by Alexander Avila
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Apr 7th 2003
is often a problem for most people. It makes meeting new people awkward; can
defeat even the best-prepared presentation of oneself anywhere people gather.
But shyness is something else again for a minority of people for whom being shy
is an overwhelming fact of social inability and, consequently, isolation. For
these sufferers, being shy is crippling and threatens to prevent them from
finding the dearest things in life: love, family with children, peace and
contentment in a life well-used and fully developed.
thank Dr. Avila first for recognizing the deep need for this book. People who
are inordinately shy suffer far more than most folks realize. There is a
population out there that is living with dreams they cannot realize, because
they have come to believe, through failure and fear in social settings over and
over, that happiness itself is beyond their grasp.
someone who understands shy people has written a work that can help this
substantial minority of people who are overwhelmed, afflicted if not crippled
by their shyness. In Avila's carefully organized and self-help styled book, a
complete program for identifying the roots of shyness, seeing its strengths no
less than weaknesses, and using the energy of the shy person to create
satisfying relationships and wholly overcome past limitations.
to stumble out the starting gate, Avila begins Part One, "Why Shyness is a
Wonderful Romantic Gift." The reader, who suffers self-doubt about his or
her shyness, is given reasons right away to believe anew that, as Avila puts
it, "Shyness is actually a gift of gentleness, sensitivity, and
self-reflection, and you, as a shy person...are one of the most desirable
people on earth." Quite a beginning, quite a claim, but the author backs
this up in the volume that follows on.
this seeming alchemy is a basic distinction Avila introduces between what he
calls "the Actor" in anyone's personality and "the
Observer." It is the Observer that gets out of control in shy people and
causes them so much paralysis in public and distress trying to interact with
strangers in social situations. It's a simple plan, but not simplistic in
Avila's use of it. The shy person finally has a way to see what is going on in
his or her head and what can be done to remedy the continuing situations that
control the shy life.
with this powerful distinction, Avila moves to a wholly new definition of being
shy: "Shyness is a life enhancing state of extraordinary sensitivity and
profound self-reflection." He calls it a "shy-centric"
definition, and it is. But it provides a set of concepts as tools that can
really offer shy people a new way to see themselves and to create a better life
in society, to make shyness into a new asset. It is this enhanced set of assets
which Avila turns to use in romantic pursuits.
chapters that follow, many exercises and case examples provide plenty of
chances for readers to try out solutions to what has previously limited them as
shy people. For the serious sufferer, such exercises are must-do homework and
should attract lots of effort by anyone who knows the pain of being limited by
shy behavior. But these exercises may also cause the less severely afflicted
some annoyance, quite the way homework assignments do in school work. So the
causal reader may begin skipping and skimping on the exercises after a few chapters.
That's a mistake and may point up the problem in a book such as this--it works
if the reader is motivated enough to do the work it elucidates and leads. Some
of these exercises involve up to three other people; some require taking off
your shoes and lying on the floor; others involve getting out on the street and
"helping little old ladies to cross the street." It's a long list of
activities, each one carefully described in "Step 1...Step 2...Step
impact of Avila's program is to help shy people find the love, respect and,
especially self-respect that they have lost to runaway shyness. Any reader who
takes the program on its own terms and does the work will benefit, that's for
sure. Whether or not these benefits can live up to Avila's stated goals for his
readers is a factual matter outside the scope of the book, of course. But if
ever a text laid out "a yellow brick road" through the dark forests
of social reticence and the fear of being judged as wanting, it could be this hardy
© 2003 David Wolf
David M. Wolf, M.A. studied philosophy of
science for the M.A. with Prof. David Hawkins at the University of Colorado,
Boulder, and also read advanced philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. His
undergraduate education in Philosophy was guided by Prof. Mason Gross. Wolf is
certified in philosophic counseling with the American Philosophic Practitioners
Assoc. and earns his living in management consulting, where he is distinguished
in writing strategic plans and advising in organization development and career