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A great majority of the struggles I find men having with dating stem from anxiety.
Whether it be insecurity of approaching a gay man you find interesting or a fear of intimacy or commitment, these dilemmas oftentimes have anxiety at their root.
Anxiety is a big culprit in the great majority of male sexual dysfunctions as well.
Fear can hold us back from realizing our potential and can also be a huge obstacle to our achieving our dreams of goals — in life and love.
The good news is it is highly treatable and you can overcome its power with dedication and courage.
The problem with anxiety is it leads a person to avoid, which poses a barrier to any growth or movement in a positive direction in one’s life.
The only way out of anxiety is through it. The more something is avoided, the stronger a hold anxiety will have over you.
I’m working with a client right now who finds himself anxious in social situations.
His biggest desire is to develop comfort mixing and mingling with other single gay men and to hone his flirting skills so he can begin increasing the odds of meeting someone to possibly date.
His tendencies toward being a “wallflower” at bars and waiting for others to approach him hadn’t yielded him much success, as is often the case.
He wanted to build his skills in taking more initiative and striking up conversations with others without experiencing self-consciousness and succumbing to his need to bolt when feeling anxiety.
“The goal is to climb the ladder until
you complete your desired goal.”
This is throwing yourself into the feared situation and forcing yourself to deal with the scenario head on.
If you’re afraid of heights, then this strategy would have you go to the top of the Empire State Building or jump out of an airplane.
Many people aren’t fans of this approach, but it has the tendency to eliminate the fear very rapidly after a successful exposure.
2. Systematic desensitization.
This exposes you to your feared stimulus gradually as you master your anxiety a step at a time. My client opted for this approach.
With his end goal in mind of being able to approach an attractive man and strike up a conversation, he brainstormed an exhaustive list of all the behaviors that could act as sub-steps to help him accomplish this goal.
He then prioritized each action in terms of low to high-level risk. I had him draw a ladder on a piece of paper and he positioned each action on the rungs of the ladder.
For example, a low-level risk might be using visualization and imagining oneself approaching and flirting with a hot guy.
A moderate level risk might be going to a bar and making a pact with yourself that you’ll flash a smile and say “hi” to a minimum of five guys before leaving for home.
Other items on my client’s list were things like attending a business networking event to practice these skills in less sexualized and pressured environments, maybe by role playing with a friend.
The goal is to climb each rung of the ladder in incremental steps as you master each behavior until you successfully complete your desired goal.
It’s like you’re building a muscle, a little bit at a time, until you’ve achieved that ultimate bicep.
My client has made tremendous progress using this approach and is almost there!
This is a simplistic explanation for this technique, and there are many other strategies that are incorporated into its successful execution, including relaxation training to soothe physiological symptoms of anxiety and cognitive restructuring to coach and talk oneself through, but this gives you a basic understanding of what’s involved.
It’s always helpful to work with a therapist or coach to help guide you through the process and strategize ways to overcome setbacks, which are always a part of the learning curve.
What are some of your notorious dating anxieties? What are some strategies you’ve used to try and (figuratively speaking) grab dating by the balls?