Individuals with AvPD view the world as unfriendly, cold, and humiliating(Millon & Davis, 1996, p, 265). People are seen as potentially critical, uninterested, and demeaning(Beck, 1990, pp. 43-44); they will probably cause shame and embarrassment for individuals with AvPD.
Weirdly, it’s only since I’ve been doing better that I’ve realized how much this applies to me. It’s a “feel the water you swim in” kind of situation. When you have a fundamental, unchanging assumption about the world, it doesn’t feel like an assumption. It feels like perception, like your lived experience.
I’ve written before about my natural reaction to people, the shocks of anxiety in my stomach and the feeling like cotton in my throat. I’ve always thought of it as something automatic, instinctual, and unchangeable; I’ve called it an allergy. Lately I’ve been able to look at my own thoughts with a certain clarity, and I’ve finally figured out what therapists have been trying to tell me for years: that this emotion is rooted in thoughts. They’re so hard to spot because they’re not loud, conscious thoughts. They’re quiet, insidious beliefs. They’re assumptions.
My core assumption is that people will react to me and anything I create negatively, ranging from smirking ridicule to violent hatred. This seems natural because it is how I have always reacted to my own thoughts, feelings and needs. Here’s a weird thought: What if I’m wrong?
I can’t quite imagine people liking or accepting me yet — not if they truly knew me, anyway. But I can picture reactions that don’t include mockery or hatred. I can’t believe in a neutral world, a relatively safe one. But I can finally sort of imagine it.