Like with all phobias there is a heightened or exaggerated stress response when you are about to give a talk or presentation. The stress response is better known as the fight or flight response. Although more accurately it is the fight, flight or freeze response, since a common reaction to a stress is to be virtually unable to move (or speak). The stress response is a survival mechanism that has evolved over millions of years as a reaction to a threat. It either prepares an animal to fight for its life, run like crazy or play dead. In the case of a phobia it is a distortion in your belief system that causes the reaction, rather than a response to an actual threat.

Negative or distorted beliefs can be formed either through repeated condition or after a nasty shock. For example, in the case of a fear of public speaking, there may have been an earlier episode in your life where speaking to a group addressed in some kind of humiliation. The humiliation may not have been your own either. It could have been where you witnessed someone else's embarrassment and then fear the same thing happening to you.

So how does hypnotherapy help?

There is a saying in therapy that when you change a thought you change the behavior. So by changing the thoughts you have around public speaking you change how you feel about it. Hypnotherapy helps you identify the specific beliefs that you have that are causing the phobic reaction and then helps you create new, empowered ones instead. Often just acknowledging a belief can be enough to begin the process of changing it. Other times it can be necessary to let go of emotional energy that is being held onto unconsciously.

Stuck emotional energy is like tension in the psyche. By relaxing in a specific way, which you are able to do using hypnosis, you release that energy and feel a sense of relief. In that moment it is easy to create new, accurate and positive thoughts about pubic speaking. You are able to relax and enjoy it more. Of course you still need to do basic things like rehearsing and preparation, but you are able to do those things with greater freedom and confidence once all that unconscious stress has been released.

Hypnotherapy also enables you to gain new insights into what happens when you are about to give a presentation. One of the things I help people focus on is that moment when everyone's attention focuses on them. I help people relax into that moment so they feel a sense of power and confidence rather than feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Visual imagery helps with this process a great deal as well. By visualizing yourself giving a confident talk your mind learns a new behavior pattern. It also gives you a different sense of yourself – empowered and confident rather than stressed and incompetent. This in turn helps you give a talk that is more present, spontaneous and engaging for the audience.