Phobias: How to deal with the fear
Let’s discuss what a phobia is and how having hypnotherapy can help. Fear is a natural response caused by real danger. For example, we are all scared of coming face to face with a wild, hungry animal, and fear is a survival instinct that warns us against certain things or situations. A phobia is a persistent, irrational fear of, and desire to avoid, a particular object or situation.
You are not born with a phobia - it is a learned response. Common phobias include claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and acrophobia (fear of heights), all of which can be dealt with using hypnotherapy.
People with phobias can experience fear so intense and debilitating that it begins to affect the way they live their lives. Confronted with the phobic situation, they experience the classic symptoms of panic attacks such as sweating, trembling, feeling faint, and may even feel as though they are dying.
- loss of confidence
- loss of self-worth
- increasing frustration
When phobias start to interfere with day-to-day functions in a person’s emotional, social or work life, they need treatment. Having hypnotherapy is a great way to do this.
How can hypnotherapy help?
You can only avoid dealing with phobias for so long - maybe it is making your life with your family, friends, and colleagues unbearable. A hypnotherapist can take a variety of approaches but, basically, the process is about bringing your fear under control with a sense of calmness and relaxation. It means putting your fear into proper perspective and dealing calmly with the everyday happenings of what the phobia is about.
First of all, a full case history (consultation) takes place and it is useful if you think and have answers prepared to the following questions:
- When did the phobia start?
- When did it first become a problem for you?
- What has been your worst phobic experience?
- When was your last phobic experience?
- Does anyone close to you have the same phobia?
- What is the scale of your phobia?
- How do you want to be when the phobia is gone?
What approach can the hypnotherapist take?
Several approaches may be used or just one, depending on your circumstances. You may also be given homework to do between sessions - such as self-hypnosis - to help see results and get rid of that phobia or lessen its impact.
Being hypno sensitised
This is a behaviour therapy technique where, basically, one feeling is used to replace another. The hypnotherapist uses relaxation to override the phobic anxiety -you cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time!
The therapist uses something called an anxiety hierarchy - this is a series of events that you come up with regarding your phobia, ranked according to how much anxiety they produce. Events are ranked from 0 (no fear) to 100 (worst anxiety you can imagine). For example, with a spider phobia, just seeing a picture of one may score a 10, having one in the room 40 or 50 and having one crawl nearby approaching 90-100.
In hypnosis, the therapist takes you through the hierarchy starting with events that rank at 0 then combining that with suggestions of calmness, relaxation, and control. You will be questioned then as to whether you are really calm and relaxed and then taken, gently, up the hierarchy. You will be changing your thoughts about your phobia by creating the association of relaxation.
Generally, a situation is created in which you are slowly and by stages brought into contact with your fear. It is a popular form of therapy - you are asked to imagine yourself face to face with fear itself. After the therapy, you are then asked to notice how weak the fear appears and will feel more at ease in its presence.
Some therapists decide that, in order to get rid of your phobia, you need to understand and deal with how it started. You will be taken back in hypnosis to the time, in your past, when your phobia began.
You will be asked to witness what happened and perhaps change the event in your mind so that you experience yourself coping with that situation. This will change not the event but your perception of it - you create a domino effect that has benefits in the present.
Accessing positive resources
This also uses regression to access and use resources from your past - positive feelings that let you feel good and cope before like: confidence, relaxation, a sense of humour and inner control, etc. In trance, you will be asked to create an image that stands for your phobia.
You are asked to go back in time to pick up these wonderful, positive feelings in your life and then to bring them forward to fuse then with the image of your phobia. Your positive resources overlay the anxiety image, and this alters the way your think about your phobia.
The Fast Phobia Cure
This comes from a school of therapy called Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and many hypnotherapists have adopted it and adapted it to use to help with phobias. The Fast Phobia Cure is a dissociation technique that helps you rapidly eliminate your phobia.
In trance, it works by you having a mental representation of the phobia (in a cinema, sitting in the projection booth, looking down at the auditorium, watching yourself sitting in a seat looking at the cinema) and playing around with the image and running the events backwards and forwards in your mind (yourself, just before you experience whatever you are phobic about). The aim of this method is to disrupt the way your mind holds on to your phobia so that the fear lessons and disappears.
In general, then, a phobia is a panic attack triggered by a specific stimulus - instead of a generalised reaction to stress. Our brains want to avoid that unpleasant reaction and consequences of what has happened, rationally or irrationally, before.