But throughout the class I was somehow unable to concentrate because of this feeling in my chest.
Once he left, I realised my chest and back were terribly aching. Turns out, I had been clenching my chest and back muscles for those three hours.
Amus talks about anxiety, I will bounce on that. What you felt was amygdala triggering.
That's a part of your brain that's very old (it is present in many animals also), its purpose is basically to keep you alive by performing fast pattern-matching on incoming stimuli and hijacking your conscious thought in order to make you do whatever it is you need to do in order to survive. For example, if your eyes see a snake poised to strike, you will jump back and maybe even start to run before you consciously realize there is actually a snake. It works like that because conscious thought is too slow to react to predators and immediate threats. It is much safer to jump back first, and then think about taking the time to identify if the species is venomous or not...
Some say "the amygdala is the fear center" but it would be more accurate to say that it detects things that needs immediate attention, and either makes you move your muscles directly by triggering a panic reflex ("get away from snake" subroutine), or it focuses all your attention on what is needed by eliciting anxiety, fear, or sensations of dread, like "something's terribly wrong", or "I need to get out of here", etc, which will cause you to act. So, it's more like your sixth sense hardware.
Now, your muscles tensed because your amygdala decided that something was wrong, but the threat wasn't obvious (ie, no snake in front of you), so you didn't jump, rather you got a feeling of dread, and your body got ready to either fight or run from a dangerous situation, thus increased heart rate, adrenalin, etc. You can't stay in this state for long, it is extremely stressful.
I don't know how to describe what I was feeling, but it wasn't fear or anything. In fact, he looks like a really nice guy too.
I'm gonna bet on a rather vague feeling with a bit of dread and "there's something wrong, I don't know exactly why, but it might be important". It's very hard to describe, so feel free to elaborate.
It can be a false positive. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, to a certain extent it is much safer to have a low threat detection threshold and run away from imaginary threats than it is to not be scared, and then get eaten by a predator. However, there is a compromise between "fearless" and "overly anxious". For example, people with anxiety/panic attacks/PTSD have oversentitive amygdala that mislabel normal everyday events as immediate threats, and this is a very difficult condition to live with.
Anyway. The reason I'm going on this evopsych and neuroscience ramble is simply to attract your attention to the the fact that this weird feeling comes from somewhere (evolutionary programming), and for a reason (it's there to help you), so you must consider it, and find the cause.
IMO, I'd point to: there is a conflict in the tutor's behavior.
- On the one hand, he is totally unprofessional and inappropriate, and does not notice your distress.
- On the other hand, you say "He actually does his job pretty well" and "he looks like a really nice guy too".
What your instinct is telling you is that you need to figure out if this is a good guy or if you're in trouble. That's what you're describing:
But throughout the class I was somehow unable to concentrate because of this feeling in my chest. I was thinking more about the things he was saying than what I was studying.
Now to answer your question:
What can I do to make myself more comfortable around people like this, and is this a cause for concern?
You should investigate and find out if it was a false positive (ie, your worries are not justified) or if the guy is actually toxic. I have no way to know. This might be nothing at all, for example the guy could be attempting in a misguided way to sound "cool" and talk about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll and everything. You could be worried that your parents overhear you and the tutor talking about drugs.
Or he might be an abuser or a pedophile or a narcissist or any other kind of trash you don't want anywhere near you.
Since you ask "how to make yourself more comfortable around such people", well if you don't suffer from excessive anxiety (ie, your amygdala is functioning properly) the correct answer is to not get comfortable, or at least not completely, and instead be on the lookout for clues that this guy might be trouble. This is very useful practice, because one day you will meet someone who is actually trouble, and you will be able to spot them and avoid them.
You can record the lesson, and listen to it afterwards. If the tutor adamantly refuses to have you record the lesson, this is a clue.
If you have doubts, talk to your parents. Since YOU are the one taking the class, and not your parents, you're the most qualified to decide if the tutor is adequate or not...