Hiding away from life in the introvert’s cave might seem like something that keeps you safe, but actually it weakens you with each passing day. This is what I have learned from personal experience in 2015.
Something you probably don’t know about me from my videos is that this year I have had breathing problems caused by anxiety. The anxiety was so bad for much of this time that I avoided many opportunities to go out and be around people. Most of my waking moments during this time I have been aware of my breath (actually more like been obsessed with my breath) and how I am *not* breathing properly. I found that the more I avoided life, the worse my anxiety and breathing problem became.
Here’s what I learned about hiding away from life…
1. Your mind is trying to keep you safe
The urge to be in the cave happens because of the illusion we have that the cave will keep us safe. We think that when we are in the cave nothing can hurt us or even that being there will help us to recover from a difficult time. This strategy never works. In truth a different kind of attack awaits you in your cave: neurotic thoughts and obsessive behaviours lurk in the cave ready to take you over.
2. Not giving in to the urge to go to your cave is terrifying
When I am out in a social situation at some point I will get a sudden wave/wall of tiredness come over me. When this wave comes I immediately want to go home to my cave. Since I have created a life around me where I am mostly able to come and go as I please, I would leave the social situation or go to take a nap when the wall of tiredness came over me. For the longest time I did not even see that I had been obeying this urge any time it decided to show up in my life. I would feel the tired feeling, and suddenly it would be time to go home, even if I had only been at the place for a relatively short time.
I never once stayed through the tired feeling, until very recently. When I ignored the tired feeling crazy, panicked thoughts made their way into my mind. I was angry with myself for staying when I was convinced it would lead to me being in a terrible situation from which I couldn’t get away from. The thoughts were crazy and totally out of proportion to the situation, which was merely to stay out for longer than I expected to go to a party. Despite the craziness, I forced myself through it. After about 30 minutes the fear and panic was over and I had an amazing time at the party. This was my first insight that the thoughts of panic, fear and the urge to go home are not to be trusted.
3. Creating The Worst-Nightmare Scenario
The introverted or socially anxious mind is in the habit of imagining the worst possible outcome into social situations. When my anxiety was strong I realise now that before I decided to do anything social, I was in the habit of asking a million questions. Who is going to be there? What kind of place is it? How are we getting back? It didn’t really matter what the answers were, I always found a way to prove to myself that I didn’t want to go.
4. Trying to Control Life
The breathing problem I experienced this year was the worst health/medical problem I have ever had in my life. Breathing is something unconscious and fundamental to life to the extent that many of us go through our whole lives without ever really noticing the breaths that we take. However, I am not like most people. I am in the habit of controlling life so much that I even seek to control my breathing! Can you imagine that? Controlling how you breathe! Even if you don’t try to control your breath like I did/do my guess is that anyone who hides away from life in the cave has control issues about some aspect of his/her life.
So What Can Be Done About This?
I can see from experience that hiding away in the introvert’s cave is making my life worse and my world become smaller. The way to stop it taking over your life completely is to start breaking your control habits by staying through the terrifying and crazy thoughts you may have about being tired or desperately needing to go home. The more you can do this, the more freedom you will have in life. For me, this is work in progress!