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We have all experienced fear during our lives, for example when hearing a sudden loud noise, or seeing a snake-shaped object on a path in the park. Fear is our natural defence mechanism to protect us from danger.
If we are in danger, the fear response prepares us for ‘fight or flight’ and is therefore helpful. If we are not in danger, our intellectual mind can switch off the fear response by assessing the situation sensibly – so we realise the loud noise is just a door slamming, or the object on the path is a stick, not a snake.
However, sometimes our mind can create irrational fears, for example a fear of enclosed spaces, or buttons. Even though we know we are safe, we cannot switch off the fear response. This is a phobia. Hypnotherapy can help to gently and effectively rid you of fears and phobias.
Fear is a natural and useful part of our inbuilt self-defence system. We feel fear when the primitive part of our brain reacts to what it perceives as a potentially dangerous stimulus and prepares us to run away or fight (the fight or flight response). Let’s look at how this works…
If you came face to face with a tiger, for example, your primitive brain would take over. Your heart rate would increase, your muscles would tense, you would begin to sweat, your stomach would churn and you would run away. In this instance, your primitive mind has catalysed a chain reaction of biochemical responses in your body that have enabled you to run for your life, and (hopefully!) therefore survive.
If you came face to face with a tiger at the zoo, you my still have the same initial fear reaction as the creature emerged suddenly from the undergrowth, just a few feet in front of you. However, your intellectual brain would quickly assess the situation as being safe – the tiger is in an enclosure and cannot reach you. The fear reaction would then be cancelled. (The same thing happens when something makes you jump, or startles you, and then you realise it is just someone playing a joke, or a door slamming, etc.)
As primitive people, fear kept us safe and ensured we survived. It prevented us from walking through a pride of lions, or trying to cross a flooded river. Nowadays, we still need to feel fear to prevent us from entering into dangerous situations such as walking through a dark alley late at night, or handling toxic chemicals without the right protective clothing.
Of course, it makes sense that we should be wary of potentially harmful things – tigers, snakes, heights, loud noises, toxic chemicals, etc. (Even fear of thunderstorms or being alone make some sense from a primitive survival viewpoint.) We could argue that these fears are reasonable, or rational. However, feelings of fear are not reserved only to potentially dangerous situations. We can also experience the same feelings in more everyday scenarios, such as public speaking, social events, exams, and so on. We might say that these fears are largely irrational – we know that our life is not in danger during an exam. So how do we explain this fear?
Most of our fears are ‘conditioned’. In other words, we have learned to be afraid of something at some point in our lives. If a dog bit us when we were younger, or if we had a bad experience of public speaking, these things would have become associated with negative feelings – pain, humiliation, distress. Our primitive brain would then store them away as possible ‘dangers’, and something to avoid in the future. The next time we came into contact with a dog, or were asked to give a speech, our primitive brain would activate the fear response, and our heart rate would increase, our stomach would churn and so on. We would be encouraged to run away, and may then find ourselves avoiding dogs, or public speaking at all costs. And the more we avoid them, the more we reinforce the idea that they are something to be feared.
If the fear is intense or persistent, and the reaction is uncontrollable, we call it a phobia.
Irrational or chronic fear can be debilitating and cause us to go to great lengths to avoid what we fear. The impact on our lives can be profoundly limiting. With hypnotherapy, we can begin to relax the primitive part of the brain, and allow the intellectual mind to sensibly evaluate the situation. Life begins to open up before you once again, as fear and worries gently melt away. We also work to build confidence, self-esteem and positivity, all of which help you to remain calm, and to cope with life much more effectively.
A phobia is a strong, obsessive fear or dread of an object or situation that may last for many years. A phobic response is often irrational and out of proportion to the reality of the event, but nevertheless feels as though it cannot be consciously controlled. Many people are unable to identify what created the phobia in the first place. The response can range from feelings of disgust or mild anxiety, to severe panic attacks.
Phobias are common, and it is estimated that over a tenth of the population have an irrational fear. These fears can be debilitating, causing us to go to great lengths to avoid certain situations.
Some of the most common fears and phobias include: flying, going to the dentist, heights, public speaking, being sick, spiders, confined spaces, open spaces, thunder and lightning, dogs, needles, water, and so on. There are many more.
A phobic response is created when the part of our subconscious mind responsible for survival attaches a ‘danger signal’ to a stimulus in our environment (a spider, needle, dentist appointment.) Often this process is not logical, hence the reason many phobias are irrational and we develop a phobic response to something that is not a potential danger, e.g. buttons. If our stress levels are high, we will not be able to override this ‘danger signal’ with our intellectual mind, and the object or situation will become connected with a warning signal. This is then stored away in our memory, and the next time we encounter the object or situation, we will be flooded with feelings of fear as the ‘flight or flight’ response is switched on. Our subconscious ‘survival’ mind does this order to help us avoid truly dangerous situations. Unfortunately, sometimes it gets its wrong!
Hypnotherapy is a very gentle and effective method for overcoming fears and phobias. We use psychotherapeutic and NLP techniques to gently and effectively remove the phobic response pattern and replace it with a much more benign and useful response. We help you release fears and phobic responses by calming down the survival part of the subconscious mind, and teaching it to react in a different way to the stimulus in question.