[adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

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[adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by The Wisp on Wed Dec 24, 2014 1:55 am

So, after talking to my therapist today I've come to some uncomfortable revelations about the process of getting a social life. It seems that going out and doing things primarily for the sake of meeting people is, ironically, not an effective way of meeting people. It puts a lot of stress on me, for one. For another, that's not a reason for being out that people are drawn to. They are drawn to people who have similar interests and values to them (or at the very least are in regular proximity, like a job or a dorm). The fact is, for most people making friends isn't one of their top priorities in life. So, if I want to build a social life, I should go out and do things for reasons primarily other than to meet people.

The problem is, I'm an extreme homebody. If it weren't so lonely, I would have no motivation to [i]not[/i just go to school, immediately walk directly from my last class to my car, and go home. As it is, I do that pretty often anyway. I find social situations very draining and stressful, and even just being in public for extended periods is tiring. Additionally, without the motivating force of loneliness, I'm not exactly sure what I would want to do outside of the house. I'm pretty content to spend my time reading, writing, listening to podcasts, playing video games, and watching sports on tv. I'm not really interested in table-top RPGs, or political activism of any kinds, or playing recreational sports...

I'm in a double bind. I don't like going out, I don't like interacting with people in real life, I like spending almost all my free time at home, and yet I have this crushing loneliness also. But, going out primarily to try to create relationships to remedy the loneliness isn't effective at all, it seems. It reeks of desperation and gives the other person no reason to interact with me.

I... don't know what to do.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Guest on Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:43 am

Wisp, have you talked to your therapist about the things you've written here? Maybe it's best if you let him/her know if you haven't done so already?

I'm in a similar situation myself, so I'll be looking at this thread with interest. Essentially, we're talking about needing to create the requisite 'motivation' that isn't really there to begin with, and I don't know how that's supposed to work either.

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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Werel on Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:48 am

I can sympathize, Wisp-- while I'm good at socializing and do my fair share of it, if I were to do exactly what I felt like doing most days, I'd go straight home after classes, turn off my phone, and barricade my door shut. (And that feeling when people cancel plans? Delicious.) It can be tough, as an introvert, to summon the motivation to go outside into the world, which is full of people who want to talk at me and suck my social energy reserves dry. So how do people who hate Going Out and Meeting People make themselves Go Out and Meet People successfully? Especially when there's a pressing need to do so (for you, general loneliness; for me, having moved to a new city)? I've found a few things that work for me:

1) One of the things I hate is going out and not knowing how long I'll be on the hook to wear Social Persona. An hour? Three hours? Seven hours? AUGGHH HOW MUCH ENERGY DO I NEED TO ALLOT? It's a lot easier when you can plan for something with a set time limit: a movie with others (~2 hours, low interactional load), a weekly seminar at your college (a lot of graduate departments have weekly seminars where students and profs present their research informally then chat afterwards, usually about an hour time commitment); an ethics discussion group at your local UU church (not that I've ever been to a UU church, but they seem reasonably chill and pretty secular; Quaker services are also often enjoyable to this agnostic, usually a couple hours long). Something with a firm end time helps me respond to the "but you'll waste so much of your precious aloooone tiiiiime" whiners in my brain.

2) If the de facto "hanging around people till you figure out if you like each other" settings, like work or school, aren't providing you with interesting social connections, try to find a space where you can hang around on a semi-regular basis but not be on the hook for pure socializing. E.g. go to the same farmer's market/craft fair/bookstore every week and become a regular, such that you recognize faces there and they recognize yours; take your dog to a dog park (socializing optional, not mandatory); watch the [team you follow] game at the same bar/pub every week. Being a regular at a variety of businesses helps me feel a lot more socially grounded and less isolated in an unfamiliar city, even though it's not friends per se. It's just nice to have places where people know your name.

3) Have you mentioned concrete reasons why you can't volunteer locally? (I seriously can't remember, not pushing you despite you having said you can't!) Everyone suggests this because it's true: it's an absolute godsend for meeting like-minded people. In the last city I lived, I worked a weekly shift at the public-facing info desk of a local nonprofit. Three hours a week, same time every week, and 85% of that time I was just sitting alone at a counter with a laptop-- but after three years of being behind that counter every Monday night, all the five-minute interactions with folks who wandered in regularly or occasionally had translated into some real friendships, many pleasant acquaintanceships, and a lot of interesting one-time encounters. Even if public-facing positions are not your cup of tea, you can certainly volunteer doing stuff you don't mind as a bookish introvert-- clerical work? PR writing? Tutoring kids in reading? Dog walking? Just regularly doing a set task in a public space and being called by name by people you recognize, like I said, will probably help you feel less lonely, even if it doesn't lead to the kind of close friendship with similar folks you're looking for. You're committing to a set number of hours, usually at a certain time, so you've got built-in systemic motivation to actually leave the house and show up. And you're there to do something you all agree on, not specifically to socialize (though that often happens on the side), so it doesn't feel forced or desperate.

4) Invite people over to watch the game, if you're into sports and have an amenable living situation. Or a movie, or a Mario Kart marathon, or whatever. Having people over to stare at a TV showing a thing you all like is a nice compromise for homebodies who want to expend a minimum of interactional effort. I looooved having potential-friend-acquaintances over to watch movies and drink beer (boy do I miss having a TV [and an apartment larger than a thimble]), cause it's insanely low-investment but provides plenty of opportunities for fruitful side-by-side socializing. Jokes about the thing we're watching, snark about commercials, questions about others' experiences with [thing], and you can kick everybody out once [thing] is over. If you live with your parents this could be tricky, but inviting people to a sports bar to watch a game might be a reasonable facsimile.

It's tough, it's sometimes (often?) a pain in the ass, and forcing yourself to do it can be a monumental battle. Be patient, keep your expectations reasonable, and focus on whatever pleasure you can find in the experiences themselves, regardless of outcome. I think you'll find some regular interactions that are enjoyable, at the very very least. Smile
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by reboot on Wed Dec 24, 2014 8:22 am

The Wisp wrote: ....

I'm in a double bind. I don't like going out, I don't like interacting with people in real life I like spending almost all my free time at home, and yet I have this crushing loneliness also. But, going out primarily to try to create relationships to remedy the loneliness isn't effective at all, it seems. It reeks of desperation and gives the other person no reason to interact with me.

I... don't know what to do.

The bolded bit is the biggest problem. If you want to make social connections in real life but do not really enjoy interacting with people in person, getting from "person I say hi to" to "person I know well enough that I can ask them to my house" is going to be tough.

I wonder if there are any primarily local online communities? This could we a way to meet people in an environment that is comfortable to you to get through the hardest "getting to know you" part so that a 1:1 meet for a movie or a coffee will be easier?
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Caffeinated on Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:28 pm

I like Werel's suggestions, and have a couple additional ones to offer.

1. You're in school. You could form or join a study group for one or more of your classes. You already have something in common with the other people (the class itself). There is a natural topic of conversation (the class and the subject of the class, as well as general chat about other classes you're taking). It's the kind of thing that you can do a bit of socializing but also the actual study part, so it's not all social pressure, plus having a set time to meet and a set length of time for those meetings is pretty normal, so you'd know how long you'd be there.

2. If you are at least 21, live in the US, and like playing pool (or don't dislike it), you could join a pool league. I used to play pool in an APA league (that's American Poolplayers League) and it was good. They have a handicapping system so there's room for both skilled players and unskilled players (in fact, in order to play league matches, every team needs to have players with lower handicaps). It's another activity where there is a thing you're there to do, as well as a social component. You have a built in topic of conversation and a set start and finish time (or at least an approximate finish time, depending on how long play lasts). As you get to know people on your team, there's a natural thing to invite them to do (ie "want to get together on [day] and practice?").

3. Again, you'll need to be 21 for this one. Is there a trivia night at one of the local bars or restaurants? In my town they have Geeks Who Drink (from the website, it looks like they're in a lot of cities). It looks like a good way to get out and socialize a little, while having something to do/something to talk about. Also, like the pool playing suggestion above, you can have a beer, which is something that always makes socializing a bit easier for me.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Dec 24, 2014 8:47 pm

Geeks Who Drink is decent if you go alone and there are other people who do too. If you go with existing friends, you'll probably just end up talking to your own group throughout the entire thing...

I'd also note that the organizers are occasionally racist and sexist, and frequently ribald. So uh... not my kind of thing (especially as a Geek Who Does Not Drink). But it's an option.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Guest on Wed Dec 24, 2014 9:02 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Geeks Who Drink is decent if you go alone and there are other people who do too. If you go with existing friends, you'll probably just end up talking to your own group throughout the entire thing...

I'd also note that the organizers are occasionally racist and sexist, and frequently ribald. So uh... not my kind of thing (especially as a Geek Who Does Not Drink). But it's an option.

I actually wouldn't mind going with a group of friends and making said group larger by talking to other people. Assimilating them into our group so to speak. Razz

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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Dec 24, 2014 9:09 pm

Sure, but it's a trivia game, so you'll be working with your own team to answer questions. Not every venue is conducive to bantering with your "opponents" along the way, so it's a bit hit or miss if you do it that way.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Guest on Wed Dec 24, 2014 9:22 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Sure, but it's a trivia game, so you'll be working with your own team to answer questions. Not every venue is conducive to bantering with your "opponents" along the way, so it's a bit hit or miss if you do it that way.

IDK you can very quickly turn your adventure there into a pub crawl if you wish. Razz I looked into where a Geeks Who Drink event would be held in San Diego and it's in bar central, or at least veeeery close to that area.

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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by The Wisp on Thu Dec 25, 2014 4:13 am

reboot wrote:
The Wisp wrote: ....

I'm in a double bind. I don't like going out, I don't like interacting with people in real life I like spending almost all my free time at home, and yet I have this crushing loneliness also. But, going out primarily to try to create relationships to remedy the loneliness isn't effective at all, it seems. It reeks of desperation and gives the other person no reason to interact with me.

I... don't know what to do.

The bolded bit is the biggest problem. If you want to make social connections in real life but do not really enjoy interacting with people in person, getting from "person I say hi to" to "person I know well enough that I can ask them to my house" is going to be tough.

I wonder if there are any primarily local online communities? This could we a way to meet people in an environment that is comfortable to you to get through the hardest "getting to know you" part so that a 1:1 meet for a movie or a coffee will be easier?

I don't know, I've never heard of such communities.

You're right that that is the biggest problem. My biggest problem in life is loneliness, but generally speaking going out to socialize makes me feel worse, not better, at least in the short term. At best it's stressful, draining, and disappointing. At worst, I'm quite literally traumatized by a bad experience (yes, I'm way oversensitive).
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by kath on Fri Dec 26, 2014 5:19 pm

Wisp, what would you want your un-lonely life to look like? I think figuring that out might really help.

I gather that online interactions aren't enough to satisfy your needs to make you un-lonely?

If so, one thing that I think would really help is figuring out, like, how does "does not like interacting with people in real life" mesh with interacting in real life such that you are not lonely? Do you "not like interacting with people" in specific situations, but if you found he right person, you would like to interact with them and that's how you'd fulfill that need? Or is it like, you're lonely, you know you'd have to interact with people to become un-lonely, and have to figure out how to deal with interacting enough to meed that need?

(I hope I haven't implied any value-judgments in that statement, I am not trying to imply that any of those possibilities is bad)
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by The Wisp on Mon Dec 29, 2014 4:59 am

Re Kath: Yeah, online interactions aren't enough, and really none of them are approaching anything like a close friendship. But honestly, I don't have any extended interactions with anybody online outside this forum these days. I was apart of a small guild on Guild Wars 2 about a year and a half ago, but that wasn't really that enjoyable after the initial "yay! I'm casually interacting with people my age" rush wore off.

Basically, I know I'm lonely, I know I have to interact with more people to feel less lonely, and I know I paradoxically and actively don't want to interact with people. This double bind has always been present, but I have only recently really been reckoning with it. I used to think that if the right circumstances presented themselves I would magically get over my hang ups about socializing, but now I think that is unrealistic.

I have not had any long-term positive relationships with people who weren't therapists or teachers. All my friendships, from when I was in elementary school to the one fluky one I had for a few months last year have all ended up being unfulfiling, frustrating, unbalanced against me, and chore-like at best, or completely one-sided and quasi-traumatizing at worst. So I don't know what a fulfilling social life would look like because I've never had anything close to one.

I don't trust people. People provoke anxiety and sadness within me. Yet, a life without meaningful relationships (which I can only get if I go out and do the more mundane socializing) seems sad and empty to me. I feel trapped. Sorry this has kind of dropped off into rant territory. I'm feeling very lost and hopeless right now.

(and multiply all these feelings by three when it comes to romantic and sexual relationships)
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by trooper6 on Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:39 pm

Hm.

I'm not a therapist, so take this with a grain of salt.

Here are two things you say are true about you:
1) You are lonely.
2) You don't like interacting with people.

Then you say: I must interact with people in order to not be lonely...how do I do this if I hate is so much?
But are these things true? Do you *have* to interact with people in order not to be lonely?
Do you hate *all* interactions so much?

Here are some observations:
If you hate interacting with people...I don't see how interacting with people will make you less lonely. It just seems like it will make you miserable...at least that is what you say.

So you need to figure out how to change the reality of one of your original statements.

1) Are there ways for you to be less lonely without interacting with people in real life? Can you devise strategies to be less lonely on your own? I'm pretty good at being alone but not being lonely (and I'm an extrovert) by being busy. I have lots to write and read, etc. Are there ways to re-orient your mind-set about being alone that will enable you to not be lonely?

2) Are there ways for you to interact with people that you won't hate? That won't provoke anxiety and sadness? Doing things that upset you aren't good. So what can you do that won't upset you? Would going to a book club not upset you? What about language classes? What about taking up an LCG like A Game of Thrones or Netrunner and playing at a local game store (card games allow you to interact with people without interacting with them too much...though you can do that, too). What about doing a club sport at school? Or joining an anime club at school where you mostly just watch anime? It there any one on these forums who live near you who might want to meet up at a cafe and just read a book at the same table as you with no talking?

What kind of interactions are not traumatizing for you? You don't have to jump into best friend territory right off the bat. Just finding interactions that feel comfortable is a good first step.

Working with your therapist to achieve one of these goals (a: Not being lonely alone or b: not being traumatized by being in the company of others) would be good it seems to me.

Remember you don't have have internalize other people's ideas of what good or normal is. There are people who are hermits and happy to be so. There are people who enjoy being around people but rarely talking to them. There are people who enjoy talking to people one on one. There are people who enjoy talking to large groups.

How many people you have in your life and loneliness are not the same. There are people who have lots of friends, go out all the time and are still lonely. There are married people who are lonely. There are people who are single without friends who aren't lonely.

Figure out where you are at, and where you ideally want to be. And that can look like anything you want.

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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by KMR on Tue Dec 30, 2014 5:27 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, Wisp, but the way I'm interpreting your situation is this: It's not that you completely dislike interacting with people, per se, but that you don't like the kind of surface-level social interactions (e.g. small talk) that are most common when going out to meet people. You want to develop a closer emotional connection with someone and have deeper, more meaningful interactions with that person (or persons). However, it takes time to develop that kind of friendship and the more surface-level social interactions that are first required to reach that point are extremely draining for you, so you begin to wonder if that process is even worth it. Additionally, when you do put yourself out there and find that the deeper connection you desire doesn't even happen, you feel frustrated because you put all this energy into something that you didn't even like doing and never reached the result you were hoping to achieve.

If my interpretation is correct, then I think you have a type of introversion that's pretty similar to mine, and I totally feel you. I'm not a fan of socializing for the sake of socializing, I don't find small talk very engaging, and I don't much care about meeting new people unless those interactions lead to something more meaningful. I think the degree to which you and I dislike these interactions might differ, but the idea is the same.

Obtaining really close friendships is not easy. I actually find that it's kind of similar to the experience of finding a relationship; it's about meeting the right kind of people that just click with you. Most people you meet day-to-day are going to be more casual friends and acquaintances at best; the kind where you share a pleasant interaction here and there when you might happen to see them, maybe stay in touch a little and hang out from time to time, but not the kind of people you share your innermost thoughts and feelings with. Like with dating, people find close friendships either by meeting people until they find the ones they really click with or they sort of just luck into them by meeting the right person(s) early on.

But obviously you can't just go from no interaction to a deep friendship with someone without getting through that step in-between of meeting people and socializing, which is a drag for you. So what do you do? Like others here have said, you can try to find a style of socializing that is more comfortable for you and work within that. For instance, you say you have more experience and comfort interacting with people online, but you don't find those interactions fulfilling. Maybe you could find a way to mix online interactions with in-person interactions. Maybe find an online community with people who live near you, get to know one or two of them online first, then meet up in the real world. Or maybe you meet someone briefly in-person, exchange online contact information, and interact through emails or instant messaging, then you can decide to hang out in person if those interactions are going really well.

Being social does not mean turning into an extrovert or even trying to act like one. You will probably need to take at least a few steps out of your comfort zone here and there, but if you are better at socializing in certain ways than others, there's nothing wrong with adjusting your interactions to suit some of your strengths and preferences.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Jayce on Wed Dec 31, 2014 1:38 am

The Wisp wrote:
I have not had any long-term positive relationships with people who weren't therapists or teachers. All my friendships, from when I was in elementary school to the one fluky one I had for a few months last year have all ended up being unfulfiling, frustrating, unbalanced against me, and chore-like at best, or completely one-sided and quasi-traumatizing at worst. So I don't know what a fulfilling social life would look like because I've never had anything close to one.

I have realized a couple of things about investment. Sometimes it is not that they aren't invested, it is that they are not clearly showing it. Maybe they don't know what event would be fun to go to with you, maybe they are not very good at doing the asking etc... Sure it means they aren't doing a good job at trying to be friends with you but it dosen't mean they don't want to. Also remember to have realistic expectations about new friends, especially if they have other friends/commitments that they value. You can't just expect someone you met twice to go on a camping trip with you where both of you open up and discuss your passions and futures near the campfire. There were many times in the past where I was interested in hanging out and being friends but I just didn't know a good event we could both like.

I think I'm going to be a bit insensitive here to your anxiety, but new friends shouldn't seem like a chore or a big deal. I mean at most all both of you are doing are low-investment, low-medium cost things (on a student budget) like coffee, movies etc... The one-sided thing usually only starts surfacing when you have known them for a while and patterns start to appear.

A good solution I came up with to test if they are interested in being friends is to do this: tell them you would like to hangout and catch up with them and say you haven't thought of any good ideas yet. Ask them to suggest an idea. Then if you like the idea you can suggest a time/place. This is also a useful strategy when you just don't have good ideas for hangouts. It can also make the other person feel more comfortable because they are the ones who are suggesting something that they want to do.

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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by kleenestar on Sun Jan 18, 2015 8:36 pm

Hope I'm not necroing inappropriately, but it being me, I have Thinky Thoughts. Wisp (and others), please forgive me for being brief, but I want to get this done before the baby wakes up. Hence, handy-dandy list format!

1. Wisp, you are giving yourself too little credit for your online friendships. They may not be helping with your loneliness, but you are getting to practice important relationship skills, and you are getting a chance to find out about who you are as a friend. I would strongly suggest you take some time to reflect on what does and doesn't work for your online friendships. I think people here can also help you name and identify strengths to build on when you are making friends offline.

2. I also find social situations very draining. My solution is to make as much as possible automatic so that I can save my strength for the parts that are actually hard. This means making the socializing habitual rather than a decision that has to be made every time. For example, when I moved to my new city, I set aside one hour per week - 8am to 9am on Tuesdays - to have breakfast with potential new friends. I always went to the same restaurant, too, though I didn't go quite so far as to always order the same things. This meant that when I wanted to get to know someone, there were no further decisions to be made. All I had to do was know my next available Tuesday and tell them where I wanted to meet. Bonus: I could set up the situation to be most beneficial to me, e.g. meeting in the morning when I have the most social energy (as opposed to after work when I would like to go home and read with a cat on my lap please).

3. My point 2 trick works extremely well for maintaining friendships, too. I think you would benefit greatly from having a regular commitment to meet with a friend. That way neither of you has to put in much logistics work, which I think will help you feel less exploited.

4. It sounds like you don't have much tolerance for the small-talk phase of friendship. I wonder if you could get some mileage out of Aron's intimacy-building questions (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/open-gently/201310/36-questions-bring-you-closer-together). They've gotten a bunch of press recently in a romantic context, but the research says they'll work just as well to build more intimate friendships.

5. I think you would benefit greatly from unpacking what "unbalanced" and "chore-like" mean. I think doing so will help you figure out what kinds of relationship work you want to avoid, and what you are willing to do. For example, I don't mind being the person who initiates plans, but I don't like having to travel more than 20 minutes or so for a social engagement - I get very stressed about having to travel a long way home when I'm socially exhausted. If you can do some work to identify concrete things in this area, you may learn some very helpful lessons about what kind of friendship you are looking for.

Hope some of this is helpful.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by Kiskadee on Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:02 pm

I also hope this isn't too late to the party, and all the earlier people had good advice, but I had a few thoughts.

- In reference to the idea that most people aren't looking to make new friends when out and about, have you considered joining some sort of meetup group or social club set up specifically for making new friends or for people new to your area? I've something like this a couple times, and it's pretty intensely stressful for me, not gonna lie, but I did meet a couple of cool people who I can now interact with in more comfortable, one-on-one or small group activities. I've also gone to events where no one was interacting with anyone they didn't come in with, so I think it's important to consider what the atmosphere of the event/goals of the participants may be.

- @kleenstar for #2: This seems like it could be a good idea, but I would suggest maybe trying to have several different go-to ideas for new friends. Do you frequently find that the people you wish to interact with have the same schedule as you? This would be a problem among the people I know. In addition, as someone with a food allergy-type situation, I would bridle at being told that friendship should happen only at a restaurant that someone else preselected. Others probably wouldn't be so sensitive to this.

But Wisp, it may be helpful for you to put together some sort of mental list of places/activities that you would be comfortable with hanging out with new potential friends, so that there is less stress when it actually comes up.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by The Wisp on Mon Jan 19, 2015 5:56 pm

I really appreciate the advice from both of you, and I will keep it in mind in the future, but of course the downside of necro'ing a thread is that my mindset has shifted since last month.

Right now I feel like I'm not in a good mental place to really be socializing much. Throughout my life I've always thought if I found the right people or the right circumstances I could let go and flourish socially, but right now I'm feeling much more like I need to work on myself for a while. I think I've resisted coming to that conclusion because it is not one that will lead to rapid change, but I think it may be the only way to go.
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Re: [adv] Getting out more when you don't like going out (but believe maybe you should): double binds galore

Post by kleenestar on Mon Jan 19, 2015 5:59 pm

Kiskadee, yup, I offer a strong default but if the other person proposes a concrete alternative that is fine!

Wisp, I think you are wise to be honest with yourself about where you are at. But I think you can still reflect on what online friendships have to teach you as part of your process. Smile
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