scare the shit out of me.
“And if I wasn’t so busy criticizing myself, I’d probably be a lot more curious about them. What they’re thinking, what their hopes and dreams are, and what their past was like.
“I’d stop overcommitting myself. If someone invited me to something and I didn’t genuinely want to go, I’d say no in the moment rather than saying ‘Maybe I’ll get back to you’ or ‘yes’ before eventually flaking.
“If I said something I thought may have offended them, or did something I wasn’t proud of, I would own it ASAP with no justifications. I wouldn’t feel the need to exhaustively rehearse it, because I’d trust that this would lead to them respecting me even more.”
“I’d share my opinions on things without being attached to others agreeing. I’d listen to theirs without feeling the need to agree or “win” the debate.”
“When they shared something that was going on in their life that was tough, rather than trying to fix it so I could avoid being in the uncomfortable tension of unresolved stuff with them, I’d just listen.”
“Wow!” the therapist exclaimed. “That’s some pretty…”
“Wait,” he cut his therapist off, “I have more.
“I’d probably lighten the fuck up. I’d flick one of their titties as they walked by, call them a name unbecoming of the internet, and I’d replace 6-7 picture frames in their house with a photoshopped picture of me, 100% naked, lying in a forest with a banana emoji covering my bits.
“Since I wouldn’t be afraid of looking silly, I’d be silly.
“When I was with them and felt the Uncomfortable Silence, instead of escaping by checking my phone or looking up at the TVs above the bar, I’d just be present with them. I’d soak up the moment of just being with them, knowing that them feeling my comfort would help them feel more comfortable.
“If there were other people around I’d treat my conversation with them as the most important conversation I could possibly be in.
“Since I wouldn’t be afraid of them getting defensive, I’d tactfully give them direct feedback on how they’re behavior doesn’t line up with who they say they want to be.
“And I’d praise the shit out of them. I’d share my gratitude for ways in which they’ve impacted me. I’d tell them specifically what I admired about them. What I’ve learned from them. Moments I’ve been inspired by them. How I see them growing and what I see that they’re capable of.”
He looked back at his therapist, slowly nodding, the dawning of a new realization across his face.
this was GOLD!!!