Encapsulating feelings of fear, apprehension, anxiety, stress, unwanted duress or persuasion from others and many other adverse emotional and psychological reactions, feelings of intimidation can be regular in everyday life. As I sit here causally typing away on a sunny afternoon I ask myself what do I honestly find intimating? A long drive in an unknown area, new social situations with new people and attempting a task I have difficulty with were the immediate answers that came to mind. Metaphorically speaking feeling intimidated is like being squeezed, sucked or forced into a space that is far too small for us; such as a tube, hole or cavern. Our surroundings go dark and our breathing can become difficult and laboured. Furthermore, it can often be challenging to focus on anything other than that task, situation or event that is making us feel intimated.
Within the dyslexic realm and world, intimidation can often be reported and talked about by dyslexics. Dyslexic individuals frequently report intimidation, stress, anxiety and apprehension around unknown activities or tasks that they have previously, or continue to, struggle with (BBC News, 2019). Such situations that can be intimating and massively stress-inducing can widely vary between dyslexics. Examples can include, but are not limited to:
· Reading aloud in front of others or to an unfamiliar audience
· Meeting new people
· Traveling and/or driving; particularly to unknown places
· Completing forms and paperwork
· Undertaking long written tasks
· Organising an event or occasion
· Recalling facts, figures or names
· Solving mathematical problems or formulae
This pattern of behaviour coincides greatly with the psychological concept of behaviourism. This is where human behaviour is derived from our environment, whereby a stimulus (such as one of the above tasks) produces a corresponding conditioned response (in this case feelings of intimidation).
Within a previous blog post, the links and interconnections between dyslexia and anxiety were thoroughly explored (Discussing the Dyslexic Brain, 2019). It was discussed that ‘secondary symptoms’ of dyslexia exist, including a susceptibility to stress, anxiety, self-criticism, shame and fear of stigma/ridicule, that run alongside the more well-known struggles with literacy, memory and processing. These secondary symptomologies can be extended and interlinked to intimidation, whereby dyslexics may be anxious, reluctant or fearful to attempt new or unknown tasks or retry challenging tasks out of a fear of failure. In this way, feeling out of one’s comfort zone or routine can act as a catalyst for intimidation and anxiety (Davis Dyslexia Association International, 2008).
Useful Tips and Tricks
Crucially though, there are ways to help reduce and manage this intimidation factor and the stress and fear associated with certain situations. Firstly, an excellent tool is to begin to recognise the triggers and causes of what we can find intimidating. Once we can identify what tasks or situations are causing these unwanted emotional reactions we can begin to suss the reasons why. As an exemplar, if a dyslexic individual finds reading aloud scary, stressful and intimidating the reasoning for this could relate to feeling unable to complete the task, not understanding what they need to do or a fear of making mistakes and being punished or mocked by others.
Once the grassroots for such intimidation and the reasoning behind these have potentially been established one can then focus on managing their feelings of intimidation. Many aforementioned coping strategies and ‘life hacks’ have been explored and discussed in numerous previous blog posts. These are mentioned so very often as they are so important for dyslexic individuals. Vitally, these individualised strategies can include using assistive technology, repeating/overlearning facts and information, practicing challenging tasks in a ‘safe’ environment, ritualistically checking and re-checking work and asking for assistance from family and friends.
Focusing on and celebrating the talents of dyslexics is absolutely crucial, as dyslexics possess so many unique creative gifts that should be shared and appreciated. In addition, it is extremely important that dyslexics are encouraged and gently/gradually exposed to new and others tasks and situations (even if they have previously found them challenging). By progressively exposing dyslexics to new or unknown tasks, rather than a full body emersion out of their comfort zone, this can help reduce the intimidation factor, stress and fear around these situations. If a dyslexic is finding a certain task or environment intimidating, stressful and challenging listening to them and acknowledging their concerns is also a great way to identify where they may need to assistance and to provide invaluable support.
Feelings of intimidation can be commonplace amongst the dyslexic community. The focus and reasoning for this can be linked and connected to the unfamiliarity of tasks, individuals being taken of their comfort zones and being presented with situations that are challenging. However, as has been explored, there are many ‘tips and tricks’ to help reduce the intimidation and associated stress, fear and anxiety that can surround everyday life. An important message to take away is to aim and aspire to turn feelings of intimidation into feelings of invigoration and inspiration. Both of which, can help dyslexics to tackle those problematic tasks and challenge negative emotions.
BBC News. (2019). Mollie King: Dyslexia Made Reading Aloud ‘Scary and Intimidating’.
Davis Dyslexia Association International: Dyslexia The Gift. (2008). Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia.
Discussing The Dyslexic Brain. (2019) The Dyslexic Anxiety Overlap