Author Topic: mindfulness in conversation/social interactions  (Read 207 times)

mobius

  • Member
    • vipassana
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

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
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 »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

raushan

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    • S. N. Goenka switched to Samatha Forest Tradition
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

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
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

  • Member
    • 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

  • Member
  • Certified Zen Master (second degree black belt)
    • vipassana
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
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
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

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Vipassana
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

  • Member
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

 

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