Author Topic: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions  (Read 971 times)

mobius

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mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« on: October 13, 2021, 01:36:41 AM »
I recently realized this is a huge area I struggle with immensely. I think it's safe to say I'm not mindful at all when talking to people or in any social event. I have Asperger's syndrome which means I struggle immensely with ordinary social interactions from the beginning. It takes a great deal of energy for me just to maintain ordinary conversations with people; especially difficult ones like meeting someone for the first time or confronting my boss etc.

Only recently realized that the kind of (very limited, so far) mindfulness I experience sometimes during sits, showers and randomly when alone; I NEVER experience when with other people. Are there any specific practices I can do to hone this skill?
"Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away."
-Hakuin Ekaku

"I have seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it has never come to pass" - Mark Twain

Matthew

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2021, 12:23:23 PM »
Hi mobius,

I don't think you are alone in this. I have never been assessed as being on the Asperger's/autism spectrum, yet suffer intense social anxiety at times. Sometimes it is very acute.

What I've found that helps is increasing the baseline levels of calm and mindfulness using on and off the cushion awareness. I take these qualities with me everywhere. Also cultivating an attitude of compassion and kindness seems to help take the edge off of things for me: this grows an accepting and forgiving nature of mind towards self and others. These qualities build over time, and with experience.

Before going into social situations I deliberately ground myself. I pay attention to my state of mind when preparing, when getting dressed etc. If I feel anxiety arising I stop for a moment, take some slow breaths and calm myself. I feel the ground under my feet and remind myself that my basic nature is good and I'm ok.

I do the same thing when I am in social situations. If I realise I have started to feel uncomfortable then I will take myself somewhere quiet and ground myself again in awareness of breath and applying insight to the feelings that are arising. A few minutes of doing this will usually allow me to engage again.

I'm also careful to be aware of how others are affecting me. I'm not good in large groups, so in group situations I tend to spend time one on one with others, or in groups of only two or three other people. I find this more manageable. I pay attention to the feelings arising and breathe and calm any anxiety. If another person continually triggers arising anxiety I will politely excuse myself, take a few minutes to find peace, then go talk with someone else.

At root I think much of this comes down to something I have posted about elsewhere in the forum recently. This is whether your locus of self-esteem is internal or external. An internal locus, where you assess your own self-worth on your own terms, is protective against stress, anxiety and feelings of depression. An external locus, where you look to others for validation tends to increase stress, anxiety and the potential for depression.

I can't understand this entirely from your experience but I do think there are parallels. My own difficulties in this area come from a history of trauma which is quite destructive of self-esteem and leads to looking outside for validation, as the internal world is painful.

It is also worth remembering that experiences of social anxiety are much more common than people admit to. You aren't alone. Try to be curious about your experience and try to be compassionate towards yourself and others. Don't be afraid to walk away for five or ten minutes to ground yourself if you need to. Try and develop an awareness of when feelings of anxiety or not being good enough arise. Is it when you are preparing yourself to attend social events? Or is it more in the moment? Perhaps it is always present for you?

Whatever the case there are things you can do to help manage these experiences and find a more comfortable way of interacting. Like anything worthwhile it takes a little mindful effort - and I understand this is difficult for you, but it would not seem impossible - and the only way to find out is to explore what works. Maybe some of the strategies I find helpful will help you, maybe not, maybe you will need to find your own strategies - exploring this will lead you to solutions.

The fact that you are aware of this and willing and wanting to engage with this aspect of your being is a good first step. It's the most important first step really: because without self-honesty about your experience it is impossible to apply mindfulness and self-awareness to explore what is happening and how you can change your experience in this.

You might find it helps to try bringing more mindfulness to simple situations with people you know well and that are inherently less stressful. That would be a good practice ground for developing more deeply the qualities that will allow you to be in other situations with a greater sense of peace and mindfulness.

Kind regards,

Matthew
« Last Edit: October 13, 2021, 12:29:22 PM by Matthew »
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raushan

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2021, 05:54:12 PM »
Good advice by Matthew. I would also add that be aware of the aversion. Due to aversion mind creates a lot of irrational thoughts, beliefs, and fear.
“The man who knows that he lives in a prison will find a way to break free of it. But the one who believes that he is free while being imprisoned will remain imprisoned forever.”

Matthew

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    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2021, 06:50:06 PM »
Thanks Raushan, your advice is a good addition. I'd add the following too:

Quote
At root I think much of this comes down to something I have posted about elsewhere in the forum recently. This is whether your locus of self-esteem is internal or external. An internal locus, where you assess your own self-worth on your own terms, is protective against stress, anxiety and feelings of depression. An external locus, where you look to others for validation tends to increase stress, anxiety and the potential for depression.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this mobius.

In social situations we tend to evaluate ourselves on the approval of others. It's hard to look inside for your truth when facing others. Society has expectations of us that don't allow this.

Also, it may be that you see the world slightly differently than others. We're all different really. Neurodiversity isn't just the latest buzzword, it's the human condition. We must find ways to be comfortable being ourselves, being different. Self-acceptance is key to that, and an internal locus of self-worth combined with mindfulness and compassion make for good results.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mobius

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    • vipassana
Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2021, 02:45:21 AM »
Thanks Raushan, your advice is a good addition. I'd add the following too:

Quote
At root I think much of this comes down to something I have posted about elsewhere in the forum recently. This is whether your locus of self-esteem is internal or external. An internal locus, where you assess your own self-worth on your own terms, is protective against stress, anxiety and feelings of depression. An external locus, where you look to others for validation tends to increase stress, anxiety and the potential for depression.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this mobius.

In social situations we tend to evaluate ourselves on the approval of others. It's hard to look inside for your truth when facing others. Society has expectations of us that don't allow this.

Also, it may be that you see the world slightly differently than others. We're all different really. Neurodiversity isn't just the latest buzzword, it's the human condition. We must find ways to be comfortable being ourselves, being different. Self-acceptance is key to that, and an internal locus of self-worth combined with mindfulness and compassion make for good results.

Matthew

This is interesting. Honestly I'm not exactly sure if my self worth is internal, or if not; how to go about fixing that problem... I was told by a friend years ago to always remember every accomplishment in your life no matter how small; to give you strength/confidence later. That helps sometimes. But I also think of what other people think about me; probably too much. If I try to be objective I think most people in my life (most of the time anyway, not everybody all the time) think either positively or pretty neutral of me. Is that all external self worth that I should forget about?

I guess I understand how to develop an internal locus of self worth to a degree. But I worry; "How do I know that I have standards that are compatible with the world (society, community) I live in?' and such...

I am definitely different. Having Asperger's, also being raised by parents that put bluntly are downright stupid (for numerous reasons won't elaborate, shouldn't dwell on that) I had a difficult childhood and still suffering the repercussions of that. And recently discovering that I have another 'condition' which puts me in another difficulty group... Maybe soon I'll post more about that in another thread because there's a lot of stuff about that I need to work out.
"Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away."
-Hakuin Ekaku

"I have seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it has never come to pass" - Mark Twain

dharma bum

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2021, 03:48:24 AM »
We are different and yet we're all more or less the same. I think we're more same than different, even if we have Asperger's. For me, this played a role in lowering my social anxiety. There isn't that much of a difference between us and the most accomplished, the most beautiful or the most successful etc. Likewise, there is not much difference between us and the most evil etc.
Mostly ignorant

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2021, 12:06:17 PM »
Hi mobius,

Quote
... I also think of what other people think about me; probably too much. If I try to be objective I think most people in my life (most of the time anyway, not everybody all the time) think either positively or pretty neutral of me. Is that all external self worth that I should forget about?

I guess I understand how to develop an internal locus of self worth to a degree. But I worry; "How do I know that I have standards that are compatible with the world (society, community) I live in?' and such...

I don't believe we have to discard others views of us completely to move to an internal locus of self-worth: they can be a good mirror on our words and deeds. Not always though. So, it's important to remember they only see a part of who you are, that the views of others are coloured by their own habits, perceptions, feelings and conditioning.

Morality is a foundation on the path: right thinking, right speech, right action.

As we build the qualities of mindfulness, calm, compassion and equanimity we can become more our own moral compass and look less to the outside world. We begin to know experientially, 'this is wholesome, this is unwholesome'.

The inner critic (the "super-ego" in Freud's schema) is an internalisation of rules of behaviours, learned from family, from those around us, and from the norms of society. It helps us fit in. It often comes with a parental voice telling us off, saying we are not good enough, that we fail etc etc. But very often the programming is not accurate. So, this is just another aspect of self we can bring mindful awareness to and profit from. Is that critic saying something true, or is it saying something habituated and inaccurate? Is this voice always criticising? How does it make me feel? How do I react?

Being aware takes away it's strongly habituated power. Then we make choices based more on our own awareness of what is wholesome, what is not. It's a learning curve as with anything: there are no instant results. We build wholesome qualities one step at a time, sometimes this involves looking at where we are less than skillful, even though this can be a less than pleasant experience.

I am doing a lot of work on this level at the moment, as I found an internalised critic from my early childhood that is a very negative and critical voice. It was buried deep, yet gentle awareness is bringing it to light, and I'm discovering a very hurt part of myself in the process. Gently I work with it all to let go of the habituation. It's not always easy.

Don't beat yourself up over anything is really important lesson.

Kindly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mayank

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2021, 06:36:29 PM »
Hi mobius,

Quote
... I also think of what other people think about me; probably too much. If I try to be objective I think most people in my life (most of the time anyway, not everybody all the time) think either positively or pretty neutral of me. Is that all external self worth that I should forget about?

I guess I understand how to develop an internal locus of self worth to a degree. But I worry; "How do I know that I have standards that are compatible with the world (society, community) I live in?' and such...

I don't believe we have to discard others views of us completely to move to an internal locus of self-worth: they can be a good mirror on our words and deeds. Not always though. So, it's important to remember they only see a part of who you are, that the views of others are coloured by their own habits, perceptions, feelings and conditioning.

Morality is a foundation on the path: right thinking, right speech, right action.

As we build the qualities of mindfulness, calm, compassion and equanimity we can become more our own moral compass and look less to the outside world. We begin to know experientially, 'this is wholesome, this is unwholesome'.

The inner critic (the "super-ego" in Freud's schema) is an internalisation of rules of behaviours, learned from family, from those around us, and from the norms of society. It helps us fit in. It often comes with a parental voice telling us off, saying we are not good enough, that we fail etc etc. But very often the programming is not accurate. So, this is just another aspect of self we can bring mindful awareness to and profit from. Is that critic saying something true, or is it saying something habituated and inaccurate? Is this voice always criticising? How does it make me feel? How do I react?

Being aware takes away it's strongly habituated power. Then we make choices based more on our own awareness of what is wholesome, what is not. It's a learning curve as with anything: there are no instant results. We build wholesome qualities one step at a time, sometimes this involves looking at where we are less than skillful, even though this can be a less than pleasant experience.

I am doing a lot of work on this level at the moment, as I found an internalised critic from my early childhood that is a very negative and critical voice. It was buried deep, yet gentle awareness is bringing it to light, and I'm discovering a very hurt part of myself in the process. Gently I work with it all to let go of the habituation. It's not always easy.

Don't beat yourself up over anything is really important lesson.

Kindly,

Matthew

I think this is a very useful point. I am currently becoming more aware of my own inner critic, and internal conversations around what others are thinking of me (really negative and sad stuff) and fears of external judgement. Yet, I've repeatedly asked what my actions would be like if the inner critic and the fears weren't there. Just like you say, those actions could be based on morality - or the way I think of it - solely on the basis of whether they lead to an overall reduction in suffering or not.

It's interesting to see we're all having similar insights :)

Alex

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2021, 08:21:11 PM »
As different as we might be, we share a lot as you can read from what is shared. I'm thinking we share evolutionary history to care about what our tribe thinks of us, and we all have developmental scars. And maybe you also recognize the challenges of being on this contemplative path while most people around me are not, struggling with being authentic, right speech, etc.

Are there any specific practices I can do to hone this skill?

Have you ever heard of Insight Dialogue? It’s basically interpersonal vipassana.

I did an introduction course last spring and am practicing in an online group once a month (so I’m a beginner). The basic principles of ID are Pause, Relax, Open, Attune to Emergence, Listen Deeply and Speak the Truth.

The meetings follow a certain structure (± meditation, introduction of theme, exercices, metta), the core of it being the exercises in pair where basically there is a contemplation or theme from the dhamma (e.g. what does generosity mean to you? Or, how does it feel to speak truthfully / what is right speech?). When I’m the speaker, I speak with awareness of what wants to be spoken instead of the automatic stories that come up, keeping enough silence to be able to hear it, all the while practicing mindfulness (body, feeling, thought). When I feel disconnected, I might say out loud “Need to pauze”, then close my eyes and try to find my body or breath again, and open up to what comes up which I may or may not share, and so on. Usually it’s 4-5 minutes, all the while the other person listens mindfully. Then the roles changes, and finally then there is 4-5 minutes open dialogue. Usually there’s two such exercises per meeting.
I find it wonderful space to practice mindfulness in conversation. There is also a sense of deep connection.

Kindly
Alex

Dhamma

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2021, 02:52:24 AM »
Likewise, there is not much difference between us and the most evil etc.

Dear dharma bum,

Your statement is profoundly true.  I actually heard this said, I think, by Ajahn Brahm and a few other enlightened Buddhist monks/teachers.  After many years of studying Buddhism and doing meditation, I see that this is 100% true.

We are all products of causes and conditions, just like everything else in the universe.

There is no inherently-existing evil person, no matter how evil they appear, or how atrocious their "evil" acts were/are.

The Zen Buddhists say we are all the same: we all rot and smell terrible after we die. Our differences are all illusions, once the veils go down.


Peace and enlightenment.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2021, 02:54:22 AM by Dhamma »
May we see the emptiness of all phenomena

dharma bum

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2021, 02:55:57 AM »
Quote
There is no inherently-existing evil person, no matter how evil they appear, or how atrocious their "evil" acts were/are.

When I did my first retreat I realized that a lot of my motivations weren't as good as I thought they were. If I didn't do a lot of bad stuff, maybe it was because I was afraid that people would think less of me. So, maybe the difference between an evil person and me was only that an evil person didn't care what others thought of him. It just makes me think that a slight adjustment to circumstances can lead to me doing a lot of bad stuff. I don't know if I'm explaining this properly. What if I were to not sleep for four days. I become a very different person if I don't get a couple of night's sleep. I am irritable, angry. So it's hard to say what we really are, since it depends on so many things.
Mostly ignorant

Alex

  • Member
Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2021, 08:30:03 AM »
We could see social confidence as a sense of presence, being able to respond and react to what’s happening right then and there in an interaction with other human beings. Those I sometimes look up to in terms of social skills may not always be very mindful, but they have this ability. The rest of us have conditioning that limits in social interactions, like comparing ourselves, stories of past and future, feelings of unworthiness, uncertainty about our own choices and standards, etc. And as we have had these experiences over and over, this has become part of the way we see ourselves, creating a false sense of identity as shy or socially awkward  much in the sense that we might perceive someone as evil, with an evil identity or essence when actually it’s all dependent on causes and conditions.

Rereading this thread, I feel it’s great, Mobius, that mindfulness is spreading to your social self and that you’re looking for ways to cultivate that awareness. As so much of these conditioning is tied to childhood repercussions as you called it, new layers emerge, and – even though a 'straight edge' dhamma perspective of just observe is valid – I find other practices and therapeutic options greatly help to uncover all the layers of this conditioning.

Dhamma

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2021, 01:03:22 AM »
Quote
There is no inherently-existing evil person, no matter how evil they appear, or how atrocious their "evil" acts were/are.

When I did my first retreat I realized that a lot of my motivations weren't as good as I thought they were. If I didn't do a lot of bad stuff, maybe it was because I was afraid that people would think less of me. So, maybe the difference between an evil person and me was only that an evil person didn't care what others thought of him. It just makes me think that a slight adjustment to circumstances can lead to me doing a lot of bad stuff. I don't know if I'm explaining this properly. What if I were to not sleep for four days. I become a very different person if I don't get a couple of night's sleep. I am irritable, angry. So it's hard to say what we really are, since it depends on so many things.

Interesting. Sometimes big differences come to down small differences.

Yes, everything is a product of causes and conditions.


Peace and enlightenment.
May we see the emptiness of all phenomena

dhammahollanda

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Re: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2021, 12:15:09 PM »
I recently realized this is a huge area I struggle with immensely. I think it's safe to say I'm not mindful at all when talking to people or in any social event. I have Asperger's syndrome which means I struggle immensely with ordinary social interactions from the beginning. It takes a great deal of energy for me just to maintain ordinary conversations with people; especially difficult ones like meeting someone for the first time or confronting my boss etc.

Only recently realized that the kind of (very limited, so far) mindfulness I experience sometimes during sits, showers and randomly when alone; I NEVER experience when with other people. Are there any specific practices I can do to hone this skill?

Hi Mobius,

you're not alone in this, if this thought helps. Sometimes we can feel so isolated cause we think we're alone. I suffered myself from an anxiety disorder which also contained avoidance of every social situation, statistically one in four people have suffered from some kind of anxiety disorder in their life. One in ten from depression. So maybe we should not forget that when meeting new people they are likely to have suffered despite their shiny shoes and smiling appearances :)

Tackling social anxiety further, I still have it to a certain degree, came down for me on the following:

- The right thought. Is my intellectual diagnose of the social situation really that factual? What are the facts? Is my intellectual attitude helping me in this situation? What would be helpful? Now for me this is help on the surface of the mind. It doesn't enlighten the deeper rooted causes laying in my subconscious, various traumas/my reactions on traumas in this and other lifes. For me a natural quality missing in social interaction was 'a right to exist' / 'self esteem' / 'self respect'. When you miss these natural qualities fear will arise again and again socially, logically cause the other is superior to me and therefore has a right to do me harm in my twisted trauma caused perception. Mindfulness and Goenka Vipassana meditation helped me to enlighten the deeper rooted causes.

Keep my back straight
What really helped me as well in irrational (social) anxiety is minding my posture. When I keep my back straight I notice a lot of processing happens organicly, when I'm not holding my back straight my mind gets clogged rapidly causing (social) anxiety much faster as well as depression in my experience. Another down to eart addition to this is getting some physical exercise. When I walk an hour a day my mind becomes so much fresher and well organized and I can practice some mindfulness with it as well. Observing respiration can easily be combined with being mindful of you're body walking.
Don't fight the fearOnce in a socially anxious situation I surrender myself to it and when anxiety is coming I accept it knowing it will pass as everything passes. Don't fight anxiety if it comes, just accept it, it will pass away. If it's too overwhelming take a pause and throw yourself back in the situation (visit the toilet for a pause). But growing gradually, organicly in socially anxious situations is the best in my experience. Reclaim your ground, but do it gradually and organicly otherwise it's not sustainable in my experience. By forcing yourself in too big steps. Rome wasn't built in one day.
Swift mindful attentions Feeling ground under my feet while growing in dhamma in socially anxious situations means for me I'm checking back in with awareness of respiration or physical sensations. When somebody is speaking swiftly check how I breathe, swiftly check sensations on a random part of my body. This also causes self respect in me and creates more wholesome communication from my end. As well as it gives me 'ground under my feet' so I don't become that anxious.
Goenka Vipassana courses I did 3 Goenka Vipassana courses in 13 months now. It's very intense to only be aware of respiration and physical sensations for 10 days but in doing that I regained in a bigger degree then ever natural qualities like 'self esteem', 'right to exist' and 'self respect'. Very important on the level of social anxiety as well for me. As well as for the level of peace and happiness in my life.

Hope you and everybody else find a way to improve in dealing with social anxiety. All the best!
Be Happy

 

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