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Tonight’s class is billed as a general social skills workshop, but when Luna asks the group, “How many of you want to use these skills to improve your dating life? Luna splits the group into pairs and teaches them a mirroring exercise: Partner 2 should imitate the body language of Partner 1. Although some ones infer that they should gesture naturally as they talk and let the twos follow, others are less suave: One pair stands staring at each other, each touching his own ears.

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Other than that distant memory, I never had a class like [Chris Luna’s], and I severely wish I had.” The final exercise of the night is a touch game.Tonight he wears a newsboy cap and a fitted black V-neck T-shirt that shows off his jacked arms.If I were a Harlequin romance novelist, I would describe his dark features as brooding.The point of the exercise is to teach assertiveness: A socially anxious person might find himself shrinking from a group conversation, thinking of things he might like to say but missing his window, growing silent and increasingly uncomfortable as the banter volleys above his head.The storytelling exercise simulates a conversational atmosphere that gives everyone permission to jump in while still leaving it up to each person to take the initiative.Most of them learned about the workshop through the New York Shyness and Social Anxiety Meetup; with more than 2,500 members, it’s the largest social anxiety meet up in the world, according to the group’s leader, Erik Silverman.

SAD first appeared in the Still, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug company Glaxo Smith Kline to market Paxil as the antidote (“Imagine being allergic to people,” the ad says), and soon, both Paxil prescriptions and SAD diagnoses were on the rise.

(Later, I look up Triforce and learn that it’s a Zelda symbol that represents wisdom, power, and courage.) Someone confesses his shame about the scars on his body. Only one person, who told us during introductions that his stutter causes him acute anxiety, refuses to participate. Since I reached out to Luna about writing this story, he’s told me several times that “everyone is socially anxious.” I guess what he means is that everyone is socially anxious to varying degrees.

Of course, I have memories of painful shyness from my youth, including my first-ever date, when a boy and I convened at a movie theater, bought tickets, watched .

After a few more stories like that one (“I’m having a total panic attack right now!

” one man says when it’s his turn), Luna offers some tips: Focus on something specific. If you’re talking about a car, give us its make and color. Rebecca tells us that, against her family’s wishes, she wants to get a Triforce tattooed on her wrist.

Through his dating instruction company, Craft of Charisma, he’s been coaching within the “social anxiety community” for several years.