An Approach to Approach Anxiety

Hey Guys,

Are you afraid of approaching someone you like through a fear of rejection?

Do you get that horrible feeling in your stomach and begin to formulate 100 reasons why someone wouldn’t want to talk to you?

This is a lot more common than you would believe. There are a number of different products out there which will supposedly “fix” the fear of approaching strangers, especially ones you are attracted to. However, few of them take the time to understand why we have that fear in the first place. If you understand why you have this fear or anxiety, you can take steps to counter it. This is probably the biggest topic when it comes to understanding attraction. Well, that is to say, it is the one that most people have the biggest problem with. I constantly receive the same excuses time and time again when it comes to this subject.

1) I’m scared of approaching

2) I have a fear of rejection

3) They aren’t in the mood to be spoken to

4) She won’t think I look good enough

5) I can’t meet people in a park/cinema/night club

6) I’m not good enough for him/her

7) There’s no point, it won’t work

These are probably the most common reasons I am given as to why someone can’t approach, or the feeling that is preventing them from approaching. The fact that these are so prevalent is because they are all based on very real psychological factors to do with learning and behaviour.

Anxiety is defined by Seligman, Walker and Rosenhan (2001) as a physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These factors essentially make up the feelings that we experience as fear, apprehension, and worry.

There are some physical sensations that you will probably be aware of such as heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, shaking and perhaps headaches. These may be common to you. Some people will disguise these by making a decision not to approach. This will relieve the sensations and instead leave a sort of “numbness” to the situation.

Sigmund Freud himself believed that these anxious feelings were created by an association between a past negative experience and the current situation. These associations are often false and not related through causality – the idea that one situation directly affects another, but through correlation – one thing “tends to affect another over repeated attempts.”

When people begin to see this correlation as a fact, it is commonly referred to as “Magical Thinking.”

There are two governing principles behind magical thinking. The first is the law of similaritywhich is the notion that things that resemble each other are casually connected in some way that defies scientific testing.


For example:

Diagram 1

Here people will typically see vertical columns of squares and circles as opposed to horizontal mixed rows of squares and circles.

The second law is the law of contagion which is the belief that “things that have been in physical contact or in spatial or temporal association with other things retain a connection after they are separated.” Contagion effects have been noted to be more effective with negative associations than with positive ones. This is probably best explained by the notion of getting “bad luck” or having a bad time every time you go to a specific venue.

Freud believed that the anxiety or fear was maintained through a form operant conditioning. Essentially the feeling of anxiety is reinforced every time you are in a similar situation. You then “learn” to remove the negative feeling of anxiety by not approaching. These connections of patterns, or “magical thinking,” are common throughout all the human societies across the world. The human brain is adept at forming these patterns, though we do not have a particularly good system for distinguishing between real and perceived connections. Theoretically this is due to a simple survival tactic. If we notice rustling behind a bush it is better for us to assume it is some form of threat and begin to prep our bodies to defend ourselves rather than ignore it and risk being eaten.

Our fear or anxiety response is actually designed to help us survive in a fight or flight scenario. Believe it or not the symptoms detailed earlier are all beneficial to us in times of survival. Perspiration occurs to help cool us down, heart rate increases to improve blood circulation and muscles tighten as they are filled with oxygen in preparation for use. Unfortunately these are not particularly beneficial when we are looking for something witty to say during a conversation with someone.

In short we learn the fear through a number of negative experiences and then reinforce them by not doing anything about it. The bodies natural reaction towards a fearful situation is the feeling we associate with approach anxiety or the fear of the approach. The way to overcome this is to reverse the learning.

All of the common problems detailed above can be directly related to either “magical thinking” in the form of a false belief that failure is almost certain due to some form of connection to a previous situation that failed. Or pure fear learnt and reinforced by not approaching. These are both forms of self fulfilled prophecy i.e. Unless you actively do something to fix it they will continue to support themselves. The good news is that this problem is far from unfixable.

The bad news is that it does take time. The easiest way to fix this is to actually go out and meet new people. The problem is that when you do this, any negative experience you receive is likely to reinforce the previous attitude or fear you had before. As I’ve mentioned before one of the easiest ways to get around this is to simply meet people for the sake of meeting people.

Most of us are actually more than happy to talk to other people, especially on boring long journeys, or when waiting in a long queue. Get used to talking to absolutely everybody, male or female, young and old. This should help you generate a great deal of positive responses to your approaches and help curb some of those negative connections.


I hope this helps guys,

Adam Lyons

(AFC Adam)

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  1. Phil Russo says:

    Personally, I am a natural mathematician before man made PUA, and this post really caught me off guard because scientific analysis is where I started in game. I developed my game through math, using statistics and stereotypical analysis of the types of women I met. I sometimes show my notes to my good friends and they can barely get through the first page. I've progressed into a solid PUA since but your post has really brought me back to where it all began. Keep on gaming, and keep up the good work!

  2. Everything has been said…

    But i still wanted to add my thoughts into this..

    -Approach a woman for the sakes of it not with the idea of taking her to bed

    -Got to take things slowly, and be patient. Not rush neither pressure things

    -Let things flow naturally..

    It really ain't that hard.. you have to do is focus all your attention on your game, not the girl, otherwise if you focus on the girl, you let go of your game and it's rules and you mess up the opportunity.

    Happy Gaming.

    ps: Adam.. love that video where you propose marriage.. I've done it myself once at the Opera House, Australia and I got a K-close out of it as well as a new girl-friend :P

  3. Adam Lyons is a genius!

  4. Great post but there seems to be one problem to it.

    You mention that from negative responses, or by not approaching, we learn to fear meeting women since it's being reinforced. Then you say the solution is to approach everyone and anyone, since most people will be friendly, and we wont have those negative reference points. We'll now gain positive reference points which gives us positive reinforcement and takes away the fear.

    The problem I notice though is what about more specific reference points. By approaching everyone and anyone I might notice positive feedback from old ladies, average guys, and even some decent girls. However I can also consistently get negative feedback or experiences from the high value girls, or 10's.

    Even if I usually get positive feedback on AVERAGE from approaching, my mind knows the difference when I approach a hot indifferent girl. Every time I get a negative experience it reinforces the fear of approaching them.

    How do you get around this?

  5. When I started out and had to pysch myself up to approach and over the intial anxiety, I would turn it into a game. Either by myself or with myfriends.
    (I don't remember if this was in The Game or another book I read, but I had the following idea before I saw it elsewhere and it works like a charm.)

    If you really want to force yourself into approaching, give one of your friends (that you trust) $100 or $500. Whatever. Make a deal that you get $10 or $20 BACK from him for every girl you approach.

    When you make it about money, it's a lot easier to take the fear of rejection out of it. Then, if the first girl you approach you get her number or lock it down, you get your money back. (Just make sure you trust your buddy).

  6. Adam definitely has it right here. I teach bootcamps almost every weekend and whenever one of the guys gets AA they say it is because one of the reasons Adam has mentioned.

    The best thing to do is to practice opening just to open. Open 100 sets but don't let them hook, don't try to transition and don't even think about closing in any way.

    Just get used to approaching people and speaking on a whim. Once you have that down it will be easier to progress your game and taking it to the next stages.

    Outcome dependency is the worst. Get rid of it! Girls can see right through it.

  7. Your Friendly, Neigh says:

    Adam has got it spot on here guys.

    The reason a lot of guys face AA is because prior to the approach they worry about the outcome – whether the woman will respond well, will she give me her number, will we go out, etc. Become non-outcome dependent! Quickest way to do this, take away the outcome…Approach for the sake of approaching :o)

    Stay kool and keep gaming.

    Your Friendly, Neighbourhood PUA Dharam ;-)

  8. Adam,

    I think it’s great that you’re attempting to give all this a scientific foundation. The foundations in the psychology of “inner game” has been neglected for too long (if you don’t count Mystery’s “survive and replicate” as a psychological insight) because outer game works so well. It’s like treating depression with a SSRIs – you’ll get a direct effect, and for some people it’s simply necessary – but in the medium to long run, SSRIs will not suffice if those taking them aren’t actively working on self-medicating their brain chemistry by relabeling and reconnecting. That said –

    “As I’ve mentioned before one of the easiest ways to get around this is to simply meet people for the sake of meeting people.”

    I’ve always felt that meeting people for the sake of meeting people is more difficult because I can only root my approach in my interest to talk to that person. I think that’s much more difficult than having a functional reason (root) to talk to a person – if I NEED to know the time, and I don’t have a watch I NEED to ask someone. Even better if I have a reason for my need to know the time (say a movie).

    That’s a self-convincing rationale that will allow most people to approach anyone (it’s not about themselves, it’s about something else). If you get blown out, you’re not to blame, the other person was simply rude. But approaching people without that rationale – I think that’s something people will only be able to do confidently after some relabeling, after desensitysing themselves by doing a number of better rooted approaches.

    And I think it’s absolutely ok to use “outer game” to cover the lack of inner game as long as the outer game is helping relabeling and reconnecting needed for true “inner game.”

  9. Hey Adam,

    Basically what I get from your article and from my own experiences is that AA is caused by not looking at the situation rationally and then making false assumptions that are based on no evidence whatsoever i.e. that girl won’t want to talk to me, she just doesn’t want to be approached, she is in a bad mood etc… all these negative assumptions could just as easily be positive ones which would actually help and not hinder the approach.

    Now my main reason for leaving a reply, your post made me remember an old TV advert where an angry looking skin head was running towards an old man and throughout the whole advert the audience is thinking the skin head is going to attack/rob the old man, however towards the end of the advert the camera pans out, and you see that there is building work being carried out on the property near where the old man is standing and the skin head is running towards the old man to save him and push him out the way from a large piece of building equipment which is on a lose cable and about to fall on his head.

    Remembering that just made me think about AA and how we make false judgments on approaching situations.

  10. Adam Lyons says:


    So never ever approach with the idea of picking someone up.

    Just approach for the sake of it :o)

    AFC Adam,

  11. Adam,

    "with the idea of dating someone or picking them up"

    personally, I've found that this is an enormous emotional baggage dragging any interaction down. In a way, it's making me much more dependent on the outcome, and dependence on any kind of reaction is going to ruin anyone's game. I've done this pickup thing for a year or so now quite successfully and whenever I was so cocky that I would expect a certain reaction, I would get hit in the face by it.

    The trick is, for me, to not even try to pick up women until, at some point in the interaction, we're both realising that we're actually picking up each other. And that doesn't exclude playing funny games and helping her realise that being attracted to me isn't really a choice ;) – it's just that there's less emotional baggage for me to deal with.

  12. Adam Lyons says:

    Heya man,

    I completely agree with you!

    The trick is to use the Outer game until you get to a point where the inner can take over. A which point you get used to speaking to people just as a matter of course.

    In reality we're always finding functional reasons to speak t people. The problem is that so many people use the fear of an approach to prevent them from asking, and instead trying to make do without asking.

    The aim for everyone, and obviously they aren't there yet, but should be to get to a point where they aren't opening with the idea of dating someone or picking them up and instead to open them to either get a functional response, or just for the sake of speaking to someone new.

    Nice clarification.


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