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Title: Understanding social anxiety : an existential phenomenological investigation
Author: Fry, Gary.
Awarding Body: University of Huddersfield
Current Institution: University of Huddersfield
Date of Award: 2005
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This project draws upon existential phenomenology as a new way of understanding the experience of social anxiety. It is claimed that by aiming for an explanation, existing psychological approaches (trait theory, biological research, behaviourism, cognitive and socially oriented perspectives, personal construct psychology) neglect the situated meaning of events as they are `lived' by individuals. It is argued that a phenomenological approach is needed in order to produce an understanding of the phenomenon - that is, a non-reductive, non-mechanistic model (Merleau-Ponty, 1962). The process of data collection assumed two strands. Firstly, eight participant interviews were conducted with a view to seeking `lived' accounts of social anxiety. Secondly, a series of literary extracts were selected in order to derive rich insights into the experience. All of these sources were analysed using the Sheffield School of phenomenological enquiry (see Ashworth, 2003), and the resultant descriptions interpreted by drawing upon existential phenomenological thought and modem developments of this approach. The empirical procedure revealed that social anxiety primarily involves the way an individual strives to present a desired sense of selfhood to other people. This sense of self is derived from previous experience and oriented to an imagined future. The person must engage in a pre-existing social world, adopting some of the cultural prescriptions of each new situation in the form of appropriate discourse (use of language) and a suitable deployment of the body (correctly fulfilling behavioural expectations). If this cannot be managed, then social anxiety will invariably result; the individual struggles to gain control of the problematic circumstances, feels exposed, and loses `grip' of the physical space around her/him. Nevertheless, the person who experiences habitual social anxiety is not condemned to perpetual failure: by transforming the meaning of the situation through perceptual and/or behavioural intervention, s/he is able to engage effectively. Finally, some reflections are offered with regard to how the present understanding supplements mainstream psychological models, while proposals for future research are also outlined.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available