William Beaty March 2004

So why shyness? What is shyness and what causes it? How can I overcome/cure it?

I was painfully shy, totally asocial up through college. Now I'm not. Well, mostly not. I have lots of explanations for what caused the change, but nothing unmistakably correct. Here's an explanation from someone with an advanced degree.. in armchair psychology!

One of my favorite theories is that human personalities are like "swiss army knives." (Not my idea of course. It comes from Jung, Eastern mysticism, etc.)

OK, suppose that you and I, as well as all other humans, have "Multiple Personality Disorder" all the time. Also suppose that our shattered fragments are held together by our strong misconception that we're really single persons. We think we have an "I" inside and not a "we." This misconception dominates our behavior, and then we all stick to one narrow personality. If we do shift to other personalities, we don't even notice it. And if someone points it out, we deny that it happens; calling it "emotional moods" rather than "distinct personalities."

If this stuff is true, then what will happen if I do things to weaken my self-image rather than strengthen it (pursue egoless states rather than stoking my self-importance?) If I weaken the bonds, my separate personality fragments can more easily act as independent tools when needed. The Swiss Army Knife won't be welded into "large blade mode" anymore. Then I can be seized by an Archetype when circumstances require it.

This actually seems to work. It makes me (or "us?") act more moody/crazy than usual, but "we" suspect that this mental state is closer to the original human mind of millenia past, as opposed to the closed-down uncreative neurotic "stable personality" of the city person, of the overly-civilized single "I."

I look back on my own history and see that I was never really a "shy person," since I wasn't shy when working on projects, or while reading, or while exploring outdoors, while singing alone, writing, sleeping, etc. I had a variety of personalities. Storytellers. Intense focused artists. Life-of party types and intellectuals. Yet I was always dominated by a "shy person" during actual parties or when with large groups. Bring in a bunch of people, and all of the other versions of myself were out of the picture and forgotten. During a party I was convinced that I really was a shy person and nothing else, that I had always been that way, and I couldn't recall anything else. After the party I'd revert to normal again. But I wouldn't notice this happening. Something always pulled that "shy" tool out of the swiss army knife. Something about self defense, but it's not clear.

How did I get over this? I can't put my finger on it, but it happened after years of brutally truthful introspection; of seeing many things inside myself that I could barely stand to look at, and then accepting them. I stared directly at my disgusting parts, and finally they were no longer disgusting (especially when compared to other people!) I guess I did what the religious people are always going on about: I attained forgiveness, I ditched all the "I'm disgusting" crap. But I found that *I* had to forgive myself, nobody else could do it, not even Jesus, etc.

I also spent time forcing myself to act like one of the "popular" types: go to useless parties, force myself into public speaking situations, etc. Painful training, like boot camp. A good pain though. Next I mostly gave up the idea that popular and healthy-looking people were always a**holes, and I suppressed my habit of swearing to never become one of them. I no longer hated the successful party-er types. I also ditched the concept of the "single ideal soul mate" which seems to ruin so many lives (after all, we don't believe there's one perfect best friend out there that we must find, or only a single perfect career, so why should we believe there's a single ideal wife/husband?)

Also, I totally accepted my being a loner type, and I gave up all hope that I'd ever meet friends/lovers at parties. This was very freeing; no more concealed neediness and dashed hopes. Sometimes I would screw with partygoers' minds. Sometimes (rarely,) events were even fun. But over the years the rare fun started happening more often.

I started being outwardly honest, freely admitting that I was a nerdy disgusting overweight cowardly wimp who reads way too much and has no girlfriend, or any hope of getting one, ever. Simple idea really, but so hard to admit, or to accept. I no longer desperately tried to maintain false facades to keep others from finding this out. And other people sometimes said "hey, you're one too, just like me!" I also gave up the idea that I was superior. No longer "special" or unique, and I started assuming that everyone in large groups of people was exactly like me, like individuals in a team of good friends (although some of team members could bring out better tools.) That "specialness" stuff is pure narcissim. If you're "special" then others will see you as being stuck up, even though it doesn't feel that way from inside.

Also I developed an expanding array of "pet topics" upon which I could hold forth for hours once someone got me started. Crackpot scientists who were later vindicated. Massive errors in grade school science books. Those aerodynamics experts don't even know how WINGS work! Electricity is taught wrong!! Individual drivers can UNPLUG TRAFFIC JAMS!!!!!!!!!!

Don't get me started.       :)

Of all these, which was the cure? Can't tell. But I suspect it was the part about not lying to myself anymore; of forgiving myself for my deeply screwed up state; of confronting uncomfortable ideas and shredding illusions that I'd long been trying to shore up. I had always been trying to preserve the overly-positive illusions of myself that I was seeing. Whenever I caught others detecting my illusions and perhaps seeing the embarassing truth behind them, I defended myself. I defended myself by adopting the "shyness" stance.

But with nothing to hide, "shyness" has almost no purpose.

In hindsight I think my "shyness" might also be labeled "depression," and as I slowly defeated it I was somehow changing brain-chemistry to where I wasn't trapped in one narrow "I" or personality, but occasionally had access to a whole array of them, plus the large creativity hidden between them, and I migrated away from "depressed" and towards the "manic" end of the mood spectrum just enough to be normal. (Heh. Perhaps with too much overshoot on occasions.)

Another possibility. In recent years I spent stunnigly huge amounts of time hanging out on newsgroups, getting into longwinded discussions, even sparring with nasty flamer types. This definitely had an effect. Once you've experienced almost every form of namecalling that opponents can invent... you can let down your guard quite a bit. You've heard it all before.

Once the single strong "I" becomes weak, and your real self starts moving around down there, an obvious technique shows itself: the intentional creation of alternate personalites. Once you know that you aren't who you thought you were, then... who do you want to be? Garbageman? Mystic? Lothario? Lecturer? You can play around with alternatives. Go intentionally crazy. You'll find that fairly quickly the alternatives lock in and become very real. It's "method acting" where the character dominates the actor. The ventriloquist dummy takes over the ventriloquist for awhile. Your very own Dr. 'enry 'iggins, your "Facade Engineer," doesn't bother with tired old one-layer-Eliza, but confronts the world with a hoard. (But then, much of the hoard was already in there, just subsumed under the illusion of being a single solidified "I.") No, I didn't invent this stuff. It comes right out of Carl Jung spinoff authors, Castanada books, Eastern religion, etc.

About the only thing I've yet to attack is... the "girlfriend" thing. Tough problem, no?. After decades of being sneered at, I regard most women as The Enemy. I can reverse this temporarily by intentionally applying pressure to myself, but it snaps back again when I stop thinking about it. I'm happy enough talking to the dumpy intellectual types of either sex. But with any girl who looks good enough to attract the attention of Normal males... if she dares to talk to me, all my alarms go off and my defenses evolved during High School deploy themselves. Why is she paying attention to someone who looks like me? Is she mentally damaged? Is this the typical "cheerleader takes pity on the creepy intellectual" scenario? Or is it some sort of weird ploy to Make Fun of the Nerd in front of her friends? Hm, well, High School is over. Maybe she's just plain being friendly. But in the past this NEVER happened, there was always an ulterior motive, so I have great difficulty beliving that things are any different.

So I end up being cut off from most of the female population. After years of practice I can fake a friendly conversation for a short time, but I always quickly find an excuse to escape; to bow out. My "hypervigilant distrust" personality will only vanish when I'm dealing with fellow weirdos. Gimme a girl with frumpy Academic dress style and a weight problem. (Heh. I guess I'm just shallow; obsessed with surface appearance!)

Perhaps if I constantly try "bending" this system of mental structures over years I can change it into something different. Or if bent enough, it may shatter. Or perhaps I can find the mental equivalent of a hammer which can crack certain supports and trigger a collapse. Too bad I'm not gay, it would make things SO much easier. (Heh, OR WOULD IT?!!)

Hey, here's a pretty good tips for geek guys page. Also Subnormality 142

For defeating shyness, have you ever considered using, um., "artificial aids?"

If a stranger comes up and starts talking to me, I can reach into my coat pocket and grab... rare earth supermagnets. Tiny explosive pellets. A quarter which was compressed to half normal size by a titanic magnetic field. A core fragment from an exploded planet (hint: nickel iron slice.) LED mini-light that lets you see the capillary bed inside your eyeball. Soap bubbles that dry out after you blow them. Two laser pointers for playing with kids or cats, or simulating some orbital mechanics or a game of "Pong" on the ceiling. A fifty power microscope to explore civilizations growing under fingernails. Glass sphere powder that makes sidewalk rainbows. And on and on. It all started off as stuff I messed with when alone and bored. But eventually I was saying to strangers: "Hey, wanna see something REALLY COOL?"


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