Phobias and shame

Living memory is a most wonderful treasure chest. The 88 year old lady was reminiscing about her father. Like many 16 year olds, he had lied to his army recruiting sergeant and enlisted for the First World War. He was a keen motorcyclist and so became a frontline despatch messenger, seeing action in Egypt and also in Belgium.

The war ended and he returned to South Wales to marry and bring up a family. Two decades later, the Second World War commenced. It became clear that the coal mines and docks would soon become targets for German bombers. The lady was a 10 year old girl when the first bomb fell close by.

The family happened to be standing in the hall as the impact struck. The children looked at each other in amazement, and then realised that their father had flung himself flat on the ground, trembling in abject terror. The oldest daughter then uttered the cruellest words, “You coward!”. The poor man was consumed by shame and self-loathing.

Of course, we now know the miserable legacy of shell shock and PTSD on ex-soldiers, but these things were rarely spoken about at the time. A traumatic event, especially when the witness feels helpless, can become a potent source of subsequent extreme emotional responses. Phobias are often born from such events.

The good news is that hypnotherapy can really help. Phobia sufferers can rehearse exposure to their triggers in the safe space of their imagination. The traumatic memory can be edited, modified and given perspective by using time regression. Future responses can be redesigned and rehearsed. Tools for anxiety reduction can be put in place. People no longer have to suffer the shame, embarrassment and humiliation, which phobias can bring.

The elderly lady smiled wistfully as she told me the tale of her brave, misunderstood  father - my grandfather.

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