Selective Mutism is like a really hard boss from a video game. I don’t know if you’re a fan of video games or not, but let me give you an example. One of my favorite shows of all time is South Park. And in one episode, the kids are all playing World Of Warcraft. This was back when World Of Warcraft was this huge deal. And while they’re playing, somebody hacks into the game. And this guy has this super strong like level 500 character and goes around killing everybody. So nobody can play the game because sooner or later this guy is gonna come around and kill you again. So what the boys decide to do is go into like the training area, and start killing the boars which give them like 2 experience points at a time, and it takes them like a month of that non-stop to get strong enough to face the boss. And finally they do defeat him in this epic battle.

And it’s a lot like when you have SM, it feels like this super hard boss that’s impossible to beat. But if you take it one step at a time, and slowly cultivate the traits that will help you, you’re naturally going to be in a better place to deal with SM and just life in general. But you do have to stick in there. Every day work on something that’s going to help you reach your goals.

What a lot of people do, is they go up against the boss once and then they give up because it’s too hard. In the real world that might be that you try to talk to someone, experience an anxiety attack, and then decide never to try it again, and they go into what I call pain-avoidance mode. There’s probably a name for it. But essentially what it is, instead of going into an interaction and taking it for what it is, when you’re in pain-avoidance mode, everything you do becomes centered around avoiding feeling uncomfortable.

An example of this might be if you see someone at school who you think will talk to you on the way to class, you might take a different route in order to avoid them.

How do you combat this? You slowly build your confidence through small interactions that you know you can do. Once you’re in pain-avoidance mode, you’re already at a level 10 anxiety. That’s the boss from the World Of Warcraft metaphor. When I was just out of high school, I was in a pretty deep depression. One thing I did was to set a plan where about once a week, I would go out. It could be anywhere the book store, the mall, the park etc. If I did it, then I would consider it a success because the hardest thing for me to do was get the motivation to do anything at all. I would feel a lot better once I was out, and the challenge was not in being in public, but making the decision to make that first step out the door.

After a while of doing that I would change it to going out once a week, to going out once a week and having a human interaction. It didn’t matter if I said anything or not, as long as I paid for a sandwich or smiled at someone I would be happy for the rest of the day. I would feel like a million bucks because I knew that this was incredibly difficult for me, and it was a huge personal victory. Once I got used to that, I would add a little bit more and give myself missions like making eye contact with 5 people.

It’s still a long way away from the “boss” but if you be fair to yourself and make small steps that you know you can do, then eventually you will reach your bigger goals, and ultimately your life will be a thousand times better.