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Written by Edward Cottrill
The End of
Social Anxiety
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

The End of Social Anxiety
Written by Edward Cottrill

Published by Personal Power Meditation

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved. No part of this e-book may be
reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author. The sole
exception is brief quotes for use in reviews.
The image on the cover is Hercules and the Hydra by Antonio Pollaiolo. The copyright for this artwork has
The images used in Figure 2 are used under licence from
Crowd photo:
Zombie photo:
All other images are created and owned by Personal Power Meditation.
Revision 1.00

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

About me .................................................................................................................................................................................. 6
Introduction .............................................................................................................................................................................. 6
What is social anxiety? .......................................................................................................................................................... 7
What causes social anxiety .............................................................................................................................................. 7
What social anxiety looked like for me ........................................................................................................................ 8
What do you want from this book? ................................................................................................................................... 9
False goals ............................................................................................................................................................................. 9
What life actually looks like now .................................................................................................................................. 10
Why your doctor probably cant help you ..................................................................................................................... 11
The nature of your experience of reality ................................................................................................................... 11
Step 1: Choosing to experience your anxiety ................................................................................................................ 14
The opponent response .................................................................................................................................................. 14
Functioning in spite of anxiety ....................................................................................................................................... 15
Potential objections ......................................................................................................................................................... 16
The cold shower approach ............................................................................................................................................ 16
Step 2: Seeing your minds overlays on your perception of reality ........................................................................... 18
Why overlays? ................................................................................................................................................................... 19
Changing the overlays...................................................................................................................................................... 19
Living in the present moment ........................................................................................................................................ 20
Seeing through overlays .................................................................................................................................................. 20
Meditation 1: Observing overlays ............................................................................................................................. 20
Meditation 2: Presence walks .................................................................................................................................... 22
Two commands to keep you present.......................................................................................................................... 25
Keep doing it the new way ............................................................................................................................................ 26
Step 3: Cultivating equanimity ............................................................................................................................................ 28
Meditation 3: Observing emotions with equanimity ............................................................................................ 28
Potential objections ......................................................................................................................................................... 29
Step 4: Happiness .................................................................................................................................................................. 31
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems ........................................................................................ 31
A quick note on addictions ........................................................................................................................................ 32
Activating the PSNS ......................................................................................................................................................... 33
Breathing and the SNS ................................................................................................................................................ 33
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

Meditation 5: Breathing correctly ............................................................................................................................ 33
Why arent we happy anyway? ...................................................................................................................................... 34
The conditional happiness worldview ..................................................................................................................... 34
The unconditional happiness worldview ................................................................................................................. 35
Asking yourself the right questions ......................................................................................................................... 35
Meditation 6: Unconditional happiness ................................................................................................................... 36
Potential objections ......................................................................................................................................................... 37
When things go wrong ........................................................................................................................................................ 39
What if bad things keep happening? ............................................................................................................................ 40
About Personal Power Meditation ................................................................................................................................... 42

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

About me
My name is Edward Cottrill and I own and run the Personal Power Meditation website
( writing under the screen name Illuminatus. I live in England,
United Kingdom, and have been helping people in their personal development endeavours both online and
face-to-face for more than 9 years.
My approach is that by learning about myself and how my own mind and body work, I automatically learn
about other people because we all function in the same basic ways. This formula seems to have been
successful, and through my websites forum and blog, and contributions to other personal development
websites and magazines, I have been able to touch thousands of people with my writing and give them the
insights they need to make real progress in a broad range of personal development areas.
I draw on a broad range of fields in my writing including Eastern spiritual practice, philosophy, Neuro-
Linguistic Programming (NLP), linguistics, evolutionary science, anthropology, psychology and modern
This book is the true story of how I completely overcame social anxiety. Social anxiety was something I had
suffered with from a very early age, and I studied a vast range of materials created by others to try to deal
with it. I spent around 8 years trying dozens of different techniques. While some of them worked
temporarily, nothing seemed to stick in the long term. I always seemed to slip back into being socially
Eventually I said sod it and just decided to watch what was really going on in my mind and body when
social anxiety arose. This book was the result of that study, and represents around 3 years of self-
observation condensed down to descriptions of the core mental and physiological processes behind the
formation of social anxiety. The exercises in this book are designed to show you these processes
experientially and, with the insight gained from this, how to change those processes permanently to
something better.
In my writing I try to be as realistic as possible. I do not sensationalize my achievements getting rid of
social anxiety is enough of an achievement without claiming to have gained superpowers or millions of
dollars from it. I also do not pad the book with endless preamble and embellished success stories. I hate
marketing speak, and the disingenuous way it promises to sell you a dream in exchange for your money.
This is not a magic pill book, and the focus is on actually doing the exercises to create change for yourself,
rather than pinning your hopes for change on a quick fix. Quick fixes do not exist. Change must come from
doing, and the amount of practice you put into the exercises will directly correlate with the amount of
change you experience.
The main focus of this book is therefore on the exercises themselves, and Ive provided just enough theory
to put the exercises into a context where they can be easily understood. I hope you enjoy the book and,
more importantly, enjoy the changes in your life that doing the exercises diligently and with an objective
mind will bring.
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is an irrational fear of other people, and this fear is most commonly felt around people you
dont know very well. The more people around you who you dont know, the more fear you experience.
Crowds of people are particularly a problem. Social anxiety is really a fear of what might happen next, and
you feel this fear because you believe, at an emotional level, that people are unpredictable and there are
many ways they can harm you.
But this isnt the whole story. If you didnt mind experiencing fear, social anxiety wouldnt be a problem.
Some people dont mind fear, or find it a thrill. So the condition also includes the way you relate to your
fear response, and there is only a major problem if your fear response is preventing you doing what you
want to do in life.
Another piece of the puzzle is confidence. If you know, from past experience, that you can handle negative
social situations should they arise, the security of the knowledge that you can handle yourself can negate
the fear to a degree. Therefore, social anxiety also often involves a perception that you cannot deal
effectively with the unexpected. Since social anxiety usually causes withdrawal from such events, it can be
difficult to achieve successes through which to build confidence.
Social anxiety is therefore best described as an irrational fear of other people which negatively impacts
your life, and which you have found difficult to overcome.
What causes social anxiety
There is no one single cause of social anxiety, and everyone follows a different path to end up there.
However, there are some common factors contributing to developing social anxiety:
Beliefs. At some point in your life, you drew the conclusion that other people are unpredictable
and arent to be trusted, and the world isnt safe as long as there are people around. This belief was
most likely created when you were a small child, and the logic was likely not very sound, as you
were working with the limited evidence you had at the time. Beliefs formed this way are quite
arbitrary, but nevertheless make up a large proportion of peoples personalities. A belief could also
have been formed more recently, e.g. as the result of an attack or confrontation. Beliefs influence
behaviour via overlays, which are described later in the e-book.
Lack of confidence. If you have successfully dealt with unexpected events involving other people
in the past, e.g. confrontations, then the belief in your own ability to handle situations helps negate
any fears you may have about people wanting to harm you. A lack of these reference points
however makes any fear stronger as there are no beliefs to balance them.
How you feel about and label your fear response. I believe everyone has some social anxiety,
but many people consider it normal and dont think about it too much or let it get in the way of
things. Others label it anticipation or excitement rather than anxiety. It is the same basic
biochemical response, but often the thoughts you have about the fear itself determine whether it is
a problem or not. So your thoughts about fear and what is acceptable for you personally can create
a problem.
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

What social anxiety looked like for me
This is a brief description of the kinds of thoughts and feelings I used to have when walking down the
street, back when I had social anxiety. These would be amplified times ten in the town centre or in a
A sense of threat when encountering other people.
A sense of not knowing what to do with myself where to look, how to stand etc.
The feeling that other people were looking at me or judging me.
The feeling that other people disapproved of me.
Flash images and thoughts (overlays, covered later in the e-book) of people coming towards me
Gangs of kids in particular triggered these images and feelings, probably as a result of being bullied
at school and being mugged by a big gang of kids when I was 18.
Feelings of being weak and inferior for experiencing all of this.
On even thinking about leaving the house, a flash of all of the above would flood into my mind,
reminding me of what I was about to face. This made even leaving the house into a chore requiring
a lot of mental effort.
You will notice there is not just fear here, but also beliefs about the fear and what I make it say about me
as a person. This is why social anxiety isnt just fear it also creates a feedback loop involving your other
beliefs about yourself. Removing the fear however does thankfully realign these other beliefs, because they
all stem from the fear and avoidance of fear which social anxiety brings. This is important to remember
because these other beliefs often concern self-image, e.g. I am weak for having social anxiety. Often,
paying attention to these thoughts might sidetrack you from doing the exercises in this book properly and
in full. For example, in the first exercise, I will be asking you to purposely feel your social anxiety. Any
thoughts based on self-image such as I am weak or I cannot allow myself to suffer like this are simply
going to get in the way of doing these powerful, liberating exercises.
Therefore, while working through this e-book, you must put aside ideas and thoughts about what your
social anxiety says about you, and instead think more like a scientist, working objectively on your own mind
and emotions.

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

What do you want from this book?
False goals
What does your image of life look like once you have got rid of your social anxiety? Have you made any
images of what a future without social anxiety might look like?
I ask this because when I had social anxiety, my idea of what not having social anxiety would look like was
something like this:
Being permanently happy when out in public.
Looking everyone in the eye and smiling at them.
Perhaps even saying Hi to people, or striking up conversations with strangers all the time.
I think I got this idea from a few sources. First, I had placed such a high value on getting rid of social
anxiety, that I considered it the key to my happiness. I think people do this a lot, with many different
concepts. E.g. someone might think If I just had more money, I would be happy or If I just had a hot
girlfriend/boyfriend, I would be happy. Humans in my experience tend to create a secret excuse for
themselves for not being happy, and often focus their thoughts around the idea that if they just fixed that
one thing, their life would be great. For me, social anxiety was my secret excuse for a while.
Now, Im not saying life isnt better without social anxiety it undoubtedly is. Im just saying that getting
rid of social anxiety might not be the key to happiness you expected. Dont worry too much about this
though; its just a quirk of human thinking that we place unrealistically high values on things we dont have.
Another reason I believed I would turn into some social tornado if I just got rid of social anxiety was
because I allowed myself to be misled by two major influences in my life:
1) The dating industry. Id read somewhere that real men make eye contact with everyone all the
time and also that being myself would involve being social and outgoing all the time. Therefore if I
wasnt doing those things, I was still broken.
2) Spiritual philosophy, e.g. Buddhism and Eckhart Tolle. I had learned about ideas such as living in the
present moment, and imagined that that would automatically involve me being really outgoing and
things, and reaching my potential.
Neither of these sources were to blame; it was me who had created these fantasy future images, and me
who kept comparing my present self to these false images to see if Id made it yet. I think this false idea
of what not having social anxiety would look like probably kept me being socially anxious longer, through
beating myself up and continuing to think I had masses of problems.
That isnt to say you cant be more social if you like but rather that increasing how social you are is a
different skill which must be cultivated independently from getting rid of social anxiety, although obviously
not having social anxiety is a great place to start.

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

What life actually looks like now
Here is what not having social anxiety actually looks like for me now:
I walk down the street just feeling contented, or whatever mood I was already in.
I notice nature, the sun, and things like that, and they often make me smile. A walk generally makes
me somewhere between content and happy.
I notice other people but they seem to blend with the environment, like Im watching an interesting
movie. Seeing other people does not draw out any extraneous thoughts or analysis of their
intentions like it used to. Im usually happier if there are people around, because it makes things
more interesting and adds to my experience of life.
If Im in a good mood, Ill probably have a chat to shopkeepers or whatever, but I wont invest any
of my self-image in these chats. I just enjoy them for what they are and do not worry about them
afterwards. Its the same with asking someone for directions. These things are just part of life and
no longer demand any extraneous thought from me, whereas previously I would have analysed the
hell out of these situations before, during and after.
Ill look hot girls in the eye and smile as they walk past if Im feeling a bit randy; this is just for fun
and I dont really care if anything happens as a result of it. There is no pressure to do any of this, in
other words.
So its quite a bit different, and a lot more normal/boring than the fantasy images I had created before.
The point here is that life goes on, and what bored you before will probably still bore you, and what made
you happy before will still make you happy, but the difference is that you arent getting any unnecessary
suffering from being out in public, or having thoughts all the time about your social anxiety and how to deal
with it. Its a huge weight off your shoulders.
The message here is, if you do make images of your future life without social anxiety, make them as
realistic as possible. Simply not feeling fear is a great place to start.
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

Why your doctor probably cant help you
Social anxiety falls under mental health, which is an enigmatic area of study. It seems the more you read
about it, the more you realize that no one really knows what the hell theyre talking about. Western
medicine focuses on grouping symptoms together under headings such as Social Anxiety Disorder. These
headings then get confused by the general public as being an actual underlying physical pathology, when
actually there is none.
Western medicine is also obsessed with the physiological side of illness, and tends to view mental illness in
terms of hormones and neurotransmitters, and chemical imbalances. This is to be expected: Western
medicine has been extremely successful in focusing on the physiological side of illness in the past, and using
physical interventions such as drugs to treat illnesses. For this reason, doctors tend to see everything as a
nail just because they have a hammer and drugs have become the standard treatment for common mental
health issues from depression to anxiety.
Layperson: Whats the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder?
Doctor: Drugs or therapy.
Actual answer: Social Anxiety Disorder is a collection of symptoms and is not an underlying physical
pathology. Social Anxiety Disorder is not a disease that can be cured with drugs. Drugs can only treat
the symptoms. For some, drugs wont even do this effectively. For those for whom drugs are effective, a
tolerance will eventually develop, leading to higher prescriptions, more side effects, and dependency.
Therapy is a step in the right direction, but therapy is only as good as the therapists ability to intuitively
identify the mental programs you are running which create your anxiety, and offer effective training to help
you rewrite or end those programs. The other issue, aside from therapists individual skill, is that therapy is
expensive, and drugs are cheap. If you go to a doctor with social anxiety, guess which treatment youre
Treating mental health issues is inherently difficult because the cause is metaphysical in nature, comprising
of the software programs of the mind, running on the hardware of the brain and body. Social anxiety is the
output of a program running in response to an environmental stimulus. It is not something doctors can cut
open and dissect, and cure. It is something only you can change, as you were the writer of that software
program in the first place. Using this e-book, youll be able to look back into your past and find the exact
moments when you wrote it.
The nature of your experience of reality
Your perception of reality is a software model running on the hardware of your brain and body. You wrote
the majority of this software as a child when growing up. The software is constructed of conclusions you
have drawn about the world by applying the law of cause and effect to the events or reference points
of your life thus far. The reference points are like loose beads on the floor unrelated, unconnected. A
belief is formed when you put a thread through the beads and link them together in a cause-and-effect
relationship (Figure 1). This could be a conclusion drawn such as The world is not safe after being bullied
at school, for example. The events are often unrelated but the survivalist nature of the human mind threads
them together to form a meaningful rule which is then followed faithfully by your physiology in order to
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

keep you safe for example, with social anxiety, the fight-or-flight response kicking in in response to seeing
other people about whom you have little information.

Figure 1: The arbitrary nature of childhood rule formation
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Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

These beliefs are formed from your own experiences, and by inference through observing your parents or
immediate role models behaviours in response to events e.g. if you had a socially anxious mother or
father, youre likely to pick up these behaviours vicariously.
Thousands of beliefs make up the matrix of your perception of reality. The really basic, most fundamental
beliefs you have reside at the bottom, and form a kind of root from which other incidental threads branch.
This concept is extremely important to grasp, because a strong root belief will permeate and affect your
entire perception of reality. For example, if you have the fundamental belief that The world isnt safe, you
will find yourself, again and again, in situations confirming that belief, as your mind focuses on evidence
supporting its beliefs in order to maintain a stable reality. All the time this focus is on the negative,
opportunities are being missed. It is a vicious circle.
The great news however is that the threaded beads which make up your perception of reality can be
broken, and new threads begun, in order to effect perceptual change across the board. This e-book is here
to show you how to do this, without drugs. In Step 2, I will be showing you how your beliefs impact your
behaviour in the present, via a series of thoughts and images inserted into your perception of reality by the
clever editing software of the mind. I call these thought and image edits overlays.
While this e-book uses the context of social anxiety to explain how you have written the software affecting
your perceptions, it might quickly become apparent to you that this isnt just about social anxiety: the way
your mind applies rules to its processing of reality affects your life across the board. Identifying and
changing the fundamental way your mind organizes and responds to reality is the key to creating a better,
more productive reality, and a better way of life. Simply substitute social anxiety for any issue you face
which is psychological in nature and you will have a guide to effecting change in whichever area you desire.
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

Step 1: Choosing to experience your anxiety
I believe a fear response to other people is only the tip of the iceberg with social anxiety. The rest of social
anxiety is made up of the way you think and feel about fear, what you believe other people will think of you
if they find out about your fear, and what you let your fear say about you as a person. In other words,
there is the fear response, then the entire self story you write about having that fear response. This story
often causes a lot more suffering than the actual fear response itself, and is based around keeping up
appearances and pride.
Bearing this in mind, one of the first and most liberating things I did when deciding to deal with my social
anxiety was to put aside my self story for a while, and just focus on the feeling itself. This led me to learn
one of the simplest rules about social anxiety and emotions in general: just experience it without
resistance. Nothing bad happens.
In the case of social anxiety, this meant doing something seemingly quite perverse: choosing to go out and
actually experience my social anxiety fully, without repression, pride or excuses. A strange and wonderful
thing happens in your mind when you choose to experience something voluntarily guards come down and
you allow yourself to experience emotions fully, from a position of curiosity rather than fear. Curiosity is
the trump card for all fears; challenging yourself to go out and do something on purpose, just to see what
happens, helps to sideline fear as curiosity takes over.
For me, accepting and experiencing the full force of my social anxiety meant doing things like going to
places where I knew my social anxiety would reach the height of its reaction. For example, I went to a very
busy party where I knew very few people, and the house was full to bursting perhaps 150 people in a very
small house. This led to a full-blown anxiety response a triggering of fight-or-flight, complete with panic
attack. Now, if there had been fewer people, I would have resisted the fear response. Many people
suffering social anxiety, I believe, actually put a resistive force against their anxiety in order to maintain the
illusion of control, or so they do not appear weak in front of others or themselves. This resistive force
takes up more and more mental resources and actually makes people more anxious because theyre fighting
the battle on two fronts. The idea behind total immersion however is that you let go of these resistive
forces and electively experience the anxiety in its full force. This means taking your awareness off your
thoughts and instead putting it on your feelings, focusing on the sensations that arise in your body in
association with your anxiety. For me, the full exposure to my social anxiety meant actually having to leave
the party, go outside, and throw up, as the panic reached its peak.
The opponent response
However, a curious thing happens when you allow anxiety to reach its final conclusion. The body can only
maintain the fight-or-flight response in its full-blown state for a limited period of time. After perhaps 30
minutes of shaking, dry-heaving and drifting in and out of consciousness on a sofa, I could not maintain this
response any longer. For every physiological response, the body has an opponent response. For the
adrenocortical stress hormone response of fear, the opponent hormonal response is opioids your bodys
own painkillers and well-being drugs. These are the drugs which make you feel better immediately after
severe injury or shock, or after throwing up. Their purpose in this situation is simple: to allow you the
emotional well-being to carry on in spite of shock. These drugs are also responsible for runners high
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Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

the elation felt after the stress of running long distances, or doing intense exercise. In my experience, if
you allow your anxiety response to reach its absolute potential, you will always be rewarded
with an opioid response immediately afterwards. In the instance of this party, it meant after 30
minutes of panic I suddenly felt drugged and happy, and went back into the party and had a great time, and
made lots of new friends the complete opposite of social anxiety.
When you have survived your anxiety response, and found the ability to continue with your goals in the
wake of an opioid release, a new belief begins to be formed in your mind: anxiety is not the end. This
new belief is powerful. It means anxiety is no longer an endpoint, but simply a checkpoint on the path of
wherever you are going at the time. It means theres a way through. It might not be the most pleasant way
through, but it is a way through. This is a life-changer, because it means there are now opportunities where
before you might have just called it a day and gone home. Even better, because you now have the belief
that anxiety is not an endpoint, the anxiety response will be lessened next time considerably as it is
lowered in relevance, and therefore priority, in your minds perceptual model.
For some people, simply experiencing anxiety fully and without shame a few times can reduce the anxiety
response drastically in future, or even remove it completely. This is same way that if you dont like flying,
but go on a few aeroplane flights in quick succession, you can become entirely used to the anxiety to the
point where it is no longer debilitating. It is the removing of the resistive forces and just allowing yourself
to feel anxiety that teaches the mind that its current anxiety response is out of proportion to the actual
Removing resistive forces and choosing to fully experience anxiety is the equivalent of letting a fire burn
out quickly instead of suppressing it and causing it to burn slowly for hours.
Functioning in spite of anxiety
On other occasions I have gone to the town centre on my own and just let the anxiety have its way there,
too, by looking at the people who scare me, and feeling the full terror expressed as a single emotion,
without excuses or attempting to leverage control over it. I remember waiting in a queue in a shop and
there was this gang of kids mucking around behind me. I had this anxiety and rage that they were going to
do something to me, and all these imagined scenarios started popping up in my head. Instead of paying
attention to the scenarios, I just focused on the feeling of anxiety whilst going about my business.
Afterwards when I was on the bus on the way home, still feeling the anxiety, I realized I had been feeling it
for about 30 minutes and nothing bad had actually happened, and Id got all the jobs done I needed to in
spite of it. The new belief I started to form was that I could go to town, successfully do what I needed to
do, and if I had anxiety, so be it. This is a real confidence-builder because it means anxiety no longer stops
you doing what you want to do. Its just there, and so what? This actually results in less anxiety next time,
since it has less importance for you and takes up less of your focus.
This approach is about starting wherever you are at and accepting yourself how you are right now. If you
cant go out to a town centre, go out to the street. If you cant go to the street, go to the driveway and
feel your emotions fully there. Nothing bad happens.
Try this exercise at least three times and make a note of how anxious you felt after each time. You will find
that anxiety lowers exponentially with each run.
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

Potential objections
The first objection I hear when offering this advice to people is Ive been feeling the anxiety fully for X
years, I know what that feels like, so this wont help. I think theyve concluded prematurely that because
theyve had social anxiety for so long, they already know what it feels like, and Im teaching my
grandmother to suck eggs. But I really doubt those people have actually gone out purposely to experience
their anxiety as a single, focused emotion to feel the emotion of anxiety itself, and to ignore the dialogue
and self story that goes along with it. I know when I had social anxiety I spent most of the time I spent in
public absorbed in thoughts about the anxiety, rather than having my awareness inside my body. The point
of this exercise however is to spend time a lot of time just feeling your anxiety in your body, in order
to learn about your emotions by feeling them without resistance, and to learn how things eventually end up
if you let them run their course.
There is another set of issues which can prevent people doing this. I think the reason it took me so long to
actually just let myself be anxious, to experience this emotion fully, is the opposing beliefs which would
have me suppress it. You may have some of these as well:
I cannot show weakness in front of other people
I must be fun and confident around other people
I must impress others
I should not be anxious; I am better than that
Why would I allow myself to suffer like that?
I dont deserve this
These are based on personal pride and keeping up appearances self-image, in other words. This is why I
recommend doing all of the exercises in this e-book on your own, to start off with. If you are experiencing
the above objections to fully experiencing your anxiety, you just need to let them go in favour of the more
important goal of feeling the fear and learning experientially what its all about, in order that you no longer
inherently fear having social anxiety. If you can have social anxiety but still get the things done that you
want to, then half the battle is already won, as social anxiety becomes a lot less relevant to your life and
therefore starts to demand less of your focus.
The cold shower approach
The idea of total experience of an emotion is not a new one. It is one of the core teachings of Buddhism
that it is not our emotions which cause suffering, but our resistance to those emotions which causes
suffering. Being caught fully in the grip of anxiety, for example, is not actually that unpleasant if you let it
have its way. However, the self-talk and the judgments you make about yourself for having the anxiety,
some of which I listed above, can cause more suffering than the anxiety itself.
To really grasp this concept of full immersion in an emotion, there is a simple exercise you can begin doing
today, and that is taking daily cold showers. A cold shower causes thermal shock. Your survival mechanisms
resist even the thought of experiencing a cold shower, even though logically you know a 5-minute one
wont do you any harm. It is the same with social anxiety. Your survival instincts do not want you to
experience it, and seek ways to circumvent having to, by repression or avoidance.
You can use cold showers to teach yourself about your emotions and how to experience them fully. When
I first took a cold shower, as I was walking up to the water, it felt like there was an invisible wall preventing
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

me from going through with it. This wall was built from fear. However, I eventually just stepped through it,
into the water. I was overwhelmed with thermal shock and began yelping, whimpering and shaking. But I
stayed in and chose to feel the full intensity of the emotion, letting the cold water cover every part of my
body. I allowed the thermal shock to reach its peak, and I had little choice in the matter anyway as the
feelings were so intense. Eventually, after about a minute and a half, the opioid opponent response took
over. The water began feeling warm, and I began feeling euphoric it even became enjoyable. This opioid
high lasted several hours afterwards, much like a runners high does after hard exercise.
For the next two days, I felt the same wall of fear on approaching the cold shower but the wall was
noticeably weaker than the first time, and my willpower easily took me through it. I found that the thermal
shock dissipated, and the opioid response took over, much faster on these subsequent occasions one
minute for the second time, and 30 seconds for the third time. Now, not only can I go in a cold shower
without feeling that wall of fear, I even enjoy the thrill of thermal shock. The water now stops feeling cold
at about 15 seconds. I have a cold shower every day.
Cold showers, for me, have become a metaphor for life. My avoidance of fear has turned into engagement
of fear. Cold showers represent electively facing what you fear, and immersing yourself fully in the emotion
of that fear to see the experience through to the end. I found that this psychology transferred to other
areas of my life too, and found myself choosing to feel social anxiety for the experience, rather than seeing
it as something to be avoided. Sometimes when going into town I would even see the social anxiety in
front of me as though it were the cold water, and step into it with anticipation, eager for the experience,
just like I step into the cold water every morning.
Experiences like this can change the way you view your fears forever. A cold shower is a daily reminder
that you are the kind of person willing to experience your emotions instead of avoiding them, and I
recommend cold showers to anyone who habitually avoids their fears, in order to begin a new habit of
engagement with them.
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Step 2: Seeing your minds overlays on your
perception of reality
You may think of your experience of reality as consistent and continuous a movie running seamlessly
without interruption. It has to look like this, as your ability to function and make decisions relies upon a
stable reality in which to operate, where your actions have consistent results. Your mind hates uncertainty
more than anything, as uncertainty is a direct threat to survival. In the case of social anxiety, your mind
would rather operate in a stable yet hostile environment, where its decisions are at least consistent, than
an unpredictable environment subject to change. This is why it creates the rules which govern your
perceptions. Your mind draws upon your previous experiences, and the beliefs you formed from those
experiences, to create this consistent world. For the socially anxious person, this means your world is
constructed in a way where danger is expected, so your guard is constantly up. Because of your beliefs that
the world is hostile, your mind figures that its better to keep you on your toes than to risk letting your
guard down and no longer being safe.
The question is, since everyone is receiving more or less the same sensory input (the raw data from the
senses), how is this editing of reality taking place?
It takes place via overlays images, sounds and thoughts your mind inserts like flash cards into the movie
being streamed from your senses, in order to alter your perceptions, and therefore your responses, in
accordance with your beliefs.
This is why Joe sees the world one way and Bob sees it another they receive the same sensory input but
their mind makes it one way or another based on their beliefs. Joe believes on an emotional level that the
world is hostile, so in Joes reality it makes sense to always be on guard against trouble, and his mind makes
constant predictions about trouble being around every corner to keep him prepared. He sees this trouble
in the form of images, sounds and thoughts inserted as overlays on top of his sensory data (Figure 2). Bob
however does not have the belief that the world is hostile, and consequently his overlay doesnt contain
threat flash cards, and therefore he is not always on his guard. Which of the two individuals is likely to
experience ongoing social anxiety?

Figure 2: Threats are inserted into the socially anxious persons perceptions via an overlay
These overlays are extremely quick just a few microseconds in duration. They are designed by evolution
to be quick, to evoke a strong emotional response in prediction of an actual threat event taking place.
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You experience thousands of these overlays every day, and they are not all threat-orientated. For example,
if you are hungry, you may see a flash image of your favourite food to motivate you into feeding yourself. If
you hear the alarm clock, you might see flash images of work, in order that you get out of bed.
Overlays are all survival-orientated, and there are two general categories: advance towards things that
promote your survival and reproduction (food, sex, warmth etc.) and retreat from things which threaten
it. If you are socially anxious, you are having retreat overlays inserted into your movies in social situations,
such as people morphing temporarily into ghoulish, zombie-like representations of themselves (Figure 2).
Shortly, I will be sharing with you exercises to enable you to actually see these overlays in real time. You
might already be able to see some of your most common or powerful overlays.
Why overlays?
From an evolutionary perspective, overlays make sense. If you had a dangerous encounter with a bear, it
would make sense to have a retreat overlay come into awareness every time you saw a bear from then
on. Therefore overlays probably evolved as a predictive survival tool. Overlays are also responsible for the
depth of human imagination and intelligence. Because we can create our own overlays at will in the form of
our imagination, we can plan things well in advance of actually doing them. This kind of visualization is at
the heart of all design and engineering, and without it there would be no technology. Even the most simple
design or plan of action requires forethought, and forethought is conducted in the mind via overlays. While
it is known that other mammals have overlays, as proved by Pavlovs experiments with conditioning dogs, it
is not known whether any other mammal can wilfully manipulate overlays as humans do in the form of their
Language relies on overlays. When you hear or read a word, an image and associated emotion are brought
into awareness. Most of academia is based on peoples ability to store and retrieve memories, and visualize
and solve problems, and this is all done via overlays. Therefore overlays are an integral part of the way
modern humans think, and we are conditioned from birth to use overlays habitually. Much of our
experience of life consequently ends up being conducted via overlays in our minds eye, rather than in
actual engagement with our environment.
If you consider how much time people spend worrying and fantasizing, even about the smallest, most
irrelevant details of their lives, you can begin to grasp the severity of the overlay epidemic in modern
Changing the overlays
Overlays are usually images, sounds or thoughts pulled out of memory which contain elements of the
original event which contributed toward establishing the belief that is currently being enforced. When you
learn to slow down and see the details in the overlay, it can provide clues as to the original events which
helped established that belief. In therapies such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and hypnosis, the
therapist will often have you find the overlays relating to your anxiety, and have you change the picture or
sound to something which no longer causes a retreat signal. This works for many people, and if you are
interested in such an approach, I recommend Googling NLP and reading some free resources.
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However, my issue with this approach is that you are still giving executive power to your overlays, and
accepting that you will allow your emotions and behaviours to be influenced by the past on an ongoing
basis. There is a better way.
Living in the present moment
By perceiving the world through overlays, you are choosing to emotionally invest in things that arent really
there. I estimate that somewhere between 50% and 95% of a persons everyday waking experience of
reality is actually lived through overlays; people live in fantasy worlds made up of previous experiences plus
imaginary future projections. What about the sensory data that is coming in in the present moment?
Wouldnt you rather see what is actually going on, instead of having fantasy overlays changing the story?
This concept of engaging raw sensory data rather than constructed images of the past is known as
presence. It has been known about in Eastern spiritual practices for millennia, and it is the goal of many of
these practices to see through the illusions of the overlays and engage with the real world in the here and
now as ones default method of experiencing reality. In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle took
this concept and packaged it for a modern audience, shedding the more vague language of spirituality in
favour of simple, easy-to-understand language. I recommend this book if you wish to become more familiar
with the concept of living in the present moment and the kind of changes this would make in your life. But
the concept at its core is as I have described it in this e-book: choosing to experience reality as a stream of
sensory data in the present moment rather than as a series of movies edited via overlays.
From a social anxiety perspective, it should be straightforward to see that if you could experience being
around other people without the overlays, your problems would be solved, since it is the overlays which
generate the emotional response of danger rather than the actual sensory data.
Thus, we are now going to talk about cultivating the ability to see through and ultimately disconnect
overlays from your ongoing experience of reality.
Seeing through overlays
Before you can choose to look through overlays, it is of paramount importance that you learn to
distinguish overlays from reality. Reality in this context refers to the raw, unedited sensory data you
receive from your external environment. As explained earlier, the brain is extremely clever and subtle in its
editing of reality, and the inserted scenes can be quite seamless. You may already be aware of some of the
major overlays you experience, but there are likely far more you are unaware of, taking place automatically
and influencing your behaviour on an ongoing basis. Seeing the overlays as they arise and detaching from
them is an essential skill in keeping yourself interacting with the reality of the present moment, rather than
reacting to images from the past. There are two basic meditations which will help you develop this skill
Meditation 1: Observing overlays
This meditation is to be done twice a day, in 15-minute sittings. It is to be maintained for at least a month
when first starting out, and should be made part of your daily schedule, with the same priority as brushing
your teeth or bathing. Doing it just after waking and before going to sleep makes it easy to keep track of.
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1. Sit comfortably in a chair, on a sofa or on a bed. Use of a meditation pose such as the lotus is not
required, but you can do so if you are comfortable with that.
2. Set an alarm clock for 15 minutes so your thoughts are not on the time.
3. Begin linked breathing. This is straightforward: breathe regularly, and link your breathing by making
your exhale begin at the peak of your inhale, and your inhale begin at the trough of your exhale. In
other words, no gaps. This regularity should be maintained for the entire 15 minutes, and is your
anchor to the present moment.
4. Close your eyes, and keep your focus on your breathing. If you are new to this, you will almost
certainly find yourself distracted by some verbal thoughts or images immediately. Thats fine. The
point of this exercise is not to achieve a blank mind, although that will also come with time. The
point of the exercise is simply to observe the thoughts and images as they arise and disappear,
passively and non-judgmentally, like watching movies on a screen.
5. If you find yourself engaging and identifying with the thoughts and images, and becoming
emotionally involved in them (which usually just spawns more thoughts and images), simply bring
your attention back to your breathing, making sure it is still linked. The main purpose of the linked
breathing is to give you a stable basis for the meditation. Whenever you get sidetracked from
simply observing thoughts and images, focusing on your breathing brings you back to the present
The thoughts and images you see make up your overlays. Even while idle, you have overlays entering your
mind as thoughts and images. They are your plans and schemes. Your gripes with the world. Something that
annoyed you that someone did that day, or whatever. Often they will be fantasies of you winning glorious
triumphs, having sex with someone you desire, or having social powers you dont ordinarily display.
This is the kind of junk that fills peoples minds day in, day out. The content can be fascinating to watch,
when done so from a non-judgmental perspective. I know when I first started this meditation, not only did I
see all my little plans and schemes playing out in my minds eye, I also saw thought loops concerning events
which were days or even years old. I would see images from my childhood for example which I did not
realize were still affecting my behaviours today.
However, the content of these thoughts and images, no matter how interesting to you, is ultimately
irrelevant. I say this because it is easy to get sidetracked by their content to have Ah-ha! moments
whereby you figure out the reason you did X, Y and Z is because your mother said something to you when
you were 5, and so on. These things are interesting because they form part of your story. But ultimately,
the point of this exercise is to realize that these thoughts and images all make up a web of overlays placed
over your consciousness and therefore to distinguish them from the reality of the present moment. If
you open your eyes, youre still in the room, in the present moment. The overlays only exist in your mind.
They are all part of this editing of reality you experience on a daily basis. The purpose of this exercise is
simply to identify these overlays by witnessing how you create and engage with them.
Aside from the thoughts and images sidetracking you by being interesting on a personal level, they can
sidetrack you in a more profound way: you can become involved in them. In your day-to-day activities, you
are likely involved in engaging these thoughts and images as though they are you anyway: this is how most
people live at least 50% of their lives in my estimation. When beginning meditation, this can be a tough
habit to break. You may have a thought, which triggers an emotional response, which leads to you going
down that thought path even further, having more thoughts, and engaging fully with the fiction that is
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playing out in your mind. The purpose of this meditation is nothing more than to observe
thoughts and images arising passively, without engaging them. With this in mind, if you find
yourself careering down a thought path, bring your attention back to your breathing, your physical anchor
to the present moment.
I also want to clarify that the goal of this exercise is not to manipulate the thoughts and images, or have
them stop. There is no goal other than to watch them for 15 minutes twice a day. If you are goal-
orientated like me, this might seem like a waste of time. To that, I will say: this exercise has far-reaching
consequences you may not become aware of until you have been doing it for several days or weeks. The
effects range from the subtle, such as stopping yourself having an argument with someone because you
suddenly remember from your meditation that its based on fictional premises, to the extreme, such as
having long moments of unedited reality coming to you spontaneously in your day-to-day activities better
known as living in the present moment.
The process is passive, but powerful and life-changing.
Meditation 2: Presence walks
The previous meditation will educate you. You will come to witness the extent to which overlays influence
your mood and behaviour, and since humans are all pretty much the same the extent to which other
people also live in fantasy. This knowledge alone can create powerful new insights.
However, you also need to know how to take this meditative state out into the real world how to
actively engage with reality instead of reacting automatically to overlays while going about your daily
Firstly, I want to say that you will no doubt have experienced extended periods of present moment
awareness without overlays at least a few times in the past. If you have done sports at some point, you may
have experienced being in the zone. Being in the zone just means engaging primarily with the present
moment rather than overlays. When you are in the zone, the past does not exist, and the future may be
just some microsecond projection of your opponents next move, for example. Your function is at least
95% in the present. If you are a musician, you might have experienced this same flow for extended periods
if you have allowed yourself to become immersed in the activity of playing music. Even if you work some 9-
5 job you hate, at some point you will have been working on a big task that caused you to experience this
kind of intense uninterrupted focus, or flow. Even doing the washing-up for half an hour can trigger this
experience of flow.
Living in the present moment is about taking this concept of flow, of deep focus and immersion in whatever
it is you are doing, and applying it to your whole life. This looks nice and simple on paper, but the truth is it
is a skill you must develop. The reason for this is simple: given some specific task to do, it is easier for your
focus to be consumed with that task. However, for something idle like walking down the street, your brain
activates what is known as its default network:
The default network is a network of brain regions that are active when the individual is not focused
on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest. Also called the default mode network
(DMN), default state network, or task-negative network (TNN), it is characterized by coherent
neuronal oscillations at a rate lower than 0.1 Hz (one every ten seconds). During goal-oriented
activity, the DMN is deactivated and another network, the task-positive network (TPN) is
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activated. It is thought that the default network corresponds to task-independent introspection, or
self-referential thought, while the TPN corresponds to action, and that perhaps the TNN and TPN
may be considered elements of a single default network with anti-correlated components.
This idle mode of introspective thought is when overlays are most likely to begin appearing. Basically,
your brain gets so bored, it starts to make stuff up. Try and stay focused when walking down the street and
probably within 10 seconds youll be thinking about something else.
Practising presence all the time therefore becomes a discipline you must learn, and this meditation is how
to get started. In this meditation, you are going to practise presence in the real world, starting somewhere
quiet to begin with until you become adept at seeing through overlays, and then progressing to busier
places where your skill will be more challenged.
Scene 1: Nature
1. Start somewhere quiet such as the garden, or a wood or somewhere scenic where you wont be
disturbed too much. Nature is extremely beneficial for this meditation, as it provides quiet events
on which to focus your mind which are unlikely to be disturbing or elicit heavy emotions. Begin
linked breathing.
2. Simply look at your environment. Become focused on trees, flowers, the birds, or insects. Move
your attention slowly between objects, taking it all in. I like looking at birds and animals because
they help engage the hunters mind a state of high focus and oneness with your environment.
3. Every time an overlay appears, whether it be some memory attached to whatever youre looking
at, or just some irrelevant thought that pops into your head, see through it and allow it to
disappear. So it rises up, in front of you, then fades. You look through it, and return your attention
to the real environment beyond the overlay.
Eventually a state of calm will overtake you, and you will begin to see the environment more and more
clearly. Things will come into focus in vivid ways you may not be used to experiencing. You may even
experience the sensation of merging with your environment, of being part of it. This in itself is highly
enjoyable. This is the reason many people love getting out of the city and just experiencing nature. There is
a natural calming focus that develops just by engaging with your environment and not overlays. After some
time, this state becomes quite effortless to maintain: you have activated the task-positive network
described in the Wikipedia quote above, applied to the environment. The overlays reduce in frequency
down to almost zero, and if one does appear, you can just choose to have it fade and look through it back
to the environment.
I recommend some quiet time like this is taken every day. When you first begin, it may take a long time to
reach this state of calm presence perhaps even 10-20 minutes. By practising every day, this time goes
down and you can often reach this state very quickly, in maybe a couple of minutes or even 30 seconds.
Scene 2: The street
You will now take this meditation out on the road, introducing more stimuli to your environment which
will trigger more overlays. The idea is to increase the challenge so that your skill in seeing through the
overlays and remaining focused on the present strengthens. This e-book is about social anxiety, so we need
to introduce people to your reality in order to strengthen the skill.
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1. Start linked breathing and begin a walk down the street. Keep your focus on the environment.
Move your attention slowly between objects, looking at each one carefully, allowing yourself to
take it all in. Anything you want to look at is fine. By keeping your attention moving from object to
object, it is easier to keep your mind focused on the present moment. Take interest in everything
you look at.
2. People will inevitably appear in your line of sight, if you live in a town. If you have an emotional
reaction connected to seeing people, remember that it is the overlays the fictional images of the
people created by your mind that cause any anxiety reaction, not the people themselves.
Remember that, and try and look for the overlay. When you first start out, you might not see it
right away. But keep looking. The overlay might contain something old a scene from when you
were young and something bad happened, for example. For me, as I was mugged once, there would
be recreations of that in the overlay, applied to the people in the street. However, the content of
the overlay, no matter how interesting, is irrelevant. Simply see the overlay drift up in front of you
as it is triggered, and fade away to reveal the real environment behind it.
3. Return your attention to the environment. If you look back at the people at this point, you may
well find you have no emotional reaction to them. You are unhooking the overlays one by one.
This will probably be difficult to keep track of at the beginning. You may be overwhelmed by the number of
overlays you see. That doesnt matter just keep letting the overlays drift up, out in front of you, and fade
away, to reveal the true environment behind them. Always return your focus to something real in the
environment immediately after the overlay fades.
You are practising a habit here of disregarding overlay information, and remaining focused on the
environment. This habit will begin to become ingrained with practice, and become your default method of
processing reality. Eventually you will become very present by default, and pay little or no attention to
Eventually, people will start to blend with your environment. They will become no more a point of analysis
as seeing a pigeon or a tree is. You will notice them, but they wont demand this compulsive self-talk or
fretting you are probably used to. Like in nature, you will begin to feel at one with your environment
experiencing your environment, including people, as an extension of your consciousness.
Maintaining linked breathing is important during this exercise, as youll come to find that people blend with
your environment on the cycle of each breath. The breath is a kind of metronome which keeps your
perceptions of reality timed with your sensory input. Its like each breath lets a person in, and they kind
of pop into the scene seamlessly. This is important to understand, because socially anxious people tend
to hold their breath when seeing other people, or allow their breathing to become shallow and
inconsistent. It is during this breath-holding that the over-analysis, self-talk and visualizations begin.
Continuing to breathe regularly whilst allow people to just blend into your environment overrides these
overlays and keeps you in the present.
The state I am describing, of very little self-talk and visualization, a sense of people blending with your
environment, and a sense of you yourself being merged with your environment, can take a long time to
reach, especially when first starting out. I would say it used to take me 30 minutes of walking before
reaching it. During that time I would be constantly reminding myself to keep my breathing regular and my
focus on the external environment, not on my overlays. Eventually however things just start to click and
become less and less effort, and once you reach the state, it becomes very easy to maintain. The more time
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you spend in this state, the easier it becomes to reach it in future, and the more it overwrites the old
program of creating and responding to overlays. I therefore recommend you spend as much time as
possible in this state once it is reached. This wont be difficult, as this state is very enjoyable and
interesting, especially when its new. With practice, the time it takes to reach this state goes down a lot I
can reach it in less than 5 minutes now.
Once youve experienced this state a few times, you can take this form of consciousness anywhere even
into a busy town centre.
Scene 3: The town centre
When you are socially anxious, other people are the main trigger of your anxiety. Some triggers will be
stronger than others the particular way someone dresses or looks could be a stronger trigger, depending
on how the anxiety was originally formed. You might fear people who dress a certain way, or fear people
of certain races more strongly than others, depending on your previous experiences and how closely the
people you are seeing match the people in those memories. It is common to have specific templates of
people which trigger stronger fears in this way.
The town centre is an excellent testing ground for your ability to remain present and see through overlays,
because there is a large mix of people and many different templates will be triggered. Again, the content of
the overlays might be interesting to you personally, e.g. I fear this type of person because I had X bad
experience with one once. You might see elements of the experience taking place again in the overlay. But
once again, the content is irrelevant. The point of the exercise is simply to see through the overlay, back to
reality. I recommend picking some feature of the town centre to return your attention to each time, e.g.
the street ahead of you, or the buildings around you. Focusing on your breathing by making sure it is still
linked, and reminding yourself where you are by looking at neutral objects such as the street, will help keep
you present if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Eventually you can experience that same calm you felt in the garden looking at nature, and that same
blending of people with your environment you experienced in the street. Once you realize it is the overlays
causing the emotions, not the people themselves, you can allow yourself to live in the present moment,
even in the town centre. This can take several test runs before you get there however, and the amount of
time practising this skill directly relates to how easy it is to invoke. Eventually, being in the town centre will
be just like being anywhere else.
Two commands to keep you present
There will be times, particularly while interacting with other people, perhaps in new and unpredictable
situations, where the emotional turbulence within you can make it quite difficult to remain present. In
these situations, there are two commands I say to myself, in my mind, which instantly return me to the
present moment:
1) See through my own eyes If you find yourself drifting into overlays, or feel yourself being
pulled emotionally by people or circumstances and feel you are losing control over your actions,
then command yourself: See through my own eyes. This, for me, will immediately force me to
look at the situation like its a movie playing on a screen just for my benefit rather than something
happening to me. It snaps me out of any emotional haze I am experiencing and lets me re-evaluate a
situation more objectively. By seeing through my own eyes, I will also behave more in line with
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my own intentions and not be steered by others intentions or what I may think others want from
me. After giving the command to myself, I will physically look around me to see whats going on,
through my own eyes. It is a really great command for centring yourself.
2) Engage with the new experience One thing we have figured out over on the Personal
Power Meditation forum is that your brain will often simply refuse to do things it perceives as
potentially harmful to itself. If you had difficulty convincing yourself to get in the cold shower
earlier in the book, you have already experienced this. However, there is a trick you can use to
circumvent this automatic self-preservation system in times when it is hindering you for no rational
reason, and that is a psychological technique known as reframing. By using different words to
describe an event, you can provide your brain with a different emotional context for it one it
wont mind venturing into. So, for a socially anxious person, asking yourself to Go and talk to
these strangers wont usually work, since the words describe a potential threat, and your brain
will shut you down with some fear images. However, you can reframe this command by saying to
yourself: Engage with the new experience. At this point, your brain will accept anything you then
put in front of it as a new experience to be engaged with and learned about it puts your brain
into curiosity mode which, as we discussed earlier, is the trump card to all fears.
This last command ties in with the way I make myself present very quickly now. I choose to see life as a set
of new experiences. Then I think of myself as an experience recorder, kind of like a cameraman recording
new experiences. This tells my brain to record new footage, and not use elements from the past
(overlays) to make up its perceptions. Try it you may be amazed by how fast it works.
Keep doing it the new way
I recommend spending some time practising staying present in Scenes 1 and 2 every day no excuses.
Spend time practising in Scene 3 at least a couple of times per week, and combine doing it with any errands
you have to run. I think Scene 3 is the most taxing, and being able to remain present in the town centre is
something really powerful for your own confidence. I found that my confidence increased and my anxiety
decreased exponentially with practice, especially in Scene 3. I think the confidence from successfully
handling Scene 3, or even just having some success with it such as being able to cope better, is a really
powerful motivator, and makes life a lot happier and more hopeful. Its like once youve experienced that
town centre and felt no fear, you will never look at social anxiety the same way again. I know I stopped
considering social anxiety a real thing as soon as I experienced this state just once. I realized it was a state
of mind, and that there are better states of mind you can put yourself in. After that, I just made sure I kept
doing what I was doing until it became the normal way, at which point fear as I had known it ceased to
Exercises like these need to be done every day. I think it is easy to think of social anxiety as something
which must be overcome. I think its more accurate to say social anxiety is one way of processing the
world, and living in the present moment is another. The aim isnt eventually to go back to your old way of
doing things and hope its miraculously fixed the aim is to make the new way the normal way.
If you get good at this, but then spend several days or weeks in your house on your own, during that time
you may well slip back into your old way of processing reality through overlays. Isolating yourself really is
the best way to create more overlays, since the mind easily gets bored, as explained in the default network
quote earlier, and this can cause it to slip right back into making and living through new overlays.
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A huge part of life is about being comfortable with other people and the best way to do this is to actually
practise being comfortable around other people. Get out of the house every day. Practise being present
every day. Ingrain this habit in your mind as its default way of doing things. You cant have it both ways.
You cant live an isolated life then decide to be socially comfortable once a month it doesnt work like
that. The people who are most socially comfortable are the ones who spend the most time around other
people. I have given you the tools to develop this skill, but like any skill, it must be maintained.
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Step 3: Cultivating equanimity
One of the core teachings of Buddhism is that it is not your emotions which cause suffering, but your
resistance to your emotions.
It is human nature to value good emotions such as pleasure over bad emotions such as fear and to
want to embrace the good emotions, and avoid the bad. The Buddhist principle of equanimity is that all
emotions are equal, and are simply events taking place within the mind-body. When viewed as simple
events in this way, emotions lose their urgency and their ability to cause suffering.
As explained in Step 1, one approach you can take with social anxiety is simply to jump deep into the
emotion of fear, and choose to experience it fully. However, this chapter concerns not just social anxiety,
but how we think about and manage emotions in general.
After first reading about the concept of equanimity, and of not resisting emotions, I was fortunate enough
to accidentally smash myself in the ankle with a golf club whilst out on the course. Remembering what I had
learned, I immersed myself in the pain of the injury without complaint, and through not resisting it, saw it
as the biological event it was, rather than finding meaning in it and adding it to my own personal story. This
was interesting, because by experiencing pain without resistance, I came to notice its specific qualities. For
example, pain comes and goes in waves. There is a definite sense of locality for the source of pain. Other
biological events take place in response to pain. There are definite sensations in the head, and changes in
awareness. I felt the opioid release in response to the pain. I watched all of this as an observer, finding
impartial interest in the events, rather than making a personal story about it and finding a way to link it to
other events in my memory. This is the essence of equanimity taking the position of an observer to
events, rather than as the victim or beneficiary.
Physical pain no longer bothers me. For example, since the day I just described, I no longer take medication
for headaches, instead preferring to watch the pain come and go in waves. For starters, this makes the
headache go away extremely quickly, because Im letting it do its own thing without interfering. Also, by
watching it, Im breaking whatever process is contributing to it. I dont really get headaches any more since
learning to do this. I also used to get hay fever a lot, and take medication for it from spring through to
autumn. Nowadays I just choose to fully experience the hay fever when it starts to appear around March,
and by April it has gone, as I have let my body learn what a suitable response to this level of pollen is by
applying my attention to the hay fever and not interfering with this natural calibration process.
Emotional discomfort is the same. It is a series of biological events which the mind-body can learn to
experience without suffering by giving them time and attention and allowing them to take place without
resistance and from here, insight is gained, giving you a So what? perspective which makes negative
emotions trivial.
Meditation 3: Observing emotions with equanimity
This meditation should initially be done sitting comfortably alone with eyes closed and linked breathing.
The goal is to reach a point whereby you can just watch your emotional states shifting and changing
without automatically labelling them. This took me 20 minutes to be able to achieve when I first tried it,
and you want to maintain that state for some time longer, at least 10 minutes, so it becomes practised.
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I also recommend maintaining this state, opening your eyes, and beginning to walk around and interact with
the world whilst continuing to watch your ever-shifting emotions as a dynamic experience rather than
labelling it as something inherently meaningful.
Eventually you will be able to experience life like this whenever you choose. It can become your default
way of being.
1. This will initially be practised using the same set-up as Meditation 1 sat comfortably with eyes
closed. You will then practise this every day, out in the real world, during your day-to-day
activities, and especially in social situations. Breathing will be linked in both cases.
2. The thoughts and images that arise during this meditation are not the focus. They will arise as
normal, but the focus is instead on the feelings that arise in you in response to these thoughts and
images. Put your awareness on those feelings without resisting or suppressing them.
3. Find the qualities associated with the feeling. Find where the events take place in your mind-body.
Scan your whole mind-body with your awareness. You are looking for any quality that has arisen
with that emotion. That might be a feeling of energy in some part of your brain, some waves
moving somewhere in your body, a tightness in your jaw, or your eyes moving by themselves.
Whatever the event is, it doesnt matter. You are just watching it happen, letting it unfold as it
wants to, without judgment, and without interfering.
4. When other feelings arise, independently or in response to a previous feeling, study them in the
same way.
Thats it. It is hard to explain the effects of this meditation without you first trying it. However, I also
understand that human nature is often goal-driven, so you might not try it without some sort of incentive.
Therefore Ill offer some vague guidance on why this is an important meditation, especially for something
such as social anxiety.
If you are observing an emotion, you reduce it to a series of observed biological events, rather than
something inherently meaningful. While your awareness is placed on observing these events, the usual
internal dialogue of the thinking mind, which usually writes your self story and ascribes meaning to these
events, becomes quiet. Events become trivialized in the course of this observation. In a social anxiety
context, this means you can be walking through town, and feel some anxiety response, and instead of
panicking and having it mean something, invest your awareness fully in the observation of the chain of
biological events which are taking place in your mind-body. Time slows down. You are watching something
happen, rather than having something happen to you. You are noticing qualities of feeling, rather than
having that feeling consume you. You are reducing an event to its component parts simplifying it, and
therefore gaining understanding over it. Fear is transformed to curiosity.
Like all the other meditations, this one may take some time with which to get into a rhythm. You might
spend 10 minutes doing it to begin with before it takes over and becomes automatic, but this warm-up
period lowers with practice. You can condition yourself to experience all of life like this if you so wish, and
become both an observer and an experiencer of all events.
Potential objections
I think the main issue getting in the way of people being able to adopt equanimity consistently and diligently
is the heavy focus we as humans place on our own individual story. It seems there is always an agenda
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behind every action we do. The idea behind equanimity however is that agendas are irrelevant, since all
emotions become equal and valid experiences. This idea goes against the seek pleasure, avoid pain
mentality weve all grown up with the mentality that makes up the crux of social conditioning, and the
stage upon which all our personal stories are set.
So lets say you begin diligently watching your feelings while out and about in town, or some social setting.
Something triggers some feeling you dont like. So you start to watch it, to observe it carefully as I have
taught you in this chapter. Then the question arises: Now what? Has it gone away yet? and you are back
on this agenda of seeing things as problems which need to be got rid of. When this kind of questioning
arises, you need to then examine those feelings too. And apply the same diligent observation to anything
that follows on from that, too. This process is not about instant gratification (although you may well
experience that as a result). It is about observation and coming to see all experiences as valid.
Eventually, you come to realize it is all just experience. All of it. Social anxiety is an experience. The
questions you ask yourself when applying this method, such as Am I fixed yet? or Whats happening
now? is an experience. The feeling when there are no more questions is an experience. This is pretty
much impossible to convey through writing, as this way of experiencing the world must actually be
experienced to be understood.
Equanimity isnt something you practise a little bit then slip into when it suits you. If you have that kind of
thinking, then you are inserting agendas, and this goes against the very spirit of equanimity, and will prevent
true equanimity from being experienced. Instead, equanimity is a way of living, which you apply because you
know, from experience, that it leads to a more harmonious, free-flowing and significant experience of life.

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Step 4: Happiness
I havent mentioned the most effective prevention and cure for social anxiety yet, which is simply being
happy. I havent mentioned it yet because I needed to take you through the process of experiencing,
understanding and finding equanimity with your fear first, in order that it no longer posed an obstacle to
your happiness.
By happiness in this chapter, I am referring to states of contentment with the situation (whatever it may
be), appreciation for life, love for people, and joy. We are not talking about states of thrill or pleasure,
although those can be fun too. Happiness is the antidote to social anxiety because if you are feeling happy,
you are not feeling fear. The states are incompatible its one or the other. In the same way that anxiety
can override happiness, you can also choose to be happy in order to override anxiety.
In the section Why overlays?, I hinted that overlays are a predictive survival mechanism. This is true.
Overlays only turn on when there is a sense of urgency about a situation. Overlays are your effort to
predict and solve some perceived problem or dissatisfaction, for example during the What happens next?
scenarios of social anxiety.
On the other hand however, happiness stems from a sense of contentment, which is the absence of
urgency the absence of dissatisfaction with the situation. When we are contented, overlays stop and
actually become effortful to create and maintain. When were contented, we are saying to ourselves
Weve got everything we need right at this moment lets just enjoy it.
Unfortunately, contentment does not seem to come too easily or too often for most people, or last
particularly long when it does arrive. People usually feel they need to have reached some goal before
allowing themselves contentment (this is covered in the later section The conditional happiness
worldview). However, you can feel contented whenever you like, and learning how to do this is what this
chapter is about.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
The two opposing states I just described, of urgency versus contentment, have a biological basis. We have
two sides to our nervous systems: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and the parasympathetic
nervous system (PSNS). The main purpose of the SNS is to mobilize the bodys resources under stress; to
induce the fight-or-flight response. The PSNS is complementary to the SNS, and is responsible for
stimulation of rest-and-digest activities that occur when the body is at rest. These two systems operate
like ends of a see-saw: when activity in one side goes up, activity in the other goes down.
Urgency-based behaviours such as over-thinking and social anxiety occur during activation of the SNS. A
sense of well-being and contentment however correlates with activation of the PSNS. Like a see-saw, a rise
on one side lowers the other.
A trick should now be apparent: If you can activate and maintain a PSNS state, SNS activity will
automatically lower, and anxiety will be very difficult to feel. This isnt something new or miraculous.
People have been relaxing in order to unwind since forever. There are also people who already walk
around in a predominantly PSNS state. These are the people you feel naturally at ease around the people
who always seem in a good mood. The ones who naturally seem not to take things too seriously, who take
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life in their stride, and who are laid back and easy-going. These people exist they are just outnumbered,
unfortunately. Happy, contented people are enjoying more PSNS states and fewer SNS states in their lives.
Happy people activate and maintain their PSNS states by having different habits, which are:
Choosing to feel good (or more accurately, contented) as their default state.
Maintaining feeling contented by focusing on the things they enjoy in life, rather than the things
they dont. They focus on what they do have, no matter how small, rather than on what they dont
Living more in the present moment so they arent responding to false threats in overlays, which
activate the SNS.
A happy persons habits are therefore geared towards contentment: a PSNS state by default, with
activation of the SNS only when necessarily, e.g. during exercise, excitement or doing something that is
actually urgent. Even when their SNS is activated, they are a lot more likely to take it in their stride rather
than allowing it to overwhelm them.
A socially anxious persons habits on the other hand are the mirror opposite, and are geared towards
keeping them in an SNS state pretty much all the time:
Choosing to feel bad (or more accurately, dissatisfied) as their default state.
Maintaining feeling dissatisfied by focusing on things that are wrong with their experience, or
things they dont have.
Living mostly in their heads, responding to false threats and urgencies in overlays, which continually
activate the SNS.
Until now, maybe you have not been aware of the choices you make regarding what you focus on in life.
Maybe the decision to focus on your fears, or on things you dont have, or your general dissatisfaction with
life, has been set on autopilot up until this point. Well autopilot responses can be changed once you are
aware of them, and replacing them with something better is just a matter of establishing new habits.
A quick note on addictions
This is the subject for another book, so I wont go too deeply into it here. Addictions, including drugs, sex,
gambling or whatever, are mainly concerned with a scramble towards the PSNS state. The drug or activity
becomes a trigger whereby you allow yourself to have PSNS for a short time. Think about the urgency with
which someone will crave a cigarette for example, and when they finally smoke one, they relax and let
themselves be contented for a short while, until the craving begins again. Its the same with gambling.
Gambling induces a contented PSNS trance whereby as long as the person is gambling, they feel content.
Take that away and they crave that relaxation again. All cravings are SNS orientated. The state induced
once the craving is fulfilled is the PSNS state. By learning to activate the PSNS state at will using the
following meditations, you may well find you no longer have any need for your addictions, and some or all
of them may spontaneously disappear.
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Activating the PSNS
Breathing and the SNS
Earlier in the book, I alluded to the idea that socially anxious people tend to hold their breath during
incidents of social anxiety, or allow their breathing to become quick and shallow. Breath-holding is directly
linked to attention span. Whilst attention is held on the overlays or over-analysis of a social situation, the
breath is held.
Meditation 5: Breathing correctly
Breath-holding stimulates the SNS because the body pings the adrenal glands to release
stress hormones in order to get you breathing again. Shallow, rapid breathing is also a sign that the SNS has
been activated, as this is how we breathe once the fight-or-flight response has begun. Placing your attention
on breathing correctly from the diaphragm however breaks both of these cycles and returns you to the
present moment.
If you observe an animal sleeping or at rest, you will notice that they breathe mainly from their stomach
area. This muscle is called the diaphragm. Breathing from the diaphragm activates the PSNS rest and
digest response. Anxiety only takes place in the SNS state, so activating the PSNS via proper breathing
acts as an override to anxiety states.
1. Sit comfortably with your back straight yet relaxed. Relax your face and other muscles.
2. Breathe slowly through the nose. There are two signs to look out for to know if you are breathing
i. A light hissing noise and moving sensation in the throat. Air is being pulled down more
forcefully than in shallow chest breathing, where air barely makes it into the top of the
ii. The sensation of a balloon filling up slowly starting at the stomach area with the chest area
filling up last.
Fill up your lungs to a comfortable level, then exhale.
3. For the exhale, again it is slow and should just be the same process as the inhale in reverse. The
whole breathing cycle from the start of the inhale to the end of the exhale should last around 8-10
seconds (compare this to the shallow anxiety breathing cycle which lasts around 1-2 seconds).
4. Put your attention on where you are in the present moment, and notice how your feelings and
perceptions change to relaxation and contentment.
An easy way to tell if you are breathing from the diaphragm is to lie down on your back with a book on
your stomach. Chest breathing will make the book rise a little bit towards the end of the inhale.
Diaphragmatic breathing however will make the book rise at the start of the inhale, and rise higher.
I now recommend going out to social situations and noticing how you can use diaphragmatic breathing to
break anxiety cycles whenever they start. By practising this regularly, you can make it your natural
breathing state, leading to prolonged periods of lucidity and centredness.

For more information, visit the following link: The focus of that
article however is on increasing attention span through learning to hold your breath longer. This is the opposite of the
approach I am taking to social anxiety however, which is to break the cycle of placing too much attention on social
what if? scenarios by breathing properly in order to activate the PSNS and return to the present moment.
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This way of breathing is taught as the first step in any yoga class. Students will be asked to begin breathing
regularly from the diaphragm at the start of the class and maintain it throughout the exercises. Breathing in
this way breaks any attention placed internally on overlays, and is one of the main reasons yoga focuses the
mind so well. The other aspect, if you were wondering, is that the exercises place your awareness on your
body the physical rather than the mental which helps keep you in the present moment. Yoga is great
for body and mind.
Why arent we happy anyway?
Im going to wrap up this section with a short philosophical discussion regarding happiness.
Why is it that, in a world of abundant resources, the vast majority of people still
experience life through dc_pand ogqq_rgqd_argm| ?
Why arent people feeling happy or content most of the time?
The conditional happiness worldview
I believe most people hold the worldview that experiencing happiness relies on certain conditions being
met before it is allowed. These conditions can vary from person to person, but common themes arise.
When were kids, were conditioned through punishment and reward that we can only be happy when
were good. When were at school, were conditioned to be happy only if we get good grades, or do all
our schoolwork. During adolescence, were told happiness relies on being well liked socially, fitting in, and
toeing the line. Into adulthood, its all about having a good job, money, being socially responsible to make
sure others are happy first, raising a family, and buying things to prove were a real person.
We are conditioned that only after achieving all these conditions, after working so hard, achieving all our
goals, can we finally enjoy life in the form of retirement, living out our final few years having done
everything we were supposed to do, before dying, a ghost of a person, having spent decades in perpetual
frustration and denied happiness, like a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics
There are many stakeholders in maintaining the conditional happiness worldview: government, the church,
advertisers and the media, to name but a few. The idea behind maintaining this worldview is that if you
figure out you can be happy without meeting their conditions, youll stop doing what they tell you, stop
following their rules, stop buying their unnecessary products, and all of society would break down. This is
based on the fallacy that people are best motivated to contribute via their fears, and keeping fear levels
high is top priority for these organizations. The method of dissemination of fear is TV news and
. The concept of shame keeps us
running this rat race, for if we choose to feel happy without meeting our conditions, we are surely bad
people: hedonists, sinners or just plain crazy.
I say fuck all that.
You can feel happy whenever you want, show that you are happy whenever you want, and the only thing
stopping you is the continued adherence to this stupid worldview that happiness is conditional.

Credit: Radiohead Fitter Happier. The cage is, of course, the conditional happiness worldview.
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Your worldview is a product of your focus. The conditional happiness worldview is built through focusing
on what you dont have. It is built on fear fear of failure, fear of not having security, fear of not reaching
your potential, fear of not living up to what society demands of you. A fear of being outcast for daring to
feel differently to anyone else because to feel happiness for happinesss sake is such an alien concept to
most of the world, that you must surely be a freak if you display happiness without meeting some arbitrary
expectation or condition first.
The unconditional happiness worldview
The conditional happiness worldview is driven by a focus on what you dont have security, material
possessions, popularity, achievement and happiness can only be allowed when you have got that thing.
Since there are infinite things you dont have, even when you do get something, you will not be happy for
very long before your focus moves onto the next thing you dont have. This pattern, if allowed to continue,
follows people all the way to death, the ultimate dont have state which they fear the most.
The unconditional happiness worldview however occurs when you see through the illusion of these
conditions and begin to realize happiness is a product of your focus, and therefore to be happy you just
have to focus on something better. The focus that drives the worldview of unconditional happiness is
enjoyment of the simple things in life, love and compassion for others, and appreciation for what you do
have no matter how much or how little. This worldview is actually a lot simpler to maintain, because
even if you have very little, if your focus is on appreciating and loving those things, you can always be happy
its your choice. By things, Im not just talking about possessions or money or relationships even if
youve lost everything tangible in your life, you can still appreciate the intangible, such as a sunset, or the
feeling of your own breath in your body. It is simply a matter of where you choose to put your focus.
When you focus on what you do have, you can always find something to appreciate, no matter how small.
The inverse is also true: if you focus on what you dont have, you will always find something to be
dissatisfied about.
Asking yourself the right questions
The brain is like a faithful dog, retrieving answers to the questions you ask it even if they dont make total
logical sense. People living in the conditional happiness worldview habitually ask themselves: Why arent I
satisfied right now? The brain faithfully returns a set of reasons (or conditions to be fulfilled) as to why
you are not satisfied. The brain is a cause-and-effect machine, positing causes to the effects you draw its
attention to. It seeks answers to the questions you ask it.
Therefore, being happy is about asking your brain the right questions. You need to begin by identifying the
questions you habitually ask yourself to find out why you keep getting the same answers back. When I had
social anxiety, I realized I was asking myself the question Why am I going to feel socially anxious? before
leaving the house. The brain helpfully supplied answers to this question in the form of overlays appearing in
my mind showing all the ways things could go wrong the bad people Id run into, the ways I would
become the victim of some social defeat or embarrassment, and so on.
When used consciously however, this questioning system can be hacked with amazing results for your life. I
encourage you, every morning after waking, to ask yourself the question: Why am I so amazingly happy in
life? The faithful dog will retrieve the answers for you, often in strange forms. You might have flashes of
people you love. Your favourite breakfast might flash into your head. You can even have extremely
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abstract, non-conditional answers arise, such as simply looking at your surroundings and having feelings of
freedom and profound appreciation for life. These latter experiences are my favourite because they dont
rely on anything in order to be complete. They are unconditional, in other words.
The unconditional happiness worldview is based on love and appreciation for things. Feelings of love and
appreciation have profound effects on your brains physiology. When feeling love, activity is increased in an
area of the brain called the insula
, whose functions include perception, motor control, self-awareness,
cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience
The following meditation will show you how to feel love, appreciation and compassion whenever you like.
. Feeling love turns on the PSNS and activates your
higher mammalian brain circuitry concerned with social bonding. It turns off the SNS and the more basic
reptilian, reactionary fear centres in your brain. Feeling love makes you more empathetic to others and less
reactionary to fear. It also feels a lot better than fear.
Meditation 6: Unconditional happiness
1. Sit comfortably with your back straight yet relaxed. Imagine a dot on your forehead, just above the
bridge of your nose. Relax your eyes and look towards this dot. Your eyes should be slightly
crossed, but not forced. Begin diaphragmatic breathing.
2. Smile gently and naturally, being sure to relax the muscles around the eyes for a more natural
3. Start to summon feelings of love, compassion and joy in your body. If you struggle to do this,
picture someone in your mind who you really appreciate, and imagine sending them some love and
4. With each breath in, let these good feelings rise up into your head and gather at the imaginary dot
you are looking at. Let these good feelings make you relax deeply. Notice how breathing feels
really good and amplifies these feelings of relaxation. Let your smile become bigger and more
natural the more loving you feel.
5. Thoughts, images and feelings of dissatisfaction will sometimes begin to arise, especially if you are
new to this, to try and snap you out of this state and get you focusing on your dissatisfactions
again. Old habits die hard. When any forces arise in resistance to feeling good, simply allow them
to melt away, and relax you even more. So let images, thoughts and feelings just fade away, just like
you did with the overlays in some of the previous meditations. Bring your attention back to your
breathing, and your smile, and the good feelings arising in your body and mind.
6. Eventually, all thoughts will stop and you will be left with just an awareness of feeling good. Your
mind will become quite clear and placid. You might have the impression of white light in front of
your closed eyes. I experience a feeling of my consciousness becoming like a still, clear lake of
white light. Your experience may be different, and as long as you feel good, there is no right or
This state may take several minutes to reach (maybe 10-20 minutes), especially when you are first
starting out. When you do reach this point of stillness however, it is important to stay in this state
for another 5 minutes or so, as this helps lock it in.
7. At this point you can get up and go back to your daily activities, and the state will stay with you
wherever you go, if you choose to let it. To maintain this state:

3 Study shows compassion meditation changes the brain
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i. Focus on enjoying things. Smile a lot. Be happy. Feel love for yourself and others.
ii. If your feelings start to change, bring your attention back to the good feelings, and enjoy
them for a few seconds, letting them relax you again.
iii. Remain in the present moment, by focusing on your environment, your breathing, your
activity, or on feeling happy. Staying in the present moment is quite easy to do when happy,
because overlays have a harder time switching on.
I know from personal experience that I can stay happy for hours when I have activated this state. When
you can choose to feel happy, your choice in life becomes really simple: you can either take control of your
own emotional state, making yourself feel happy and content with life whenever you like, or you can go
back to having your state dictated to you by other people and circumstances.
Feeling happy is a choice. It eradicates fear and dissatisfaction. It makes socializing easier and more genuine.
It makes people like you more. It spreads happiness to other people via mirror neurons, and makes the
world a nicer place. Choose to be happy.
Potential objections
I think most people find it easier to feel fear and distrust for others because of a deep underlying belief that
the world is a tough place and that giving equals losing. For you to gain, someone else has to lose. This
belief pervades human thinking and drives much of our behaviour. Have a think about where this is evident
in the world right now.
When thinking about the way people generally socialize, Ive noticed that people tend to go into social
situations expecting to be shown goodwill first before returning it. The underlying belief is that: If I show
goodwill first and it is not returned, I have lost something. People assign a resource value to their
goodwill and only tend to offer it if they are fairly sure of a return on their investment. This is fallacious, as
goodwill is a set of behaviours showing acceptance and love for others and is completely free for you to
generate. The only cost is to your ego if you get rejected. This is not a tangible loss, and reveals the
emotions which arise in response to the underlying belief that to give without return is to lose. So, we
see people awkwardly approaching one another from a position of distrust and waiting for the other party
to offer goodwill first (or break the ice). No wonder so many people have a hard time making new
friends. Instead, you can bring goodwill from the start by choosing to feel love and appreciation for others,
and then let the chips fall where they may: if someone doesnt respond well, its their problem. Generally, I
have found that if youre good to people without some agenda of trying to get something from them, they
are usually nice back. Emotional states transfer between humans via mirror neurons, and bringing goodwill
fosters feelings of goodwill in others. Feelings of distrust also transfer in the same way. So, if you want to
break the ice and create feelings of goodwill in a social situation, it is important that you go first. Try and
be good to people even if theyre being difficult at first. Find compassion for them through the
understanding that practising a lifetime of distrust has made them this way, and that this behaviour comes
from the underlying belief they hold that to give is to lose. Lead by example. Show that giving is good and
everyone can win. Dont take things personally if it doesnt work out. Just move on to the next experience.
The power games we play are all based on a fallacious assignment of limited resources, which drives the
agenda behind the behaviours we do. This programming has its roots in our evolutionary development in
an actual world of scarce resources. Its fallacious now because, if youre reading this book, you most likely
do not live in a world of scarce resources. The me, me! power games we play are a throwback from a
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time when such behaviours held a strategic survival advantage and increased the chances of us passing on
our genes. This era has now passed for much of the world, and it is time for humanity to begin breaking
out of scarcity- and fear-based programming and think in terms not of taking value, but of giving.
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When things go wrong
Much of this book has dealt with overcoming past trauma by showing you overlays and how to see through
them. This is very important to be able to do because social anxiety is created by specific events which
happened in the past, usually confrontational in nature, which reappear in overlays in an attempt to warn
you about what might happen in the future. Weve got to remember that our brains spend a lot of time
trying to protect us from danger in this way, and that the past is often its only reference. Have appreciation
for it for trying to keep you safe. However, it is sad to think that something like being bullied as a child or
getting in a nasty confrontation at any time in your life can continue to impact you years down the line in
the form of social anxiety and distrust. So showing you overlays and how to unhook them by seeing
through them back to the present moment was essential in showing you how your mind works and
allowing you to enjoy a more positive future, free from ghosts of the past.
However, life is not always 100% safe. Bad things can and will happen. The difference is therefore how you
choose to deal with that fact. Some people let their fear rule them and lock themselves up, out of harms
way. But lifes full richness simply cannot be enjoyed by living that way, because you end up avoiding all the
good stuff in life as well as the bad. Therefore, people need some better way to cope with unforeseen
events to avoid shutting down and becoming a recluse.
I had been completely free of social anxiety for around 4 months when I wrote the majority of this book
this was a long enough time for me to be confident that my new perceptions had stuck, and would
therefore be transferable to others. However, while finalizing it, I had an experience which could have been
taken either very negatively, or very positively, depending on your outlook. While waiting for a bus with my
brother, I was accosted by a rough-looking guy in the town centre who walked up demanding: Give me a
cigarette now, or Ill kick your f**king head in. I told him no, to which he said: F**cking student. What are
you doing your PhD in how to get your head kicked in? (I am not a student). He ended up grabbing the
cigarette out of my hand and starting to walk off, before turning around and snarling: Have you ever seen
the paras [meaning paratroopers] go in? F**cking student... I have since given up smoking.
That guy is a case study in overlays himself, but lets talk about what happened to my overlays following this
incident. Firstly, I didnt beat the guy up at the time of the incident even though many people would have,
and even though I was fairly sure my brother and I could have dealt with him. This was because I thought
ahead and believed we couldve really hurt the guy and got into a lot of trouble with the police had we
done so. Its also because I dont want to spread anger if I can avoid it, as I prefer feeling love and
appreciation for people and the world. However, immediately after the incident, I began fantasizing almost
uncontrollably about what I should have done. The overlays came back in full force. For the next 30
minutes at least, I fantasized about pushing him over, stamping on his head, and all this other violent stuff.
Throughout the rest of the night, the overlays came back in frequent bursts sometimes lasting 5 minutes. I
knew they were overlays, so I let them play out without getting too upset over them. If I hadnt known
about overlays, the whole thing could have been a lot more distressing for me.
Now, the most important part of this story is that the next day I had to walk to the shops. Immediately as I
thought about going out, overlays began to fire, showing me the guy out in the street, along with fantasies
of what I would do when I saw him again. I knew immediately that I had to follow my own advice written
here in this e-book and record some new experiences which did not involve that guy or these overlays. I
stepped out and allowed the overlays to arise, and continued to simply see through them and return to the
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

present moment the whole time as I walked. I felt a lot better after this. The next day I went for a walk
again to test if the overlays were back. They were down considerably, to around 25% of what they were on
the first walk. After this second walk, the overlays were pretty much gone, but there was the occasional
flash, so I continued with presence walks for the next 2 days, and made sure I got out to public places so I
could record lots of new reference points of interacting with people in neutral or positive contexts, in
order to have overlays of that appearing instead, or no overlays at all.
I would say it took me around 4 days to fully recover psychologically from this incident. However, what
might have happened if I didnt have the knowledge written in this e-book? I might have fantasized about
the incident for weeks, months or even years. I might have planned out what Id do if I ever saw him
again. I might have started carrying a knife or other weapon. I might have gone out, week after week,
projecting that guys face onto random passersby, caught in a cycle of anger, fear and hate. Does any of this
sound familiar? This is an extremely typical response people have to these situations, and it only serves to
perpetuate the cycle of fear and distrust which causes them in the first place.
But I did the right thing. I saw it for what it was an isolated incident with no reason behind it, and no
inherent personal meaning for me and just recorded some new experiences to make myself forget about
it. The positive outcome of this incident is that I saw for myself that the techniques in this book really
work. Another positive outcome is that I realized situations are rarely as bad as we fear them to be. This
one wasnt pleasant, but at least nobody got hurt. I know in future that Ill be able to stay even more calm
in these kinds of situations. If anything, my confidence has increased.
What if bad things keep happening?
The story I just shared is a good example of how a short, meaningless incident could have created an
ongoing cycle of social anxiety, anger and distrust. The message of the story is that bad incidents make up
probably less than 1% of our lives, but we have the capacity to keep reliving them day after day if we arent
aware of how to break that cycle.
But what if actual bad things simply keep happening to you, and youre getting sick of it?
Well this just takes a bit of common sense.
If bad things are a daily occurrence in the area you live in, move.
If bad things occur regularly in some particular part of town you frequent, avoid it.
There are always areas of the world where jerks congregate. Even though I have no social anxiety, there
are still many bars, clubs and housing estates you wont find me venturing into. Why? Because I simply
choose not to spend my time with assholes. Unless you want to go into these situations specifically to
experience learning how to handle yourself (which can be useful for personal growth and confidence), you
can simply avoid those places.
I will leave you with one more bit of advice. If you really are concerned about your physical safety where
other people are involved, I truly recommend attending classes in a martial art such as MMA (mixed martial
arts). I have attended such classes, and even in the first class they will train you in the most basic methods
of disabling an attacker, such as how to push them over very quickly and use their pressure points to cause
them a lot of pain without seriously hurting them. In these classes you will also be involved in sparring and
The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

being hit in the stomach with a medicine ball, which really helps you learn to tolerate physical pain, in order
that you wont go into shock and shut down if a real confrontation does happen.
Another benefit of these classes is that you will meet many new people and make lots of new friends in a
group activity context, which itself works wonders for removing social anxiety.

The End of
Social Anxiety

2011 Personal Power Meditation. All rights reserved.

About Personal Power Meditation
Personal Power Meditation is a group of individuals dedicated to finding out the truth about the human
experience in order to build better beliefs, worldviews and behaviours, and ultimately a better way of living.
Our goal is the advancement of human consciousness.
Contributors to Personal Power Meditation value real life experience over conjecture and hearsay, and we
therefore tend to focus on and share only what weve learned experientially rather than information
gleaned from other sources such as socially-conditioned truths or the media. This means we talk openly
and frankly about subjects such as sex, drugs and religion. There are no taboos, and no punches pulled.
Personal Power Meditation is about allowing you to challenge the way you think in order that you emerge
into new, more powerful, liberating and enlivening paradigms.
The community is open to all and is free to join.
You can find us at
Welcome to the Dawn.
Your friend,
Edward Cottrill (a.k.a. Illuminatus)