Phobias, Coping and Re-programming
A phobia is categorised by a marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable. It is triggered by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g. flying, heights, animals, injections or seeing blood, etc).
Generally speaking, phobias can be divided into 5 types:
Natural environment (e.g. heights)
Blood, injection and injury
Situation (e.g. separation anxiety such as moving school, parent working away)
Exposure to the ‘phobic stimulus’ usually provokes an immediate ‘anxiety response’, which may take the form of physical symptoms (shaking, sweaty palms, increased heartbeat, etc...) and/or irrational thoughts, such as thinking you are going to die. Sometimes this can induce a ‘panic attack’.
Children can “learn” phobias
In children the anxiety response may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing or clinging. A phobia can be modelled by a child, for example observing a parent (or significant person) behaving fearfully in the presence of the phobic stimulus (e.g. spiders, heights or other situation). This, in turn, can lead to the child growing up having learned that the stimulus is something to be feared.
Children observe and learn from us constantly so be mindful of what you are expressing, both verbally and with your body language. Indeed, up the age of 7 years, all major beliefs, be they true or false, are implanted in the subconscious.
Once in the sub-conscious, various factors may contribute to maintain the problem and belief:
Hyper-attention to the object/situation, constantly scanning their environment
Avoidance, living in their head about what could happen
Autonomic arousal, being aware of feelings of anxiety, thinking the phobia will kill or endanger them
Many things can help to control the symptoms, alleviate them and ultimately get rid of the phobic response. I have found it most beneficial to use a multimodal approach.
The main thing to practice in order to control phobia is breathing. Breathe in slowly from your diaphragm and through your nose, then exhale through your mouth slowly (the exhale must be longer than the inhale e.g. in for 6, out for 8).
Doing this, even for a minute or two, will help bring down the autonomic nervous system, so that the para-sympathetic nervous system kicks in and then it is impossible to panic.
So, next time you think of a phobia, instead of just defaulting to your habitual response practise the following:
Step 1: Breathe deeply for about 1-2 mins
Step 2: Bring in the thought (the phobic stimulus.) If this is really a stretch for you then imagine the feared object or situation behind a perspex screen well away from you.
Step 3: Feel the calmness in your body, and tell yourself, you’re okay.
Keep practising; you will get better and better at this because you are re-conditioning your nervous system, and that alone is fantastic. If you then follow it up by Hypnotherapy or NLP treatment then you could have great results.
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