a coke some afternoon after class. He/she says that
would be nice.
I have a coke with this person and we talk about
school, home-town, interests, and so on. Then I ask
him/her to go to a concert with me the next weekend.
I have a whole evening with a date. We go out to eat,
then to a show. Later, we stop for a drink and I take
him/her home. The conversation goes OK.
Successful dating may not be just a matter of overcoming fears; it
is likely to involve many skills--approaching people, conversing, self-
disclosing, empathizing, knowing about current events, being able to
tolerate silence, having stories to tell, having a sense of humor, being
able to touch, etc. So, first identify the social skills needed, then
imagine rehearsing these new skills over and over, and finally try them
out in real life (see chapter 13). Usually, gaining skills reduces fears.
Clearly, reducing our fears frees us to use the skills we have.
After you have constructed your hierarchy of increasingly scary
scenes, write each one on a 3 x 5 card. This way you can easily add a
scene if it is needed. Also, feel free to modify your scenes to make
them more realistic or easier to imagine--and to make them more or
STEP FOUR: Shift back and forth between imagining the scary
scenes and relaxing
After learning to relax and making a hierarchy, you are ready to
replace fear with relaxation. Follow this procedure:
Become deeply relaxed (using your preferred method). The task is
to have a stronger relaxed response than fear response while
imagining the scary scenes. So, if you start to feel tense anytime while
imagining the scenes, turn off the scene and go back to relaxing, then
continue. Place the 3 x 5 cards in order on your lap so you can easily
refer to them without disrupting your relaxation.
The crux of the desensitization process is continuously (every 10-
30 seconds) shifting back and forth between (a) briefly imagining a
scary scene and (b) relaxing. The purpose is to stay thoroughly
relaxed while imagining the scenes; thus, breaking the situation-
fear connection. Example: visualize a scary scene for 10 to 30
seconds, whatever is comfortable for you. Then, go back to relaxing
and giving yourself relaxation instructions for 10 to 30 seconds. Then,
imagine the same scene again for 10 to 30 seconds, relax again,
imagine, relax, etc. until the scene no longer arouses anxiety. You are
ready to go on to the next scene.
If you become tense while imagining the scenes, you will be
strengthening the situation-fear connection, so stop the fantasy and go