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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday's Words Of Wisdom: Phillip Zimbardo Shyness: A Social Pathology

Thought for the Day: As we continue to examine the value of friendships, Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom this week come from contemporary psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, who was born in 1933. After earning three undergraduate degrees in psychology, sociology, & anthropology from Brooklyn College, he went on to receive his M.S. at Yale University. Zimbardo is best known for ground-breaking psychological theories & experiments such as the Stanford prison study, Time Paradox, Lucifer Effect, & Abu Ghraib analysis.

For today’s post, I chose a little known quote by Zimbardo on shyness:
         “The level of shyness has gone up dramatically in the last decade. I think
     shyness is an index of social pathology rather than a pathology of the individual.”
If shyness stems from society’s ills & is not an innate disposition, how can we treat the societal pathology? Is it possible this societal illness interferes with developing friendships in our modern world? Does it deter people from responding to or making advances to initiate friendships. Could it be a factor in what I described in Motivational Monday's post as "friendship deprivation?" Since Zimbardo’s observations, has the increase in shyness morphed into a societal distrust & sense of lack of safety? Could this fuel some people’s apprehension & adamant belief in the necessity to own guns to feel safe? If shyness stems from societal problems & the increased fear of strangers that plagues some segments of our society is similar, how can we help reduce these fears & heal the social pathology?

Over the next couple of weeks, I will address these questions as I examine the benefits of friendship to our mental health. The answers are complex. The solutions will take time. But if we grapple with them for long enough, we’re sure to eventually reduce the shyness & fear that’s becoming so prevalent in society.  We need to look to psychology, education, sociology & other disciplines to begin to discover answers. What are your thoughts? I hope you will join me in this discussion.

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