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A guy who just moved to New York from France enters the middle of the circle and talks about traveling in India.It’s a meandering narrative riddled with generalities, and although he doesn’t sound nervous, when he turns away from me, I see his fingers trembling violently behind his back.He never intended to get so involved with the socially anxious, but when he started coaching in New York City (he had moved from California to attend Columbia University, realized his scholarship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and needed extra cash), those were the clients who found him.“They were the ones no one else wanted to work with,” he says.Today, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that SAD afflicts approximately 15 million American adults. If someone’s shyness “has caused impairment in his life,” then it’s a disorder, says Barrie Rosen, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan.* Picture the person who can’t ask for directions without succumbing to a panic attack, who sweats profusely upon entering a grocery store, never mind a party.Picture, in extreme cases, years of isolation leading to depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
Not all of tonight’s participants have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD), but whether they’ll admit it aloud or not, they all know that they have something like it.(Later, I look up Triforce and learn that it’s a Zelda symbol that represents wisdom, power, and courage.) Someone confesses his shame about the scars on his body. Only one person, who told us during introductions that his stutter causes him acute anxiety, refuses to participate. Since I reached out to Luna about writing this story, he’s told me several times that “everyone is socially anxious.” I guess what he means is that everyone is socially anxious to varying degrees.Of course, I have memories of painful shyness from my youth, including my first-ever date, when a boy and I convened at a movie theater, bought tickets, watched .I imagine that man at a party, talking to a stranger, blowing his nose if the stranger blows his nose, scratching his crotch to build rapport with a crotch-scratcher. A few minutes into the exercise, throughout the room, ones and twos stand smiling at one other, their bodies less tense, their conversations less stilted. Still, a ripple of terror moves through the room when Luna announces the next exercise: tag-team storytelling. “As soon as I say something that makes you think of something else,” he says, “yell, ‘Freeze!