"It's Not My Fault": Overcoming Social Anxiety through Sociological Imagination

Human Architecture, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

"It's Not My Fault": Overcoming Social Anxiety through Sociological Imagination


"A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something." -Plato

My name is Charles. I am a twenty year old, white male. My parents were and are middle class. For as long as I can remember I have felt a certain anxiety toward social situations and people as a whole. I have never actually enjoyed personal attention whether positive or negative. For years I simply accepted this as part of who I was. I am a shy, introverted, anti-social person. I don't like people, nor do I need them. I have trudged through twenty years of life with this attitude leading the way. I will attempt to explain the process of socialization through which I acquired these views.

Social structure is a human construct that organizes and guides our lives. I will show the ways in which social structure has shaped my life. I will employ the sociological imagination as a tool to explore my self. "Sociological imagination enables us to understand the larger historical picture and its meaning in our own lives" (Newman 9). I will explain the reasoning behind the views I hold and have held in the past. Furthermore, I will explain the progress made to date in resolving the dominant issues in my life.

Being the youngest member of a military family (sometimes referred to as a "military brat"), I have faced a different path of socialization. The military "stations" its members where it feels they would be most useful. As it happens, my family and I were "stationed" in Germany for a large portion of my childhood. The military provides amenities and Americanisms through bases that are maintained where people are stationed. These bases are virtual societies in their own right. While on the base, the culture doesn't differ greatly from that of the United States. Were you to venture off of the base, though, there would be no mistaking the absence of familiarity. Despite the age of globalization , one cannot help but feel isolated on the base. This could be compared to an island surrounded by an ocean of uncertainty.

Although one could seek refuge on the base, it was not wise to become too attached to it. This applies to the people that reside on the base as well. Army tours of duty are three years long. After your threeyear tour is done, you will most likely have to relocate to a different base, state, or country. This requires saying good-bye to any friends you may have made, and meeting new friends when you arrive at your destination. Needless to say, this can be a very stressful endeavor. One may think relocating often would provide exceptional resocialization skills. In my situation, the contrary took place. It seemed as though meeting new people was too much work, and the benefits were short lived. I had my immediate family, and that was enough for me. Because we live in a postindustrial society , I was able to entertain myself for the most part. I was able to take advantage of our information and high-tech based society to the fullest extent. Watching television and playing video games for hours on end were my two favorite ways to pass the time. I also had a basketball hoop that could occupy my attention for the better part of a day. All this diminished the need or desire for friends. Over time, I became unconcerned and complacent when it came to meeting new people. This in turn would develop into an unbiased fear of people and loathing of social situations.

As I mentioned earlier, I have never desired any variety of attention directed toward myself. It always made me feel as though someone was passing judgment on me. The looking glass self has been an ever present element in my life. While referring to this concept in her essay Emily Margulies stated, "Whether taking a seat in class or getting ready to go out on a Friday night we are all constantly aware of how we may appear to those around us" (Margulies 7). This has been, at times, a debilitating affair for me. In an attempt to minimize this potential embarrassment (usually just a byproduct of my situational assessment), I would employ role taking -that is, evaluating myself from the perspective of others and behaving accordingly. …

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