How we develop a fear
All of us at one point would have experienced a phobic response to something on some level or another, but what is it that causes such an irrational aversion to something?
A fear (or phobia) is just that - an irrational aversion to a thing or situation. It is either a learnt behaviour or an uncomfortable encounter.
With a learnt response, for example - have you ever seen someone react to a spider? Usually a fear response to spiders is learned as a child, when we see our mum (or dad!) scream and panic over the sight of a spider.
More often than not, in my experience, a fear of spiders is a learnt behaviour because spiders very rarely bite or cause harm, and so the fear is picked up from a parent.
A fear of clowns, however, is usually a negative experience of a face-to-face situation - or perhaps watching a horror movie of clowns, typically the Stephen King movie “IT”.
So why do we experience fear?
In the case of spiders and learnt behaviour, as a child we learn constantly, especially from those around us like our parents and those we trust. We are programmed to learn facial expressions and read body language – as babies and young children we are probably the best body language experts out there. When we see mum react to a spider our brain switches on "survival mode", a small part of the brain (called the amygdala) records a ‘danger’ message. Our brains are telling us: “if it isn’t good for mum, it’s not good for me”. From this point on our unconscious mind will constantly search and scan for a spider so it can prepare itself by doing what is necessary...and so the body is filled with the fight or flight response.
This works in pretty much the same way as an encounter of clowns: our brain makes a confusion of clowns and the horror scenes presented in the movie, and so we now have a direct link of clowns and the “horror that comes with them”.
Of course, this isn't going to be the case for everyone; sometimes we may see a clown at a party as a child and the mask/makeup can scare us. Every fear is unique to the individual.
Sometimes it is a case of information that feeds the fear - for instance, some individuals that seek hypnotherapy have gained a fear of flying because of the events of 9/11.
We are not born with fears, so if we can learn them then of course we can unlearn them. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), Hypnotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) are all brilliant approaches and techniques to help change and re-wire the brain, and a therapist qualified in these approaches will be able to discuss an effective plan with you.
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