Lion of the Blogosphere

Elliot’s descriptions of his “social anxiety” and shyness

Page 17, when Elliot is in the fourth grade:

When I became aware of this common social structure at my school, I also started to examine myself and compare myself to these “cool kids”. I realized, with some horror, that I wasn’t “cool” at all. I had a dorky hairstyle, I wore plain and uncool clothing, and I was shy and unpopular. I was always described as the shy boy in the past, but I never really thought my shyness would affect me in a negative way, until this point.

So if we are to believe him, it was in the fourth grade when Elliot first became aware how his shyness was a handicap that was preventing him from having the life he wanted.

Page 43, his fear of speaking at his 8th grade graduation:

Eighth Grade Graduation was a nightmare. Everyone was required to go up on stage and speak to the whole audience. We had to say our name, and tell everyone what school we were planning on going to. . . . As I lined up, I could feel myself shaking. I was scared even to speak in front of a classroom. To speak in a microphone to hundreds of people was too much. I didn’t understand how everyone else seemed to be fine with it. I envied their bravery. When my name was called, I didn’t want to go, but it was required of me, and I pushed myself to do it. I walked up to the microphone and nervously said “My name is Elliot, and I plan on going to Crespi High School”. I heard my own voice in the speakers and saw everyone staring at me. It made me cringe.

On page 72, Eliot is 19 and attending his second community college:

The class I started was a political science class. I figured I would gain some useful knowledge by taking it, though I disliked the teacher because he had the tendency to randomly call on me to answer questions. I was still terrified of speaking in front of the class, even if it was for one sentence. My social anxiety has always made my life so difficult, and no one ever understood it. I hated how everyone else seemed to have no anxiety at all. I was like a cripple compared to them. Their lives must be so much easier. Thankfully, there were no couples in this class, but I still had to see them when I walked through the school. The only thing I could do was keep my head down and pretend they didn’t exist. I still cried on the drive home every day.

This is a very good explanation of what he was going through.

1. No one understands his anxiety. They think he can fix himself by just following good advice.

2. It is indeed like he is crippled, because other people can easily do something he can’t do. But instead of a physical handicap, it’s a mental/emotional handicap. He is absolutely right that their lives are so much easier.

3. Elliot cries a lot. Even though he killed six people, I feel sorry for how horrible he felt about his inability to deal with life.

On the very next page, 73, he talks about how his five-year old half-brother Jazz doesn’t have the social anxiety problems that he had when he was five:

He was no longer a baby, but a five-year-old boy who was turning six soon. I could actually have full conversations with him. He was a very social boy, and quite boisterous… and that started to worry me. He could well turn into one of the people I have despised and envied so much. I felt a hint of jealousy that my five-year-old brother was so well versed in social skills at such a young age. I always suffered from shyness and social anxiety, but Jazz didn’t seem to have that problem.

I put that worry at the back of my mind. He was my brother, and he really looked up to me. He was one of the few people who treated me the way I want to be treated, with respect and adoration. I enjoyed spending time with the boy.

On page 86, Elliot is now at Santa Barbara, and he gets so drunk that he is able to muster up some courage to talk to some other male students, but he is still too shy to engage in much conversation:

On one such night I got drunk enough to introduce myself to some other students who lived in the same apartment complex. They were sitting in the common area of the apartment, and I went up to their group and sat down with them. They weren’t hostile towards me, and I was able to exchange some form of small talk with them. After a while though, I ended up just sitting there awkwardly, and they eventually questioned why I was so quiet. I hated when people did that… no one ever understands the troubles of someone who suffers from social anxiety. They offered me a few beers, which I gladly accepted. I ended up getting so drunk that I completely blacked out. I stumbled back to my apartment and vomited on the floor, just like I did on that embarrassing night at Addison Altendorf’s birthday party. The next morning, I didn’t even remember that I vomited. Daniel informed me of what happened, with an amused grin on his face. I felt so ashamed, but at least I did something more social than anything else I’ve done in the last few years. That was some progress, I supposed.

Once again, Elliot laments that no one understands his problems. And he is right, they don’t. In fact, his mother shouldn’t have dumped him off at Santa Barbara. He wasn’t able to handle it. I guess I can understand why she didn’t want to care for her loser son her whole life. Although in Japan, it’s actually quite common that parents just keep on caring for their adult male children who are unable to deal with world. The socially withdrawn males are called Hikikomori. There are hundreds of thousands of Hikikomori in Japan.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 30, 2014 at 9:10 PM

Posted in Psychology

25 Responses

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  1. When I became aware of this common social structure

    this is sufficient to put all the “he had asperger’s people” in jail.

    jorge videla

    May 30, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    • That strikes me as a very aspergery thing to say. I think a certain kind of social awareness is compatible with asperger’s – a logical, almost scientific awareness, as opposed to an intuitive/emotional awareness. Having the first type of awareness but not the second would mean that he would be socially inept, yet at the same time conscious of and mortified by his ineptness.

      brett

      May 31, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      • Aspies usually don’t understand why they should even care about social popularity, while Elliot cares a lot. Elliot can’t join in because he’s too shy, and he also sucks at sports which is often how boys make friends and earn respect of other boys.

      • Lion,

        I agree that his shyness is salient. How does shyness develop in the first place though? Having unreasonably high expectations of yourself can easily lead to shyness, because you will consistently find yourself humiliated as you fail to live up to those expectations. But having very little social ability (eg, if you have asperger’s) can also lead to shyness, as you will consistently find yourself blundering about and embarrassing yourself in social situations. If you are socially inept enough, it’s probably even be an adaptive response to become shy and fearful of social interaction. And the two of these factors in combination – high expectations with very little ability to meet them – are a recipe for paralyzing social anxiety.

        I think your’s is the picture a lot of people have for asperger’s, ie the Sherlock Holmes character who is oblivious to all social concerns. And obviously a lot depends on how far down the autism spectrum you are, but I doubt that this is usually the case. Simon Baron-Cohen, for instance, says, “a significant proportion of adults with AS experience clinical levels of depression and some even feel suicidal because they feel that they are a social failure and do not belong.” This says that a significant proportion of adults with AS are conscious of their social ineptitude and feel bad about the fact.

        brett

        May 31, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      • I think a certain kind of social awareness is compatible with asperger’s

        then “asperger’s” is meaningless. in the case of all psychiatric disorders the reality is the criteria for the diagnosis. there is no reality beyond the criteria. if the criteria are flexible there’s no reality.

        baron-cohen is a a self-promoting fraud.

        any awareness of social realities which aren’t talked about or written in books indicates social intelligence.

        jorge videla

        May 31, 2014 at 9:51 PM

      • “Elliot can’t join in because he’s too shy, and he also sucks at sports” ————————————————————-

        You are correct that playing sports eases social acceptance by other boys and also that success at sports gives you status among other boys. But, there is a middle ground. You don’t have to be good at sports to get some grudging acceptance from other boys even if you suck at the sport. And even the biggest klutz will eventually improve his overall coordination and ability over time.

        I was never ‘good’ at sports, but I did them anyway (from pee wee leagues in elementary school through school sports in middle school and high school ending with lacrosse in college) understanding that it was good for one’s development and that exercise was a good unto itself. Over time (a long time) I developed greater coordination and with that greater confidence and social ease. I quit worrying about making a fool of myself or coming in last or near last in a race and just did it for its own sake. As a consequence, though my academic standing at school placed me solidly in the nerd category (a coach once commented on it at a practice in a semi-disparaging way) I nevertheless had respect from the non-nerd male students though I was typically the worst athlete on most teams.

        I can say without equivocation that among the males who did sports there was little in the world that generated more contempt than the boys who did no sports whatsoever. It was considered feminine or evidence of being a mama’s boy. Even boys who did some seemingly beta sport like cross country (I did this sport in HS) got more respect than did the boys who did nothing. My advice to young men would be to engage in sports (how many are disallowed a place on the cross country team?) no matter what your inclinations or talents. Even in the adult world men in power trade sports stories and want to hear yours. You don’t need to have been a star. You just need to have participated.

        I’ll also note that women have a weird attraction to sports injuries.

        Curle

        May 31, 2014 at 11:54 PM

      • jorge,

        The DSM criteria almost always have some built-in flexibility. They usually say something like “must have 5 of the following 8 symptoms.” But either way, the reality is the phenomenon occurring in the world, not the definition that some group of people have used to try to delineate the phenomenon.

        brett

        June 1, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      • I did some non-contact sports in high school like swimming, cross-country and track. I was a pretty good swimmer, but probably not college varsity material. I was only so-so at the other sports. I was only allowed to compete because my high school was so small they couldn’t turn anyone away.. However, I enjoyed the challenge and the camaraderie. I can’t say the cool kids gave me much respect though, even after i broke one of the swimming records and one of the track records.

        However, in college I took it to the next level. As a sophomore I joined the intramural boxing team. I overcame my fear of getting hit in the face, which was good because it happened a lot. I wasn’t particularly good, but I did earn a lot of respect because i was doing something that others were afraid to do.

        dcanaday

        June 2, 2014 at 8:02 AM

  2. My social anxiety has always made my life so difficult…

    again self-awareness.

    jorge videla

    May 30, 2014 at 9:54 PM

  3. Hikkomori, interesting. It makes sense as Asians tend to be less social than whites on average.
    However his also half-Asian sister doesn’t seem to have any trouble socializing or having sex…
    In fact she seems the total opposite of him:
    https://twitter.com/georgiarodgerr/media

    Dumbo

    May 30, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    • Oddly, these shyness issues don’t seem to affect East Asian women. Perhaps because women aren’t penalized for being shy, I don’t know.

      markus

      May 31, 2014 at 9:03 PM

      • Bingo. A man’s shyness is reinforced when he is picked on for it as a child, teenager or even a young adult. Once a girl starts filling out, she is approached by horny males, which boosts her self esteem and pulls her out of it, provided she is reasonably attractive.

        dcanaday

        June 2, 2014 at 8:08 AM

  4. How did he describe his relationship with her sister? The fact that her sister is such a hottie might be the reason why he had such a high standard for his “ideal girl”.

    outcast

    May 30, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    • One fundamental difference between the siblings is that Georgia settled for being ‘brown” and prole while Elliot aspired for “whiteness” and bourgeoisie culture. Georgia is totally comfortable in her milieu; she has enough looks and none of her crew is aspiring for much more than having a good time.

      Elliot made clear on several occasions his disdain for “brown”. He was fundamentally uncomfortable in his own skin because he was aspiring for high-achieving white status which included a hot blonde girlfriend. But Elliot didn’t have the looks (short, slight and kinda swarthy), nor the achievement (a JC loser), nor the social skills to thrive in a white environment.

      So Elliot looked down on his sister and her brown crowd which is why he hardly mentioned her accept when he heard her getting banged. He could never lower himself to accept Georgia’s simple brown life.

      Torn and Frayed

      May 31, 2014 at 1:34 AM

      • One fundamental difference between the siblings is that Georgia settled for being ‘brown” and prole while Elliot aspired for “whiteness” and bourgeoisie culture.

        Straight out of a Tom Wolfe novel! (Really – Wolfe’s latest features a mixed-raced family with just this sort of divide between the siblings.)

        Interestingly, the picture I saw of Georgia didn’t appeal to me at all. She literally looked like a real-life anime character.

        Samson J.

        May 31, 2014 at 10:09 PM

  5. “shyness” as a thing needs to be analyzed.

    lion, and others apparently, think of shy behavior (shyness) as a thing in itself.

    but mightn’t there be multiple reasons for shyness?

    there is “diffidence”, a lack of faith in oneself or low self-esteem, and then there may be some truly pathological/unwarranted fear/anxiety. that is, a sort of terror that arises for no reason.

    this would be similar to the so-called “melancholic” depression. that is the rare form of depression where someone can go to bed feeling fine and the next morning be almost catatonic.

    jorge videla

    May 30, 2014 at 11:25 PM

  6. Elliot shyness prevented him from even trying… His supposed tormenter (Moio) posing for things: http://vimeo.com/hurlbutvisuals

    nevertoolate

    May 30, 2014 at 11:42 PM

  7. I am halfway through the piece. I see the anxiety but what is even stronger is the envy in ER. At eighteen he can’t stand seeing any couples his age together even after his best friend tells him is also a virgin.

    How many boys in elementary school obsess about being part of the cool crowd to the point of dyeing their hair blond? How many boys that age dye their hair for any reason?

    I am also introverted and had less of a social life then ER did. Unlike ER it did not bother me because I did not care about being part of the cool crowd.

    Mercer

    May 31, 2014 at 12:50 AM

  8. You got the best ones but here’s another part alluding to his social anxiety.

    I was pretty careful to save all the parts on it as I read through the autobiography since i’ve pretty bad social anxiety myself. It explains a lot with me and with Elliot too I think. I like how you’ve kept the focus on this. It would be sort of easy to overlook it in reading all that he wrote. The shyness plagued him all his life so that was kind of a constant. The development was more in how he became so bitter and angry from what he wasn’t able to enjoy because of it. That was an important aspect of the narrative. Plus his anger was exceptionally intense and anger is already a strong emotion. So is whatever makes someone cry so much. That’s going to tend to dwarf the feelings of nervousness and anxiety in memory. There’s more descriptions of him being angry and crying than there is of him being anxious. And of course in retrospect one doesn’t feel anxious or nervous. One may feel plenty of other things, sadness, nostalgia, maybe some anger (but it would’ve been nothing like the anger the people aroused in him that he lashed out at) but not anxiety. There’s a lot of other themes and patterns in his autobiography that stand out more than his persistent shyness. But if you know what a problem social anxiety can be the handful good mentions of it that there are (like the ones you picked out) make it clear as can be it was indeed a big problem for him and behind his lack of success with girls.

    emma goldman

    May 31, 2014 at 12:52 AM

  9. It’s Hikikomori. But yes this kid absolutely fits the type. He would have felt at home in Asia.

    Look at this thread on Chinese reactions to him.
    http://www.chinasmack.com/2014/stories/american-virgin-killer-elliot-rodger-chinese-reactions.html

    Being a virgin at 22 in China is around the average I’d say.

    spandrell

    May 31, 2014 at 1:04 AM

  10. When a person is constantly saying that nobody understands his problems, this is a red flag for insanity. Bipolar in this case.

    MyTwoCents

    May 31, 2014 at 2:50 AM

    • People do NOT understand his social anxiety. This is clearly evidenced in all the comments about him on my blog and all over the web.

  11. Also, it seems Elliot has been very active commenting on YouTube videos in his alt account for years. http://www.youtube.com/user/Valtharion/feed

    nevertoolate

    May 31, 2014 at 3:25 AM


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