Dear Papa Bear,
I wanted to ask you about advice for talking and relating with other furries. You see, this year is my first time going to Anthrocon. The problem is that I'm going alone since none of my friends are furries and are not interested in going. I was hoping to try to become friends with fellow furries that I'll meet, but I have to deal with my AvPD (Avoidant Personality Disorder), so it's going to be EXTREMELY hard trying to talk to other people. So please give me some advice.
Lyroe The Elk (age 21)
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I’m sure that you are well aware of what AvPD is, but for my other readers, a quick summary: unlike a condition such as autism, AvPD is not an illness; it is not a psychological disorder per se; there is nothing wrong with your hormones or your nervous system. To me, then, it is simply a label that the psychology community has come up with to describe a very very very shy person.
The good news is that this makes it eminently easier to treat because it is a learned behavior. You have gotten yourself into an infinite loop of thinking that reinforces negativity about yourself. So, the thing to do is to break out of the loop by adding subroutines that lead you out of the mind trap in which you have found yourself.
A good introductory article I found on the topic was written by Eduard Ezeanu (http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com/avoidant-personality-disorder/). He describes three ways to help yourself with AvPD:
1) Challenging and changing dysfunctional thinking. People with avoidant personality disorder tend to have a lot of limiting beliefs, plus an unrealistic view of social standards and of themselves. These need to be corrected by consciously changing the way they think.
By planning on a trip to Anthrocon, you are kind of plunging yourself into the fire. Rather than working on step 2 gradually, you will likely be overwhelmed. Literally thousands of furries will be surrounding you. It really would have been far better for you to start with a small furmeet and then work your way gradually up to an event that is literally the biggest furry convention on the planet.
You only have a few months until AC. You might try preparing yourself by reading Marin Kantor’s The Essential Guide to Overcoming Avoidant Personality Disorder.
There is no magic potion or sage words of advice that I can provide you that will prepare you adequately for AC in this short column. AvPD is overcome over time and with a lot of effort on your part. Since you already know what AvPD is, your probably know this, as well.
I suppose the best advice I can give you at this point is try to not overwhelm yourself with what you will see at AC. Almost 5,600 furries attended the Pittsburgh convention in 2013, and that number is almost certain to grow this year. Just being in the lobby with so many people is going to stress you out. So, as much as possible, try to take your furry exposure in small doses. In the meantime, try reading as much as possible on AvPD and working on changing your thinking and improving your people skills.
Hope this helps, at least a little bit.
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