Well-wishing and social anxiety


One of the many “open secrets” out there is that well-wishing for others tends to calm social anxiety.

If I am in a situation that triggers social anxiety in me – such as giving a talk or teach – and I take the time to find sincere well-wishing for others, the nervousness subsides.

And if I know in advance that I will be in such a situation, I take some time to find the well-wishing to others in general and specifically to the ones who will be there.

How do I do it? As it becomes more familiar, it is just a matter of shifting into it. But there are also tools for inviting in that shift, such as finding the sincerity in statements like “may all go well for them”, visualizing others as healthy and happy, or doing a practice such as tong-len.

I am not quite sure what mechanisms are at play, but I suspect it has something to do with the miracles of an open heart.

When my heart opens, it opens to whatever is happening. For instance, if it initially opens to my body – through the Inner Smile or some other pointer – it opens to the whole of me as a human being, to others, and to life as it is.

In this case, my heart initially opens to others… and then naturally to myself. There is a sense of coming home, of allowing all of who I am as it is, of the sense of drama falling away, and a softening of the sense of I and Other.

So even when stories about me come up – stories my personality doesn’t particularly like – the sting goes out of it.

In sincere well-wishing for myself, I take the information in those stories seriously and make use of them in whatever ways seem appropriate, but there is little or no sting there.

Two effects of well-wishing


Most traditions include some form of well-wishing for others, for instance in the form of prayer or visualizations, and both as a wish for their happiness (or salvation, awakening) and rejoicing in their current good fortune.

Exploring it for myself, I find that it has two main effects.

First, a well-wishing for others is also a well-wishing for myself, at a human level. It creates an atmosphere of well-wishing where this human self is included. In a more psychological sense, I also see that others reflect aspects of myself, so the well-wishing for specific others is a well-wishing for those specific aspects of myself mirrored in that person. Through all this, there is a sense of wholeness at a human level, a wide embrace of the many aspects of my human self.

There is less war with myself, less resistance to certain aspects of myself, which allows these aspects to be as they are, and also unfold according to their own process, which – with less resistance – includes healing, maturing and developing.

Then, a well-wishing for others directly influence how I experience and interact with others. I see others as (potentially, inherently) whole, beyond whatever they are expressing. I see that they too, as me, seek happiness and to avoid suffering. I see that they too sometimes act from wounds and confusion. There is a more clarity, recognition, and a more open heart, which in turn influence how I interact with others.

Well-wishing and fear


The practice of well-wishing, in any form, has many effects, and one of these is a sense of trust and reduced fear.

When there is a lack of well-wishing for others, there is often a caught-upness in stories about them, which includes different clashes between stories of what should be and what is (a.k.a. criticism, judgment). In the absence of an open heart, these stories tends to come more easily in the foreground.

This creates a sense of uneasiness in many ways.

First, engaging in a general atmosphere of judgment and criticism spares no-one, including myself.

Then, a discomfort in engaging in these thoughts about them, without them knowing, and what they would say or do if they knew.

And finally, discomfort from projections in two forms.

One is simply an assumption that since I engage in judgment of them, they will do the same towards me. I cannot help but to see in the world what is alive here and now. I own it, and it colors how I see the world.

The other is judgment arising, not fitting with my image of myself, and then seeing it in others and not so much in myself. I disown it, and project it on others and see it as directed towards myself. In both cases, it creates a sense of others judging me, which brings up uneasiness… and fear.

And fear also comes up in another form here: a fear of what would happen if I didn’t engage in criticism and judgment. A fear of becoming like them, or of the parts in my that shouldn’t be there, according to my stories about them, taking over.

When there is a well-wising for others, this all reverses. The same mechanisms play themselves out, but now with opposite effects.

I inevitably include myself in this atmosphere of well-wishing, and I see it in others – either as already there or at least as a potential. In my well-wishing for others and myself, as see all of us as we can be, as whole, with an open and receptive heart. This creates a sense of well-being, and a sense of basic trust and reduced fear.

And even if the surface manifestation is different, I know that this is how we all can be, and are when knots unravel. As Byron Katie says, I know everyone loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it yet.

Engaging in well-wishing, my heart and mind become more receptive.

My heart opens to myself and others. There is empathy, recognition, finding the universally human in what comes up in any of us, and a sense of the health and wholeness of each of us – at our human level – when knots are allowed to dissolve. (Knots are created by shoulds and narrow identities, creating the appearance of splits at our human level, and these are allowed to dissolve through an open heart.)

And my mind opens as well, becoming more receptive to the views of others, and the (limited) truth in all stories and views, so I can more easily meet people where they are at.

The empathy and recognition of an open heart invites an open mind, and the receptivity of an open mind invites the empathy and recognition of an open heart.