The High Diving Board
Selective mutism and social anxiety is like being afraid to jump off of a high diving board. You climb up and up and up, finally getting to the top. You sort of look down at the specks of people from the high altitude… and you freeze. The fear hits you. And you can’t move.
After what seems like ages, you slowly climb back down embarrassed and bewildered. The very thought of going up there again is terrifying.
Similarly, a teacher asks a kid in class how many sides a square has. She knows the answer, but she feels the anticipatory pressure for her to talk from everyone around her and remains frozen. She can’t speak.
Maybe you, the reader, enjoyed jumping off the high board very much. There were always a few at the camp I went to as a kid who were too scared to dive from that high up, but there were still many who had a lot of fun doing it. I think it’s easier to understand anxiety if we first look at the things we ourselves are afraid of, like spiders, heights, flying on airplanes, lions, etc. The fear of speaking isn’t so strange then. It’s something that, like many phobias, can be beaten.