Did you know that fear of heights is called acrophobia? Or that brontophobia is the fear of thunder?
There are many types of phobias, some are very common others quite exotic, but if you have one it doesn’t really matter what it’s called. What does matter about these irrational fears is how they restrict your life and your ability to enjoy it. Anxiety in general is on the increase (Anxietyuk.org.uk) and phobias are a very common anxiety, which may have serious life curtailing outcomes.
Frequently the fear of the phobia is worse than the phobia itself and you may find yourself taking extraordinary measures to avoid certain situations or things. It may lead to more unpleasant physical and mental consequences such as blushing or sweating, or even panic attacks. You may find some relief in prescription medication from your doctor.
But whenever this excessive fear began and however it started, it something that can often be helped rapidly and safely with hypnotherapy, usually without needing to know the exact origin though many will remember the activating event in vivid, graphic detail. When patients are describing uncomfortable situations to their therapist, they may be surprised to find themselves smiling or laughing as they realise how unfounded their fears actually are. It is the beginning of changing perspectives and seeing things in proportion. If necessary, however, it is even possible to work with a phobia without discussing it fully.
Phobias are especially well matched with hypnosis as they are unconscious responses and hypnosis is all about unlocking the unconscious mind. Furthermore, in your imagination, facilitated and enhanced by hypnosis, you can replicate phobic situations or objects which can be difficult, and potentially a little frightening, to do in real life in the four walls of a therapy room. In therapeutic trance patients usually feel relaxed and comfortable despite the somewhat unpleasant content of the session making the process more effective than the equivalent real life exposure.
Most people respond quickly to the use of what is called systematic desensitization. This technique is based on the patient’s particular phobia and trigger situations which are discussed fully beforehand. You are next encouraged to imagine these scenarios that begin quite gently then progress in disturbance, step by step, at your own pace and within your control. Your unconscious mind begins to associate relaxation, rather than fear, with the phobic situations.
Even if you don’t reach your own ‘worst-case scenario’ you may very well have moved on enough in your unconscious mind to have overcome your phobic responses. This process may be carried out over more than one session and you can return to the last comfortable point the next time, perhaps finding you have become even less sensitive over the intervening period. This method can bring a surprisingly large and rapid improvement to quality of life that as a therapist is almost as rewarding to see as it is for the patient to experience.
Generally specific phobias are overcome in around three sessions but can be resolved even more rapidly if necessary (for example if you are due to fly in the very near future). Occasionally other approaches are needed to help more complex cases such inner child work or parts therapy, but all of these can be incorporated in the hypnotherapeutic process.
Patients often gain increased self-confidence from overcoming a fear, particularly if it has been a part of their lives for a long time or has stopped them doing something they really want to do. Overcoming phobias can be a life changing achievement, regaining control and opening up new possibilities – going where you always wanted to go without worrying about flying or perhaps driving on the motorway, for example – giving you back your time and liberating you from fear.