Updated: Jan 28
When intense fear hits you, it makes your heart beat faster, your breath becomes short and your chest tight, you feel faint, your hands are clammy and your head buzzes. The only thing you want to do is run far away.
In all other aspects of your life, you consider yourself a normal, rational person. But this terror seems stronger, bigger, and more powerful than you. You’re not alone, it’s a very common disorder. In the UK the NHS estimates that 10 million people suffer from a phobia.
What are fears and phobias?
You know that the animal or thing or situation isn’t really dreadful, however one part of your mind seems to have decided otherwise. You know the blood test is necessary, that the dentist’s visit is important or that the injection is for your own good, however, you put off, avoid and maybe put yourself in danger all because of your fear.
We need fear to stay alive. It’s what makes us hyper-aware, ready to run, fight or freeze (play dead) in the face of danger.
It’s a necessary survival mechanism. When you know a situation could be dangerous, you proceed carefully, weighing up the options, you make sure you know how to escape should you need to.
However, when extreme fear is triggered by mundane, inoffensive objects, animals, or situations this survival mechanism goes completely haywire. It’s as if your personal thermostat has broken.
You develop a phobia for something that doesn’t merit this hyper-focused attention. In fact, when you analyze it, you become more afraid of the feeling that you will have, the emotional turmoil that your mind and body will succumb to, rather than the object of your phobia itself.
It’s not the spider you’re afraid of, it’s your reaction to the spider.
You’re afraid of your own fear.
This is because your mind always believes everything you imagine as if it were real. Your body and emotions react to your scared thoughts as if they were happening, and so your phobia remains firmly in place.
You remain in this cycle:
I think about what makes me afraid, my body reacts and my mind links these thoughts to reality.
All I want to do is escape and avoid anything to do with my fear. It’s simply too terrifying.
Phobias: Avoid or face?
And yes, The natural reaction is to avoid, skirt around and make your life more comfortable or simply bearable, by airbrushing out any situation where you might be exposed to your phobia.
For sure in the short term, you’ve found a solution that means you don’t get that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach and don’t have to deal with the anxiety that engulfs you. You can breathe a sigh of relief once your racing heart and mind have calmed down.
The flip side is that your fear increases each time you put in place avoidance strategies – not taking the lift, not visiting the dentist, not visiting your friend who’s got a cat. You reinforce the idea that it’s right to be afraid and that there is a real danger. Each time you avoid, you imagine what might have happened and your phobia becomes stronger, more deeply ingrained.
It’s all in the mind. Your mind, body, and feelings are interlinked – when your body is relaxed your mind is calm and your feelings peaceful
. Your mind created this fear you can help yourself to dissolve it. When your resolve is strong you can face your fear and overcome it.
Techniques to help you overcome phobias
1. Breathe into your fear and blow it away
Think about what makes you afraid and then:
Breathe in for seven counts.
Hold for as long as is comfortable.
Release and breathe out gently and slowly for 11 counts.
This simple exercise has two great virtues. Firstly, when you concentrate on your breathing and counting, your mind is distracted. Secondly, when you calm your breathing and lengthen your out-breath your body relaxes and feels safe.
2. Speak into your fear
Words are powerful. The words you say to yourself create thoughts that lead to feelings. When you say 'I’m afraid' you put in place a fearful chain reaction. You expect to feel dread and set yourself up for anxiety.
When you swap this for 'I’m confident and calm' you change your energy. Even if you don’t believe it totally to start with, repeat this or your own version to yourself slowly and as if you mean it, and observe what happens. There is a good chance that you will feel calmer and more in control. Combine your breathing with your word or sentence, say it on each out-breath.
3. Face your fear
Just imagine the liberating feeling of confidence and happiness when you’re no longer afraid! It is truly liberating! Consciously decide to stop avoiding. Then do it! For example, if you’re afraid of lifts, take the lift, just to the first floor.
Use the first two strategies - breathing into and speaking into your fear - and when the lift doors open and nothing terrible has happened praise yourself. Then little by little increase your time in the lift until you can go to the top floor and down again.
Or if you’re afraid of dogs, decide to go to the park where there might be dogs. Breathing slowly and calmly, focusing on your counting and on your out-breath repeat your coping statement. Walk in the park for 5 minutes. Praise yourself and the next time make it 10 minutes until you can go to the park for as long as you want and you’re no longer afraid.
How can CB hypnotherapy help with phobias?
The hypnotherapist helps you face and overcome your fears in carefully measured steps within the calm and safe setting of hypnosis. You face your phobia in your mind.
You learn techniques to remain peaceful and relaxed while focusing on your fear. Little by little, you discover that what was terrifying becomes mere uneasiness and then fades to disinterest and sometimes even boredom. You then face the situation in the “real” world and enjoy the liberation of being phobia-free!
Oh and the truly delicious side effect of this work is an increase in your self-belief. When you successfully master your mind you realize your own power.
This article was originally published here