People can be afraid of a wide range of things and what can be totally acceptable to one person can be quite panic provoking to another. Some of the fears I see most often in my practice are:
- Being alone
- Small or enclosed spaces
- Dark places
- Injections or needles
- Open spaces
Some unusual ones:
- Yellow (the colour)
- Red cars
- Men with beards
What is a Phobia?
A phobia is any persistent fear of a specific stimulus object or situation. Phobia is from the Greek meaning to fear or dread. It is more than a simple fear, or being afraid. It is to be totally terrified of the stimulus. When presented with a phobia problem by a client, I always begin by finding out if it is a fear they have, or a phobia. If their problem is spiders for instance, then can they imagine themselves holding a spider on their hand if they are rewarded with £100? What about £500, and so on. If they could bear the spider for a large amount of money, even just for a few seconds, they do not have a phobia, but rather a fear. The person with a phobia of spiders would not be able to bear to touch one for any amount of money or any other reward. Some people are obsessive with their phobia. This means, they can't even bear to think of the stimulus and it will likely be totally controlling their lives.
Another complication is that a client can present with a fear/phobia, of flying for example. However, the skilled therapist, on exploring this fear/phobia with the client, may find the fear/phobia is actually about being enclosed, or locked in. Perhaps it might be a fear/phobia of dying, not being able to breath on an aircraft, or something else connected with the aircraft or leaving their own area/country etc, but not actually the flying itself.
What has Caused the Phobia?
A client will often say that nothing has caused the phobia, it just started, they've always been afraid of dogs, etc. If one person is afraid of dogs and another isn't, then clearly there is a difference between the two. One person has either been exposed to some causal event which has been repressed in the subconscious mind, or has learned to be afraid from a parent or other authority figure at some time earlier in life. The causal event may not have been very traumatic at the time, but the young mind will have seen it out of the context that would be understood by a more mature mind in later years. It may have caused an emotional response and/or motor actions to be locked away, repressed, and the emotional and possible motor responses will have been locked away and anchored to the event. The subconscious mind can often set up a kind of false instinct, whereby any sign of the stimulus, or even something resembling it, or associated with it, may cause a phobic reaction, and then the body's flight or fight response will kick in and the individual may begin to panic - a panic attack.
Hypnotherapy to Relieve Phobias
The first thing the skilled hypnotherapist will do, is to work with the client to discover the causal event, and once found, to desensitise the client from it. Once this has been achieved, then hypnotic suggestion, metaphor and possibly Neuro-Linguistic Programming will be used to create a new template for the client so they can see the previously feared situation, object or circumstance in a new and non threatening light, through a new lens as it were. If the causal event, or events are not found and the emotion not released, then the phobia may just resurface later with more intensity than before if that is possible. The person with a phobia will need to be helped to find and review the trigger situation, to see it with an adult maturity and understanding, and to then see the cause in a different way and with a different and better understanding. The mind can be reprogrammed to see things in a different way and to accept situations as normal that would previously have been viewed as threatening.
How Many Sessions of Therapy will be Needed?
The number of sessions that will be needed to release a person from their phobia will depend upon many things, not least, the client's personality type, maturity, desire to overcome the phobia, and of course, how deep seated the phobia is and how long it has been in place. However, the average for people I see is about 3-4 sessions. This can be much longer in some cases, especially where full blown panic attacks are occurring at seemingly random times and in diverse places.
For more information, please contact your local hypnotherapist. Most hypnotherapists will be happy to provide an initial free consultation for you in order to discuss your problem and to explain to you how therapy would proceed. This session will normally last about 45 minutes. My clients say that this short session often produces therapeutic results for them and helps them to feel confident about setting up a series of therapy sessions to overcome their fear or phobia.
Please always see your doctor first and foremost before you contact or visit any therapist and tell him/her about any symptoms you may have, such as, headache, soreness in limbs, racing heart, dizziness, sweating, blurred vision, a feeling of unrealness, etc. Although these are all common for someone suffering from a fear, phobia, or indeed from a panic attack, organic causes should always be fully checked out by a medical professional in the first instance.
When consulting a hypnotherapist, I advise that you ensure they are a Clinical Hypnotherapist and that they belong to a professional body such as one of the following:
- British Institute of Hypnotherapy
- General Hypnotherapy Register
- Professional Association for Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists
- Hypnotherapy Association
- National Council for Hypnotherapy
Check with the organisation(s) that the therapist is indeed registered with them. Also check that your chosen therapist has experience in dealing with the problem you have and that they have adequate professional insurance (they must display their certificate of insurance at their place of work).
Hypnotherapy is not magic, but it sometimes seems magical.
©2005 Alan Crisp. All rights reserved. Published with permission on 05-Sep-05.
Alan Crisp has been involved in people development, training, and counselling for over 20 years. His own ongoing personal development is very important to him as a qualified and responsible practitioner in the fields of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy.
Alan uses many techniques and different styles of working including: Hypnotic Suggestion, Hypnoanalysis, Cognitive Psychotherapy, Counselling, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Personality Profiling and Balancing, and Kinesiology techniques when these will assist in an effective treatment plan.