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Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Automatic

I had a question at a presentation earlier this year in regards to how engrained my defenses are. What defense? The asker was speaking of my social defenses in terms of avoiding eye contact and keeping the fourth wall intact. I gave a halfway decent answer but after driving home yesterday I came up with the best answer which I will share today. 

My dad and I drove from my sister's in Indy to home here in Saint Louis. We were in my car so we stopped at my dad's first and from then I drove my car to my place. As I was halfway home I realized I hadn't once thought about my route to my house. I didn't calculate the turns, I didn't register the street names, and there wasn't a singular thought about the drive. The easiest way to describe it was that it was automatic. So too is my social defenses. 

One common theme in many of my writings is analysis after the fact. Part of the reason these thoughts aren't at the time is this automated defense system I have. Just this morning, as I was making a payment at my bank, this kicked in as I was walking out the door and I could see my path was going to cross with another person walking in. Instantly my eyes went to the ground and to the right and I did my very best to try and look invisible. I must've done a good job because no social interaction took place and no eye contact was made. 

I feel one of the issues I've had in learning complex social skills is trying to override this automatic defense system. Truly this system is not on the conscious level and when it is triggered it isn't something I can just get rid of. What triggers it? Many things, primarily social encounters, and I think the purpose of this is to minimize social anxiety. There's one thing I'm curious of and don't know the answer and that is this; is this automatic defense truly that, in being automatic, or has it been learned much like driving to a familiar address. For yourself, if you drive and drive to an office today, or if you're reading this tonight at home, did you think about each turn? Did you think about the street names? Unless you started a new job I'm willing to guess that you didn't and that's how my social defense system works. It isn't thought of but it's automatic in nature. 

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