Is Shyness a Disease? Christopher Lane

First Aired: 03-11-2009 -- 11 comments | Add comment
Christopher Lane

Do pharmaceutical companies control the social definition of normal? Can advertising and public relations campaigns turn acceptable personality differences into unacceptable disorders?

British-American literary critic and historian Christopher Lane discusses his book Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, including the way politics and profits drive the bible of mental health treatment, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

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11 comments on “Is Shyness a Disease? Christopher Lane

  1. The eminent shyness researcher Phillip G. Zimbardo called shyness a “social disease” in his book, Shyness: What it Is, What to Do About It.” I don’t think he did this for the enrichment of the drug companies. He was simply trying to emphasize the seriousness of the problem. But of course, anything can be twisted away from its original meaning.

  2. Will, I’ve listened to this audio and must admit it’s a great resource. There are a lot of interesting points mentioned that sort of redefined shyness which I used to think of a reaction from a lack of confidence. Thanks for the insights and please continue with your great work to benefit many more others like myself.


  3. i am a shyish kind of girl..i dont get mingled wid people..
    i talk less..i have a very low voice..i dont have a smiling face…i appear sad always… and i start crying for silly to get rid of this..all mention that i am a silent girl..plz help me..because of this nature i dont get selected in any interview i attend for job..i am a B.E graduate..i hate my nature..but i am not able to overcome this..plz guide me..

    1. Let me tell you about some of the people I know who are NOT ‘shy’…
      They talk a lot and always seem to have an opinion even about people they don’t actually know at all. They violate the boundaries of others quite consistently. They never (it seems) stop talking. They talk in loud voices and smile all the time like Chesire cats even if what they are smilng about (inappropriately) is the ongoing distress of others. Many of them would not shed a tear no matter what happened. I am not so sure you should be wanting to ‘get rid’ of it although I can understand the ‘not getting hired’ part. I think the first step is to stop ‘hating’ your own nature as that is likely what is coming across in interviews even if you don’t say it. Instead, value your ‘serenity’ your good boundaries’ and your empathy by thinking of it in these new terms. We tend to become what we understand, or sometimes what we DON’T understand. I think if you can manage to value your differences, the way you FEEL about it will change and when it does, you will seem more as easy going and calm, and not ‘shy.’
      The strange thing about ‘shyness’ is that the ‘shy’ one puts too HIGH a value on the approval of others. Equality of being can ‘cure’ that. We don’t have to be identical to be equal human beings.

      1. thank you very much for ur really inspired me 🙂

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  4. Drip Theory
    Drip=Distorted Repeating ImPulse
    > “At the central hub of the theory is a phenomenon of what the lh (left-hemisphere) will do when it faces a boundary limiting its knowledge on command information being received from the rh (right-hemisphere) . What will it do? Namely it will guess/estimate what the missing boundary contained, often getting the guess wrong. Furthermore the lh has the power to compel the individual to believe that the wrong guess is accurate information, and it will leave no trace at the conscious level that it was even guessing at a boundary, much less possibly getting something wrong (Normally this is good, if the unconscious were to bother us with even a fraction of what it has to figure out, on the conscious level we would be so overwhelmed we wouldn’t be able to function normally) At any rate, the individual will then work with that false knowledge as if it were true, no matter how illogical or silly that knowledge or any antecedent reasons supporting that knowledge
    > > are. Apparently it has the ability to do this on the fly–instantaneously.
    > > >
    > > > The question is what would count as a legitimate boundary in a ‘normally’ functioning brain? Scientist agree with the central notion of my theory that the boundary is in how different memory systems can contain different memory elements of the same experience/reference. So when the rh is making a reference to something, the lh will easily think it is referring to something else, not because it necessarily is, but because it will contain memory elements/fragments in that reference that are simply not in the lh system, or the encoding of those memory fragments are not as stable in the lh system, or if it is in the lh system those memory fragments are not synchronized or reachable at the time of the command transmission with the same elements in the other system, so that the reference is missed. Whichever is the case the lh will literally be in a situation in which it is guessing and estimating at those impulse command fragments and easily, routinely
    > > opening itself up to possible error.
    > > >
    > > >
    > > > At any rate, is any of this knowledge on the fringe? No. It has been well established in the realm of neuroscience for some thirty years by pioneering, highly rewarded, experiment al researchers such as Gazzaniga and LeDoux, and Schacter etc…It’s why neuroscientist will routinely tell you we normally do things for reasons we don’t understand. They’ re not merely echoing something Freud might have said a really long time ago before the advent of a lot of modern research–it stems from what we know TODAY about brain functions. (by the way it turns out Freud got a number of things right and not just everything wrong! Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless it’s a digital version with am and pm)
    > > >
    > > > The big question is does the scientific community have a solid way to refute Drip possibilities? Or to put it another way will another neuroscientist, or several of them find that the boundary area that my theory stipulates as an area for plausible error creation a valid supposistion, or am I just guessing at things willy nilly?
    The answer is they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding that my supposistion/ hypothesis is invalid. Am I merely saying this because I am biased in the support of my theory? No. Again it’s because of the research work which clearly stipulates that memories of bodily/physical sensations contained in any given experience are much more powerful on the right-hemispheric side, or what Schacter might call, implicit memory system side of the unconscious, than on the declarative, or cognitive memory side
    > of
    > > conscious awareness. And what does my theory deal with? Physical sensation memory–the most logical area to go to when suspecting a boundary that can contribute to lh errors.
    > > >
    > >
    > > So to summarize. Suppose the rh is making an emotional command for more wonder. If the impulse contains elements asking for intoxication (wonder and love can feel intoxicating), we’ll call it a reference to an emotional intoxication, the lh may easily start, I think I’ll call it, ‘X’ing the impulse’ where X refers to memory fragments of physical sensation contained in a moment of wonder that the implicit memory system can retain (and neuroscientist agree, the rh–implicit memory has a superior retention of physical sensation than the lh–declarative memory), that have not been retained in the lh system during the time the command was made. So the lh will interpret the command as a command for an x-intoxication, where x=unknown.
    > >
    > > Different unconscious processes are born, or hinge on how the lh/cognitive system fills in the X aspects of the command. Is the rh referring to an emotional intoxication like the kind felt during a moment of wonder? Or does it want a different kind of intoxication altogether? If it guesses the former, you might find yourself wanting to see a play, or engaging in some other imaginative activity that can stir your sense of wonder. If it guesses the latter it can give birth to an unconscious process for a alcoholic intoxication for reasons that the lh will fill in, much like it fills in the details in your visual system. Again is the rh refering to an alcoholic intoxication? Nope. But the lh will have a bounce in it’s interpretive error rate because now the lh is guessing at what the rh is saying for the simple reason that the rh is referring to something that is not contained in the lh memory system at the time of impulse transmission.
    > >
    > >
    There is a major ethical divide between a person who fervently believes that our children are much better off informed about these hidden ripples of brain function early on, and most people who doesn’t really care about such matters. We are talking about an unconscious process accidentaly triggered by an interperative error that the Dripper is totally innocent of. We are talking about a process that has the power to issue commands that only seem like choices at the conscious level, but are really anything but choices as numerous experiments can testify. We are talking about experiments in which a person thinks they are choosing to do things for reasons they think they understand, but in reality they are merely following commands issued through the rh like robots, or puppets on a string. And what do people like jfetzer, or for that matter skeptic Michael Shermer do with such information, provided that it
    interests them to explore such matters? Nothing–they put it on a dusty shelve, cut off the lights and close the door.
    Their pat answers routinely entail us teaching our children to think more soundly and rationally. Phenomenally stupid move when it comes to the Dripper. When what you are dealing with is something that can cripple and control cognitive function, you never solely rely on improving thought. The best move is to make the Dripper aware of these hidden possibilities–something none of us are doing in the classroom (where we should) or in the home. We are not making them aware of these hidden possibilities, and because they are not aware, a child unfortunate enough to have this condition, will be many times more susceptible to the kinds of obsessions that can easily prove fatal, and if not fatal, can easily cement a chronic, long term and extremely damaging condition.
    Can you see the progression yet? The lh guesses that the rh is referring to an altogether different kind of intoxication. Perhaps it wants an alcoholic intoxication (or perhaps it needs a different kind of exhileration, or a different kind of serenity, or a different kind of enchantment. Wonder like love is a many splendored thing, and thus the perect incubator for all kinds of potentially dangerous obsessions.)
    Next the lh starts filling in all the details of what will be an extremely powerful unconscious process or drive. Why does it want an alcoholic intoxication? Perhaps the lh will do a memory scan as to why people in general need this kind of intoxication. Let’s say the solution it picks holds that people are often depressed and alcohol lifts their spirits or deadens their pain. The next problem becomes why are we so depressed? At this point the lh may create a reason for the depression, or it may simply decide you are depressed for no particular reason, or if you do have a vexing situation, it will easily latch on to that as the problem that needs an alcoholic solution to lift our spirits, or deaden our pain.
    Is the lh doing this out of a destructive intent? No. It’s just doing what it normally does–solve problems. Unfortunately, the trajectory it has accidentally been aimed towards, can have all kinds of dangerous possibilities.
    Is the urge biochemical or genetic? Before Drip theory it would probably have been easier to think in those terms. Why would the unconscious suddenly start with so many destructive thoughts unless there was some kind of organic breakdown? But now that we look at things through the lense of how an accidental guess can be the start of a chain reaction of solutions, then we don’t necessarily need an organic culprit per se. And as far as genetics is concerned, the big problem is narrowing things down to a specific marker. With Drip theory maybe a specific marker that deals with sensation memory could be the problem, or maybe there is nothing wrong with the hardware, the system just made a guess that carried unfortunate consequences.
    What comes first? Does the unconscious trigger the change in biochemistry (it certainly has the power to do so) or is it a purely organic matter of brain chemistry going awry? Is it an organic matter of deficiencies in the frontal or prefrontal lobes, the seat where controls on impulsive behavior are maintained–or could it be that the so-called lack in cognition is simply due to the kind of power the unconscious has to cripple unconscious functioning whenever it issues a command to the lh??
    It’s not really a matter of debate. The rule of first do no harm, says you exhaust my Drip possibilities first because it is the least invasive. Failure to do so is just plain negligence. And it is probably why symptoms are easily misdiagnosed when they are misdiagnosed. Also it’s more important to PREVENT than to CURE. Which is why we need our children aware of these kinds of possibilities at an early age!!
    At any rate, the solution will entail getting young Johnny or Sue aware of these possibilities, and people who have a strong free will bias, are blocking themselves away from my theory because it deals with the unconscious, and the unconscious is not free will friendly. And because they are blocking these logical possibilities from their thoughts and their minds, our young Drippers will be going through these dangers blindly, without the proper warnings in place, and will be many times more susceptible to the dangers and the lures. Some of them will not survive.
    What do people do when they read about such hazards(?)–NOTHING.There must be a huge moral vacuum centered behind their free will bias that allows them to be so indifferent to the plight of the innocent.
    Do most people even worry about such matters? Provided it even interests them to be aware of such possibilities? No, people of a lower morality would much rather dare the situation, and chastise the victim for being “stupid”. If a kid should be so “bad” kick his ass, or throw him out on the streets. On the other hand, the person of a higher morality is interested in anything that can endanger the innocent, especially if the danger is hidden and extremely powerful. They don’t fiend for conditions in which they can be brutal, not more than they wish to protect their children from hidden dangers by making them aware of these various possibilities. Our problem here is a morality issue. It’s not about the science. The science is very clear about these possibilities and has been for over thirty years, its about the morality that is highly prevalent in our society that just plain isn’t interested in doing
    the best by and for our children.

  5. I live in Northampton and I work at an antiquarian book store. I used to work for ServiceNet, but felt I had to quit for several reasons, the most pressing being the negative treatment I saw of individuals by the administration and the ineffectiveness of the programs, in general. I feel there has to be a better way to help folks labeled as mentall ill.

    I heard about Madness Radio via the Freedom Center website. I listened once and I couldn’t stop after that! I participate in the Freedom Center free yoga classes, as well. I’ve been labeled with depression and PTSD, although I’ve never been in the mental health system. I don’t take meds; instead I keep up with a daily yoga/meditation practice that keeps me centered and focused (most of the time!).

    All the best,

  6. Will,
    Just heard the radio show “Is Shyness a Disease” with Christopher Lane. Again an excellent job with good coverage of many points which need to be made. I especially like the part where you included the fact that the DSM used to define things as ”schizophrenic REACTION” then dropped the ‘reaction’ part which effectively psychologically isolates the individual being defined while concealing many often unpleasant facts. This often protects those to whom he or she may be reacting. Many thanks to Christopher for speaking out. It can be a lonely position to take. Excellent job as usual. Keep up the great work!
    Reacting in Canada

  7. Yes his book has a wealth of detail on the history of the DSM; the dropping of ‘reaction’ really says a lot about the politics of language and the manipulation of culture by elites.
    cheers from portland – will

  8. The literature professor repeats that he’s not trying to belittle SAD patients, but then he does exactly that by mocking SAD symptoms as fabrications and exaggerations. Saying “suffering is real” does not negate the disrespect in the repeated denial of this illness. I appreciate the call for increased scrutiny into mental healthcare infrastructure, but please remember that these are life-ruining, debilitating symptoms for some listeners.

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