LISA JACKNOW ELLIAS
Special To The Jewish News
11111 hey are at every party or
event. People who don't
say anything, who sit
alone looking uncomfort-
able, who stand against
the wall, who find a space in the
They are people who long to meet
someone and be part of the crowd,
who can't manage to take that first
step. In other words, people who are
The term shyness covers a broad
range of feelings and social skills, ex-
plained Jackie Odom, psychothera-
pist at the Eastwood Clinic in Troy.
"Shyness is a feeling of
uneasiness which can range
anywhere from apprehension and in-
security all the way to fear in terms
of involvement and intimacy," Odom
said. "Some cases are more acute
People who are shy tend to have
difficulty with relationships, Odom
said. The problem is common. Many
of the clients she counsels have trou-
ble interacting with others on a
meaningful, close, intimate level.
"There are a lot of reasons for
this," Odom said. "There is the fear
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 1988
of not • being good enough. The fear
that others won't like you, the fear of
rejection. Some shy people don't have
the social skills to know how to in-
teract with others. They don't want to
feel like they are not fitting:in, so they
withdraw instead. It is hard to con-
It is not just single people who
must cope with such fears. Margaret
Weiner, director of professional ser-
vices for Jewish Family Service, said
that shyness is a problem for all ages,
from children to senior citizens.
"Everybody's history determines
what intimacy means in their lives,"
Weiner said. "The wish to be intimate
but not being able to do so is the basis
of many problems, even in marriage.
It is the wish for and fear of intimacy
all at the same time?'
An important step in overcoming
shyness is to change a person's self-
image, Odom explained. A shy person
must increase positive feelings about
him or herself.
"You have to consider their
thoughts, what they are saying about
themselves," Odom explained. "Many
of these people are saying 'I'm inade-
quate, they won't like me; as opposed
to saying 'I have a lot going for me:
These self-statements have a lot to do
with the inability to relate to others?'
In order to change these negative
feelings, a person must identify what
they do not like about themselves,
"You have to confront each issue,"
she said. "Look at it and see if it is
logical to feel that way. Then ask
yourself what you can do to change it.
Look at it in a balanced way?'
Often the best way to accomplish
this is in the supportive atmosphere
of group therapy or a support group.
Such groups are available through
SPACE Room to Grow, a service of the
National Council. of Jewish Women,
and Jewish. Family Service, which
also offers individual counseling if
SPACE offers a variety of small
groups, each run by a facilitator who
has been through the prograth, said
Aida Cutler, administrative assistant.
Many of the participants in the
groups are single parents who are fac-
ing the social scene for the first time
"Initially, many of these people
are going through a loss, and they do
back off because they are too shy to
speak out;' Cutler said. "They are
alone for the first time in a long time.
By being in small groups, they are
able to open up.
"Shy people have a fear of shar-
ing and are very sensitive," Cutler
said. "But there is no threat when
they come here. They are all in the
same position and have similar prob-
lems. When they are with others they
can listen and think 'gee, I'm not
alone? A camaraderie forms which
opens them up to further friendships.
In a non-threatening atmosphere,
they can open up and share?'
Group therapy or support groups
are also recommended by JFS's
"Group treatment is usually the
best way when it comes to problems
with intimacy," Weiner said. "Such
settings give a person a laboratory in
which to practice ways of being in-
timate. If a person can experience how
people react to them, how they make
themselves understood or
misunderstood, it can help them over-
come their problem. It is also helpful
to see the different ways other people
Therapy is not the only way to
overcome shyness, Odom said. There
are steps a person can take to help
work the situation out on their own.
"One thing to do is to break an
evening down into small pieces:' she
said. "Approach one person. Narrow
your focus to it does not feel so over-
whelming. Limit what you're trying