Kudos to Alissa White-Gluz for being one tough lady. Need an example? Check out her performance of “War Eternal” with her band, Arch Enemy. In this video, she does not seem like someone with a lot of anxieties.
However, in a new interview conducted by Revolver and partially transcribed by blabbermouth.net, White-Gluz states that she has social anxiety and adds “it was crippling at one point.” Her quote “I’m counting the people, I know where everyone is standing” sounded familiar to me, as this type of hypervigilance is common for people struggling with any sort of anxiety. And while many people face the challenge of social anxiety, not many are fronting an extreme metal band. In fact, in the interview, White-Gluz identifies her social anxiety as “the one thing people would be surprised to learn about me. I have to fight against it whenever I’m meeting people… which is often, because I meet people every day.”
White-Gluz left The Agonist, her former band, in 2014 to join Arch Enemy, a well-established, veteran metal band. This entailed not only leaving her previous band, but also joining an entirely new band located on a different continent, as Arch Enemy is based out of Sweden, while The Agonist is a Canadian band. It’s fair to say that the culture of extreme metal is (at least on the surface) a very aggressive, macho culture. Which means that, despite dealing with the challenges of social anxiety, she still managed to move internationally to front an already successful band with a huge following—a situation that undoubtedly threw her into all sorts of new social situations. This must have been especially challenging considering the international relocation.
It is important to note that White-Gluz states that social anxiety does not affect her performance. This is something that seems so common in performers, it’s almost a stereotype—something White-Gluz acknowledges in the interview. It’s something that’s nice to keep in mind as well, if you are a person who considers themselves shy and avoids public speaking. Sometimes people can come to life in new and exciting ways in the right circumstances. Perhaps you haven’t found yours yet.
White-Gluz does not say in the interview whether she has sought treatment for her social anxiety. But, if she did/does choose to seek mental health services, both medications and therapy are effective treatments. Part of an effective treatment for the hyper vigilance that can be associated with anxiety that I have used is the application of unused strengths. These “exceptions” to the anxiety situations may identify skills that the client is not applying to the situation that causes anxiety. White-Gluz is able to give powerful performances apparently unimpeded by anxiety, which suggests an opening that could be explored by a therapist for coping skills not being used as widely as they could be.
What about you? Do you ever feel confident in situations that would intimidate others? If so, what are you doing in that situation that other people don’t see or aren’t aware of? And how can you use those skills to overcome challenges in areas where you are not as confident?
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture